Untitled Short Story
By: Ruth Lewarne
Art by Kien Ngo
The cold air rushed through the window as I was getting ready to go to the market. I always hated the winter season. Not only because it was hard to come by food, but because of the bitter and inevitable cold. Last year was the worst winter we have come by so far, killing almost half our town because of the lack of heat and food we all needed to survive. Lucky for us, my older brother knew how to hunt and slaughtered animals before the horrible winter came. We tried to share as much as we could with our fellow townspeople, but with my family being three boys, one girl and two parents we could only share so much.
The door swung open as I reached for the handle, making me stagger back and hit my lower back on the table. I sucked in a breath and glared at my younger brother. “George, I swear…” He just laughed and walked past me with two, graceful strides. His dirty blonde hair was getting longer, almost reaching his shoulders now, and was in a tangled mess from the strong winds outside.
“When you go to the market,” he said, placing the rabbit down on the table. “Can you get more potatoes and bread?” He reached for the butcher knife on the edge of table and turned around to look at me, his dark blue eyes glancing at the basket in my hand.
“Yeah, that’s what I was going to get anyway,” I replied. It came out more sharp than I meant it too. He just chuckled and went back to the rabbit on the table. I straightened my coat and braced myself for the mile walk down to the market in the below freezing temperatures. As I stepped outside I saw my mother and little brother walking towards our house. It only took my mother a second to see me.
“Emery!” She yelled, waving her hand in the air. Her other hand was holding my little brother’s hand as they walked toward me. Parts of her dark brown hair were falling out of her hat as the wind ferociously blew. I walked toward them and waved back. “You’re going to the market?” My mother asked, gesturing toward the basket in my hand. Her eyes were a brighter green against the pure white of the snow. My little brother, Noah, ran past us and into the house. I shook my head and looked over my shoulder to see George leaning against the doorframe of our house. Noah always adored George.
“Yeah,” I replied, turning my attention back to my mother. “Just going to get some more potatoes and bread for dinner tonight.” She squeezed my arm and nodded in approval. I let her pass me before I started walking again. I glanced back at our house watched George whisper something to her before stepping inside. I shook my head again. They were always whispering to each other and were much closer than the rest of us were with each other. I hated to admit it, but I was a little bit envious of their relationship.
I sighed and walked down the path toward the market. When I got there I didn’t hear the usual bickering and hooves of horses; instead I heard absolutely nothing. As I stepped onto the end of path that led into the center of market, I saw there was nothing there. I furrowed my brows in confusion. It was Wednesday right? I decided to knock on the doors of some of the townspeople who could afford to live in the market area to ask what was going on.
I knocked on the first one I saw and a middle-aged women with bright red hair and dark brown eyes answered the door. “Do you know why the market is not here?” I asked her, keeping my distance, making sure not to make her feel uncomfortable.
She shook her head and said, “The market is not coming anymore. Didn’t you hear?” She looked up at me as if I was stupid. I shook my head. “The Faeries are planning on destroying our village.”
“What? Where did you hear that from?” I shot back at her. We have not had contact with the Faeries in over one hundred years, why would they come now?
“A reliable source that I would recommend listening to.” She said in a very serious and scolding voice. Before I could reply, she shut the door in my face. What in the world?
I stood there for a couple moments before I ran back to our cottage. The wind pierced my face as I sprinted down the path. I winced and put a hand on my hat to make sure it didn’t fall. As I approached our cottage I saw the door was wide open. We never leave the door open, especially in this weather. I slowly walked toward our house and peered inside. Everything looked normal. I let my body relax as I set down the basket.
“George?” I called out. I went to the back of our house and looked in all the rooms--empty. “George?” I said again, trying not to let fear slip into my voice. I went to the back of house and saw no one in our backyard. Where are they? I walked back to the kitchen and saw my other older brother, Thomas, standing there.
“Thomas, thank goodness--” I reached for him when all of a sudden he turned to face me. That wasn’t Thomas, at least I thought it not to be. He did not have the familiar bright blue eyes, but he had dark, almost red eyes. His hair, though, it was the same as George’s, like it had always been, and his face structure, I knew that face and knew that was Thomas. His eyes...what happened?
“Thomas?” I stepped back, keeping a safe distance between us. He just stared at me, his face cold with no emotion. “Thomas, are you okay?” My voice went up at the end of my sentence, fear piercing it. I dared to take a step toward him. He still did not move. I reached out to touch his hand when all of sudden he grabbed my wrist, holding it so tight I thought it might break. I gasped and looked up at him; his eyes were now dark red with black surrounding the outside. Who was this? I asked myself.
He looked at me with such rage in his eyes that I knew this was not my brother; he was not the kind, loving brother I knew. This was not Thomas. I tried to pull my wrist free, but his grip was so strong that I couldn’t move it. I looked up at him again and saw that he had closed his eyes. What was he doing? When he opened his eyes I felt a breeze whoosh through our house. Five more men appeared before me, surrounding every exit in the room. They were all of different colors and races, staring at me with those same red eyes.
“Take her.” They all demanded in unison. The tone of their voice sparked a fear in me I had never known. I could barely breathe. Before I could try to escape, Thomas took me in his arms and darkness surrounded us, consuming us into a place I never knew.
I awoke on a stone cold table, sweat coating my hairline and neck. I shot up and felt a surging pain run up my arm--my wrist. I tried to examine it, but it was so dark in here I could barely see a thing. Where was I? I slowly got up and went to the front of the room--no, not a room, a cell. There were thick, steel bars in front of me, no door or lock to open it, just bars running up and down the front of my cell. I looked around and saw that I was in a basement of some kind, other cells next to and across from me. I couldn’t tell if they were occupied.
I quickly stepped back onto my “bed” when I saw a light approaching the hallway. I bit my bottom lip as the light came around the corner and into the view of my cell. A man stood in front of my cell, very muscular and big, with shoulder length black hair and dark, tan skin. “Get up,” he commanded. I stood next to my bed and started fidgeting with my fingers. He shoved his head to the side and I saw someone--not someone, Thomas--unlock my cell. He shoved a key into the stone next to my cell and all of a sudden a door appeared to the right of me. The man with the torch opened it and stepped inside. The light illuminated his face and I saw that his eyes were a strikingly light blue color, so bright against his dark, tan skin.
“Come with me.” He looked me in the eyes; our gazes locked for a split second and then he turned, walking out of my cell. I followed him out and Thomas immediately locked my cell, the door disappearing, and walked behind us. The man led us up a stone staircase.
We finally reached the top and stepped into a wide, open space. It was still the familiar stone we had seen down in the basement, but this time there were tombs lining the wall. They all had weird names I had never heard before and were all separated by realm name, not last name. We walked up a single staircase again and this time it opened up to a small hallway. The walls were now a different kind of stone, more smooth and a lighter gray. There were wooden doors on each wall, each a fair distance apart from each other. As we passed each door I heard pots and pans clanging and inaudible voices conversing. Where was I?
All of a sudden we stopped and he took a ring of keys from his turquoise tunic, unlocking the wooden door at the end of hall with a golden key. He opened it and I felt a breeze of hot air rush over me, blowing out the torch. He set it down in a metal case that protruded from the wall. I flinched and tried to look over his shoulder. I followed him out and saw the most beautiful place I had ever been in. On my right there were two huge, golden doors--the entrance I assumed--wide open to reveal the ocean that was the same color as the man’s tunic. In front of me the wall opened up to a huge dining room with a dark wood table so big it filled the whole room. There were chairs along each side of the table that had intricate gold designs surrounding them, six on each side from what I could see. On my left was a gigantic staircase lined with red, plush fabric and a golden hand railing. The stairs broke off into two more staircases that led even farther up in the palace. I couldn’t take my eyes off of ocean; it was absolutely mesmerizing.
He went to the left and I smelled the fresh ocean air as we walked toward the door. He took another left into an opening that had three thrones: one huge, wooden one with gold designs along the edges and two smaller versions of the bigger one on each side of it. The room had three huge windows on the left side of it that also showed the ocean. It had a small staricaise, the same design as the huge on in the front, leading to the thrones. The man stopped and grabbed my wrist--thankfully it was the unhurt one. He shoved me in front of him and I fell to my knees and hands, my wrist burning from the impact of my fall. I bit my lip to keep from crying out. I tried to stand up, but I was too weak and dehydrated to even move my muscles. How long had I been down there? I saw Thomas walk past me and run to the door on the right of the throne room. After a couple seconds Thomas came out and a man, very similar to the one that led me out of my cell, emerged from the doorway.
He had the same long, black hair and dark, tan skin, but was much bigger than the man standing next to me. He had a dark, red tunic on with a golden crown, containing red jewels along the front of it. Once I saw him I realized where I was: the palace of the Raoulin line; the family that destroyed our realm, Asaros forever. This man, here, walking in front of me, was Horik Raoulin, vicious ruler and even crueler man.
“Is this her?” He asked with a booming voice that I could feel it in my chest. I looked up and saw that he was now sitting in the middle throne. His face was disgustingly content and he looked down upon me like I was some animal he was ready to slaughter.
“Yes, Lord.” The man in the turquoise tunic replied. “We used her brother to find her. She went off track for a couple minutes, but we worked around it brought her back to the house.” I realized then he was the cause for the market closing down. No wonder the lady was so scared; if I saw a man like the one taking me out of my cell and banging on my door saying the Faeries were coming, I would be scared out of my mind.
“I will reward your efforts later, Ezra.” I heard him get up and step down the tiny staircase in front of him. He stopped in front of me, his dark brown shoes--were they even shoes? They were so beautiful--stopping in front of my face. I looked up and saw him smirking down at me. “Well don’t you look lovely.”
I growled at him and spat on his shoes. He chuckled and didn’t move an inch. I met his eyes again and he kept smiling. He bent down and lifted my chin up with his pointer finger.
“Why am I here?” I exhaled. My voice was rough and hoarse; I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I talked. He smiled at me again, tilting his head to the right.
“Help her up, Ezra.” Two strong hands lifted me up gracefully by my armpits and plopped me down on the white, marble floor.
I could now see how massive this man really was: he was about half a foot taller than me and had muscles every man wished for. He truly did live up to all the rumors about his size and demeanor. He walked back to his throne and sat down, tapping his fingers rhythmically against the wooden armrest.
“Are you familiar with the concept of ‘born out of wedlock’?” He asked me, the smirk now completely gone, his face cold as stone. I nodded my head at him. He looked scarier and I got a little bit more worried with his smirk gone. Maybe he really was going to slaughter me. “You know my wife, Lilian, yes?” I nodded my head again. She was the first Lady to ever have more power than a Lord in our realm, Asaros. Ever since Asaroa fell into depression after the tragic death of the Archeon family that once ruled our realm, the Raoulin family--the Archeon’s cousins--took over, causing our realm to fall into a deep, dark depression. Everyone in our village hated his family, especially him. “Well, it has come to my attention that my wife had an affair with some low life, peasant man when I was away for the first year of our marriage.”
I remember hearing stories about that. There was talk all around the village of Lord Raoulin leaving for the first year of their marriage to deal with an ongoing conflict between our realm, Asaros and our neighboring realm--Ecreatora--even a hundred years after the war that occurred between us. The Faeries helped Ecreatora fight us and they won. However, that was the last time we had ever had contact with Faeries and Ecreatora blamed us for driving them out. I just remember asking myself, what did he do there for a year? It wasn’t my business then, but it may be now.
“And I had it as my number one task to find this child my wife had with another man. I looked around in other villages for someone to find this child and your name kept coming up: Emery Banfield.” He chuckled and sighed, resting his eyes on me. Why did my name keep coming up? How do those people even know me? “At first I thought it was because you were good at tracking people down, but then a lady--I wouldn’t call her that--maybe a peasant,” he said in a very condescending voice. “Told me you were adopted by your family.”
That was true; I was adopted. My mother and father adopted me when I was six months old. They found me from their local Church, the priest saying that I was just dumped on the front doorstep. My mother instantly decided to take me in, but my father was hesitant at first, always concerned about money. However, my mother convinced him and they took me in. My parents told no one in our village until I was a year old and by then, almost everyone already knew. The fact that I was adopted never affected me in a negative way at all; I have always felt like a part of my family and would never think otherwise, even if someone told me otherwise.
“Then I asked her a couple questions: ‘what’s their hair color, how old is she?’” He chuckled again. “When I heard your hair color was auburn and that you were seventeen, I knew the lost child was you. My wife, she has the same hair as you and I can even see it now, the facial structure and narrowing of your eyes.” I growled, pulling against Ezra’s strong grip. I have never wanted to strangle someone so much until this very moment.
“I’m my mother and father’s daughter and nothing will ever change that,” I said, my voice still hoarse. “I’m never going to be a part of your court, ever.” I fought the urge to cough from the level of my voice. “Lilian will never be my mother. She abandoned me with a note stuck to my chest on the doorstep of a Church in the freezing cold. Why would I ever want her as my mother?”
He laughed again. Goodness, his laugh was starting to annoy me. “She did that? Wow, I never knew that part.” He kept laughing and as I kept struggling to wrap my hands around his throat. After he was done laughing, he stood up and stopped just a few inches in front of my face. “You will be part of my court, and you will follow my rules.” He whispered to me, his face so close to mine I could see the green around his pupils. “If you don’t, I have your whole family in the palm of hands and I would not underestimate my power of torture.” His face became that stone expression again and I knew not to fight back, not this time at least.
“How long?” I stopped struggling, lifting up my shoulders and looking him in the eyes.
“Until you marry the Crown Prince of Ecreatora and tie the final knot in ceasing all the attacks between us.”
I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding in. I knew I had to marry this Crown Prince, whether I liked it or not. It was for my family; I would do anything to keep them safe because, in the end, they were all I had.
“When will I meet this Crown Prince, Lord Rauolin?” He smirked at me and stepped back. He strided back to his throne and sat down, lounging back into the chair.
“Get her cleaned up and in better clothes,” he demanded. Ezra aggressively pulled me up. Pain shot up my arm. My wrist is for sure broken. “She will travel with us tomorrow to Ecreatora to meet him. I can’t have her looking like that. Make it quick. Dinner is in thirty minutes.”
I pursed my lips and Ezra led me back through the hallway. He gripped my arm hard as he dragged me through the hallway and up the plush red stairs. He stayed to the side to let me lean against the gold railing. I didn’t expect him to do that. I looked up at him as we walked up; he was staring straight ahead, his face stern.
“Don’t expect me to do things like this again,” he stated, still looking ahead. He stopped walking and let me lean against the railing. I said a quiet prayer of thanks for this rest. There were more stairs than what it looked like. He bent down and re tied his boot. Oh. He didn’t do it for me at all. He stopped for himself. Classic.
He gripped my arm again and dragged me up the stairs and to the right, down the hallway. The walls were covered in a light blue, gold intricate pattern. The door frames were white with little gold designs around the edges. I don’t think I had ever seen such a nice door frame.
We stopped at the door at the end of the hall and he pulled out a key, unlocking the door. He opens the door to reveal a twin bed in the middle of the room, facing the door with a large dresser to the right of it. On the left of the bed is a small table with a candle and piece of paper and pen. The sun is shining on the bed due to the window to the left with see-through white curtains. A door facing to the right of the bed facing it was the bathroom I assumed. He led me to the bed and shoved the keys back in his jacket pocket.
“Your maid should be here soon. Don’t do anything stupid.” He walked out and locked the door.
I sighed and laid down on the bed. The mattress was hard and the pillow was scratchy. What did I expect? I realized as I laid down on the bed an old vanity was sitting across the bed. I saw myself in the mirror. I looked horrendous. My red hair was in tangled mess, my eyes were red rimmed with purple circles underneath and my face was so pale I look sickly. No wonder he was so quick to get rid of me. I groaned and ran my hands down my face. As I did this, pain shot up my arm again and I cradled it against my chest. What had I come to? I was just talking to my mom on the path to our small cottage with Noah at her side, laughing. I was just being shoved by George, both of us laughing about it. We were going to have rabbit tonight. My family’s favorite. I didn’t realize how much I missed that until now. Until it was all at stake. The fate of my family was in my hands. All I could now was do what King Raoulin said and hope he would release them. I started crying at myself in the mirror, watching my face contort and hot tears stream down my face.
The last time I cried was four winters ago, the year my littlest brother died. Andrew. He was only two years old. I remember watching his light blonde hair sprawled out on the dark brown pillow. His lips blue and his face deathly pale. He died from pneumonia. None of us got it, which was worse. Having all of us perfectly healthy with just a tinge of hunger while he was coughing up blood all night made us think, I wish it was me. He was too young, too innocent. After that my family became more tough and forgiving of each other. We became so much closer than before.
Now, sitting on this bed, balling my eyes out, thinking of the worst times in my life, I missed them more than ever. At this point in my life, I thought I would never get to see them, ever again.