Bits and pieces

This is a journal created for the convenience of putting down my ideas for random scenes or stories that pop into my head. Most of the chapters, ideas, and storylines wont match so if you feel interest for any of them please leave comments below. any thoughts are appreciated :)

ALSO THESE ARE MY IDEAS IF YOU STEAL THEM YOU WILL GO TO JAIL. So please be nice and just enjoy them :)

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12. The Hidden story intro

I was unbelievably tired at the end of the day. More so than any other point that week. The clouds were dark and outlined in gold from the fading sun, signaling it was time for dinner in many of the homes in the village of Arendyle.

The road leading to town was packed with merchants and customers making their way out of the square, their profits jingling in pouches sewn to their shirts.  I, meanwhile, was busy packing the sweets and dairy products that hadn't sold, preparing them for the journey home. The old mare that had been in my family for ages snorted at me, and I relinquished a sugar cube to her as thanks for her patience.

It was dark by the time I was heading home, but having traveled the same path for all seventeen years of my life, I could travel it easily even in pitch black darkness. Usually I lit an oil lamp for the way home, but that night for some reason I had decided not to. I wasn't certain why, but the stars that shined that night were spread across like billions of diamonds on black silk. They shined so brightly in a few places that I had no need for a telescope to figure out which stars they were.

I tightened the cloak around my shoulders to keep the chill from my skin, reveling in the nights beauty, the fields of insects chirping, the proudness I felt from how much I had sold that day. The mare, Honey, was on a perfect pace, easily carrying both myself and the small cart that was attached behind her. She was quiet as well, but I could tell she was wide awake from the flashing of her eyes. They were blue, unheard of in the breeds from the high mountains that needed dark eyes to keep the sun on the snow from damaging their sight. She was lucky in that nine of the twelve months she didn't need dark eyes, since the weather we held here in Arendyle was mild.

A light up ahead caught my eye and I slowed my pace, trying to catch sight of who it was. As we got closer I could tell it was a carriage traveling with others from the outside. It had the telltale orange and yellow painted on the sides for a bus carriage, and I nodded my head curiously at the driver as they came down the path. He tilted his hat respectfully to me, a gentleman in his thirties it seemed. We passed without incident as I kept clear to the other side of the road, and headed further out.

As I came to the bridge and a fork in the road, I turned left and about an hour after soon found a small set of tracks of to the right into the trees. It led to another bridge that lay over a small brook and once I passed that I entered into a round glade surrounded by trees on all sides. Directly in the center of the field were two buildings. One was the cottage I had known since birth, and the other was the bakery where I made my confections. The cottage was a two story, quite large with six bedrooms, a great family room, kitchen, and den. The stables were behind the cottage, currently occupied by Honey and my uncles stallion Morticai. Another stallion, River, was gifted to me for my fifteenth birthday. Mainly I kept him home, free in the fields when working.

It seemed, unnatural almost to keep such a beautiful creature bound by bags of chocolate and a cart. River didn't seem to mind it however, since we had grown close quite quickly after I raised and trained him from a colt. As long as he was near me, the dear thing seemed willing to do anything. Unfortunately, his patience with the crowds of the market left something to be desired, so I usually had to leave him here.

I brought Honey around to the stable and quickly unlatched the cart, making sure to give her another sugar cube as thanks. She could be a gentle creature when given attention and praise, or better yet sweets, but she was a fiery little thing when it came down to it. I quickly untied the saddle bags and took the harness off, quickly following with a rub down and some fresh hay. Morticai could be seen in his stall, enjoying his dinner as well, and I smiled when his brown eyes met mine. He was a black stallion, one of the few left in the kingdom. No color but black graced his hide and he was stunning, let me tell you. Apparently my uncle Sebastian had been a knight for the empire once before he retired. Thanks to his service and closeness with the current emperor he was gifted the current estate with everything on it. His stallion who has been with him for years already of course also had to go with him. Plus there was also the tiny fact that no one else could ride him. I could if my uncle was nearby, but even then he would be very stubborn with listening to me.

After I finished brushing down Honey I put her in her stall. An impatient snort sounded behind me and I couldn't help but smile at River who was giving me his stink eye. I pouted and came up to him, my hand hidden behind my back.

"Hello handsome boy. I'm so sorry I wasn't able to ride with you today." I whispered apologetically. He bobbed his head up and down and stomped his foot, agreeing with me that I should be sorry. I frowned and got close to his nose, fully intending to kiss his velvet snout, but he dodged me.

I chuckled and raised an eyebrow. The stinker. I sighed and whipped my hand out from behind my back, showing him the small pile of sugar cubes in them. He snorted with glee and lunged for them, but I brought my hand back and smirked.

"Let me kiss you River or you won't get any." I was a little selfish in that I always wanted to kiss him when I got home. It was sort of a ritual with us. He snorted again, throwing his black mane around in irritation, but relented when he saw the determined look on my face. He lowers his head and I attacked his snout with gentle kisses and compliments. River I knew didn't hate it, but he liked to make sure he knew that he was the one that made most decisions in the stall. Riding I was the one who made decisions. I laughed at his cheekiness when he snorted again and held my hand out for him to take the sugar cubes. His golden eyes turned to stare at me with adoration and I smoothed my hand down his solid sand colored neck. He was a solid color stallion as well and my head barely reached his shoulder. We had to actually enlarge his stall because he grew bigger than his father had.

I kissed him again and on my way out of the stable after checking the other two, blew the lamps out. I grabbed the one I had placed on the cart, and made my way to back entry of the cottage. It entered into the kitchen and I quickly started a fire in for dinner, knowing my uncle was most likely waiting for me before eating. He could cook himself, but he always said he loved to eat my cooking and would wait for me.

I brought the water in the kettle over the fire to a boil and added the freshly cut vegetables in, settling on making a quick vegetable and rabbit stew. I heard heavy thumping and lifted my head to greet my uncle with a smile.

He was older, in his forties, with auburn hair that was starting to grey. His hazel eyes were deep set into his square face and covered by bushy eyebrows and he was a very large man. He reminded me a lot of a grizzly that way. His arms and legs were as thick as tree trunks but he also had a very sharp mind. He was considered handsome by many of the older village ladies, though he had never actually taken on a wife. I assume that had my parents not passed away weeks after I was born, he would have stayed by himself forever.

He never wished for a wife and he had told me that he imagined me to be just like an actual daughter of his would be, spoiled slightly with stubbornness. I never considered myself spoiled, although I would consider myself better off than many other families out there. I liked to never take for granted what was given to me, as a consequence for how my uncle raised me.

I jumped to my feet from where I was crouching and threw my arms around him. He chuckled and it reverberated through his chest to my own. He slowly lowered me to feet, his own smile wide.

"Darling girl, how was the market today?" His voice was low and had a jolly undertone, giving presence to his personality. Usually he was calm and quiet but you could catch him off guard and surprise him enough to get a smile. He was gentle for his big size, like a regular gentle giant.

"It went well! The chocolate and sugar roses were the most popular today and as usual your honey buns sold out. The apple crisps were the least sold I think today. Here." I reached into the pouch hanging around my hip and handed the bag of coins we had made today to him. I also handed him the silver platelets for the swords I had dropped off at the merchants guild earlier that morning.

Having retired, he still works in his free time as a swordsmith. His creations were very popular and well sought out all over the Empire for the power that usually came with them. He had a druids blood in his veins, which gave certain attributes to any weapons he made. Swords were stronger, lighter, sharper and they could have healing powers if used correctly.

I had always wanted one but was denied solely on the fact that he didn’t want me hurt. Funny how it was though that he still trained me on how to use a bow and arrow and how to properly hold and use a blade. It was exasperating and made no sense, but I loved him all the same for his quiet, eccentric ways.

It wasn't long before dinner was ready and I set the table for the two of us. The bread we bake daily was set out, butter from the market neary and the soup was served with ice cold water from the brooke outside to drink. We dug right in, our conversation brief and quiet.

"So, Uncle, how were the fields today?" I asked curious. A torrential downpour had flooded them a week ago and washed the seeds away, so any free hand had been asked to join in getting the field fixed up. Luckily uncle had no qualms about jumping right in to assist.

He finished the bite he was on and nodded his head. "It went well. The seeds have been planted and the irrigation between the fields has been modified, so with hope there will be no other incidents." I smiled.

The main field that had been affected was Mrs. Delawares. She was a widow with five boys who were all over the place in personalities, with the two oldest having signed up for the Border Guards. She had two slaves, but they were both women bought to help with the boys and weren't much use when it came to heavy lifting. Or so they say. I think any woman can get to be just as strong as a man if not stronger.

It was a relief for both her and everyone else that the situation had been fixed so quickly. "I heard from Pim today that her older sister Tiana is finally going to marry Karson. Two days from now they plan to head out to the Rose garden with both families to have the ceremony." I was very excited for it mainly because Tiana has been after Karson for years and she finally got to him. Pim and I were planning on being her lady-in-waitings during the ceremony to make sure it went perfect.

He nodded and was about to say something but was interrupted by a loud knocking at the front door. We both looked at each other and he nodded at me. I swiftly stood up and grabbed the bow and arrow from its place on the wall and stood slightly behind the door with the arrow knocked. Usually the area around here was nice and quiet, so for someone to come this late could mean a multitude of things.

Uncle checked the dagger on his wrist and looked at me one more time before opening the door slowly. We both blinked in surprise when we saw the soldiers on the other side. There were three of them, dressed as the Empire guard in the telltale black and green uniform. I lowered my bow, keeping the arrow notched and watched them like a hawk.

My uncle inclined his head respectfully, since he used to be part of the emperor's personal guard, and stepped back so they could enter into the warm family room. The polished floors reflected the glow of the fire in the hearth, making a nice light throughout the room.

"Sorry to disturb you Sir Wilhelm. We've been-" The soldier in front with a shaved head and dark brown eyes noticed me, and had to pause slightly before continuing. "-making rounds around the area to let the villagers know about a robbery. Thieves attacked a bus carriage a few hours ago, and stole everything on board as well as attacked the driver and kidnapped two women. They're still at large and we aren't sure if they are brave enough to venture into the local homes. "

I had my weapon lowered and stared at the soldiers. They were in their early twenties and attractive, especially in uniform, but the news that a bus carriage was attacked made me pale.

I shuffled to Uncles side, my face full of worry. "The driver. Was he by any chance an older gentleman with a beard?"

The men looked at each other and the one with the brown eyes stepped forward, his expression curious. "Yes he was. His name is Finnegan Cambel. Did you know him?"

I shook my head. "No, but on the way home I passed by him and his carriage as he was heading on the road to the inns near the Market Square. If it happened a few hours ago, it must have been just after I passed by him."

"Did you see or hear anything before you met up with him on the road? or did anything look strange to you?" Another man with reddish brown hair asked. I shook my head again.

"Not at all. It was a normal, quiet night. It was for that reason that I turned my lamp light off on the way home, so I could enjoy the stars, but I didn't hear or see anything." I felt my heart clench with guilt. I should have been paying more attention.

The man with the brown eyes looked at me speculatively before turning away. His voice was grave as he parted our estates with a final warning. "I think it would be best you had an escort with you from now on miss. It seems the area around here has been fraught with robberies lately and it wouldn't do well for you to be caught unaware."

They climbed their horses and trotted out of sight, leaving a cold air behind where they had been. Uncle closed the door to the outside and watched me as I gingerly sat in my seat at the table.

"I passed by them and there was nothing...those poor girls." I laid my head in hands, thinking back. Was there anything I missed? Anything that could help capture these people?

Uncle's hand smoothed up and down my back comfortingly and I looked up to stare at him. He had a sad look on his face but it quickly vanished when an idea crossed his mind. He sat across from me a mischievous look in his eye.

"Listen, Athalea, let me just tell you first that there was nothing you could have done, even if you knew. There could have been dozens of men and you're not trained to fight against them." His voice was persuasive and I had no choice but to agree with him.  He was right. I stood up a few bowl to clean up but was stopped by his hand on my shoulder. "That also brings up the fact that there was a possibility that it could have been you. In light of that and since I know that your birthday is next week, how about we prepare for anything the future might throw at us by preparing a few things?"

I stopped, intrigued. "What were you thinking?"

He smiled at me, but I kept my face blank, waiting. "Well, how about you head to Elisees and go shopping for a new dress, bow and arrow, and...well, I'm getting older and I was planning on having you do this anyway, but I'd like you to go to the Slave market and purchase two."

I gaped, completely surprised. My uncle hated the idea of slaves. To say he was actually going to buy two of them? I was completely stumped.

"W-why?" my voice stuttered without my meaning to and I had to swallow. "You hate slaves."

"As I've said, I'm getting older and I thought it would be nice to have company that could help you out with the chores and things. I'm actually planning on having the two slaves chosen work for us for a year to pay off what they were sold for and hopefully at the end have two loyal friends who wouldn't mind  staying with us longer. Of course, that's completely up to them and I won't know their hearts or desires but...it might be nice to try something out. That's also why I'd like for you to choose them for me. They'll be your slaves, under your command, and you usually have no problems with sensing things about people."

I was to choose the slaves? Me? I was so puzzled I didn't really know what to say except to nod my head. My uncle nodded at me and then we both cleaned up the food. We went to bed with the owls cooing in the night, but I wasn't able to fall asleep for hours afterward.

**********

I woke up the next morning just at the crack of dawn. It was slightly cold outside and the sun was just starting to shine through the trees. I crawled off of the feather down mattress in the bedroom and stumbled to my feet, groggy and still half asleep since my eyes refused to close last night.

I could hear clanging downstairs and knew my uncle was making breakfast; a rare occurrence but one I appreciated never the less. I ran to the washroom and washed my face with the water already placed in the basin and stared at myself in the mirror. It was something gifted to me for my thirteenth birthday, when I requested one after wanting to know what I looked like.

It was square, about the size of a small painting, but I was large enough to see my whole face and it was also embedded into a silver frame of vines and flowers and birds. I fell in love with it the second he showed it to me.

As I stared at myself, my heart warmed as I recognized my dimples. They popped out every time I smiled, which just made me smile wider. It was strange to see one's own face, but I never got tired of making eyes and sticking my tongue out at myself. I had a square face with a jaw that ran stubborn and high cheekbones. My nose was somewhat elegant and made a medium sized button at the tip while my bottom lip was plump and full, my top lip slightly thinner. My Eyebrows and eyelashes matched the deep blue-black of my hair, which curled to my waist in messy, bed-head waves. I think out of everything about my face, the most I loved were my eyes. They were ones I had never seen before, a unique amethyst surrounded by an outline of sapphire and on the very outside a ring of black.

They always captivated me when I saw my own reflection. I smiled again and dashed back into my room to pull on the light green dress I had placed over a chair the night before. I had been so preoccupied that I had gone to bed without changing my undergarments and so decided to wear the same ones. At least that was less laundry to do.

The dress was one for riding, reaching mid-shin in the skirt length. The tight sleeves reached my wrists and were a darker green which matched the sewn in belt around my waist. It was the perfect size and one I loved because of the easy movement. The neckline of the dress hung slightly off my shoulders before dipping into a small crescent that gave little to view of my well endowed cleavage. Another reason why I liked the dress.

I quickly pulled it over my head and then grabbed the brush on the dresser next to the bed, quickly running it through my waves and then I somehow managed to strangle the strands into submission long enough to make a braid. I put wool socks on next, quickly followed by my leather riding boots, and then headed downstairs.

As I predicted, Uncle Sebastian was at the oven, crouched down in front of it and when I caught the smell of egg, I couldn’t help but chuckle. "Uncle, the eggs aren't going to rise any faster even if you glare at them."

I surprised him and he spun around, slightly peeved that I had questioned his cooking methods. "Athalea, I've been in hundreds of battles and fought many men and I'll be darned if I can't get a few eggs to listen to what I have to say."

I covered my mouth to hide the smile I was wearing and instead bowed mockingly to him as I rushed outside to the back, a spoon handle flying after me. Outside I could no longer keep the laughter at bay and had to hold my stomach until I could breathe. By then I was in the stall and the looks the horses were giving me were about to set me off again. I took a calming breath and controlled myself since I needed to get River ready for the journey. It was half a days ride there and back, so If I wanted to spend my time looking through the stalls I had to leave soon.

I got River ready within a few quick minutes and couldn’t help but laugh because he was so excited to finally get to travel that his body was shaking. His eyes were glued to my movements, watching everything I did, and finally when I finished I mounted him with a familiarity like I was born with it. We traveled to the front of the cottage where I tied him down and then I walked to the bakery that had been added at my request years ago. Behind it was another shed, though this one held our two dairy cows and the few chickens we possessed. I quickly did my chores, milking the cows and gathering the eggs, then met my uncle inside. He had my bow and arrow ready, as well as a shoulder pouch with the money and papers I would need to get into the city with. My breakfast was packed into another bag that also held bread, cheese, and vegetables in case I was hungry and to my surprise a dagger.

I held the small blade in my hand for a moment, relishing in the sharpness of it, before I forced it back into the bag. It wasn't mine and I know I wouldn’t get one. Uncle had made that clear. This was just extra precaution for the ride down. He also handed me a neck emblem; a metal wire strung through a silver plate that contained my family name. I wore that and quickly hid it in my dress, knowing it was valuable if in the wrong hands. I could get into any place with my uncles emblem in Elisees since it was silver which left many people to want it.

I knew I was only to use it if the papers failed or if they were lost. I held it close to my chest and grabbed everything else. we both walked outside and I quickly placed everything within easy reach, except the pouch with the papers and money which I kept directly on me. Elisees wasn't like Arendyle. They were a place off the coast with many ships traveling in and out with both human and object merchandise. There were many thieves in that city and many men who treated women like myself as if they were dirt, something to be trampled on and overlooked. I wasn't going to take any chances.

I hugged my uncle and grasped his hands, kissing both cheeks right before mounting River once more. "Athalea, if you need anything or end up in trouble you know where to find the city guards and the road patrols. If all else fails, just use the safeword I've taught you and any soldier should be willing to help."

I nodded, quickly going through everything we had ever discussed about the way to Elisees and back. This would be my first trip alone to a place that I hadn't gone to everyday since I was born and so it would be unfamiliar to me. My uncle usually took me to the city neighboring Elisees, Farand, for special trips like this, but Farand did not have slaves, only Elisees did.

Usually a chaperone would attend to make sure there was no trouble, but I was a special circumstance and even though it was few, I had been taught some tricks to get out of trouble if really needed. After all, Uncle hadn't been a Knight of the Empire without reason.

As I traveled from our estates to the road leading further into the forest, I kicked River up to a steady trot. I wanted River to get used to the road and I also didn’t want to choke on the breakfast uncle Sebastian had made me while we were moving; sadly it's happened before.

The way there was perfect, with no problems and the sun shone through a cloudless sky. The trees were a mix of Pine, Aspen, and Oak which caused a beautiful flurry of leaves when the wind whistled through. I had moved the dagger in the bag to around my waist under my cloak, loving the close feel of it. On the way there we passed the Golden Lake. It was a body of water that had a sediment in it that caused the water to turn gold. It was completely drinkable and even had a pear-like taste to it. Scholars from the larger cities would come to study it in their free time but the actual reason why it was like that was elusive. 

Within four hours of riding I finally came to Cape Hill. This was my favorite part of traveling the road to Elisees because after climbing the top of the hill, it spread out and you could see everything for the next couple miles. I positioned myself to help River up the hill and when we created it, a gasp escaped my mouth.

It really was stunning. The trees on the sides of me thinned out to allow the grass and farmlands. It traveled down the hill and all the way to the coast. Elisees sat like a dark blotch of color on the left side and the horizon was a streak of cerulean blue. Ships dotted the bay and you could see flags flying on top of the buildings in Elisees if you looked closely.

Farms on the hillsides watched over the fields, and I could see a few farmers walking with their cattle. I started down the road after a few moments, already smelling the ocean on the wind even though I was another three or so hours out.

When I finally made it to the outskirts of Elisees, the city walls that towered more than three stories reflected the sun off of the black marble and blinded me. Elisees walls stretched all the way into the sea on both ends, like a giant barrier. There was a wall that was similar in Farand that I knew, sort of like a drawbridge, that would be raised at the entry point into the bay to allow ships into the city harbor.

Of course, Farand didn't have nearly as high security since they didn't deal with human merchandise. A line of travelers was waiting to get through and I sat on River patiently, holding the satchel that had my papers in my lap. It didn't take long, mainly just guards checking to make sure there weren't any stow-sways or people trying to leave the city with potentially stolen papers.

The guard called for the next person and I kneed River lightly so he would move forward. The guards were in light leather and their uniform was in perfect condition. They had swords on their hips and spears in their less dominant hands. The platform they were raised on was high enough that on horseback I could see them eye to eye, and River wasn't small.

I rode up to them and looked at the ones on my right who were taking the papers. In front of me was a wide hallway with other soldiers at the end for travelers leaving the city. They were both middles aged, but wearing masks that covered half their faces so I couldn't see their eyes.

I shuffled my papers into the correct order and handed them for a quick look over. Mainly they told which village I was registered in, my age, family, full name, and my personal status which was freeborn; everything except my personal crest created for me on my sixteenth birthday. Every freeborn citizen of the continent was given a personal crest by the village sorceress. It was supposed to be kept private, shared only with immediate family or spouse.

They looked everything over but mainly their eyes were on me, annoying as it was. I knew I was attractive, but I wish they could have been less persistent about their attentions. After they verified the papers they handed them back but made sure to hold my hand as they gave them to me.

I held back a shudder, instead leaving them with a poker face. I rode through the gate with a roll of my eyes, keeping my attention on the city that lay ahead of me. At the other end, I showed the approval stamp and made my way into the busy streets.

Since I had never been here before, it was like eye candy that I couldn't help but keep swallowing. Buildings of all shapes and colors were packed to the point that the tiny streets were like veins, twisting and turning like a set of mazes mixing back into each other. I made sure to keep to the main road, knowing that the Inn I was recommended to stay at was close to the entrance.

Riding down the street I had to be careful to dodge around those on foot. They were running back and forth, some even sprinting to get to their destination. I looked down at the paper, knowing that the Inn's name was the Crimson Goose. It was one of the larger ones that had a stable in the back for horses and carriages.

I kept my eyes peeled, ignoring the calls from the shops advertising and finally my eyes alighted on a bright red door in a white building. Crimson Goose was written in bright red letters above the door between two windows. Pots hung from the window shelves with bright flowers giving it a very welcoming feel. I pulled up to the gates and dismounted, handing the reins over to one of the three stable boys and grabbed the bags off of River before heading up the walkway to the front entrance.

As you entered onto the floor, you could see a few tables being occupied for a noonday meal scattered around the entrance. Steps in the back led to more tables by the kitchen and stairs to my left along the wall led up to the rooms on the second and third floor. Next to the set of steps you could see an older woman with curly blonde hair to her shoulders and blue eyes behind a bar, looking over a few pages in a book. I walked over there, ignoring the looks given to me by the other customers.

She looked up at me with a smile when I stood in front of her. "Hello miss. What can I do for you?"

I smiled back at her, easily comfortable in her presence. The feel she gave off was very friendly. "I'd like a room for one night please."

She nodded and looked behind me, but turned back to me with a raised eyebrow. "Are you by yourself?"

I stared at her, not sure if I should answer that question. I nodded anyway and she pulled out a book from under the counter. She flipped to a section that wasn't as well used as the first couple of pages and thumbed through them before stopping with a nod of her head.

"How much can you afford for a room deary?" Her blue eyes sparkled questioningly and I drew close to her, aware that other customers were listening in on our conversation. My uncle had provided plenty of money for the trip, the room, and the other expenses I would make. I could pretty much afford any room I wanted if it was for one night. He even gave the go ahead if I wanted to do that since it was for my 18th birthday; a gift.

"I can afford the room with the best security." I told her. I didn't really care about the luxury, as long as it could keep my possessions and myself safe.

She nodded with understanding and fished out a key from inside her pocket. "I know exactly what you need then. Usually this room I give for a higher price, but you seem like I a nice lady. Ill give it to you for five silvers."

I winced a little. It was expensive and if this was a discount then I'd hate to see what it was at full price. Still, I could afford it which was more luxury than I could say for other travelers.

I bit my lip and nodded slightly, making sure to hide my purse when I picked out five silvers. The woman's eyes gleamed and the next blink the money was gone and replaced with a bronze key. The number 15 was etched into the middle. I picked it up and the woman gestured to the stairs.

"It's on the third floor, towards the end. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all included with a hot bath provided every night. If you wouldn't mind signing your name here-" I signed in my name Athalea Wilhelm in the registry."-and I hope you enjoy your stay." I nodded a thank you and headed up the stairs to quickly unpack since I still had a good couple of hours of shopping left over. After climbing the steps, making sure not to make eye contact with anyone else. The room was at the very end with a door made of polished, solid oak. There were a few other doors like my own, which made me thankful it wouldn't be too was to recognize.

Unlocking the door I was surprised to see that the room was much more spacious than I thought it would be. A queen sized mattress was to my right next to a closet that held a small dresser and a table with a bowl and pitcher of rose scented water. To the left was a wooden bench covered in pillows and a few extra blankets. Then directly in front were two large windows that showed the waters and the stone wall. If you looked closely you could even see spouts gushing sea water on the inside into the bay, like giant waterfalls. A few ships could be seen at the piers with more heading out to sea through the open gate. It was a plain room, but also very nice and cozy. Best of all it was on the highest floor and the wood door had three metal locks connected to it as well as a bell that rang downstairs for assistance of any kind.

I sat on the bed for a nice breather, finally able to relax. It was still a strange thought that I would be down here to buy slaves of all things. I knew Uncle had  made me go on this trip to get away from the village so I wouldn't have to think about the incident, but being on my own just makes me want to think about it more. Plus uncle stayed behind when it was still dangerous...I would only be gone for a day but it made me feel uneasy. I couldn't help but feel my fur clench in anxiety.

I sighed and unpacked everything to where it was needed then did a quick wipe down with the rose water. I straightened my braid and then put the money inside the dress pocket I had secretly sewed months ago. Another reason I liked the dress; the belt acted as a secret pouch where I could hide money. I was able to fit all of it in my dress and when I patted myself down you couldn't see or feel anything off about what I was wearing. I replaced my cloak with a white shawl I stead and put a few snacks and papers in a shoulder bag. I slung the strap around my neck to make it more comfortable and then exited, making sure to lock the door behind me.

I was still anxious but the prospect of being in a city that I had never been in before persuaded my inner adventurer to come and play. I skipped down the stairs and to the woman behind the counter, who beamed at me.

"Like your room miss?" She chuckled at my enthusiastic nod.

"Very much, thank you. Its exactly what I wanted. I actually came down here because I wanted to ask a few questions if I may?"

"Of course! And please while you're here call me Catherine."

"Thank you Catherine. I'm actually looking for a store that will sell quality dresses for a good price?"

She nodded immediately. "You'll want to see Rose Hawthorns shop. Its called Dress Quest. She's very well know around here for her dresses."

I quickly wrote it down on a notebook page, not wanting to forget it.

"Alright, now, I'm also looking to purchase a few slaves as well. Would you happen to know where they would be?"

I looked up from my writing to her shocked face, worried I had offended her somehow.

"Slaves? And what would a young girl like you want with a couple of slaves?" A deep voice behind me startled me and I jumped slightly.

I spun around and met the eyes of a tall man who looked to be just a few year older then me. His sandy blond hair was wavy and reached his shoulders and matched the slight scruff on his tanned face. His green eyes were cunning, calculating as they stared at me. He was also mouthwatering.

It took me a second to respond and without my meaning to the words came out a little breathless. "They're actually for my uncle. I'm only here to bring them back."

The man tilted his head at me with a blank expression before turning to Catherine. "I'd like a room for three nights please. And I actually have business down in the slave pens myself little lady, so if you wait a few moments for me to unpack, I'll take you down to the docks with me." He looked out of the corner of his eye at me, waiting to see my response.

He seemed like a nice enough gentleman but I had a strange inkling that what he wanted to do down there wasn't something I wanted to get involved with. Plus he made my stomach flutter and that never bode well. I always trusted my instincts and my instincts with this one was a no.

I shook my head, staring hard at the man so I wouldn't have to get my point across another time. "Thank you sir-"

"Caspian. A beautiful girl like you can call me Caspian."

"Right. Well, Sir Caspian, it's very nice of you to offer, but I'll have to decline. Have a nice day." I bowed my head at him and rushed to the entryway while he put out half hearted protests, annoyed with the man.

At least I semi knew where I was supposed to be going, which was down the docks. Loads of people were already heading that way for fresh fish and exotic fruits from the harbor, so I just let the flow of the crowd carry me. I made it within record time to my delight.

Well, it would have been had the smell not absolutely disgusted me. It was like a mix of rotting eggs, fish guts, and human waste all rolled up into one, sweet little package. My eyes started to sting after a few seconds, but I forced them open.

The houses down here were dirtier, more run down and old. It was like I was in a completely different city. Soldiers roamed to make sure none of the beggars on the streets bothered pedestrians, but even then there were a few scuffles.

I looked around, not sure where to go, when a voice rang out from my left. "Slaves from Hegleptya and Prognos, special deals!" The voice was loud and male and I made my way over to him all the while thinking how could there be deals for human ownership?

When I finally managed to get through the crowd, I was out of breath. It had been like trying to push through walls that liked to push back twice as hard. The man I found was bare-chested, wearing nothing except a loincloth. His head was bald and he had giant hoop earrings that reflected the afternoon sun.

He stood In front of a large building with a curtain over the door and a sign that literally advertised slaves. I walked through, ignoring the look he gave me. Inside was a small sitting room that held a couple chairs and a desk at the front. Curtains covered the doorways on each side and when I spied the bell, I rang it twice. Within seconds a man dressed in black robes came through one of the side doors and greeted me.

"Can I help you?" He looked me up and down contemplatively, assessing I assumed how much I would be worth. I forced myself not to shy away from the humped man. His black eyes met mine when I snapped my fingers at him to get his attention.

"I'm here to buy two slaves."

He smirked and shook his head, waving at me. "Trust me girl, they're not something you can afford. The prices of even a child ar-"

I cut him off when I fished out a gold coin. It was enough to buy a single slave I assumed when his mouth clamped close.

"I have more than enough. Now, are you going to help me or am I going to have to take my business elsewhere?" It was an empty threat since I didn't even know if there were other sellers on the market, but judging from his panicked expression he couldn't afford to turn me away.

"Of course miss, please excuse my rudeness. Follow me."

I hid the gold in my waist again when he turned around and I followed him. "Do you happen to know what type of slaves you are looking for?"

I was caught by surprise from the question. Of course there would be categories for them. Uncle told me it was my choice but I didn't want to disappoint so I thought about it from a logical point of view... If you could call it that.

"Preferably no children. Men and women between the ages of sixteen to thirty...if you have them?"

The man nodded his head at me, turning down a right corridor after coming through another blanket covered entrance. The hallways were quiet and clean. The air thankfully smelt like cypress and soap. We came to a door and he put his hand out to stop me before going further.

"I'll let you past this point by yourself. A guard on the other side with escort you to the men first and the women secondly. Look for doors with white and blue paint above them since they'll have the 16-26, 26-36 year olds." He swung the door open for me into a brightly lit corridor. A guard on the other side greeted me with a smile and I nodded a greeting to him.

"Good luck." And the man shut the door behind me.

I turned to the guard, curious about his name but kept my silence when he stared at me with lustful eyes. It disturbed me and instead I turned my attention to the room ahead of me. It was like a jail, with cells made of iron bars stretching on either side. You could see above the doors that there were stone tiles painted red, black, blue, white and yellow. I started to walk through, keeping my eyes peeled for the blue and white cells. The first few that I came across were red and I could immediately tell they were for older slaves, maybe mid 50-60s. The stench near the cells were a little ripe, but the slaves had what looked like were clean clothes, simple wool robes colored like mud. Their heads were shaved, so the locks weren't tangled. The stares they sent me were varied, shifting between respectful, scared, angry, and a few blank ones that made my heart stutter with pity. This was why I didn't agree with slaves like my uncle. These were human beings and I was still shocked that I was even here. But Uncle had asked me and if what he told me back at the village was true, at least two of these slaves could become free if they wanted within a year or two at most.

I kept my shudders hidden and instead focused on the feeling in the pit of my stomach. It had always been a strange thing, but when I met a person, I could usually immediately tell if they were good or bad. If they were a kind person and trustworthy, a calmness would settle over me. I remember there was this one time a small man had come to the village, passing through and he was humped over due to a bulge on his back and he was small, smaller than I was almost. Everyone shied away from him refusing to even talk to him, but when I saw him I felt like I had known him for ages and I was completely comfortable around him. I was six at the time and had hugged his little body, expecting to be shoved away, but instead of all things he cried. He was such a gentle soul, with no darkness in him at all. I had 'coerced' my uncle to let him stay with us a few days and that memory had been one of my most precious ones. Now, when it came to shady people, or ones with bad Intentions, a knot in my stomach would tighten and I would become jittery, even nauseous in severe cases. I had found out a new neighbor of ours was someone bad because I got that feeling. It was when I was nine and my hands, feet, and stomach had alighted in prickles. My stomach also tightened to where I couldn't comfortably sit in his presence for very long as it became even painful in a few cases.

That was why everyone around me now were cautious of me. Everyone liked him, he was kind and boyish, with a loud laugh and giving hands. A year later he was found to have killed his youngest boy. Apparently he was abusive and extremely violent in the home. I never mistrusted my gut instincts from then on and neither did my uncle. They were so spot on sometimes that he couldn't help but wonder about the bloodline my mother had. It was possible I had druid or a sorcerers lineage, just as my uncle and father did, but my blood seemed stronger.

Well, I always scoffed at the idea. I turned back to the task at hand, finally coming to the first set of white stones. A man who looked a little older than me stared at the ceiling but when I stared at him, a pain in my chest made me quickly back away. I knew without a doubt that this boy was dangerous, but there was also a strange...connection of some sort. I shook it off and continued on, wanting to keep my search precise and on pointe.

Eventually i came to find that each slave I passed in my criteria had some level of danger to them. Some made me want to leave from the dead looks in their eyes, while others frightened me with the lustful jabs made toward my person. Strangely enough, the only good candidate I found had been the first man I had come across. I headed back to his cell through the now loud corridor, keeping my eyes straight ahead. Now that they knew that a woman and potential buyer was amidst them, obscene shouts and pleads echoed from the cells. One slave even screamed at me for being a 'witch that should burn in hell' and I quote.

I stood in front of the man who had been staring at the ceiling and who was now staring right at me. Our gazes met and I felt a sharpness in my chest and stomach. This man was dangerous, true, but he also had a well of sadness behind those sky blue eyes. It was strange but that connection I felt earlier only increased now that I met his gaze. I couldn't exactly explain it but, as always, I went with my gut. I  stepped a little closer to the bars and he stood in front of me. He towered over me, like I was a child, and the sleeveless robes showed off muscles that were packed with power. His brown hair was cut close to his head like all the others and his face was handsome.

"What is your name?" I asked quietly.

He stared at me for a few seconds before his voice came out, gruff and deep. "Erlan."

I nodded, "how old are you, Erlan?"

"I am 24 this year." A thud from the guard behind me made him add on a "miss." At the end.

"May I see your teeth please?" I had no actual need to see his teeth but I assumed I had needed to act like I knew what I was doing when I entered into the building.

He bared his teeth at me like a dog and I nodded seeing they were perfect and white. Surprisingly.

"May I also see your chest, please, and back from the waist up?" He raised an eyebrow at this and I hurriedly explained. "Its to look for any infections!"

My cheeks  reddened like a pair of apples and my anger spiked when I heard his chuckle. He maneuvered the top part of his robe off so I could tell that there were no infections. This man did have plenty of scars to spare and muscles that looked good enough to eat.

I shied away from that thought and forced my eyes back up to his face. "Erlan. I've decided to buy you. My name is Athalea." I smiled at his surprised look and looked at the guard.

  "Take me to the women please."  He nodded and walked me back to the door where we exited. We walked to the women's quarters across the way where he dropped me off with a second guard before backtracking.

The women's cells were much like the men's had been, though their robes were a bit longer. Their hair was cut to their shoulders and the area smelled slightly of peppermint.

Unlike the men there were more choices with the women. After looking them over only three managed to keep my attention. One was a scrawny girl about my age with blonde curls and hazel eyes. She was scrawny but she was sweet and I could tell would be perfect for a small family. Another was a woman with black hair in her thirties. She had a motherly figure and presence about her and after deciding she would be better for a family, I left her with an apologetic shake of my head. The third was a young woman, a few years older than me and she was so calm and quiet, but her heart was strong and fierce. Her brown eyes had blazed and I could feel the fire in her heart as I stared at her. She was a little chubby, plentiful with curves, and her platinum hair was wrapped back away from her head with a strip of cloth from her robe. She had been towards the end and after making a quick decision, I decided on her.

I stood in front of her cell and smiled which seemed to catch her off guard. Niceties were a luxury in this place I had quickly learned.

She was sitting when I came back to her, in the same position as last time.

"What is your name?" I repeated the questions I had asked Erlan, wanting to keep them simple and straight to the point.

"Demili, miss."

"Demili, how old are you?"

"I believe 18 this year."

"Alright and may I see your teeth please?"

She smiled at me and I giggled when I saw her lip twitch. "Very nice. Thank you. May I see your chest and back please, from the waist up to look for infections?"

She looked behind me and I glanced at the guard who had slid closer so he could see better. I turned to him, annoyed.

"Excuse me. Go over there please." I pointed down the hallway, telling him to leave.

He shook his head, a smirk on his face. "Sorry miss, but it wouldn't be good to leave you alone so close to an un-bonded slave. I think it-"

"I won't repeat myself a second time. I will be perfectly fine for a few seconds." I hardened my stare, glaring at the man, and watched in satisfaction as his smirk slipped and he backed up a few paces away.

I turned back to Demili with a huff and roll of my eyes to see her eyes twinkling in laughter. She was already bare and as I glanced over her supple figure I could not find anything that looked like an infection of any kind.

"Good. Very good. Alright, I'll take her as well please." I called over to the guard when she was fully covered and he gave me a gruff nod. I turned back to the girl, whose expression had turned quizzical.

"Demili, My name is Athalea. I'll see you soon."

I followed the guard back down the hallway and I exited, satisfied I had at least managed to find two who I thought my Uncle would at least approve of. The man with the bald head met me outside with an expectant expression."Find the ones you wanted?"

I kept a neutral expression on my face and nodded. He smiled and motioned me to follow him. We entered a side room with velvet seats and tea already prepared, which I was thankful for. I sat down and helped myself to a cup before the servant could get to me, too impatient to wait. It burned my tongue slightly and tasted orange peel and cinnamon on the warmth.

"Alright, well then. How about we get down to the payment of the merchandise?"

Of course. My uncle at least had prepared me for haggling prices and I sat with my back straight, ready.

The soldier I had been with in the men's area walked in with a rolled up piece of paper which I assumed had the slaves info on it. He rolled it open and looked it over. He raised his eyebrows, completely surprised.

"Its almost funny how you managed to pick out two of our most troublesome slaves."

I bit my lip, worried. "What do you mean? How are they troublesome?"

"Well, while unbonded to a master, Erlan has many cases of being violent towards the keepers. He's had a few incidents where his victims were beaten so badly they could no longer walk. He was very popular among the other slaves for his headstrong personality. Demili has been, well, active when it came to grabbing attention from the men around her for favors. They could be controlled but...they've always been an issue. Are you sure these are the ones you want?" He looked at me doubtfully.

I thought about it but the looks in their eyes and the senses I had felt talking to them and looking at them were unmistakable. I smirked, fully aware of the choice I was making. "Yes. They're the ones."

He shrugged his shoulders and signed something  on the paper before handing it to me. "Sign your name and personal signature, saying that you agree to the contract. The slaves are non-refundable once they are bonded to you. A bonding spell wraps a slaves soul to yours; once that happens you can make a slave do anything, even kill. As the main contractor, if anything happens, its your responsibility to care after your slaves. Understand so far?"

I nodded. "Good. Now the prices are non-negotiable and to begin with since you picked two of our problem makers, their prices were low to begin with. Since its your first time and we're in the process of a special deal, ill dock it down a little bit. The man will go for 22 silvers, the female 36."

Holy mother of cows. I thought it would be a couple of golds at least. I felt apprehension flow through me, but I kept my face stoic as I thought how much trouble these slaves must have really been. I nodded and held out my hand to make the deal. I handed him the gold coin that was hidden in my dress, happy that I had at least saved money.

It was funny how money worked on this continent. 20 bronze coins equaled one silver. 60 silvers equaled one gold. I had brought about eight gold coins with me, since Uncle had said slaves were expensive. The slave trader bit into the gold piece, making sure it was real. When it didn't bend like a fake piece, he nodded his head in satisfaction and I signed the paper.

Afterwards, we went out to the courtyard behind the building where the contractor was. He was sitting on a bench while two others were fanning him from the days heat, holding a book to his robe covered chest. The bay was behind him and a giant ship was anchored at the dock, sails waving in the wind. This one looks like it had just docked and there were people getting ready to unload the cargo. When I saw what type of cargo it was, I grimaced. More slaves. Not that I could say anything. I was just being a hypocrite.

I was led to the middle of the courtyard where a five shaped star was painted. The contractor waited until I was closer before positioning me in the center of the star and then we waited.

When Erlan and Demili came out, they were in a new set of brown cotton robes though their feet were still bare. When they saw each other, their faces changed to ones of loathing. I wondered what might have happened for them to dislike each other, but the urge quickly passed. The contractor stood to his feet and came to stand next to me on wobbly feet, and when the smell of alcohol wafted towards me it was all I could do not to gag.

His voice, once he started speaking to me, was slurred and scratchy, like he was also dehydrated and had a lack of sleep. I rolled my eyes, completely exasperated. "Now, we will begin the bonding ceremony. Each of the slaves will pick a point of the star to stand at, and then we will connect the three of you." I stood silent and watched as the guards who escorted Erlan and Demili surrounded us in a large circle while Erlan moved to my right and stood tall, not like a slave at all. Demili followed by going to my left and puffed her chest out which brought out lustful stares from the guards around us. I could almost smell it in the air as the pheromones seemed to permeate around. Even Erlan was watching her with hooded eyes.

"Enough. Let us move on, I have places to be." My patience had run thin and the command that I had tried to keep in slipped out, which caused everyone to snap back to attention. Satisfied I refocused on the contractor who was still wobbling on my left. He opened his book and adjusted himself, lifting his right hand to rest over my head. His mouth opened, but a spell wasn't what I heard first.

I whipped around in the direction a piercing scream had come from and saw that the new slaves from the ship were being disembarked. It didn't look like there was any trouble nor were there others rushing around. The scream came again and I ran from the star, surprising everyone, and ran to the dock. The slaves had moved to the shore, all but one.

I watched in disbelief as a slave trader brought down a cane hard enough on the back of the slave to cause an immediate welt. He screamed again and lifted his head, trying to tell the man to stop. It was then that I saw his face. It was deformed, like a fire had been lit on the right side of his face. His right eye was a murky white among blotchy red skin. His other green eye was filled with tears as whimpers and broken pleas left his mouth.

"Get up, you useless animal!" The trader yelled at him again and in helplessness the slave looked around. When his green eye met mine, I felt an overwhelming sense of pure, unadulterated kindness wash through me.  Tears pricked my own eyes and I felt anger explode within me. I could hear shouts behind me but I was focused on the two in front of me. The Trader's cane was raised and in a panic I dived to protect the man just as the cane came down.

It hit my shoulder with what felt like the sting of thousand bees all at once. I felt my knees tremble and a yelp escaped my voice as the pain seared through me. I looked up through my eyelashes to see the trader looking down at me in fury, and he raised the cane again. I braced myself and covered the other mans head and watched as it came down, but it never reached me.

The slave master who I had made the deal with rushed forward and his voice bellowed out at the his servant. "STOP!!!"

The man froze and his eyes glazed with fear. Unconsciously he backed away from me and stood to attention. I turned to the slave I was still covering and blushed when I realized that I had pushed his head into my breasts when I had rushed to cover him.

"Sorry! Are you alright?" I grabbed the slaves face gently, noticing there were a few cuts on his face as well as his back and stomach. He nodded. "Grim-is-okay."

I sighed in relief and that's when I realized that this man, Grim, seemed to be a little slow. I smiled at him, glad still that I had managed to stop another blow from landing on him.

"You crazy girl! What were you thinking?!" The master yelled at me. He came close and bent over me to take a closer look at my shoulder, where the fabric had ripped and a welt that had cut open and was bleeding stood out against my pale skin.

He turned on his servant with fury, his cheeks red and his eyes dark, and grabbed the cane from his hands. "How dare you! You fucking idiot!" The cane came down on the mans face and split a line of skin from his eyebrow to his jaw. The servant clutched his face and yelled in pain before staggering back. The master raised the cane again and I stood up to stop him.

"Don't! Please, just leave it." I reached my hand out to stop him, but the slave master already had his hands down. His face was composed again, stiff as a wood and he turned to me slowly.

"Miss, I'm terribly sorry about the wound that was caused to you. It should have never happened. Is there anything I can do to make up for it?"

His voice was strained but respectful. He knew that I could still change my mind due to this incident since the slaves had yet to be bonded. Even though it was plainly my fault, he didn't want to anger me and cause a possible cancellation of the sales. I could read it in his eyes.

"Um...there's not really-" I stopped and looked down at Grim who was looking up at me in awe, and made a quick decision. "Actually there is something. I'd like you to give this slave to me."

The master started to shake his head but when I glared at him, he stopped. "Surely there's something else. Why want a slave that's disfigured and has the mind of a child?"

"Well why not? Think of it as a parting gift, for the finished sale." I pointedly looked at the other slaves who were watching us.

He smirked vaguely and nodded his head, resignation flashing across his face. I smiled and turned back to the slave still crouching on the wood deck.

"Stand up. You're coming with me." I grabbed Grim's hands which were shaking and pulled him to his feet. When he stood, I gaped at his height. He was enormous, standing at least seven foot, and he was bulky with muscles. Each muscle seemed to have its own muscle, like they were stacked onto each other. I barely reached his waist he was so tall. His hands, now that I was paying attention, covered mine like a child's. His skin had a dark tan and his sandy blonde hair was in a braid down to his waist. The right side of his face, neck, and right shoulder was a collage of burn scars. There was a patch of hair on his head where the scars reached to and his right eye was white, murky, with yellow stains of infection on the rims. I knew he couldn't see out of it.

His left eye was perfectly fine but it was mildly unfocused even while he stared right at me. The part of his mouth untouched by scars was slack but when I helped him up it turned to a smile.

He pointed to his chest proudly. "I am Grim."

I smiled back and patted his chest, "I know Grim, you've already told me."

"Is Grim going with you? You're a nice lady. Grim likes you."

I nodded my head. "Yes, you are coming with me. Thank you Grim."

I looked behind me to see the master had already gone back and was waiting for me. I beckoned him to follow me.

I passed Erlan and Demili who both were now staring at me. Erlan's blue eyes were bright with respect. Demili's dark brown ones sparkled with a new regard. I was hoping that was towards my favor. I was on my own if they turned on me.

Positioning Grim to stand behind me, I nodded at the contractor and with a huff, he got into the same position as before. This time however, when the chant began, there were no interruptions. The star started to glow and as I watched I could see a white essence come from the three of them to circle around me.

I stood still and watched in fascination as the substance moved into me. I felt a slight tingle but that was all luckily although I caught Demili wince but the whole thing was over in a few moments.

I looked myself over but didn't see anything different. The master, seeing my confusion went over to Erlan and pulled his robe down. Directly over his heart on his chest was my crest.

I turned to Demili who pulled her rope down slightly to show my crest over her heart as well. It was the same thing with Grim. I was stunned I had no idea that this was what happened when a ceremony finished.

I knew it was my crest too because it was something created from my own soul. It wouldn't be possible to create a replica so perfectly. It was a circle of entwined leaves, vines, and flowers with a symbol that looked like a crown mirrored. In between the two crowns was what looked like an initial, like a backward R and A mixed together.

Appently it had a meaning, but I had yet to figure out what it was.

"Alright. The ceremony was completed correctly, so the four of you are now master and slaves; that means that your word is law miss Athalea. If for some reason you decide to remove the bonding, you have to see a Great Sorcerer or Sorceress. Usually breaking a spell is harder than casting one."

He pointedly looked at the slaves for that bit. He looked back at me, a satisfied smile on his face. "Any questions?"

"Just one. What was that white essence like stuff during the casting? It was very strange."

The slave master looked at me, confused. "White essence? What are you talking about?"

"You know, that white smoke like stuff that surrounded me?" I waved my hands around, mimicking what the smoke had done.

He still looked confused and so I turned to the caster instead. He startled me with the sharpness of his gaze. No longer drunk, his stance was perfect and his gaze sharp as a dagger.

"Um...did you see it?"

There was a slight pause, and a strange look given to me before he turned away and answered me. "No miss. There was nothing."

I opened my mouth to argue but let out a sigh instead. I knew what I saw, doesn't matter what anyone else says.

"Is there anything else?" I asked.

"No. Everything has been taken care of. You are fine to leave whenever you wish."

I nodded. Judging by the sun, I had a couple hours left before sunset. I looked to the three of them, unsure what to do next. As I stood there twiddling my thumbs waiting for them to say something, they chose to remain quiet.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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