Queen of the Plagued
Chapter 1: From birth, Adira, hailing from the House of Barrett had been branded as a no-one.
“There weren’t always dragons in the valley.”
It spoke to me. Almost as if telling me a story of a snake-like serpent that helped birth the world.
Hideous sickly blurred creatures looked down at me, almost observing me whilst they cradled me in their arms. I wanted to be frightened. I wanted to cry out but it was difficult when the creature embraced me so warmly it soothed me into a blissful state. They spoke so clearly yet I was unable to comprehend a single word that was spoken. Cold tears ran down my cheeks but I was unable to stop them. A black slit-like eye pierced my very being as a certain pain around me amplified tenfold. So much of it weighed on me until a dark voice threateningly whispered,
“They will slaughter her.”
I awoke from my painful gasps filling the still air. I held my head with slightly trembling hands trying to recall my already fading dream. Cloudy streams of light passed through the small spaces of the thick curtains covering my window signaling it was dawn.
"Why do I always forget?" I muttered to myself. It always made me forget and made me feel uneasy. Almost like unspoken creatures that continuously tormented me when no one else was around.
I sat on the floor trying to calm myself when the door to my room abruptly swung open. A loud harsh bang ricochetted against the stone wall so hard that it sounded like it nearly came off the hinges. I crawled back becoming fearful when there was no one on the other side.
Was I still dreaming?
An eerie silence filled the air. I expected to see something terrifying or foul moving within the darkness. Baiting me to get closer. Yet nothing but the door swaying lightly back and forth moved in that room. I hesitantly approached the door. With each cautious footstep, my blood ran cold until I managed to quietly shut it. I clamped a hand over my mouth before hastily backing away and carefully watching to make sure I was not turning into a raving loon. Chances were that no one would believe me regardless of what I told them. I soon ran back into my bed unsure of what to do, hiding beneath my blankets.
Fear kept me awake and yet I was too frightened to fall asleep. It was better to stay in bed until someone retrieved me rather than being caught wide awake wandering the castle. Especially to avoid giving some of the household members a reason to gossip about me.
Some of them already thought less of me.
Although, I was unsure how it all started. The whispers. The laughter. And the mockery that was thrown behind my back. It was an unwavering strange feeling whenever I carried out small tasks for my household.
All my Lord would say to me was, “Take heed when you cross from my threshold. The outside could be far crueler than anything within these walls. Keep your head up and stand tall.”
I understood that I was different. I was unlike the villagers of Lakeside. To the outside, I was the ward to the first Lord and Lady of the Valley. Our village out of many stretched for miles near a flourishing forest and an enormous beautiful lake that welcomed travelers of trade from Corilla. Within our village, the people made it their prerogative to let me know how fortunate I was that I did not end up like the others of my kind. I had never seen another person that resembled me. Was there truly others like me? And if so, where did they go? Those questions kept me up when I was alone at times.
After brunch my Lord entrusted me to deliver a letter to Lord Feri at the Court who was a rough-looking but kind lord. He requested I return straight home after receiving a parcel from him. Upon arrival and delivering the letter, the older wrinkly men of the Court with their pale skin would sharply watch me with a certain gaze. A part of me felt it was just because of how I looked and that I should disregard it but I felt there was something evil behind it.
Some members even spread a rumor that I took the eyes of an unfortunate soul and that my hair did not belong to me. I took my leave with haste after receiving the parcel. My guardian was not too far away awaiting with his horse so I was relieved I was not alone. I started heading back while carefully placing the parcel in my satchel but the sounds of clashing snagged my attention.
Curiosity had gotten the better of me.
I followed the source to a crummy limestone wall and witnessed two young boys sparring in a miniature training arena. I became fixated on them watching their every move. One moved with such precision and agility while the other was assertive but sloppy. I glanced around seeing that it was Sir John's training hall. Designed for the younger boys in the village who met his expectations and who were extraordinarily talented with a sword. Or just for those who spent a little extra coin. A potential place for future soldiers and royal guardsmen for the King. Perhaps, even a Watcher. I looked down at my leather-gloved hand and envisioned a sword's hilt in it.
I wonder if it would make me feel like I had a purpose in life. If only I had the chance to take down any foe that came in my path. I wish I was able to do that but I am a lady and that was certainly frowned upon. Violence of any sort was no way to live life unless innocent lives were at stake.
My eyes lowered to the ground lost in thought.
I could be ridiculed for attempting to speak to Sir John but that does not mean I should give up. My Lord and my Lady know the Master Swordsman, so maybe he would make an exception and speak to Sir John as well on my behalf. Or maybe- I could talk to him myself.
I smiled straightening my back to march over to the hall. This could be the day I-
“Fo’eign mukling.” An aggravated voice spoke up. “What are you doing here?” I was unable to move from my spot seeing one of the boys from earlier who were sparring had addressed me.
I blinked not realizing their match was over and reflected on the mukling.
”I just came to speak to Sir-“
”Ya know you are’t welcomed here.” My lips pursed into a straight line. “And the fact yer a girl, if ya could even be called that. Run back home to hide in yer hole.”
The ringing of laughter echoed vividly around me. They made jokes that being a ward of my kind was degrading. As if I was lower than the dirt we walked on. Two young girls were pointing and prattling loud enough for me to hear until a couple of younger boys who wore raggedy clothes soon joined in. I clenched my jaw fully aware that I should not be engaging in their taunting behavior but I needed to say something.
”Well, I advise you better take your leave. A mediocre posture and training session like that, you could have fooled me for being one of those slow-witted girls with their less than decent companions.” I hummed gesturing in their direction. All of the laughter ceased. They stared at me with their mouths ajar. I held my chin up proudly turning on my heel but soon met the rough cold ground beneath me with a harsh shove. A stinging sensation filled my hands and knees making me bite my tongue from the pain. I turned to look at the perpetrator and the boy had a stupid smug look on his face. “Cowardly move, you do not strike an opponent when their back is turned. A mukling knows better than you.” I glowered in his direction only to see him seething in anger and raising his leg to kick me.
I knew if I hurt him, they would undoubtedly cast the blame on me and it would be a great inconvenience for my Lord and Lady if this matter was brought in front of the Court to handle this foolish quarrel. I shut my eyes bracing myself but felt nothing.
I opened an eye to see a young boy with golden hair holding the boy's leg in midair.
”C’mon Pork Chop. Is that any way to treat a young lady?” The boy mused flashing me a toothy grin. I slowly looked between the both of them, unsure of what was happening. I was lost for words.
”What? Ya got to be jokin' me? All I see is filth!” Pork Chop spat. The golden-haired boy smirked and picked his leg up even higher making Pork Chop lose his balance and flail his arms like a crazed man making me crack a small smile.
”Need I remind ya how to respect others with another sparring match or the back of my hand?”
The boy was getting ready to backhand him but Pork Chop yelped shielding his face. “F-Fine, stop!”
The boy dropped his leg letting him fall to the ground. He scrambled to get up but not before tossing me a glare. He angrily stalked off kicking a lone rock.
“Perhaps if ya had the same enthusiasm in our matches you would not lose every match.” The boy laughed after him. He kept quiet running away into the training hall, no doubt crying. One look from the boy and the other children scrambled away too. I was unsure of what the reason was for helping me. I was grateful but it was strange. The boy suddenly turned, knelt down, and held out both his hands for me. “Don' mind Pork Chop. He pretends he’s tough but he is usually harmless. I do apologize for what he did to you. I have seen you around the village and during the lake festivities.” I eyed him carefully before hesitantly placing my hands in his. In one quick movement, he hoisted me up. I was surprisingly on my feet in no time.
“That was just a...petty encounter. I, thank you, Sir...?”
”Just Eirik. Eirik Arenson, son of Hemir and Aueline.”
He bowed softly grabbing my hand in the process to plant a kiss on it but I pulled away completely embarrassed by his actions. He stood up straight with curious eyes.
”M-my apologies. My hands-” I quickly thought of something before raising them to show him where my gloves had fallen on the dirt-covered ground. “Are dirty.” I cleared my throat and curtsied. “I am Adira, daught- ward to the house of my Lord and Lady Barrett.” I cleared my throat from that mistake. I cannot let anyone else know that I address myself as their daughter and that they do as well.
Suddenly Eirik pulled me out of my thought, took my hand, and silently planted a soft kiss on my hand. “Don’ care much for that type of behavior. No one deserves to be treated that way even if it is a petty encounter from a childish boy.” I looked over his face not sure what else to say. He spoke slightly improperly just like Pork Chop but yet it made me feel elated.
”Truth be told. I...am an outsider.”
Eirik chuckled fixing his sword at this side. It was not made of authentic material but clearly, it was for training purposes.
“Says who?” I blinked back stammering over the right words to say. Was he blind? “You shouldn’t have to concern yourself over hearsay. These people are kind of uh empty-headed. I have faith you would be able to turn them around. Your Lord and Lady are genuinely great nobles but they would knock any one of them on their asses if need be.” I covered my mouth to conceal a giggle. He looked away for a moment with a smile putting a couple of training equipment away that were left behind before locking them up. “You enjoy sword fighting? I could try speaking to Sir John on your behalf.”
My eyes softened. “Would you not get in trouble? I cannot have that happening especially if I was the one who put you up to that.”
”Of course, I could. But the most they could do is temporarily ban me from the training hall, and even if they do.” He shrugged his shoulders.
I gasped. “No! You cannot do that. This is one of the best training halls and it is only intended for young men and boys. I will be okay.”
He squinted his eyes at me with a sly smile. “I don’ need this place to prove my worth. And if ya like the sword fighting, I bet you came to talk to Sir John about it either way. I saw you eyeing it a mile away.”
With pursed lips, I crossed my arms and turned my head.
“Then it’s settled!”
I turned to him throwing my arms down. “Eir-“
”Adira! Where has that child run off to?”
My guardian called out after me. He was always such a grump at times but he meant well. I groaned out, “Oh goodness! I apologize, I have to go now. Maybe next time, I will try my best to watch your training session, and I will be cheering for you Eirik.” I curtsied.
He smiled back placing his hand over his heart. “It shall be an honor. I will make sure to win for you then. 'Til next time Adira.” I was unable to stop myself from smiling while I turned in the direction to find my guardian. “By the way-” I turned to look at him from the sudden urgency in his voice. “I think...you are beautiful.”
I was taken back utterly lost for words. Only mere a ‘thank you' spewed out of my mouth before I curtsied again and ran off trying to locate Master Colin.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and was met face to face with the man himself who had a huge scowl on his face. “Young lady, do you have any idea how long I have been searching for you?” My heart was beating so hard that Colin’s lecturing went on deaf ears. “Where have you been?” My eyes immediately darted to Sir John’s training hall.
“I was wandering around, not doing anything in particular, and-“
He sighed with a smirk crossing his arms over his chest, “You need to know how to lie better child. Let us go home.” He gathered his horse and carefully helped me get on top. I kept glancing back realizing that I never got the chance to speak to Sir John but I did make my first friend outside our castle walls. I need to tell my Lord and Lady about what happened.
When we arrived back home Madame Oriel, Master Colin’s wife, was there to greet us at the door. She was more gentle but still stern with her humorous attitude.
“Hello, Madame!” I greeted her as she embraced me. Her long brunette hair was pulled back into a long fishlike braid.
“Hello Adira, you look red in the face! Almost a complete shade darker! Are you not feeling well?” She placed her hand on my forehead.
”I am well!”
She put her hand to her chin and stared me down not believing my words. “Hm, there is dinner but I am not sure if we should make some chicken broth or solely vegetable broth for you instead.” I scrunched my face in disdain earning a loud laugh to escape her lips. She brushed a few of my stray hairs back with her hand. “Run along darling and I will help you get dressed in a moment. Aphra has been waiting for you to join her for tea and dinner.”
”Yes, Madame. Where are mother and father?”
”They should be in their private study.”
I quickly ran down the halls ignoring that I looked like a happy wild child. Inside these walls of our castle, I was able to be my true self. I opened the door with a smile holding the parcel, “Mother, Father! I need to tell you about this-“ My smile fell when I saw the Lord and Lady Perrin with a cup of wine. Oh no. Lord Perrin being the cousin of the King. Their cold eyes met mine as dread filled my entire being. My Lord and Lady protectively stood up.
Lord Perrin’s face contorted into a look of immediate disgust. I swallowed down the sickness that was rising. “You dare have this-“ He pointed his veiny hand at me. “This vermin address you as mother and father? The shame this great household must feel.” His hateful glare was enough to make me remain silent.
“Perrin there is no need for such unpleasant words. Especially in front of Adira.”
”So you have named it as well?” He scowled grabbing ahold of his balding head. “Revolting!”
”Lord Perrin!” My Lord slammed his cup down onto the table. “Must I remind you that this is my home and my people that reside with it? Come Adira.” I ran over to them while my Lady held me within her arms. “If you do not like the way we run things you can leave. I think you have overstayed your welcome anyways.”
Perrin only scoffed and bitterly chuckled. ”I did not know it had to come to this Lord Barrett. If the King were to hear about this heatheness behavior it would be quite the scandal.”
My Lord sighed and kneeled in front of me. I tried my hardest not to shed a tear in front of them.
“She is our daughter. We have raised her as such. We never needed your approval and if that was your attempt at a threat.” My Lord proudly stood back up. “You need to reevaluate your strategy. Your words are but wind and the King would not shit twice in your direction.” Loud gasps left their mouths as they became a stammering mess with red faces. “And if you would be kind as to leave my home in peace. It would be greatly appreciated. One of my people shall escort you out.” Father raised his cup in the air as a spew of curses left Perrin’s mouth.
“I do not believe we shall be seeing them again.” Mother mused hugging me tightly when they finally were escorted by Master Colin. “Thank the heavens for that.”
Although I was relieved they left, I was no longer hungry and the tears soon came right after causing me to flee to my room. Aphra came running down the hall to my room but I was not in the mood to play or talk.
“Adiraaaaa! You know they are big stupid people.” She yelled before hugging me. She was taken away by her mother whining down the hall.
I laid down in bed temporarily remembering my nightmare as my mother sat by my side rubbing my back. “I have no idea know why they detest me. Why do people detest me so much? Even some children called me a mukling.”
Mother stayed silent holding me and wiping away my tears. Father soon joined my side but Mother gently spoke to me. “People hate things they do not understand. They will try to tear you down limb from limb until there is nothing left. But you will forever rise above them. There is no need for your tears to be wasted on such foolish mutts. You are more valuable than all the precious treasure in this world and more worthy than you perceive yourself to be. You should always admire who you are. You are too beautiful and intelligent to concede to their moronic mindset. I learned that from a brave warrior. You know who you are. You are Adira.”
Father smiled to himself before his light brown eyes met mine. “Yes, luckily it was only that good for nothing Lord and his wrinkly wife.” I let out a small laugh. “As your mother said. Never let anyone underestimate your worth. You will your mark on this world and I promise you they will all be kneeling before you.”
I thanked both of them, offering them a smile. I wonder who the brave warrior Mother learned that from. Some days it felt that they were the only ones that have always cared for me along with some of the household. Hopefully my new friend too. As Mother gently brushed my hair I hide my face remembering Eirik.
”What are you being so bashful about?” My father asked curiously as my mother peered at my face trying to get me to remove my hands. I slowly looked up at them.
“Well, speaking of bashful...I met this boy.”
That is where a new profound love blossomed.