"It is both blessing and curse to feel everything so very deeply"
A guard was standing on his post, looking around the dense woods for anything suspicious. While most of the time boring, his duty was still essential, and he did not slack on his job. It was raining, he was soaking wet, yet he seemed not phased by the cold. His will and thick clothing kept him awake in those unpleasant conditions. Suddenly in the distance, he saw a carriage approaching. He waved to his fellow guards, signaling to be vigilant. They were expecting a visitor, but until their identity is confirmed, anyone approaching this secret location is considered a threat.
Massive black stallions pulled the vehicle.Even weighted by the rain, their manes still waved proudly as they galloped. The animal's build, size and presence were clearly neither ordinary yet the carriage, in comparison, looked...poorly. Its condition was decent, but the wood looked old, some parts did not match in texture and color, hinting they were newer replacements, and the coloring was lost in some areas. The guard did not believe it was the guest they were expecting. As the vehicle stopped in front of him, he walked to the driver, who was relatively short and had a thick red beard.
"This is a private area; you have to leave." He said with an aggressive voice.
"My master was invited here by the king." The driver said and passed a letter to the guard, who raised an eyebrow. Other guards were looking from afar, ready for battle if necessary. As the letter was opened and read, the guard turned pale. He bowed his head, and his attitude changed.
"My deepest apologies; please proceed." He said as he gave the letter back.
"Thank you." The Driver replied and rushed to horses, heading toward an old brick tower. He halted the horses when he was right in front of its doors and jumped down from his seat. He opened the doors of the vehicle and bowed its head. "We are here, my Lord." He informed the passenger.
A young man stepped outside and set foot on the wet ground. He was tall, with raven black hair that reached his shoulders and coal-colored eyes that gave out a cold gaze. He was wearing black clothing made from high-quality materials, decorated with golden elements. A black cape with golden edges rested on his shoulders. A short sword is attached to his black belt. His forearms and chest are protected by black armor, also highlighted with golden accents. On the center of his breastplate, most of the space was taken by a crest featuring a black moon and stars, with a golden sky. He looked up at the tower, feeling the drops falling on his face. He seemed displeased to be there. A guard opened the doors to the gate. "Welcome, Lord Richard. The girl is at the top of the tower." He informed humbly.
"Lead me to her." The young man replied with disinterest as he walked behind the guard. His driver remained with the carriage.As the guard started to walk, a gentle cold breeze blew. The smell of the rain filled the atmosphere. Soon they walked inside the old, gray tower. Step by step echoed in the empty tower. An unpleasant smell was getting stronger as they reached the cage of the girl. The fire was trembling from the small breeze that was managing to pass through from the small edges of the old bridges of the tower. Slowly they managed to reach the cage. The sound of the keys echoed. Slowly unlocked the door, but before he would open it, the guard turned around and faced Richard. "Just a warning... She is difficult."Richard frowned and covered his mouth as the smell was getting stronger and stronger. He was not used to such filthy aromas. He impatiently waited to leave the disgusting tower but maintained his composure as he walked after the guard. When they stopped before the doors, he moved his hand from his mouth, but the smell was still greatly disturbing him. He looked at the man as he warned him. Richard did not reply, as his comment was unnecessary, and he just glared at him showing his impatience.
The man took as an answer his deep silence and slowly opened the cage and looked at the thin girl. "All yours, my lord " he bowed and took a few steps backward, having his hand on his sword just in case anything could happen... It was one of the many orders of the king. Aravis sniffed and immediately understood that there was someone new. A new person who was neither the king, the queen, or someone else she was used to. Her breath was sharp. She was ready to face even death if needed, but if that were the case scenario, she wouldn't just sit back and do nothing. If it meant that she would die, she wouldn't die without a fight.
Richard looked at the man stepping back before gazing at the cage. In the room's shadows, all he could see was just a small human silhouette. He stepped closer; the smell of filth, urine and mold made him frown again. Once he was right next to the open cage and his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was shocked to see a young girl with eyes and mouth stitched; the odor he smelled from the moment he entered the tower was coming from her. The inside of the cage was disgusting. Richard turned around and stared at the guard. "What is the meaning of this?!" He asked, furious, walking to the man angrily. "Are you trying to insult me?!" He yelled.
The soldier looked away, then at the ground, feeling that the end of his life was near. He was standing on the edge of a cliff. Slowly raised his head and looked at the Lord with terror. "we did not receive anything about cleaning... Her. We apologize for this." He shuttered and then bowed. "I will inform the maids to clean her" after that, he bowed and left the tower, heading outside to the maids' house, telling them about the situation, and explaining what they should do. The maids just took a deep breath with a disgusting expressions on their faces. It took a couple of moments for them to arrive at Aravi's cage. Slowly, they brought more light into the cell; and cleaned the girl. But they do not unsew her eyes or mouth since they knew it would only cause a mess. It was a danger they would love to avoid.
Richard stared at him with his black eyes that looked like endless pits. A servant who obeys orders and knows their place is valuable, but that does not mean they should blindly wait to be told everything. He had well-trained personnel under his service who were not afraid to show initiative to serve him better, so seeing this lack of foresight from the kings frustrated him.
"Take haste! You wasted enough of my time already. I shall wait for the girl in my carriage." He growled and rushed downstairs, trying to escape the horrible odor, hoping it would not latch his clothing. His drivel was confused about why his master returned so quickly without the girl. He opened the carriage doors without saying anything and saw his master sitting inside.
"We wait for those imbeciles to prepare the girl for the travel," Richard said harshly.
"Yes, my Lord." The dwarf bowed and closed the doors.
Indignant Richard waited, in his carriage with folded arms, for the girl to be ready.The rain was still pouring outside and the drops falling on the roof echoed inside. The music of nature soothed the nobles, whose anger was quickly fading. His driver sat in his own little section of the carriage, separate from the Duke's. He waited patiently for the moment to serve his Master, looking out the window at the doors to the towers. After some time had passed, the maids, accompanied by knights, appeared with the girl and knocked on the carriage doors.
"S-s-sir, she is ready."
Richard opened his eyes and looked out the window. He opened the doors and stepped out when he saw the group. His guide came out as well, showing a bit of worry as the dwarf saw the girl, he knew the staff messed up again and his master won't be pleased.
Richard looked at the girl, who was now clean and free of dirt and stench, however he frowned again as he saw that she was wearing an elegant black dress that barely skimmed her shoulders, revealing most of her chest and scars. She too was standing completely barefoot on the cold and wet stone path. The rain was slowly soaking the dress, making it heavy. "You can't do anything right? Dress her like this when it's raining and cold?!" He shouted, furious as he looked at the staff. He took a breath to deliver another scolding, but he had had enough. "Forget it." He said coldly. "I pity the king who has such incompetent servants. Get off my sigh!" He ordered, and the handmaids, along with the knights, for once did something right and left immediately. Once he was alone, Richard looked at the girl standing in his place, drenched even more by the rain. He took a step closer to her. "Can you hear me girl?" He asked calmly, not sure if her ears weren't damaged as well.
Aravis nodded softly without even daring to lift her face, knowing she could barely see anything. Only shadows. Of course, her barefoot helped her to understand where she was at that moment, by just touching the ground. Slowly her hand reached for the wooden door of the old carriage; then, her tiny, pale food was lifted and searched for the rung. This ability to navigate with her eyes stitched left the young Duke staring at her speechless. He moved aside as she stepped toward the carriage, wondering what she would do. Usually, he would not allow anyone inside his carriage without permission; however, her condition and the circumstances he found her in made him more forgiving.
It took a while to find the rung... But once she found it and gently lifted her body, a gentle breeze blew away the hood of the black, long cape, with the white fur on the shoulder and around her neck. Her raven, long, beautiful, curly hair was brushed and danced along with the sleet. Richard looked at her hair, which reminded him of his father. A nostalgic feeling warmed Richard's chest since his parent also had deep black curvy hair but not as long as hers. He very rarely meets people with hair that is as dark as his. A feature that made him easily recognizable and often feared. Slowly her beautiful face was shown. Pale like the first snow, promising how soft it could be and how fragile her body could turn into the wrong hands. Her black dress danced in the air showing a little of the thin legs that seemed almost ready to break, but they were hiding how powerful this girl could be...
As Aravis stepped inside the carriage, the Dwarf walked with a soft rag. Richard knew he brought it to wipe Aravis's feet since he did not like the inside of his carriage to be dirty. "I will take it. You get us out of here." The noble said, taking the cloth from the servant, who was slightly surprised but nodded and rushed back to his driver seat. The Duke stepped inside, closing the carriage's doors and locking them. He looked at Aravis, who still looked down. "Let me wipe your feet. They are wet and dirty." He spoke softly as he leaned down and gently touched her ankle so he won't scare her. Without resisting, Aravis lets the Duke do as he pleases, knowing very well that if she did otherwise, she would probably upset him or, even worst. That was her way of thinking due to her past.
Feeling his warm, hard palm touching her skin gave her goosebumps. He was gentle, careful of how he would touch her. Ιt was unprecedented to her; that gave her a tiny spark of hope that people might have that humanity she was searching for. A sigh echoed in the silent carriage as she let her body rest on the back of the seat, letting herself relax a little. She felt a little bit safer than other times.
As for Richard, it felt awkward bowing to her and drying her feet. A task he would usually ask his servants. However, the letter he received from the king specified that he will entrust Aravis only to him and wished Richard to watch over her personally. The Duke would not agree to the deal If it was not for the generous amount of pure gold the king offered. But he did, and as he thought, contracts should be honored to the fullest. "Done." He said as he finished his task and placed the neatly folded cloth in a small compartment. Richard sat comfortably and looked at the girl in silence for a moment. She was in a poor state, and the stitched eyes and mouth were unpleasant to look at, but he was cautious about deciding whether or not to remove them. The letter mentioned not to underestimate the girl's power. "My name is Richard Dasim Goldenight the 3rd. From this day forward, you will be under my care." He stated and awaited her reaction.
The young black-hair princess moved her legs up on the seat, bringing them close to her chest, forming a small human ball. It has been days since the last time she could touch, feel and gently rub her feet. She loved to feel her skin, it gave her hope that eventually, one day, she could also see and speak. The frozen silence made the young Duke to feel uneasy until...
' They say fight for peace, your grace' A gentle, female voice echoed in the mind of the young Duke who had put his ego away to clean her legs which honored her. Duke gasped as he flinched from shock. His ears did not hear the voice, but his mind did... It spooked him. In his studies of magic, he heard about "Soul Speech," a magical ability that allows people to talk through a connection of souls. He never learned it nor met anyone who did, it was quite a surprise.
"I see the stitches do not hinder your ability to communicate. Convenient." He said, calming down a bit but still vigilant. The letter never described power, but he was warned to be wary of her.
'But sometimes I wonder, do they really fight for that?'
"I do not understand your question. Who are THEY you are referring to?" He asked.
' The kings... The Dukes... Everyone, ' she spoke, then held tight to her black dress and fixed the cape to cover her bare shoulders to keep herself warm. Even if she couldn't see, there were still other senses, such as touch. Aravis had manners towards others despite who they were or how poorly they treated her, forgetting her title...
"One can spend their whole life pondering on the nature of humans. I could care less, and so should you. As long as you are under my care, you will not be required to go to battles. Per my contract with your father, I will provide you with more than decent living conditions. I only expect you to behave properly. That is all."
He explained, still getting used to her voice echoing in his mind. His answer was almost satisfactory, but she would not press this discussion any further. Of course, it bothered her that her father could control her life as long as he gave orders. It was as if she had no right to an opinion. Her delicate fingers touched her seamed lips until she felt the tender sun touch her undignified skin.This warm light soothed her troubled soul in the cold and barely formed a smile on those wounded, stitched lips, until rain begun once again.