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The Mistress and The Servant
However unusual it was, a day with nothing to do did happen. All too happy to enjoy the day, I got the servants’ boat to use for a little while. This bit of freedom would never last long.
The boat did not belong to the king, because it was rather plain looking, and the fact it did not present well with visible patches. The staff kept it to use on their own time and would fix it as the need arose.
After asking around, I took the boat out to the lake. The sun was bright that day. The long cold nights with snow- and ice-covered land did indeed melt. Perfect day to enjoy.
I pushed it out far enough so I could still get in without getting too wet. At last, in the middle of the water and all around were trees. As green as could be. They seemed to have grown during the winter season as they poked the clouds. They somehow looked taller than I remembered. If I looked to my left, a cliff stretched over the water. Two people were on it, but too far away to recognize who they were.
The birds sang their song. A bright tune. Maybe happy that the dark grey skies came to an end at last.
I turned around when something splashed. I rowed over as fast as I could to take a look. I didn’t want to grab their hair. I knew that pain and I knew it well. I tapped instead and didn’t get a response. I reached into the water and felt for a chin that I could maybe tip up and out.
I did that and found out it was the king’s daughter. Everybody knew her sculpted face with long raven hair. Why would she end up in the water though? That was a question only she could answer. The better question was how to get her out?
She had a shirt on, so I used that to tug her along while I made it to shore. It was a long and slow trip back but for the lack of a better idea…
I dragged her up the shore and rested her against a boulder. After catching my breath, I patted her cheek. No response yet, so I tried a little harder. “Mistress. Mistress.” I sat back and waited after I heard a groan.
She turned and looked at me. I knew those eyes as I had seen them pointed at me as she yelled for not doing things as she told me to do them. Some said they were the eyes of her mother. Those of us who have been around her for a long time called them evil eyes.
“You.” She reached back and tried to push off the ground but sat back down again. She turned towards me again. Strange how her eyes turned white. “Someone on my staff tried to get rid of me. I need you to get me a serum. Something to dull the effects until I can get to an apothecary.”
“Mistress, I need to know what it was.”
“Isn’t there a general dulling serum?”
“No such thing exists.”
She looked at me as her eyes turned black. “How would you know? You’re one of the mindless ones.”
I gritted my teeth. I would carry that label forever since my prior owner made that lie known. “I am not mindless. If I was, you would not be here. Early in my life, I did serve someone who spent their days and nights mixing serums. He would always laugh when someone asked for such a thing. There was no remedy like that.”
She closed her eyes and groaned. “All right then. Is there anything you can recommend?”
“If you can describe to me the smell or taste, I could come up with something that might help. I am in no way trained, but I do know a few things.”
“Clear liquid, like water. Bitter with a slight flower taste. The most awful thing I ever tasted.”
It sounded familiar. “It didn’t smell like anything at first, but the more you drank it the more sort of a pungent odor became known?”
“Yes. You know the remedy?”
“Yes. However, the ingredients are not here. They would be in the mountains above. It would take time. I’m not sure how much time you have.”
She gave me a sideways glance and laughed. “Oh, the irony.” She laughed again. “OK then. You better get moving. I’m not going anywhere. If I die in the meanwhile, then maybe the animals here would make a meal out of me.”
“Go. Go. Go on now. The sooner you leave, the sooner you can get back.”
“We will talk more when you return.” She waved me away.
I may have had strong feelings that pointed to hate, but she needed mercy at that moment. So, I went.
I knew the trail I needed to take. It would be easier if I had an animal underneath me, but they would need care that I couldn’t spare the time to do. Maybe someone wouldn’t mind a stranger riding with them.
As luck had it, a family filled a wagon with their goods to go up the same trail I needed to take. I could ride with them as long as I promised to look after their children. I did that and it made the trip a lot easier.
We parted ways at the first village we came to. I needed to go up farther, but thanks to them, it wouldn’t be such a long way. Taking care of their children wasn’t so bad. The baby needed her mother’s attention, but the older ones I amused with stories and games.
At the top of the hill, there was a body of water. A river from the sounds of it. Perfect for what I needed. This particular plant grew in rushing cold water. The roots and the stems had something in it that could neutralize what the Mistress took. It tasted awful and felt even worse in the mouth. It did work though.
After I gathered some, the way back was easier because it was downhill. The sun had set for the night and that meant I couldn’t go anywhere until the sun rose again. With the plants in my hands, I lay down under a tree for the night. Not so cold and the ground was dry.
Why was it, I had the awful luck of the sun rays poking me when it rose? I couldn’t linger anyway. I needed to get back.
I was familiar with the flora around the area and picked some wild berries as I went along. It wasn’t much but it could sustain until I got back. Maybe a few extra to help chase away the bad flavor of the roots.
Once I made it back to the lake, I found her again still leaning up against the rock. I shook her shoulder to get her attention.
“I thought you forgot about me.” She laughed and opened her eyes.
“What I am about to give you will taste bad and feel even worse in the mouth. But it must be done. It’s best to eat rather than drink anything I could derive from the plants. It works better that way.”
She gave me a sideways glance. This time her eyes turned grey. “Oh, dragon’s breath. I think the last time I heard that was when father tried to get me to eat something the hunter’s brought in. He didn’t even know what it was. He wanted me to eat it to tell him about it.” She held out her hand. “I survived that so I’m sure I can survive this.”
“Yes, Mistress.” She held out her hand.
I put the roots in her hand and watched as she ate them. She kept making faces as she chewed on them. A hard swallow later she looked at me. “Tell me that was all I had to take.”
“Good. I think there’s something you didn’t tell—” She turned around to the other side and threw up.
That was when I left her to find something to use as a water vessel. Something kept hitting my leg. I looked down and found a cup. It looked like one of the kids’ cups. One of them must’ve tied it on me when I was playing with them.
I untied it and used that to get some water. When I got back, I put the cup in her hand. “Drink this.”
“If this is more of what I ate, I will see to it you get the same for the rest of your life.”
“It is water.”
She drank the water and held out the cup. Somehow the berries didn’t get squashed at all along my journey. I put them in the cup and gave it back to her. “I hope these will help.”
She grabbed the cup and put it up to her mouth. She chewed. “These are good. Where did you find these?”
“Along the same trail as I found the roots.”
“Won’t Father be surprised when I show up?” She laughed. “Give me a little bit of time before we head back. There’s something I need to do yet.”
I looked over toward the lake and noticed the sky. “It won’t take long before the sun sets for the day. We can make the trip in the morning. It will give the roots time to work.”
She nodded before her head dropped back. I didn’t have any blankets with me, but the dry leaves might work well enough to keep the chill air off her body. I piled them on top of her as much as I could before I went back to the water.
Between a rock and a stick, I was able to make myself a spear. It took a bit, but I did catch some fish. I remembered trying to eat raw fish when I was younger. There was something about it that repulsed me. Having remembered that, I took the time and effort to start a fire to cook the fish.
I left the innards by the lake for some of the small animals to take. I hoped that would be enough for them to stay away from us. I cooked two. One to have now and one to give her in the morning. I only had a fresh leaf to wrap it in to keep for the night.
Cooking done, I put aside the morning meal and doused the fire. I put my hand on her leg to check her body temperature and she wasn’t cold. I lay down next to her to get a little sleep.
As expected, the sun poked me in the eyes. I got up and ran to the bushes. After that, I got the fish and put it in my lap when I woke her up.
“Let me guess. It’s time to behead the prisoners?”
“It’s time to poison the kitchen staff?”
“It’s time to kill the horses so we can get new ones?”
“No. It’s time to eat. I cooked a fish yesterday so you can eat it before we leave. It should still be all right.”
“There goes my amusement.” She reached out her hand.
I gave it to her. She opened her eyes and they were blue. The river roots worked. They did their job. So, all we had to do was get back to the castle.
I left her to look around and find someone to take us to the castle. I was fine by myself, but with the Mistress, she would demand a better means of transport.
“So, what are we looking for?”
I turned around and looked up. For some reason, I forgot how tall she was. “I was looking for someone to take you back to the castle. I can walk back but you must need something to take you.”
“Since you are walking, so can I. Let’s go.”
She was the Mistress so I had to do what she told me to do. It was an uphill journey and I thought that since she was well enough to stand then she would be well enough to walk.
We passed through the village and onto the trail between the trees of the apple orchard. The leaves started to grow back so it shouldn’t be too long before they fruit. I saw the familiar smoke as it made its way up the chimney. It came from the cooking fires of the kitchen.
I stopped and turned around before we entered through the back. “Mistress, I hope you are well.” I bowed. “I wish you much peace.” I watched the ground to see her leave. Then I could stand. With the guards around, I needed to be careful.
“You can stand up, you know.”
“The guards will know.”
“Guards. Shmards. I know the lot of them and all of them owe me something. So stand up straight.”
I did that and expected to hear the alert horns. They did sound. It didn’t take long before they arrived.
“Let me take care of this. This I can do.” She turned towards the guards. “Oh, let me see. The five of you in the back.”
I heard clanking, which could’ve been their feet coming together.
“The bunch of you go and find the king’s advisor. Put him in holding. Lock and secure the area before you leave. Let him stand there. Do not pay any attention to him. When you are done, start a hot bath for me, would you? My unexpected journey made me need one. No, I’m not asking.”
They ran away from the area.
“The bunch of you in the front. Each one of you had something to do with my unexpected trip away. I never forgive. All of you lost your rank and privilege and will have living nightmares. Let me explain. You will have a nightmare. That is not a matter of if but a matter of when. You will stay in that nightmare until your demise.” She waved her hand in front of all of them and they lost their armor.
I tried everything in me to keep from laughing. The one time I dared to look up and it happened to be that time.
“Why are you sorry excuses still standing there?”
They side-stepped away from the area. I looked back down when she came back towards me.
“And you, my little servant. I need you to do me one last favor. I know where he got the herb that he gave me. That leaves you to get the herb you gave me. That leaves you to go get it. In the meanwhile, I will let my dear Father know what happened.” She bent down and kissed my cheek. “Now shoo.”
“Later. Those awful things now.”
I nodded and ran up to go get some. They were never hard to find. All one needed to do was look for a river. The only thing that mattered was using them before they dried up. Without water, they tended to do that in a hurry.
On the way back, I made a detour to go back to the lake to get the boat. Lucky for me it was still there. I put the boat back where I found it. I grabbed the plants from the bottom of the boat before leaving to give them to the Mistress.
I bumped into someone. Without looking, I bowed. “So sorry for being thoughtless and rude.”
“I wondered what kept you. If you told me about the boat, I would have sent someone to get it. Besides that, that boat isn’t worth saving.”
“It is all we have, Mistress.”
“We’ll talk about that later. The herb?” She held out her hand.
I gave them to her and went about my afternoon duties. The animals were kept in the back part of the lot. Far enough away so that it didn’t matter which way the wind blew, the king wouldn’t be able to notice their presence. I went to clean up after them and to be sure they were fed.
On my way back to the cooking area, I received word that the king’s advisor’s assistant needed my attention. No time to clean up, I rushed to his room on the other side of the castle. The corner most room with no sun. It was always shady whenever he sent for me.
When I arrived, I crouched down on the floor. “You sent for me, Master.”
“Well. Well. Well. The little bag of nothing saved the dear princess. Her father’s daughter. The one who was destined to take the crown.” He grabbed my hair and lifted me up. “That golden crown of jewels belonged to no one but my master.” He threw me down on the floor. “That concoction was supposed to put her to sleep. While a gentle push would land her in the water where she would drown. The poor father would be so stricken with grief that his little girl perished. He would be so vulnerable to any suggestions made to him. It would’ve been so easy.”
So it wasn’t the advisor like Mistress thought. What now? Would he end my life?
“You are looking rather fat. I like my servants small and skinny.” He came towards me and ripped off the clothes I wore. I tried to cover myself but he grabbed my arms before I could. That was when he looked down and laughed. “You’re with child. My child. If anybody found out—”
He threw me down on the floor. I grabbed my clothes and put them on. I looked around for a way out. I had no idea why because I knew there was no way out. He stood in front of the door.
He talked to someone, too quiet for me to hear. When he finished, he slammed the door. He came over and grabbed me. We left the room with my arm grasped in his hand.
I dared to look around and recognized the route we took. It was to the bottoms. A place that was dark, damp, and disgusting. A place where they put people to be forgotten.
Nothing lived down here. If they did, their innermost persons would not live for long. Trapped in darkness and despair.
All the way back and as far down as this passageway got, was a holding area. It was a dungeon a long time back. No one told the king about it so we thought nobody knew. Somehow though, this man found it and brought me there.
No light. No persons. No hope. The last place anyone would be put and expected to survive.
I was put somewhere and pushed inside before I heard the gate close. That was it. My life came to an end.
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