|A Magical Prison
Author: Raven's Hymn PM
A young farmer's daughter makes a deal that changes her life forever, and will soon discover the price of magic sometimes includes more than freedom.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy - Chapters: 3 - Words: 5,265 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 02-23-13 - Published: 04-03-12 - id: 7987212
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Aurelius do this, Aurelius do that. Why is it Father won't let me have a moment to myself?"
I can't help but laugh at my brother's complaints. He always does this when out father gives him more than a few chores to do, especially when he has to clean something. He's at his most bitter when one of his chores involves the pig pen.
"Because you're his only son" I tell him for what must be the hundredth time, "and he needs someone to take up his duties once he's gone."
Aurelius scowls and goes back to gathering the hay from the recent harvest. I smile and continue to patch up one of Father's old pants. After we sell what we've harvested this year, he might be able to get some new ones.
"Just you wait," Aurelius says, "someday I'll become rich, and then you'll never have to sew or knit ever again, and I'll never have to do a single chore for the rest of my life."
"Until then, you have to work. Besides, how do you expect to become wealthy anyway?"
That keeps him quiet for a while, which gives me a few minutes to finish my work. I'm almost done when he has an idea.
"A boy I met at market last week said there is a man that makes straw into gold. I could sell straw to him in exchange for gold. He even told me that if you have something to exchange, he can give you whatever you want. All I have to do is give him something he wants and we'll be rich."
"Do you ever hear yourself speak? How could anyone turn anything into gold, especially something as common as straw? Not to mention that he probably has servants that get the straw for him if he can do all you say he can."
Aurelius looks to the ground, his plans turning into dust. He doesn't say anything more after that. He gathers all of the hay and I complete patching Father's pants and one of his shirts. When I walk over to the house he follows me.
"Why is it that you always know how to see the truth? You seem to know how to keep me from doing something foolish."
"I'm your sister; I'm supposed to make sure you never do something that you'll regret."
Aurelius smiles and puts his arm on my shoulder as we both walk home. It's not long until we see the small cabin where Father, Mother, Aurelius, and I share a life. We may not be rich, but at least we're better off than some of the people we see when we go to market. We know where our next meal is coming, and with Mother's skills as a seamstress we hardly have to worry about wearing rags. Unlike my brother, I'm happy with the life we have. I don't mind the work I do or the food we eat or the clothes we wear or even where we live. The green grass, the fresh air, and the smell of flowers in the nearby meadow are all I need to feel like I'm in paradise.
When Aurelius and I get home, Mother is working on a wedding gown for a girl in our village who is to be married in two months. A strange feeling overtakes me, giving me the feeling that something is missing. I look around, expecting to find something that should be there. Then I understand.
"Mother, where is Father?"
"He's gone to market."
"But I just collected the hay," said Aurelius. "Why would he go to market when we haven't decided what and how much of it we are going to sell?"
"He said he was meeting someone about a business venture. He seemed quite anxious about it. I'm surprised he didn't tell you."
"Well, he didn't."
Aurelius storms off, clearly upset about the whole thing. I'm simply confused. Why on earth would Father fail to mention something as important as a business venture? Is it with someone we wouldn't approve off?
Only one name comes to mind.
I run to the room I share with my brother, who is sitting on his bed, still in a huff.
"Aurelius, why would Father not tell us about going to market?"
"How should I know?" he grumbles.
"Who is the one person he would never tell us he was seeing for anything?"
Realization begins to dawn on him. I can see the fear in his eyes, the same as what must be in mine. He sits up, agitated and afraid.
"We have to go find him before something happens."
We rush over to the stable, ignoring our mother. Even if we're wrong, the idea of what Father may be doing will kill her. Aurelius finds out fastest horse, Mercury, and I open his pen to let him out. We don't bother to saddle him, instead we mount him bareback. Every second counts.
We ride to the village market, fear spreading through my veins with every beat of my heart. If we're too late…
We reach the place where Father sets up his booth to sell what we grow and what Mother sews. He's there, alone, looking around the square as if trying to find someone. I breathe a sigh of relief and dismount Mercury. I run over to Father as Aurelius holds on the Mercury's reigns. He sees me and I notice the shock that appears on his face, as well as the fear.
"I didn't expect to see you here," he says in an attempt to be neutral.
"Father, why are you here? It's too early for us to sell what we harvested, and Mother hasn't finished her sewing. Who are you waiting for?"
His face paled, like when Aurelius was younger and caught stealing candies we were supposed to sell. He's here for someone, but for whom, and what kind of business venture could he be involved in? It can't be…
"Cassius, I was afraid you wouldn't come."
I look to where the voice came from, my fear sending ice through my entire body. A man in full armor, eyes black as ink, is standing near our booth. He is a man who I fear above all else in this world. His name is Maximus. He is a soldier in the Queen's army, a loyal subject as well as a cold human being. I never liked the way he looks at me, his icy gaze freezing me to my very soul. Father never liked him, saying he scares away customers and has no respect for anyone but himself. There is no reason Father would ever do business with him under any circumstances, and yet here he is.
"I would never run, if that's what you mean," said my father, as if he were beaten. "What would be the point?"
"True," said Maximus. "When such an opportunity presents itself, it would be foolish to turn it down."
"Father," I say, "what is going on? What is he talking about?"
"Nothing that concerns you, now go home." His voice is like steel, cold and unfeeling. I have never heard him speak that way to anyone, even the people he doesn't like. What has brought this change in him? I am afraid of what will happen if I leave.
I feel a hand on my shoulder. "Let's go," says Aurelius. "This is not our place."
I want to protest, but I know that it would be futile. We mount Mercury and leave for home, my thoughts on Father.
It does not get better when he gets home. He is bitter and yells at us over little things that he didn't care about before. He does not tell us about what happened with Maximus. I hope for his sake the deal was broken.
I cannot sleep tonight. Not even when the songs of the birds tell me that it is morning does sleep embrace me. Aurelius has had the same night I had, tossing and turning in a vain attempt to gain some rest. I ask him if he wants to go to the meadow with me and he does not decline.
We sit there in the grass, grateful for a chance to talk without having to worry if Father is listening.
"What do you thing the business venture was about?" Aurelius asks.
"I don't know," I say. Anything involving Maximus is dangerous in my mind."
"I can't see how Father would ever have anything to do with him. He's heartless."
"And why would he need to become involved in a business venture anyway? We have a good life here."
"Things could be different." I know he is referring to his dream of unlimited riches. "But I never heard him complain about the work or our finances. Something is wrong."
We hear horses off in the distance. Aurelius looks over to the cabin and I see it too: the horses are mounted by the Queen's soldiers, and they are heading to our home. We get up and run, fear following close behind. Images of Father or Mother hurt propel my legs forward with a speed I never knew I had. My brother is left behind. As I run I can see Mother. I rush into her waiting arms, shaking with worry.
"Mother, what's wrong? Is Father alright?"
I look up to see my mother trying to hold back tears. She gently rubs my head like she did when I was younger and something terrible had happened.
"You're father is fine."
"Then why are there soldiers here? What has happened?"
"I have a request from the Queen. I'm to be a royal seamstress."
"Mother, this is wonderful. Why are you crying?"
"Because your father made a deal with Maximus. If the Queen wanted me, we would live in the castle as a family. But it comes with a price I cannot pay."
An unfamiliar hand is placed on my shoulder. It is then that I realize the truth. Maximus only helped our family because he wanted something from him, something that Father was willing to give him in exchange for a life of luxury: me.
Maximus tears me away from her while another soldier holds her back.
"No! Mother, please, don't let me go with him. Don't leave me."
I cry out to her, never bothering to look for Father. He sold me for his own desires, a betrayal that is unforgivable.
Maximus loses his grip on me, setting me free. I glance to see Maximus on the ground and Aurelius with a piece of wood in his hand.
"Run," he tells me, "and don't come back. Never for one second look back."
I want to say no, that I will never leave him and Mother, but I don't have a choice. This is my only way of escape.
I run despite my mother's tears, despite my Father's shouts, despite the sound of hooves, despite my brother's cries of pain. I reach the forest but I never stop to look behind me.
My foot collides with an exposed tree root and I collapse. There are not more shouts, no more hooves, nothing but the sounds of the forest. For what may have been hours I catch my breath, allowing myself to believe for a moment that I am safe. I stand and look around at my surroundings. Nothing but trees and rocks.
"Lost your way, dearie?"
I scream, nearly falling again. In front of me is a strange man with dark, scaly skin like that of a lizard. His hair is dark as well as his eyes, holding only mischief. I am speechless for a moment, and then I collect myself and try to be brave.
"No. I was merely…running."
"Really? Then those soldiers were just running too?"
I couldn't say anything. Aurelius always said that I couldn't lie to save my life, even if I wanted to. The thought nearly brings tears to my eyes.
"No, I was running…from them."
"Interesting. And why ever would you do that?"
There is no reason to hide the truth. It may be too late for me.
"They were going to take me to a monster in a man's form. I can't live with such a creature."
"Oh, so you're the girl Maximus has his eyes on, then? Can't say I blame you for running. So, where are you heading off to now?"
"I…I don't know"
"Hmm, that's quite a predicament dearie. Tell you what, I'll let you stay with me if you do a little favor for me."
"And what is this 'favor' you want of me?"
"You see dearie, the Queen and I are not on the best of terms. She's always trying to undermine me in any way she can, and I want to know what her plans are. However, I can't get into her castle because she'll know me anywhere. I need someone on the inside to tell me what she's doing, who she's speaking to, and all of her secrets. She'll never suspect a young girl would be a spy for me. What do you say dearie, do we have a deal?"
A spy for a stranger? Is that possible? I may not know how to lie, but I do know how to keep a secret. I can always learn how to lie. I will have a place to stay, and I can see my mother and brother. That is, if Mother takes the position. Either way, I'll be safe, and I may even be helping someone end the suffering of our kingdom. Everyone knows the Queen is cold and ruthless; having her gone will be justice.
"Splendid. Follow me."
He walks and I follow. After he takes a few steps he turns to face me.
"What's your name, dearie?"
"Very well. I am Rumplestiltskin, deal-maker extraordinaire."
"Titania, nothing more than a farmer's daughter."
"Not yet, dearie, but who knows? Maybe your luck will change."