Sophia knew what they called him. She had heard it a hundred times, Albel the wicked. Almost as if the three words formed a inseparable sentence. Everyone knew of 'Albel the wicked' it seemed. Every town they went to Albel was recognized as being the wicked captain of the Black Brigade. Of course being the girlfriend of said wicked person seemed to make her just as recognizable.
At first it was just glances in her direction or quickly diverted stares. Once word spread of their relationship looks turned into whispers. To her face everyone was formal to say the least. She was called Lady Esteed even thought she had no official title. At first she assumed it was because she was from another world or because she had fought the creator. It wasn't until she found that Nel, Roger, and Adray received no such treatment. In fact they had gone about their lives as if nothing had changed. The kind of reverence they did receive was all together different, it was warm, open, freely given and most of all friendly.
With time she had grown used to the hushed whispers that came when she entered a shop. She had come to expect the abrupt end of conversations as soon as she entered a room. She had learned that any hope of making friends with those in the castle, those who 'served her' was all but impossible. Not because they were staff, or because she was a 'Lady', but because no one wanted to get involved with the wicked one. She felt like she was back in high school again and everyone knew some terrible secret about her.
She could think back and laugh at the days she wished for a prince to come rescue her and whisk her off to some happily ever after. Oh how very differently things have turned out. This was no fairy tale, it was real life. In the real world Albel was no prince and he really didn't think it was all that fun rescuing her. He had done awful things. There was no magic kiss that would change a frog into a prince. No magic spell to erase the wrongs done. No easy way to change peoples minds.
But, there could still be a happily ever after, she just had to work at it. The first thing she needed to do, if she was to live in this new world, was to make friends with those around her. She couldn't stay isolated forever. She had to gain someones trust, she had to at least try. She took the opportunity to do just that one day when her room was being cleaned.
Sophia usually left to let the staff do their work but today she stayed and sat in a chair beside her desk. The maid was a young girl about Sophia's age named Anna; she was light skinned and had bright red curly hair. The girl seemed a bit unnerved by Sophia's presence but continued on with her work. For a time the silence in the room was only filled with the sounds of rustling sheets and the light sweeping of a broom across the hard stone floor.
Finally Sophia broke the silence. "Anna, why doesn't anyone like me?"
Anna froze immediately, the sheet she was about to spread across the bed still clenched in her hand. "Everyone likes you my Lady. You're very kind and do not boss the staff around. Your quite easy to please and get along with."
Sophia stood and walked over to the bed. She grabbed the other end of the sheet and began spreading it out. "It doesn't seem that way to me. All anyone ever says to me is 'yes my Lady' or 'no my Lady'. I don't have a single friend here."
Anna twisted her end of the sheet nervously. "If I may speak freely my Lady."
"There is nothing wrong with you my Lady. You are kind natured and sweet and… well what I don't understand is…" she trailed off, her voice lowering to almost an inaudible whisper. "Why are you with Lord Albel?"
"It's ok to ask me any question you like Anna you don't have to whisper."
"I do not want to be rude or offend you in anyway."
Sophia sighed deeply. This was probably most of the problem, no one wanting to offend her and then have to face the wrath of Albel. "No it's ok I'm happy to answer any question you have. Maybe it will help straighten things out. I love Albel. I know it's hard to comprehend because he has quite the reputation but…"
"See my Lady you have only been here a short time and we, the other servants and I, do not think you know what you're getting yourself into."
"Well I'll admit that Albel and I are still in the early stages of our relationship but I've know him for a year now and I think that whatever he was like before he's different now."
Anna seemed to think for a moment. "Well yes he does seem to be more…" she glanced over at Sophia and then back away. "Agreeable since his return. You are probably the reason for that. But we remember him as he was before. I can recall a few occasions where members of the staff angered him and…well…let's just say we do not know where they are now. They just disappeared and I can only imagine what became of them." Anna finished tucking in her side of the sheet and started on the comforter. "It's not just the incident with the staff, it's the reports of the carnage on the battle field."
Sophia slowly smoothed out the creases in her end of the heavy down cover. She'd been spared most of the details of Albel's fighting while he was in the war, before he joined there group. She knew he'd done some awful, gruesome things. It's not that she expected him to be forgiven but he had change since then; she just wished others could see what she did. "Everyone changes, it's not always fair to judge someone by their past alone. The present counts too."
Anna fluffed the pillows, tucking then neatly below the comforter. "Forgive us if we do not believe you my Lady. While we do not mean to ignore you it is simply best to stay out of Lord Ablel's business. If any of us hurt or offend you it would be our end."
Sophia sat back down in the chair not wanting to disturb the covers of the newly made bed. "That won't happen, I wouldn't let Albel harm anyone just because my feelings were hurt."
Anna had finished her work and began gathering her things. "Your intentions are good my Lady but please forgive me if I still do not trust Lord Albel." With her supplies in hand she bowed in front of Sophia and began walking towards the door.
Sophia felt disappointed by this turn of events, it seemed there was nothing she could do to gain any trust in Albel or her for that matter. She watched as Anna made it to the door and waited for the girl to leave.
Suddenly Anna turned around and walked towards her a bit. "My Lady, if you are here tomorrow when I come to clean... well lets just say the company today was nice and I wouldn't mind it again."
Sophia smiled. "I'll be here, I look froward to it."
Anna nodded and bowed once again then hurried on her way.
Sophia sat alone in her room contemplating what would happen next. If she was lucky she and Anna would become friends. Anna would be her bridge to the other inhabitance of the castle and hopefully she could gain their trust as well.
Maybe that trust would spread beyond the castle and there would come a day when the whispers would end and people would actually talk to her in that open friendly way she longed for.
If it all worked out, and if everything went right, than maybe there would come a day when Albel was just Albel and 'the wicked' left behind in the past.