Your Online Cup of Tea
The heat of the sun was heavy upon her. Lying half-asleep on the sandy shores. Washed up, wrecked and lost; she didn’t know what to make of the situation.
One moment, relaxed in a cozy bed. The next, violently awakened by a panic stricken sailor, shouting unintelligible words in a language she did not understand. No time to even put on her sandals. She was immediately rushed out to the main deck, where others were likewise being moved.
“What’s happening,’ she inquired. Constantly being shoved from behind. Imbalanced by the rocking ship. ‘Where is he leading me?’ she thought.
Great multitudes of people were huddled together in packs on the deck. All of them, who moments ago slept in peace, were now animated by distress. Every single one, just as confused as she. The girl didn’t remember getting on to one of the side boats. On the ship one second, then on the boat and then… came the wave.
I keep having that strange dream. For the past few months now, it’s been bothering me. I don’t have it every night, but when I do, it feels so real! I’m not even in the dream. But it’s like I’m watching it happen from up close. I’m just glad it’s not real… Though real life isn’t much better.
I awoke to a dark figure standing by the door of my chamber. I knew that silhouette better than my own name and was well acquainted with the ugly face that accompanied it.
‘Get yourself out of bed this instant,’ it demanded. prici. The last thing in this world that I wanted to see, would be the first to “greet” me at such an abominable time in the morning. Oh what joy. Furthermore, as soon as it realized that I was awake, the dark form left. And there on the ground where it had stood, lay a piece of parchment. Chores. Not even having the courtesy to leave it by my bed, that owl dropped it, forcing my bare feet on the cold morning floors.
“At least I’ve lost the will to sleep.” Humouring myself didn’t help. But ridding myself of prici? Yes, that will help a lot. And the will to do that, never diminishes.
Things were strange that morning. I was made to get up before my normal hour. Though I wondered why prici was too. It had no need to wake me. I’m more than capable of doing that myself. Anything to bother me I suppose! Also, that new cheery servant, Naysa, he too was up. On my way to collect berries, I found him in the forest area at the back of the house, by the stream. It sounded like he was talking to someone, though I saw no one else. And having stepped on a branch, he heard me creeping up to him. His head slowly went up and he put down his cloak. Stretching out his arms, yawning, he rose from his formerly curled up position. Then he turned around with a smile on his face. Like he expected me to be here. I have begun to dislike smiles. As of late, no good has become me from men who smile.
“Oh there you are,” he said.
“You were expecting me?”
“Well, I know that you collect Autumn Berries in the morning.” I noticed that he had a basket beside him. It was full to the top, and his was no small basket either. Not mention these were the bigger berries, of much darker purple. The most difficult to pick.
“The juiciest ones are higher up the on trees, so I thought I’d get them for you,” he added, whilst handing me a berry. This one was almost covered the palm of my hand. Its colour also matched my hair almost perfectly, I thought.
“It matches your hair.” That was weird.
“Why did you get it for me?”
“Well, I was here because I enjoy the quiet. I think it’s best to start the day petitioning the King…” Petitioning the King? Out in the cold? He’s one of those devout Avalonians then.
“…So while I was out here, I remembered seeing you carry in berries the other morning. I thought I’d save you the climb.”
“I’m more than capable doing it myself.”
“I never said you weren’t.”
“You implied it.”
“No I didn’t.”
“…You did.” He just smiled and held in a slight big of laughter.
“You have an answer for everything don’t you?” I never know what to say to that.
“…maybe.” He shook his head, still smiling. That irritated me a little.
“Why are you barefoot?” I asked as he walked away, putting on his sandals.
“I was on hallowed ground,” he replied, of course with a smile.
“The dirt by this horrid place is hallowed? How far down does this “hallowedness” go? 3 feet?”
“Wherever you gather to petition is hallowed,” he said. Smile and all. Strange and devout. Great. I don’t think that we’re going to get along. That’s why I stayed behind him as we walked back to the house, because if I were to see that all too cheery smile again, “the King” only knows what I’d do.
The sun was only beginning to rise by the time we got back. Yet the lamps inside were already lit and the kitchen was busy as ever.
“Glys, is everyone up already?” I asked. Glys is my only friend in this horrid dwelling. Not much older than myself, just by four years, the same lenght of time that she had been a servant here. Her father owed a huge debt and was forced to sell her. If ever there were a person whom I might even consider giving up freedom for, it would be Glys.
“Of course,” she replied. Glys didn’t even look up to talk. Frantically taking bread out of the oven and putting in dough, her face was covered in flour. It was funny.
“You look like a ghost,” I joked.
“I suppose you would know what one looks like, by your own reflection.” Her response was so quick. Without breaking rhythm, she continued her work. Glys always had an answer for everything. Even when she kept her mouth shut. That’s the difference between her and I. She’s much more level headed about things. I hate when she’s right.
“I’m as tanned as you are pale,” I added. She always did want to tan, but alas, she is too fair. Far from the land of snow and bears, I sometimes wonder how she handles the sun. All it does is turn her maroon. I can handle the sun though. I get it from one of my parents. But I’ve never met them. It’s clear however, that one of them had to be an Ubitian, from down south. Mainly because my hair and eyes are dark violet and I’m not as dark as them but quite mid toned. My hair too is curly but softer than an Ubitian’s, so I’ve let it grow to my shoulders without needing braids. Glys always joked about us being related somehow.
“Darkflake!” she said, beckoning me to approach.
“Flake!” I replied. Even though this joke is heard almost everyday, we both still laughed. Glys laughs quite a lot. I almost think that she has to. Otherwise it’s too easy to get overwhelmed thinking about her situation.
“Could you take this bread out to the guests?” she asked.
“Guests? It’s a bit early for people to start showing up don’t you think?”
“You’re right. However, these ones stayed over.” Oh dear.
“And they’re up already?”
“They wanted to practice. There is a competition on you know.” And I knew exactly who one of them would be.
“Did one of them have a beard?”
“Care to be specific?”
“You would notice this one.”
“…It was very pointy.” Coner. That crazy guy I saw on Tuetaz. It had to be him and his fellows. Honestly, what kind of person would want to associate with that. Whether he or they are worse, I can’t tell. Walking slowly down the dimly lit corridors, I carried the bread, hating every step that brought me closer to him. I didn’t want my dreadful thoughts to be true. Then I realized that either he was there or he wasn’t. Regardless of what I thought. So I sped up. Why become unreasonable for this brute? Notwithstanding that the idea of running into him in these corridors was much more unwelcoming. And as fate, crowns, luck or whatever you believe in would have it, there were ten guests that stayed over last night. All of them sitting by an indoor fire in the living quarter. And of course, Coner was in their midst.
They did not even have the decency to use the table. Their cloaks covered them as they sat or lay on cushions near the fire. There was food and drink all over. Oh, I wonder who would have to clean up after you? Hint hint. I couldn’t just leave the basket and go. It was proper etiquette that I offer it first. Oneri would never let me off with bad hospitality. Coner looked at me with a disturbing smile as soon as he re recognized my voice. I didn’t turn to face him, but from the corner of my eye, it was clear that he followed me wherever I went.
“Are you ready to compete in the finals?” he jeered at me. I didn’t justify that with a response. As soon as the basket was empty (those pigs) I made it my aim to get back to the kitchen as quickly as possible. But as I was walking out, I heard his voice say to someone “I’m going to the latrine, mind my food.” He laughed. Foreshock! Coner was coming to follow me. Quickly pulling up my kirtle, I ran basket in hand, to the nearest curving in the corridor wall. I tried to calm my breathing down. Staying quiet was all I had to do. The latrines were on the other side of the house. I hoped that this owl would know that.
I could hear him in the corridor. I realized how foolish I was to hide here. If he saw me, I’d be trapped. Cornered by Coner.
“Excuse me.” My heart, skipped, a beat. I almost let out a yelp, were it not for the shock. There’s no way he knows for sure where I am. He couldn’t…. yes he could. Ovilia you numbduck.
It soon came to my realization that there was another person in the corridor. His address had not been to me.
“Yes sir, may I help you?” It was was Glys! That’s who Coner was talking to.
“Do you know where the sleeping chambers are?” His voice seemed to be getting closer. Stay where you are.
“You are a guest here,’ she replied, “surely you remember where it was you slept?”, she joked.
“I am a most forgetful man, fair maiden.” I could tell by her laughs that Glys found this brute charming.
“I suppose then I must show you.” Glys! Don’t be alone with this man. I could hear her walking in my direction towards him. I decided to step out and show myself. It was a most awkward situation. But she would have seen me anyways.
“Ovilia? You silly girl, what were you doing hiding like that?” she asked.
“Hmmm, Ovilia. So that’s what you’re called.” I didn’t like the way he said my name.
“Glys, take this basket and into the kitchen right now.”
“But I need to assist this gentleman-
“He is no gentleman,” I told her through my teeth.
“That is no way of speaking about your guest,” he added.
“You are indeed a most forgetful man, as I have already made it clear that you are not my guest and I am not your host.
“Ovilia!” Glys snapped, “You can’t talk to our guests that way.” Really? Did I not just make the whole “guest” issue clear?
“It’s perfectly understandable that not all slaves can be outstanding servants like yourself, maiden Glys.” Servant? Maiden Glys? Oh, he’s good, I’ll give him that. Quick with the tongue. Angrily, I thrust the basket into her hands.
“Go!” I ordered. Her eyes looked as if they were scolding me. I’ve rarely ever seen Glys like this. The stare lasted for the most uncomfortable few seconds of my life. She left without saying a word. I didn’t move. And even though I couldn’t see her eyes, I could still feel them upon me. So dazed, I didn’t even realize how close Coner got. My hair began to lift up on it’s own. The owl was touching it. Pulling away quickly, I turned to see a few locks left in-between the knuckles of his hand. And there was his disturbing smile.
“You smell much better when you’re asleep.” I couldn’t believe what he was saying. My repulsion must have been obvious to him, as the hideous grin increased.
“You don’t believe me? That I could enter your chamber upstairs in the far right corridor. On the exact opposite side of the house to the guest chambers? I’ll never sleep again. My hands formed themselves into fists. It was a struggle to keep them to myself.
“Oh you’re angry?” he said, “Beginning to realize that you can’t escape me? That much I’m smarter than you realize? Please. Hiding in the corridor, as if I didn’t know. You’re almost as naïve as your idiot frie-
“Don’t you dare talk about Glys- he caught my fist from striking his face. Gripping tightly to my wrists, he pulled me in closer. Leaning towards me, his breath covered my face. I hated that the first thought, which came into my mind, was that he didn’t smell bad. People I don’t like should smell bad.
He began to whisper into my ear, “That’s no way to treat your guest… Ovilia.” And with that let go and left. I stood there in the corridor unsure of how this day got off to such a bad start. But it was only an omen of what was to come that day.
The events of this morning had me quiet for a long time. Which is unusual for me. I was also busy to talk to Glys and hadn’t seen her for while. But when we did run into each other, she behaved as though nothing had happened.
“It’s fine,” she told me, “you were just being Ovilia. Trying to help in your own way.” This was typical of Glys, to get over things quickly. It seemed almost impossible for her to be upset for long. We didn’t talk very much since the garden was beginning to fill up again. Merchant stalls were being placed and bowmen were practicing for the afternoon competition.
“Ovilia!” I heard from behind me whilst dealing out the bread. Why was I the bread girl today? Anyways, the voice belong to Jaredi; another one of my few friends. He was a servant about three years older than I, who belong to Malik, the most handsome of all, was one of his titles. They lived quite close to us. Jaredi is slave-born like myself. He was found at the door of his master’s residence. They took him in and he grew up a long side Malik, who was a few years older. Jaredi was given to Malik to be his personal servant. Though sometimes, they behaved more like brothers.
“It’s been quite a while Ovilia! Looking up?” Looking up, that was his personal greeting to me.
“Always.” My usual response. It had been quite some time since we last spoke. I wonder what happened? Though it didn’t seem like anything changed. He had that same scruffy look about him that seemed to characterize his appearance. But he was meticulous about his hair. He was one of those Ubitians that had purely black hair and brown eyes.
“Where have you been of late?” I asked.
“Well, you know what Maliki is like. That man has a thirst for adventure. He finds a way to make anything fun.
“Yes he is man.” I don’t know why I said that. Quickly pulled back out of my daze, I change the subject.
“What did you guys do?”
“We were on a trip with Maeli’s father. They kept me in the dark about much of what happened.”
“Is Maeli here?”
‘I don’t know, but her father is.” Jaredi looked over towards the garden, it seemed as if he was looking for something.
“I’ve got to go now Oviilia.”
“That’s fine. I’m busy as well.” He smiled and gave his classic extended fist of departure. I made a fist with the opposite hand and hit the top of his.
“Jaredi wait!” he was already a few feet away before I remembered and caught up to him.
“In an hour or so I have to go into the town for an errand. You could ask Malik if he needs anything. That way we can go together.”
“Will do Vi, will do.” Him and his pet names. I had really hoped for a quiet, eventless day. However, that was not to be my due.