Most of my wandering was quiet, which is what I wanted more than anything. Occasionally something would find me and my dead followers and make a reproachable amount of noise. I would want the noise to end and so my undead would kill the thing, subduing all the screams and bringing back the silence in the process. Other than the noise makers I noticed little around me as I walked. If there was food, I would eat; if there was water, I would drink; but I sought for nothing. I enveloped myself in the silence, surrounded by the dead, and it was as if I wasn’t alive at all.
The dead never fell like the animals had from before, when I slept they went back into their trance state, and when I was awake they followed me. Over the months that I traveled with them I realized controlling the undead was a lot like moving my arm. You couldn’t command your arm to move, you had to will it to move. And sometimes if your emotions took over you would do things with your arms that you would regret, like hurting people you loved.
I always kept Espero by my side as we wandered the countryside. I knew it wasn’t really Espero, not anymore, but I didn’t really feel like me anymore either. Everything I knew and loved was gone, but worse than that, I murdered my brother. I didn’t think about that when I looked at Espero though, I didn’t think about anything. I was numb, traversing this hell I had found myself in.
I was wandering, somewhere between being alive and dead, until one day a group of men came to wake me. They rode on horses towards me and my fallen, which was different from the scared farmers who usually rode away from me. I pushed my undead between myself and the wall of robed men. One of them yelled something I couldn’t make out and then I felt an odd sensation. The undead were being pulled from me. It was like a game of tug of war with my mind as the men tried to gain control of my dead followers. I always got them back however, they were mine, I had made them and traveled with them, no one could take them from me.
“Bring them down!” I could hear one of the men yell.
Then the field in front of me was alight with green flames as my followers were being burned to cinders. Nothing had destroyed my followers thus far, and many a villager had tried. I was watching trying to understand, but my brain still felt slow. One of the men atop his horse strode towards Espero and I, his hand holding more of the green flames. Before I had time to register his intentions he shot the flames towards us. The cold consumed me again, as I watched what was left of Espero crumple from the flames. Just like everything else, he became just a pile of ash.
Everything I loved was gone, and I felt a hatred like I had never known before. All that had happened was crashing into me all at once, the numbness was replaced with rage. I felt it build in me and saw the flames growing brighter around me as I fed them. The man who had shot the flames looked scared as he galloped in the other direction. I didn’t want to kill him, I wanted to kill everything, I wanted it all to burn. My rage burst from me in all directions in an explosion of emerald. I could hear some of the men scream as they felt my rage, but there were still more of them. The flames were building up around me yet again. One of the robed men ran at me with a knife and I realized I was screaming as the flames rolled about me, building up for another explosion.
“Don’t kill her!” another man yelled, and with that everything went dark.
* * *
I woke up on a bed in a cell lit by a few candles on the wall. There was a man sitting to my left who eyed me as I sat up. “Finally awake I see.” It was the man who had shot me with green flames, we stared at each other for a moment before he continued “You’ve been awake a few times, never for long. We were able to get some food in you though, you were near starvation when we found you.” He seemed to be searching for something in my face “There has been a lot of debate between my brothers about you.” he leaned forward in his chair and I noticed he was holding my journal. I glared at him, but said nothing. “I know you probably don’t like me right now, but I’m one of the few on your side. Do you know where you are?”
I was in a cell talking to a necromancer, there was only one place I could be “Acrosia.”
“That’s right.” He held a serious expression as he flipped through my journal. “According to this you came into your abilities last year… when you were eight?” I continued to glare at him in silence, and with a sigh he put my journal on my lap. “Things would go a lot smoother if you could tell me what happened.”
I picked up my journal and held it close to my chest. “No, they wouldn’t.”
He nodded solemnly, “You’re Greilya right?”
I stared at my bed and gave a slight nod.
“I’m Cecil, as you’ve probably figured out, I’m a necromancer for the King. My brothers and I were sent out to investigate a group of undead who were killing villagers, which is when we found you. I didn’t realize you were alive when I saw you, or I never would have tried to hurt you. I understand that what you did was in self defense and that you probably weren’t fully in control. But, that being said, you killed some of my brothers and you did not come forward to the King with your abilities and for that, despite your age, others are seeing you as someone out to hurt the King.” He put his hand on my shoulder and I looked back at him. His hair was long and white though his broad face still held some features of youth “Greilya, I want to help you, but you have to give me something.” Looking into his eyes, I believed him, though I still had no words for him. “Can you tell me who the dead boy was? The one you were holding hands with?” I looked back at my bed and after a moment he patted my shoulder and stood up “Ok, we’ll talk more later.” He turned back from the door “I’ll have some food brought down for you.” and with that he was gone, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
A guard brought down some kind of meat stew and I devoured it in a few minutes. I started to thumb through my journal, but eventually just threw it against the wall. There was nothing in it that I wanted to remember. My cell only had one window and it was on the metal door that was keeping me locked away. Looking through I could see four guards standing outside.
I began pacing the length of my cell, trying to think of what I would tell Cecil when he returned. I still didn’t know what to say and the more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Should I tell him I killed my brother? Would that make me seem more trustworthy? Should I tell him I ran as my parents were being burned alive or that I killed anyone who came near me because they were too loud? What could I tell him that would make him understand the things I couldn’t? I grabbed my journal from the floor and started ripping the pages out fistfuls at a time, as I was ripping my hand lit with green flames and started burning the pages. One of the guards at the door started yelling something and within moments Cecil was back in the cell, this time with two other necromancers and the four guards behind him. He grabbed me by the wrists “It’s ok, Greilya, stop, It’s ok.”
He was still holding my wrists as the flames receded from my hands, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes “It was my brother.”
“Ok, It’s ok. Just breath, deep breaths.”
I took a deep breath and looked up at the other two necromancers and the guards with blades at the ready. It seemed with each breath I took their weapons slowly lowered, until finally they sheathed their blades and returned to their posts. Cecil lowered my wrists and placed his hands on my shoulders “You don’t have to talk about it Greilya, I’ve spoken to the King. I can help you control this, you just need to kneel. If you swear an oath to the King all will be forgiven. Can you do that Greilya?”
I nodded and he helped me to my feet while the other two necromancers eyed me suspiciously. The youngest of them spoke in a low voice “Is this really wise Cecil?”
Cecil held me close to help me to my bed as I felt very drained “Why don’t you wait until you’ve at least grown some hair on your chin before you start questioning my wisdom.” the younger man looked as though he was going to say more in reply, but thought better of it and stood silent. “Greilya, try to keep your mind clear, don’t think on these things that haunt you anymore. Get some sleep and we’ll come and fetch you in the morning to meet the King.” Even though I hadn’t been up very long I was exhausted and sleep came to me easily.
It felt like my head had barely touched the pillow when Cecil and the other two robed men arrived back in my room the next morning “It’s time Greilya, get up.” Cecil held my arm as I shuffled out the door and the guards filed in behind us as we made our way down the hall and up a winding stone staircase. “I know you must be tired Greilya, but we have to do this now to help pacify the doubts of the others.” Cecil pushed open the door at the top of the stairs and I was nearly blinded by the bright light that shone through. I was marched forward and as my eyes adjusted I could see we were in a stone chamber with many windows and lavish red banners covering nearly every wall. We traveled through a maze of hallways of the same decor until finally reaching a room with a large pool in the center and several women talking and giggling on benches. “Ladies, this is Greilya. Greilya, these women are servants of the king, they are going to make you a bit more presentable.” He lowered his mouth to my ear “try to keep your mind blank, think on nothing too serious” I nodded understanding he didn’t want me to hurt these women. “We will be right outside when you’re done.” With that he retreated and the women gawked at me for a moment.
One of the bigger ladies stood up “Well no sense staring ladies, let’s get to work.” They took me into the pool and swarmed me with soap and wash cloths, drenching me in sweet smelling stuff they called lavender.
They started brushing out my hair and one of them piped up “You have lovely hair Greilya, is there any way you would like it done?”
I had never known there was a way to do hair. “um, whatever you think is best?” this answer seemed to appease her and she proceeded attacking my hair with clips and strings until it felt tight and uncomfortable against my scalp.
“There” the large one said after what must have been hours “you could still use some more meat on your bones, but at least you’re clean.” She showed me a mirror and I stared with horror at my reflection. Needing meat on my bones was putting it lightly. My cheeks and eyes were so sunken you could get a clear impression of the shape of my skull. My arms looked like twigs protruding out of the white dress they had put me in. My black hair looked almost satirical with the many tiny braids pinned up around such a scary face.
I put the mirror down a bit firmly “Can I go now?”
The large woman looked at me with a sad face “Yes, you can go.”
I walked out the doors, wide eyed, to the men waiting for me in the hall. “I look like a skeleton doll.”
One of the necromancers with a long dark braid smirked at me “That’s ok, our King loves skeletons.”
Cecil came up to me and took my arm “Don’t mind Sare, You look fine Greilya, now let’s go meet king Aernoys.” The one named Sare was bigger than either of the other two and was clearly well built under his robes. He was still wearing a smirk as we continued through more hallways until we reached two large doors bordered by carvings of various fierce beasts. “Ok Greilya, you’re about to meet the ruler of our realm, you have to be respectful. Speak only when spoken to and do exactly as the King says and you should be fine. Are you ready?”
I looked from the door to Cecil and nodded. Upon entering the chamber I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of it. I had to stop for moment to get my bearings, the room was so open with such a tall ceiling it made me feel dizzy.
“Come forward.” It was King Aernoys speaking, he was sitting on a silver throne encrusted with large red gems at the other end of the chamber. He had some documents in his hand but was peering over them to look at me and motioning for me to come forward. I could tell the King was old, but he was old like a bear, no less intimidating for his age. His hair was grey with only flecks of black remaining. He wore it tied behind him where it just reached his shoulders. Aside from the silver crown on his head he wore a warriors garb, despite his wealth it seemed the King could never get comfortable in finer clothes. Cecil pulled me onward and we all knelt at his feet. I did as Cecil and bent my head to look at the ground. I could hear the King approach and he lifted my head with his hand “So this is Greilya. The nine year old who killed three of my seasoned necromancers.”
“Yes, my Lord.” It was Cecil who spoke, though he did not look up.
The King turned my head from side to side inspecting my face. “I have never had someone so young swear allegiance to me. Do you understand what it means to swear an oath to a king?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Hm” he dropped my face and I looked back to the ground. “Cecil thinks you’ve been through some sort of ordeal that you’re unable to speak on. He thinks your actions the last few months should be excused due to your young age and traumatic experience.” I could hear him unsheathing his sword ” Now I don’t care about your history. However, Cecil also seems to think that you’re abilities, with appropriate training, will be more than enough to replace the three necromancers you killed. And that, little one, is something I do care about. Look at me.” I looked up to meet his eyes “It is no secret that you are not fond of the common folk, the benefit of this oath for you, is that you don’t have to worry about them trying to harm you anymore. That being said, if you step out of line, if you start killing people without my command, I’ll slit your throat myself. Are we clear?”
There was no doubt in my mind that he meant what he said. “Yes, my Lord.”
He presented the blade of his sword before me “Good, put your right hand on the blade.”
I did as he asked and I could hear Cecil beside me “Repeat after me: I swear to be faithful to my King, to never cause him harm and to observe my homage to him completely against all persons without deceit.”
I stared at the king bearing down on me and I repeated the oath. Then king Aernoys sliced my hand to bind the oath in blood. He turned back to climb the steps to his throne “Take her, she’s your responsibility now Cecil.”
“Thank you, my Lord” Cecil raised me up and we left the throne room with haste. “You did good, Greilya. Now I have a few things to attend to, but Sare and Germ here will show you to your room, where you will live here in the castle.”
I was surprised at that “We live here, in the castle with the King?”
“Oh yes, the King likes to keep us close, we have our own wing here. Now I won’t be long, I trust you can stay out of trouble until I find you again?”
“Yes, I’ll be fine.” Cecil looked pleased and left me with the two necromancers who had been following us since we left my cell. They both wore matching black robes with sage colored trim and watched as Cecil left with arms folded against their chests.
Then Sare nodded toward one of the hallways “Right this way.” They led the way, but otherwise seemed to pretend I wasn’t there.
The one named Germ looked out the windows as we walked. His short dark hair was wavy like Espero’s had been, except he seemed to have something in it keeping it from springing up in all directions. He was so skinny his robes seemed to swallow him and they swooshed against the floor as he walked. “This should be interesting,” he muttered.
“What? You don’t think our brothers will be delighted to meet their new little sister?”
“To say the least.” Germ looked back at me with a look of disgust “Their names were Gregor, Samos, and Rell by the way, in case you were curious.”
I stopped walking “What?”
“Those were the names of the necromancers you killed.” Germ spat.
Sare stepped between us “What are the names of the men you’ve killed Germ?”
“It’s not the same and you know it.”
“It’s exactly the same.” he took a sideways glance at me “Why don’t you go on ahead Germ, I’ll catch up with you later.”
Germ growled but he moved away without another word. Sare turned to me once he was out of sight “Don’t worry, he’ll come around. How about we make a little detour, get you your robes first.”
I didn’t know how anyone was going to ‘come around’ to me killing their brothers, but I followed him all the same. He took me to a room down some stairs which was filled with robes of various colors and sizes.
“Ok” he was digging through a stack of grey robes “we don’t normally have someone so young here, so we might have to make you some custom robes later on, but, ah, here.” He pulled out one robe nearly indistinguishable from the others “This one should work for now.” He handed them to me “Well, go ahead, try them on.”
I wrapped the grey robes over my ridiculous dress and pulled the hood up over my head. “Here,” Sare offered me a mirror “you may be a bitch, but you’re the king’s bitch now. How do you feel?”
I looked in the mirror he offered “woof.” I said while staring at myself in the uniform robes. Sare threw his head back and laughed, the noise startled me.
“Woof! I like that!” he slapped me on the back as he proceeded to chuckle. “Come on, let’s get you to your room.”