The Children of Eris
Alone, in a dark stone chamber, trapped in an iron cage, sat a naked young woman with chains wrapped around her limbs.
Her eyes were downcast, her throat dry, her stomach empty and rumbling, echoing throughout the cold room, and she could barely stay awake.
She didn’t know how long she had been in that room for, nor did she know if it was the day or the night.
There was only one thing that broke up that unending misery and that was a small, faint, glimmer of hope that kept trying to stop her from dying.
The heavy wooden doors opened and a maid came into the room carrying a tray.
“I’ve brought you some food and some water,” she said.
Even without a candle, she navigated her way easily towards the cage door for she had done this many times now. The maid set the tray beside the cage and smiled, though the woman in the chains couldn’t see it.
“I was only able to get some bread and a little bit of meat today,” the maid said, passing a plate through the bars and putting it in front of the woman. “The chief gave me the best bits before serving the lord his meal tonight.” She finished putting the food onto the plate and then put the cup of water into the cage. “He hopes you’ll like it and if there’s anything in particular you want, just let me know and he’ll try and make it for you.”
The woman didn’t say anything.
She just slowly moved to the bread, grabbed it and took a tiny bite from it. The maid’s expression twisted in agony, but she quickly forced back her smile.
“I’ll try and bring you some more tomorrow before dawn,” the maid said in the happiest tone she could muster. “I’m sorry, but I have to go now. His lordship might notice if one of us is late and…”
The maid, realising how she had messed up, quickly left, whispering ‘I’m sorry’ before closing the door, leaving the woman alone once again.
Castle Kelsey, the home of House Kelsey, sat in the region of the Northern hills of the Holy Empire of Themis. Sat between the Great Northern Road and the Dragon’s Spine Mountains, the land itself was very fertile and very wealthy, making Lord Anthony Kelsey a very rich man.
With his short blonde hair, handsome face, silver tongue and ties to the underworld, he was a very influential and prominent figure in the Holy Empire.
No one dared raise a hand to the Kelseys, not with the rumours going around the country about what Lord Anthony did to those who defied him, many of which his guards had seen and vowed never to speak off. There were other rumours that said he dabbled in forbidden magic outlawed by the church and that he had connections to powerful criminal organisations throughout the Empire.
He was so powerful it was said that even the Emperor himself didn’t dare invoke his wrath.
What was scarier still to those who believed such rumours was that Lord Anthony rarely left his own keep, preferring to stay locked within his walls, meaning that if he could harm the Emperor or his family, then he could do so from his very own home.
The castle was something that Lord Anthony himself had ordered constructed two decades ago using the finest materials money could buy, and then furnishing it with the most expensive and beautiful furniture and art.
The dining room he and his family were eating in was no different.
The floor and walls were painted a dark royal red with golden patterns of symbols of the empire, animals, nature and holy items on them. There were six crystal chandeliers lit by magic stones hanging from the ceiling that would only turn off if there were no people in the room and there were sweet smelling flowers in pots lining the cabinets against the walls.
At the dining room’s centre sat the long oak table capable of having thirty guests around it comfortably.
Lord Anthony himself always sat at the head of the table while his wife, Lady Katherine, was sat close to him and his daughter, Rebecca, sat quite far from him.
Katherine Kelsey was a pretty woman with green eyes and long brown hair tied beautifully on her head. She was wearing a lavish emerald dress that made her even more beautiful in Anthony’s eyes and she was adorned with finer jewellery than the Emperor’s family.
His daughter, Rebecca Kelsey, however had his blonde hair and her mother’s green eyes. She was as beautiful as her mother was, but she wore a plain white dress with very little jewellery and her expression was extremely miserable.
Even though I’ve warned her about this before, Anthony thought, sighing to himself.
“Darling, what’s wrong?” His wife asked.
Anthony smiled at her and said, “It’s nothing to worry about, my dear. It’s just that the taxes we took from our peasants this year are a bit lower than last year’s.”
“How is that possible? You raised the taxation rate to generate more money, didn’t you?”
“I did, but it seems that it has had the opposite effect. Because the taxes are now much higher in our lands than our neighbours, it has been brought to my attention that some peasants have taken it upon themselves to cast aside their duties to us and move.”
“It is, isn’t it?” Anthony took a sip from his glass and sighed. “It was only a five percent increase, nothing substantial. What’s a few extra coins to them? Nothing. But, to us, it allows us to properly protect and govern this region so it may prosper.”
“The world is full of selfish people, dear,” Katherine said.
Rebecca’s eyes narrowed and she gently placed her knife and fork on her plate.
“What’s wrong, child?” Her mother asked.
“…I’m not feeling too well,” Rebecca replied softly. “May I retire to my room?”
Anthony glared at her and put his glass down. “Rebecca, have your mother or I finished eating?”
“…No, my lord.”
“No, we have not. So, would it be polite for you to retire early?”
Rebecca looked down at her hands and curled her fingers tightly around her skirt’s hem. “…No, my lord.”
“No, it wouldn’t. If you are finished eating, then you could have the common decency to look up and listen to your parent’s conversations. Or do you perhaps find talks involving our lands boring and distasteful?”
“…I’m sorry, my lord.”
Anthony grunted and resumed eating. “Katherine, make sure to discipline her properly later.”
“Of course, dear,” Katherine mumbled, staring daggers at her daughter.
Then, not even a second later, she eagerly turned back to Anthony and continued talking.
“Dear, can I ask you when you intend to get rid of that woman in the dungeons?” She asked.
The butlers, maids and Rebecca all froze when she asked that question, but didn’t dare let their true feelings show on their faces.
The guards, however, didn’t react in the slightest.
“Hmm, probably before I set off for Stonefall again this weekend,” Anthony replied. “I imagine there will be some good replacements for her and some new staff at the market, so you may pick your favourite to do with as you like.”
“Your too kind, dear,” Katherine replied, giggling happily.
Anthony smiled. “Not at all. We all have our own ways of unwinding after a hard day of work, so I am just happy I can provide for you yours.”
Rebecca resisted the urge to look away from her parents and cry her eyes out.
Roughly every two months, her father made a trip to the nearby city of Stonefall to conduct business with his associates and buy slaves from the underground markets. Some would be forced to become their new butlers and maids, whereas others were unfortunate enough to be given to the soldiers as ‘gifts’.
The ones that suffered the most though were those taken by her parents to the dungeon to use however they see fit.
Rebecca had tried many times to save the slave’s lives, but had been beaten by her parents for trying and, on one occasion, was forced to watch a butler she tried to save die.
Her parents, and the guards who protected them, were cruel, sadistic and they didn’t even consider what they did to be a sin.
How can the Great Goddess allow such cruelty to exist? Rebecca thought, resisting the urge to turn her eyes downwards to her spear necklace.
If she did so after her father’s warning, she would get a beating or perhaps another scar.
She smiled bitterly and pretended to care about what they were saying.
…There’s nothing I can do to stop them, is there?