The Children of Eris
From her bedroom window, Rebecca could see the renovations that Castle Kelsey was undergoing.
The stone was being painted black, the towers and ramparts were being lined with spikes, ballistae, catapults and were now patrolled by skeleton soldiers, and there were foundations being laid to expand the castle’s size greatly.
“Are you tired, my lady?” Eva asked as she began making Rebecca’s bed.
Rebecca didn’t turn to face her; she just shook her head.
“Very well. Would you care for some-?”
“How have you been, Eva?” Rebecca asked softly.
Eva paused her work. “My lady?”
“Since the castle was taken over. How have you been?”
Eva put on a small smile and resumed her work. “May I speak freely, my lady?” Rebecca nodded. “It’s scary, it’s hard and I’m terrified that I might end up doing something that could upset our new masters. But they haven’t done anything to me nor forced me to do anything more than just my old work. Why-?”
“What about the other servants?” Rebecca interrupted. “Have they been abused or mistreated? What about the ones that were sent to Stonefall?”
“They haven’t abused or harmed the others either, my-?”
“She’s well,” Eva replied. “Lady Mania says that she’s excelling at her training and that it might be possible to be the knight for the Demon Emperor.”
“…Is that a good thing?” Rebecca mumbled.
Eva looked worryingly at her lady. “Lady Rebecca, what’s wrong?”
Slowly, Rebecca turned to face Eva and showed her a weak, frail smile as tears gathered in her eyes.
“Eva, tell me the truth: am I a good person?”
Eva’s eyes widened and she quickly ran towards Rebecca.
“Of course, my lady,” Eva reassured her, holding her gently. “What in Themis’s name made you-?”
“How can I be a good person when all I’ve done is stand by when horrible people have done horrible things?” Rebecca wept. “How can I be a good person when I knew what my parents did and that I didn’t try everything I could to stop them? How can I be a good person when I know what’s going to happen to Black Port and I’m not able to do anything to stop it?”
“How can I be a good person when I can’t do anything to stop people suffering when I know about it?”
As Rebecca’s cries grew, she threw herself into Eva’s chest, her whole body shaking.
Eva didn’t know what to say.
She had never seen Rebecca like this and had no idea how long she must’ve had those feelings pent up inside of her, or how much courage it took her to finally get them off her chest.
Eva tried her best to smile and held Rebecca gently, stroking her head.
“Lady Rebecca, do you really think you’re not a good person?” Eva asked.
“Of course I do!” Rebecca screamed into Eva’s dress. “If I had stood up to my parents or told someone outside of the castle about what was happening in the castle, then I could’ve saved so many lives. If I had the strength to stand against the Demon Emperor, then I could save tens of thousands of lives. But!” Rebecca looked up at Eva. “I’m scared.”
Rebecca nodded. “I’m scared that I’ll get everyone here killed. I’m scared that my life will be nothing but this castle and horrible memories. I’m scared that I’ll spend my life as a bystander to terrible things again and again. Eva, has anything changed now that my parents are gone, or am I still chained down by them even now? What do I do, Eva?”
Eva shut her eyes and held Rebecca tightly.
“Lady Rebecca, I don’t know what your heart or mind is telling you to do, but I can say this confidently,” Eva whispered. “You are our saviour, no matter what the rest of the world says. There isn’t a single servant in this castle who doesn’t love you and wants you to be happy from the bottom of their hearts.”
“Lady Rebecca, no matter what you do and no matter what happens, we will be behind you all the way,” Eva said, pushing Rebecca’s hair off her face. “That’s just how much you mean to us.”
Rebecca cried even louder than before and hugged Eva as tightly as she could. Eva held her back and stroked Rebecca’s back.
“Thank you, Eva,” Rebecca whispered. “Thank you.”
Right before David left the next day, Rebecca approached him.
“Lord Allaric, might I speak with you in private before you depart?” She asked in a surprisingly confident voice.
The Machai nearby tightened their grips on their weapons as it was the first time that Rebecca had addressed the Demon Emperor by name.
“Is it urgent?”
“It is, Lord Allaric.”
David nodded and ordered the Machai to back away a little.
“I overheard Lord Mímir and Abaddon talking yesterday about the dividing of responsibilities around your forces to accommodate your trip to the Ash Woods and Lord Abaddon’s mission to deal with the giants,” Rebecca began. “As I understand it, you intend to teleport home every night to handle matters here as you travel, Lord Allaric.”
David nodded. “Indeed.”
“Lord Allaric, May I offer you an alternative solution?”
An alternative? David thought sceptically.
Rebecca swallowed hard, looked deep into David’s eyes and asked. “Would you please consider leaving the matters of running the castle to me?”
David, the Machai and even the Raven on the carriage were all startled by Rebecca’s rather bold suggestion.
“…You wish to run the castle on my behalf?” David asked.
“I do, Lord Allaric,” Rebecca confidently replied.
“Lady Rebecca, you are not officially a member of my inner council. You are, with all due respect, our ‘guest’ and I appreciate the help that you have given us so far, but why should I trust you with such important tasks? What guarantee do I have that you will perform your duties to the best of your abilities?”
“Because I want to be of use to you and because I want to show you that you made the right choice by sparing mine and the servants’ lives.”
“If you leave me specific instructions or guidelines that you wished me to follow during your absence, then I believe that I could manage the day-to-day business here at the castle, including the renovations and the allocation of work among the servants. That way, Lord Allaric, you and the other members of your council can focus on their own tasks and you will have less work to do each day.” Rebecca smiled slightly. “I believe that you mentioned how much of a shame it was that you had to head off back to work so soon after returning to the castle.”
“Oh? And where did you hear that from?”
Rebecca’s smile almost faltered, but she forced it to remain on her lips. “One of the butlers overheard and reported back to me last night.”
David narrowed his eyes.
“Lord Allaric, if you deem my work or my attitude towards the work you assign me lacking or undesirable in any way, then you may punish me as you see fit.”
Rebecca lowered her head a little to David and tried her best to remain calm, even as she heard the angry growls of the Machai behind her and the Raven’s tapping fingers on its knife.
David, however, was thrilled.
This is a brilliant idea! He cheered in his mind. If Rebecca’s able to excel at the job I give her, then I don’t have to worry about doing a load of boring, stressful work, and it gives me an opportunity to develop a friendly relationship with Rebecca as well.
It might mean that I could relax a little bit more around her once we get to know one another better.
“Very well, I’ll allow it,” David said, surprising all of those around him. “Until I return to the keep, you will be in charge of all matters relating to the running of this castle. However, the Machai, the skeletons and my other servants will only assist you in tasks that will benefit me and not any other matters. You will not be permitted to leave the castle without my authorisation and I will be expecting high quality work from you.
“One of the Machai will escort you later to my office where you will find the work that I was meant to handle upon my return tonight to the castle, so I shall leave that in your hands. I hope you don’t disappoint me, Lady Rebecca.”
“I won’t, Lord Allaric,” Rebecca replied with renewed confidence.
David summoned his armour and turned to climb into the carriage, but stopped when he saw Rebecca still standing there, fidgeting a little, like she still had more to say.
“Is there something else you wanted to discuss, Lady Rebecca?” David asked. She nodded. “Then, speak quickly I cannot afford to waste-”
“When you attack Black Port, do you intend to kill the people of Cliff’s Edge as well?”
David nodded. “Of course. I cannot afford to have word reach Black Port before the horde destroys it.”
Rebecca’s fear threatened to overcome her and dragged her next words down her throat, but she took a sharp inhale and steeled her resolve once more.
I’m not running away anymore.
“…Your majesty, might I be given permission to speak freely?” David nodded. “I think that it would be much better for you to let them live and spread word throughout the empire about what they saw.”
David narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
Rebecca gulped and nodded firmly. “I understand that you want to test the might of the Empire with this attack, but as I understood it, Mímir and Mania’s plan was to spread pandemonium throughout the Empire, was it not? Therefore, would it not be more beneficial to your majesty to let the people of Cliff’s Edge live and spread more stories about what they saw, about how terrified they were, and how they couldn’t warn Black Port in time to prevent its destruction?”
David opened his mouth to speak, but Rebecca interrupted him.
“Not only them!”
Rebecca’s shout had been so startling that both David and Rebecca had been taken aback by it, so much so that they didn’t say anything again for a few seconds.
Rebecca brought a fist to her chest and stared up into David’s eyes.
“If you were to minimise the civilian casualties at Black’s Port, they would also spread such stories throughout the Empire,” she continued. “It would accelerate your plan to sow fear throughout Themis and could cause a refugee crisis as well. And!”
Rebecca’s resolve collapsed a little when she realised that David had been staring directly at her for quite a while. She lowered her gaze a little and bit her lip, then whispered, “You would still be able to achieve your original objective of testing the Empire’s might.”
I don’t want to do this either, Rebecca, but I have to, David thought. There’s no reason for the Demon Emperor to spare them. Why would they? The more people that die, the bigger the undead horde that can be created, and the bigger the response from the empire to destroy it.
You gave me some good reasons, Rebecca, and they convinced me, but. David bit his lip. Would they convince Eris? If they didn’t, then that could be the justification she needs to kill me, meaning everything I’ve done would amount to nothing.
David felt his anger gathering in his heart. If I were to use Rebecca’s reasons, then maybe I could try and save some of the people of Black Port and Cliff’s Edge. Maybe, but…is it worth the risk?
As David was wondering that, he looked back down at Rebecca and the courage she had mustered to make such a request of the man she thought a monster.
If someone as scared and shy as Rebecca can stand up against a monster, then why can’t I?
David took a long, deep breath and closed his eyes.
“…Very well, I shall permit it this time,” David said, making Rebecca’s face light up a little. “However, Black Port’s fate has already been decided upon. I won’t order the horde to pursue anyone who manages to escape the bay on ships, but that is it. I trust that you have no problems with this arrangement?”
Rebecca straightened up and her smile shrank a little. “None, Lord Allaric.”
“Good. Perform your duties well and I will invite your council again. Do not disappoint me, Lady Rebecca.”
“I will do my utmost for you, Lord Allaric,” Rebecca said as she curtsied.
David nodded and climbed into the carriage.
As they were departing, David couldn’t help but smile a little just before they teleported away.
She used my name.