Chapter 2:

Little Life in a Little Town

Theodora Plays to Win (With Cheat Codes)

The sun was reaching it’s apex as Theo teetered out of the woods. She rambled about like a zombie, “Food” she mumbled and proceeded up the backroad toward her house. It was a chilly day but the worst was behind them. It was the third month of the year, the Arliss Moon, so the village had pretty much fully come out of it’s winter hibernation. The backroad Theo frequented was rarely traveled since it took carriages the long way around the village, most go through the front entrance, though they had started seeing less merchants passing through as of late. Well, it was still early in the cycle, things would pick up in the next month.

Theo drew closer to the village, close enough to make out a group of small figures perched along the fence of Mr. Damer’s yard. “Just great.” Theo knew who this trio was, they were just a small sample of the town’s bullies. They often waited on her outside the school yard when they were younger, spouting insults her direction. It was unusual to see them outside at this time of day, Pollen must have noticed her crossing behind his house this morning. This is such a pain, she grumbled.

Throughout her many years of torment at the hands of the village at large, Theo had grown a thick skin and a sharp tongue. It was a defense mechanism to battle against this unfair world. The kids let loose their first barrage.

“You planning on living in the forest now.” The short fat kid called Dudley threw the first metaphorical stone.

“You make any friends in there.” Original, Marcy, super original.

“You find your daddy in there.” Pollen finally let out his go-to insult. She didn’t care who her dad was, and so this didn’t particularly rattle her, but it’s only good etiquette to respond when someone goes after your family.

“No, but yours was diddling the maid, and I hear Dudley’s mom has dibbs on both.”

Theo kept walking, as she crossed the fence and passed Mr.Damer’s house, the sound of Pollen and/or Dudley crying and cursing could be heard in the distance behind her. Truth be told everyone was sleeping with everyone out here. You’d be hard pressed to find a monogamous couple in the whole village. Naturally no one acknowledged it, it wasn’t good etiquette unless you wanted to pick a fight. She had in fact caught Pollen’s father in a suggestive position with his maid some time ago, so what she said wasn’t entirely a lie, and it has been said through passing gossip that Dudley’s mom has been having an affair with Mr. Damer for a while, probably since his wife passed. In an even more scandalous bit of news, it’s been said that Mr. Gibblett (Dudley’s father) knows about the affair and occasionally watches, and “GOD I HATE THIS TOWN!!!”

“Stupid Callum, like I could save up enough to leave. Grr.” Theo continued grumbling all the way home.

Mornings are not peaceful for Theodora even at the best of times. They can start a variety of ways, most commonly it begins with Cambria’s familiar, Bessos, gnawing on her toes or trying to peck out her eye. Always the right one for some reason. The morning can also start with bugs in her bed, or Bessos hiding in her closet, or Bessos floating above her bed, or Bessos lurking under her bed, or her room frosted over, or Bessos staring at her from outside her window, or her room flooded…there were any number of variations. Her mornings were rarely peaceful, or Bessos free, unless she was able to wake up and get out of the house before the sun rose. Cambria’s familiar was rare even among familiars. It was called a Dawntreader. It was like an octopus with the head of a crow; it could fly, stick to walls, and change it’s shape, but it could only be fully active while the sun was still rising otherwise it remained small and hid in the shadows. It was also unclear whether Cambria ordered her familiar to harass Theo or if it picked up the hobby on it’s own, when asked, Cambria only said, “You get what you deserve” and refused to elaborate on the matter.

Today, Theo slept in, it was one of her bad days. The sun was clear in the sky, she’d forgotten to shut her drapes last night (a defense against Bessos’s creeping). She lived in the basement but there was a small window from which to peer outside. Her room appeared to be intact and there was nothing under her covers or under her bed. She’d been awoken by a sudden commotion and not the malicious banging on the ceiling that sometimes broke her slumber. Theo swung her legs to the floor, sweat drenched hair falling down her shoulders. She unsteadily rose to her feet, vertigo began to assault her and she fell back into bed. That didn’t work, I guess I’ll just watch from here. Theo trained her eyes on the small rectangular window; from her bed she could see her three sisters step out of the house in their second or third best outfits. What’s going on, Theo hadn’t the faintest idea what could get the entire town out at this hour, especially her sisters. They passed out of her view, leaving her with the skyline. “What’s that?” In the distance she could now pick out a shape, it looked like a horse…with wings. That’s new.

The entire town gathered in the center of town as a Griffin descended onto the main road. The village chief, Rhoald had received a messenger from the capital just yesterday, telling him to notify the residents of an official visit from a royal trumpeter arriving today. They were to dress as best as they could manage on short notice at such an hour and assemble as close to the village center as possible. This was the first time in his longer-than-average life that such a thing had happened, no, the prince’s birth was the only other time. Could something have happened to the Prince or the King? As far as he knew, no one here or in the surrounding villages had any deep affection for the royals, but it could cause some unfortunate ripples if there were such news. Rhoald fretted as the carriage set down.

The griffin and carriage set down in the middle of town. Edith stood with her two older sisters, observing the scene. They’d been notified through the Chief that a trumpeter from the capital had come to deliver urgent news and that we were to gather at the town center when the sun was at it’s zenith. The urchin in the basement its probably still asleep, useless loafer. It didn’t due to put any thought into that bottom dweller. According to Cambria she’s a example of everything we should strive not to be. She’s powerless, shrill, and unlikely to ever leave this place, or make anything of herself. The thought of her makes all of us sisters want to vomit. An older man smiled and waved at Edith from across the street, she let a smile play on her lips; I’ve got sponsors and plenty of offers for marriage. My efforts in drawing in those old bastards will pay off huge someday. I’m not going to end up like her. Never. Edith turned back toward the carriage as a plump fellow in royal blue robes seesawed his way out. He took out a small trumpet and blew. The noise made Edith and her sisters cover their ears, it had to have been some kind of magical instrument.

The trumpet blast penetrated the thick walls of Theo’s house, making her raise her hands to her ears. “Ow” her arms were sore, her entire body became sore and weak when she was sick. Why’d it have to be today of all days, I just want to get back to sleep. This probably didn’t have anything to do with her.

“Hear ye, hear ye”

Theodora decided to ignore the outside world and go back to sleep. She threw her pillow over her head and drew her blanket up to her chin. “Nothing to do with me.” She preferred to live in ignorant bliss, but the world moves on regardless and circumstance roll people right along with them whether they like it or not.