Sorena leaned against a rough large oak with her eyes closed. All around her were fields of vast lands and lush greenery. A large white mansion stood in the distance surrounded by well trimmed grass that seemed to glimmer with the sunset. The scene was truly a sight to behold. It was the perfect place for a nice and welcoming family to live.
If only that were true Sorena thought wryly. She was trying to clear away a headache that had been ongoing for nearly two weeks. The pain just kept getting worse and worse though she did not know why. As a child she never got sick for long so it was natural that she would worry. Not that it mattered either way. Sorena did not have money to see a doctor nor close relatives to depend on. None that are alive anyway.
So will do what I've always done. Ignore it and maybe it will go away.
She knew that was a terrible solution, but she had no idea what else to do. Sorena kept her eyes closed and attempted to clear her mind hoping against all odds that would keep the headache away. Her mother once told her that good meditation was the best way to get rid of headaches. She could feel her raven colored hair being lifted by the gentle summer breeze. Her senses picked up the scents of the lavender and chrysanthemums that she nurtured to perfection. All was quiet except for the occasional chattering of birds. Sorena was ready to relax when she heard a panicky voice call her name. She sighed and opened her eyes, revealing deep forest green orbs.
Before her stood a tough looking woman in her forties. The woman was slightly plump with dark skin and even darker hair. She wore a simple linen dress with an apron, though the apron did little to protect the dress. That is, if one could really call what she was wearing a dress. It was covered with huge black stains and numerous patches from repairs. It's not as if mine are any better Sorena thought bitterly. Sorena's dress had nearly as many patches as the woman's, if not more and was rumpled from being washed too many times.
"Anne," Sorena greeted. She smiled at the woman who was both a friend and mentor to her, trying her best to hide her pain.
"Where have you been, girl?" Anne growled. "I've been looking for you for hours now. Have you finished feeding the horses?"
"Yes my dear Anne, Sally and Ben have been fed. From your appearance I can tell you have been playing in the chimney," Sorena responded calmly with slight mirth in her eyes.
"Don't get sassy with me Sorena! I don't have time to put up with this nonsense! The sun's almost down! The master and his family are returning from their trip to the Welsh family any minute now. They will be expecting a clean house with the baths and dinner ready and I find you under the tree napping!"
"Relax, Anne," Sorena said soothingly. "The house is as clean as can be and the chores are all done. I already made dinner and Rhys is upstairs preparing the baths now."
Surprisingly, Anne seemed soothe by her words and visibly relaxed. Or maybe she was just tired of yelling.
"We still have to clean ourselves up to greet the masters," Anne reminded sternly.
"You and I both," Sorena laughed. She stood up, dusting the dirt off her dress and soothing away the wrinkles. Like that's ever possible Sorena thought sarcastically.
"Hurry up! I don't understand why a young girl like you is so slow. They could be back any minute," Anne nagged. Anne's reprimanding voice grated on Sorena's nerves. Or maybe it was her headache, she was not sure. All she knew was that she felt angry.
"And I don't understand why you keep kissing up to our 'masters'! They are a horrible stuck up family who think they are too good for anyone else! Those people treat us like dirt!" Sorena snarled.
"Shhhh! Someone could here you."
"There is no one here," Sorena sighed exasperated. Her headache doubled its force. "The Barrington yard is a huge field. We live miles from their neighbors. Honestly, Attronians live like kings and treats others like mud under their shoes."
"You know that's not true. Not every Attronian is wealthy and not every one of them treats people like dirt."
"Why do you keep defending them?" Sorena snapped. "They enslaved us! The Attronians are not our people! I am Huralen! We were a proud, independent nation until those Attronians decided to take over!"
"Hush now child!" Anne hissed. "I do not defend them. However, I'm not the one acting like I have a death wish. Your words are high treason."
"I do not care!"
"You should care!" Anne snarled. "If not for your sake then for Rhys! How do you think he would feel if go and get yourself arrested because of your high and mighty sense of justice?"
"No buts. The war is over Sorena. Your people lost and that that. When your parents were taken did you not swear that you would continue to survive with your brother? Didn't you swear to try to live happy lives?"
"Yes," Sorena answered softly. "You're right of course" Sorena felt the truth of Anne's words striking her like daggers. She was acting like an indignant, selfish child. Anne was right. She could have very well endangered the lives of both herself and her brother by saying treasonous words. Sorena could not afford to act her on her emotions now that she had someone important to protect.
"I sorry, I don't know what came over me" Sorena apologized.
Anne smiled sympathetically, her eyes sad. "I understand child. At your age I am sure I have felt the same way. But you must understand that you cannot afford to be careless, especially since you are dispensable among these people."
Sorena nodded her head. "Let's go inside," she said all the while giving Anne an apologetic look for her outburst. "Like you said we have to prepare to greet our masters when they return."
Anne nodded her head and followed Sorena with a grateful smile. They entered the great white mansion and were greeted by a beautiful sight. The entire place was clean and orderly. White walls were adorned with portraits and a long swirl of staircase led up to the masters' private rooms, guest rooms, observatory, giant bathrooms, etc. The windows were covered with dark red drapes that were currently open, welcoming beautiful sunset colors into the house.
Both Anne and Sorena heard a loud thump and turned just in time to see a boy of about six run down the staircase, tackling Sorena in a tight hug. The boy had black hair like Sorena, but unlike Sorena's they were nowhere near her pure silky black locks. While his eyes were green, they were round bright emeralds that made his face cute to look at. Sorena had deep forest green eyes that made her look almost mysterious, in an alluring kind of way.
Sorena looked down at the boy who was everything to her and her heart melted. She gave him a warm smile and returned his hug just as tightly. This boy was her world and her only living family member since the war.
When the war between Attronia and Hural ended, all the important war figures of Hural were captured and executed. Sorena's parents were such people. They contributed a large amount during the start of the war including building hospitals for Hural soldiers and giving heart warming speeches that boosted the people's moral. However near the end of the war her family withdrew because Sorena's mother was pregnant with her brother. They moved to an uncharted town not in Hural or Attronia and prayed for the swift victory of Hural. However that was not meant to be.
About 9 months after they left, Hural fell into Attronian hands. Attronian leaders began hunting down Hural war leaders. On the day that Sorena's mother gave birth to her brother Attronian soldiers raided their home. They barged in a few hours after Sorena's mother gave birth and Sorena's parents were taken. Sorena and her new brother were forced into slavery. They lived in a slave pen for about a year and that was one experience Sorena will never forget. Hatred between Attronians and Huralens was still high after the war thus Sorena and her baby brother were treated cruelly. It was there that Sorena promised herself that she would endure. She promised herself that she would survive and raise her new brother as best as she could. Sorena named her brother Rhys, because in Hur that meant strength. She worked hard to keep her newborn brother alive, but despite her best efforts, Rhys became an ill child. A year later, Sorena and her brother were bought by the Barrington family. Sorena was only ten at the time. There she met Anne who helped to care for her and her brother. Thanks to Anne, Rhys managed to regain his health. So, for 6 years, Sorena served the Barrington family though she hated them with a passion and not just because they were Attronians. Sorena sighed bitterly as she thought of the treatment she endured in the Barrington household. Rhys looked as his sister questioningly, but Sorena shook her head.
"Have you finished preparing their bath?" Sorena questioned her brother. There was no need to start remembering the past. What's done is done.
"Yes," Rhys chirped.
"Then let's go clean ourselves up."
Sorena held her brother's hand and took the lead. Anne followed close behind. They walked through the huge kitchen, followed by the elaborate dinning room, then through the ballroom to get to a door. The group walked through a beautiful garden, tended by Anne and Sorena of course, until they found two rusty old shacks. One was for Rhys and Sorena. The other belonged to Anne.
" 'Rena, are the masters gonna be back soon?" Rhys inquired while pushing open the shack door to their shack. There wasn't much to see inside. Just two beds stood in the center of the room. Two bags sat in the corner for clothing and supplies.
"The Barringtons should be back anytime now." Sorena snorted. "They never stay in another's home past sunset, something about it being undignified and below their class."
"You shouldn't say that, sis. They said we have to call them master/mistress or lord/ lady."
"I can call them what I want Rhys, especially when they are not here."
"But what if you get caught? They'll hurt you again 'Rena," Rhys whispered. His eyes widened with fear and became glassy, as if trying to hold back tears.
Sorena sighed and held Rhys as he buried his face in the folds of her dress.
"Shhh. It's okay Rhys, I won't be hurt again," Sorena soothed while gently patting his head. Rhys had grown to be clever for a six year old; however, he was still very emotional.
Sorena wondered how the boy knew that she got beaten regularly when she was a child serving the Barringtons. Before her enslavement, Sorena had known much freedom. Her parents gave her liberty to do whatever she wanted, most of the time. So naturally, when she was bought, Sorena was more than a little rebellious and Lord Barrington had no qualms about whipping her into submission. Any insubordination warranted a beating, whether it be stealing a piece of bread or not addressing them by the appropriate title. After two years Sorena finally learned the hard way that in order to survive she must submit. She was still beaten occasionally for Lord Barrington's pleasure, but not enough for Rhys to notice. Besides, her bruises always healed fairly quickly. So that meant that Rhys either questioned Anne or he could remember back to the age of two, which possible considering how clever her brother was.
Rhys finally calmed down and removed himself from Sorena's arms. He was still sniffling a little though. Sorena tore a piece of fabric from her dress and used it to wipe Rhys's tear-stained face because she didn't have a handkerchief.
"There, now you are all better," Sorena smiled. Rhys seemed to be embarrassed for crying. He also looked a little guilty as well by the way he was looking at his shoes.
"I'm sorry for making you rip your dress," Rhys mumbled. He looked ready to start crying again. Requin! The boy really needed to stop crying all the time.
"It's alright little brother. I can fix it."
"But it's dirty,"
"I said it's alright. You shouldn't worry about my clothes," Sorena insisted. It was not as if Sorena had never torn her clothes before. Working in the garden gave a lot of room to ruin her dress. If that happened she would just steal a little piece of Elaine's fabric to mend it. Nothing so fancy that the Barrington 'princess' would notice, but just a little scrap of plain fabric for her dress. It's not like the girl really used it anyway. Apparently plain cloth did not suit her status,
"Speaking of clothes, we have to get changed soon." Sorena said. She pushed Rhys inside the hut and closed the door. There was no lock because Lord Barrington did not want to waste money on slaves. Also, he did not want to leave a slave alone in a locked area for fear of clever slaves planning something to undermine him. Lord Barrington was a very paranoid man. Sorena started to take off Rhys tunic, but Rhys broke free.
"No! I can do it myself now. You turn away." Rhys said stubbornly. Sorena hid a smile as she obediently turned away. Rhys quickly took off his clothes and put on a cleaner pair of trousers and a tunic.
"I'm done," Rhys declared triumphantly. Sorena turned around and took a good look at her brother. Rhys chose a dull red tunic that looked tattered, but otherwise clean and a pair of dusty brown trousers. Sorena couldn't help, but feel proud at how much Rhys has grown since she last held him as a baby. Her happiness evaporated as her eyes wandered to a metal collar around Rhys's neck, his slave collar. Unconsciously, Sorena began fingering the collar around her own neck, feeling the cool metal pressed against her skin.
This is all we'll ever be Sorena thought sadly.
"'Rena, you okay?" Rhys questioned worriedly. Sorena pushed back her sadness and shot Rhys a bright smile.
"Of course I am, and you did a good job, so now it's your turn to turn away,"
Rhys did as he was told and turned away. Sorena chose the first dress she saw which turned out to be an ugly shade of green and put it on. It didn't matter either way. She only had three choices and none of those were any better than the green one. If Sorena had her way, she would not be wearing a dress at all.
Back in Hural, the women worked in the fields like men and were not required to wear dresses because it was impractical. In fact, most Huralen women did not wear dresses except on special occasions. However, Attronians require women to always wear dresses. To wear anything else would be to deny womanhood, or so the Attronians believed. Even slaves who worked in the fields had to wear the appropriate attire, otherwise they would be committing a serious crime. Personally, Sorena never understood this logic behind Attronian custom, but there was no point in arguing about it.
"Ok, you can turn around now," Sorena called. Rhys turned around and quickly grabbed Sorena's hand.
Sorena followed her brother's lead and they headed back to the manor. Anne, who was staring at the window, turned to look at them.
"They're here," Anne stated.
Sure enough, a small carriage led by two horses, was making its way to the manor. Sorena, Anne, and Rhys made their way outside to the front of the manor and waited to serve their masters. The carriage stopped and the driver, Dan hurried to open the carriage door. Out stepped the three members of the Barrington family.
First came Lord Bueren Von Barrington, head of the Barrington family. He was a beefy man with a round waist and beady eyes. His face could be described as jolly when he laughed. However, most of the time Sorena saw him when he was either angry or scheming something, and during those times Lord Barrington never looked nice. Sorena did not like Lord Barrington because he was the one that always whipped or beat her when she misbehaved. Lord Barrington was wore a blue suit with black breeches and a back belt that looked like it barely fit. He sported a dark brown mustache and equally dark brown hair.
Lord Barrington escorted his wife, Lady Charlin Lil Barrington out the carriage. Lady Charlin was the only Barrington that Sorena did not detest, but that did not mean that she liked her either. Lady Charlin treated the slaves with indifference as if they were not there. Though Lady Charlin never layed a hand on Sorena, she did nothing to stop her husband from beating her. Lady Charlin was pretty, to some degree, and in Sorena's opinion, she was the smartest one in her family. She had pretty light brown hair and dark brown eyes that showed more intelligence than she led her husband to believe. Even though the two Barringtons were married, Sorena doubted that Charlin loved her husband the way he loved her. It was an arranged marriage after. The only one Lady Charlin seemed to care for was her daughter, Elaine von Barrington, who was getting out of the carriage with the assistance of Dan.
Elaine von Barrington was easily the one Barrington Sorena hated most of all. She had her mother's light brown hair and her father's naturally round face, which she made oval through months of dieting. Even so, it was easy to tell that the girl could never be as pretty as her mother. Elaine was the same age as Sorena, though older by a couple of months. In fact, Sorena was chosen to be Elaine's personal slave just as Anne was for Lady Charlin. However, Elaine seemed to have hated Sorena ever since they met. She and her girl friends bullied Sorena any chance they got. At first it was just name calling, but soon Elaine began taking more liberties. She and her friends found it funny to shove Sorena into the mud and watch as Sorena got in trouble for "playing in the mud" while she should have been working. There was nothing that Sorena could do about Elaine's behavior because there was no way that Lord or Lady Barrington would ever believe her word over Elaine's. They probably would not care even if they did know about the abuse.
"What are you waiting for!?" Lord Barrington snarled at his slaves. "Get the horses back in the barn and move the carriage out of the way!"
Sorena, Anne, and Rhys quickly rushed to do as told. Lord Barrington was clearly in a bad mood and there's no need to get him more aggravated. Anne and Sorena calmed the horses, while Rhys untangled the rope.
"You," Lord Barrington pointed at Sorena. "Elaine has some new dresses in the carriage. Bring it to her room and help her try them on."
"Yes, my lord," Sorena answered. She handed the reigns to her brother, and got into the carriage. Sorena saw a pile of beautiful dresses and gently hung them over her arm, careful to keep them clean. Then she got out of the carriage and trailed behind Elaine as they headed inside the manner. Sorena saw Elaine smirk before feeling Elaine's foot trip her. She fell causing several dresses to be stained with dirt.
"Daddy!" Sorena heard Elaine cry, " Look at what that stupid girl did to my dresses!"
"There, there," Lord Barrington said as Elaine gave several fake sobs. He turned to Sorena with a look of fury in his eyes. Lord Barrington advanced upon Sorena, who was still on the ground. Sorena knew from experience that the punishment would be worse if she ran. Barrington grabbed Sorena's hair and pulled her face close to his. His breath stank of alcohol.
"Look at what you did, you useless piece of trash!" Lord Barrington screamed, sending spit on Sorena's face. "Can't do anything right can you?! That dress was worth more than your worthless hide!"
Slap! Sorena didn't have time to brace herself before Lord Barrington's fat hand struck her in the face. She could taste the blood oozing from the cut on her lips. Sorena heard Rhys sobbing in the background. She knew that their was no way that Lord Barrington would be fair with her even if she did try to speak in her defense so Sorena opted to stare defiantly at him instead. Sorena's blazing eyes only increased Lord Barrington's anger. He pulled Sorena's hair and struck her again and again without holding back. Sorena could feel a bruise forming on her left cheek. The pain was causing tears to come out, but Sorena refused to let them drop. Not for this man.
"Milord! Please stop!" Sorena could hear Anne crying, but Lord Barrington did not stop until he was satisfied. Then he threw her once again into the mud. He seemed calm after hitting her.
"Clean yourself up worthless scum. Then you are to help Elaine into the dresses that you didn't ruin. You are not allows into my home until you are clean. Wouldn't want your filth to touch my carpet," Lord Barrington ordered as he walked into the manor. Lady Charlin and Elaine followed him inside. Elaine gave Sorena a sneer as she walked by and Lady Charlin's face was emotionless, as if she used to seeing this by now, which she was.
Sorena got up from the ground with herself covered in mud and her face stinging. Anne, Dan, and Rhys ran to help her.
"Are you alright?" Dan questioned as he helped steady her. Unlike Sorena, Anne, and Rhys, Dan wasn't a slave. He was in fact, and an Attronian, but hard times forced him work as a servant in the Barrington family. Dan was not treated as bad as Sorena, Anne, and Rhys, because despite his position, he was still a free man and protected by the law. However, he still saw the Barrington family's cruelty to slaves as unjust and was often kind to the slaves.
"I'm fine," Sorena answered though her face hurt like hell. "I'm sorry I made you guys worried."
"There's no need to be sorry," Dan smiled kindly. "We all saw what Lady Elaine did."
"That witch really has to be taught some manners," Anne scowled.
Sorena, Rhys, and Dan turned to look at Anne in surprise. Never once had they heard Anne talking about a Barrington like that before.
"What? It's the truth, and you know it,"
"Oh, I know it," Sorena said bitterly. "I know it. And Lord Barrington probably knows it too. He just hit me just for the fun of it. Even Lady Charlin saw what really happened."
"Look at it, another way," Dan said laughingly, "Lord Barrington may be the only one who didn't know what happened. After all, he is the only one in the entire town who does not know that Lady Charlin doesn't give a wig about him."
They all laughed at the humor.
"Thanks for that," Sorena smiled gratefully at Dan, "I really needed a good laugh."
Dan blushed and stuttered, "No problem. Glad I could be of help. You should hurry and clean yourself up now. I've got to go tend the horses." And with that Dan left.
"He really is a nice boy, isn't he?" Anne smiled.
"C'mon, 'Rena," Rhys said. "Let's go find a pond somewhere and get you cleaned up. Lady Elaine'll be expecting you up soon." Sorena sighed and nodded to her brother. She just knew today was going to be a long day.