Where Does Your Heart Lie
In the 1700s, 18 year old Keith Pierce will do anything for the family name, even if it means marrying a complete stranger, but when a peasant girl attempts to kill him, instead of punishing her, he makes her his personal servant. Can one girl show him that following your duty and following your heart are two very different things?
The sheer blade glistened against the waters light like fallen stars, shining with great elegance and beauty. The steel was thin, but sharp, its appearance rather deceiving. It was unreal, how such an enchanting thing could be so wondrous yet deadly just the same.
As I watched the sword with great focus, the same could be said about the woman wielding it.
She was young, at least a year or two younger than me, with striking emerald eyes that dug into my memory like fire. There were mud like locks that spilled on the left side of her shoulder; dark, luxurious waves descending over skin that was lightly tanned, – instead of the sickly pale most women tried to obtain – and drenched in dirt and filth.
I stared at her for a moment, trying to place where I may have seen her–if I had ever even met such a woman before. She had all her weight shifted onto me, and just like the sword, something so beautiful was aiming to kill me.
I quickly jerked myself out of her grasp.
Without me holding her balance, she stumbled forward, using the blade to catch herself. She sat crouched, out of breath, and I decided she was of no threat to me.
"Who are you?" I demanded as she held her back to me, panting. I was too far from the land for my guards to come, which she probably already knew.
She was in position again though, ready to strike at me with all she had, but her form proved to be weak and uncoordinated. She held herself awkwardly, her grip on the blade tight, but too unsteady to make a proper swing. The dress she had on was a lot like her battle position; wrecked and torn. The holes in her clothing revealed the stockings she had underneath, and the bottom of her ivory undergarments.
I smirked. Something was strangely amusing about the scene. "You seem rather bold in the presence of a man." I chuckled. Her glare deepened.
She lunged then, whipping her sword at me in one swift movement. I dodged it, the action long enough to allow me a few steps behind her.
She swung the sword back though, catching me off guard and slicing the tail of my hair off. I quickly caught sight of my reflection in the water, the short hair making me look peasant like.
I frowned, no longer entertained. "Will you not speak?" I questioned, without looking away from the water.
She swept her sword to the ground, breathing heavily. "I have nothing to say to you." Her voice was hoarse and heavy. "You are the one who had wronged me. For that you will pay."
And with just a few, short steps, she plunged the sword right through my heart.
"Keith, are you still not up?"
I woke up to a throbbing pain in my chest. It had been three days since that woman had attempted to kill me, and the nurse had assured me she wasn't far off. The sword had just missed my heart, but the pain still burned like hell.
I sat up, groaning, as Annabel attempted to lay me back down.
I looked around. "Where is my coat?"
Annabel scowled. "Don't force yourself, Keith."
She handed me my waistcoat anyway, draping it over my shoulders. I held a hand to the left side of my chest, the bandage seeping with crimson liquid.
Annabel brought out new bandages and started to unravel my old ones. I waited as her rough hands worked through the wound, cleansing it.
I groaned again, holding my head down.
"This is your own fault, I hope you know."
I smiled. Even in her old age, Annabel still held quite a back bone. She was always like this, ever since I was a young child, and I couldn't picture her any other way, no matter how old she got.
"It's hard to forget what happened," I stated, wincing as the pain stung through my back.
"You shouldn't have been out there, Keith. You have a duty to your family." She recited those same words whenever I did something out of turn.
She re-wrapped the bandages, handing me my tunic. After I put it on, she smiled.
"There, see? You're a handsome young man. Don't you want to settle down and marry soon?"
I began buttoning the waistcoat. "I don't think its suitable searching for a wife with such peasant like hair." I ran a hand through my locks, too short to even put into a tail at the nape of my neck.
Annabel waved her hands. "Nonsense, I prefer this hairstyle. People can actually get a good look at your eyes now." She pointed into the mirror that hung on the wall, gesturing to my reflection. My violet eyes flashed at me, having always been so strange and troublesome.
"Has Father heard of the news?" I questioned, busying myself with my breeches now.
"He is still away overseas, but you know the town loves a good execution." Annabel began tossing out the bloodied rags. "The girl's fate may be decided before he even arrives." She sent me a worried glance. "Are you sure you don't know the young woman?"
I shook my head. "No." The woman who had attacked me was unfamiliar. I was sure, peasant or not, I would have remembered such vibrant emerald eyes.
The jail cell was small and rusted, sprinkled with hay on the stone flooring. It smelled of death and decay, which I had always found ironic, like prisoners being told their future before it even arrived.
"That's witchcraft!" Mother shouted at me when I had once proposed the idea. "Don't be speaking such unforgiving words."
After that, I learned to keep my mouth shut when around her.
The young woman sat with her head on her knees, holding herself together. It was the same scene I had come to ever since she arrived; broken, unconnected to the world, as if she were shielding herself from something.
Outside the jail barrier, I crouched down to her level.
"Are you not going to tell me yet?" I slid a cup of water to her through the metal bars. She ignored it though, her brilliant eyes watching me from under her huddled arms. "I won't get mad or anything. Honestly, nothing is going to quicken your execution."
We sat there in silence, the same way it had been when I had sneaked in the last two days to speak with the girl. I was determined to find out why this woman I'd never even met before wanted to kill me. Even if I had to prolong her death sentence, it was something I needed to figure out.
She moved for the first time, grabbing the cup of water. She examined it for a moment, her lips cracked and parched.
Then she flung it in my direction, and I blinked. Water was dripping from my hair and face. Most people would find this manner barbaric, unforgivable even, but I wasn't mad at the action. In some way, I was sort of intrigued.
Her emerald eyes hardened. "You ruined my life. What more do I have to tell you?" She stated, dropping the cup and crawling back to her corner.
I ran my fingers through my wet hair. At least she was speaking. "How did I ruin your life?"
"Enough for me to want you dead," she spit. "If I die having tried, then I'll be content."
I watched as she reformed her ball, hiding her face in her arms once again. It was aggravating, not knowing what it was she wanted. How could I make amends if she wouldn't just tell me what I did wrong?
The guards walked into the room now, having returned from their break, and I realized my time was wearing thin.
"All right." I stood up, brushing off stray pieces of hay. "I've decided on your punishment."
She peeked up at me through her wild, dark waves, failing at hiding the curiosity that burned in her eyes.
"Death is a mercy for you, and I refuse for your punishment to be taken lightly." Everyone in the room seemed to look at me now, confused. "So starting next week, instead of an execution, I'm assigning you as my personal servant."
She ran to the jail cell bars, banging into them with great force. The guards readied themselves, as if she were some wild animal that could break through her cage.
"I refuse to be anything to you," she threatened, her grip on the bars tightening until her knuckles turned white.
I chuckled. "Exactly why this is a fit punishment for you, princess." She scoffed at the nickname, furious, and I smiled. She was strangely refreshing and amusing. No other woman would have dared such an action, servant or not.
I dismissed the conversation, walking toward the door, before stopping.
"And it isn't completely a lost cause." I glanced at her from over my shoulder. "If anything, just think of it as a second chance to try and kill me."
She blinked, staring at me suspiciously.
"Sir, are you sure about this?" One of the guards mumbled, and I turned to him.
"Yes. Be sure the counsel hears about the arrangements as well." I stared at the girl and smirked. "No one is going to do away with my personal servant."
A/N: This story is going to be a challenge for me because 1) The main character is a male 2) This is a historical fiction novel. This is pretty much a rough draft, so I will be consistently editing this chapter over and over again.
I hope you enjoy my first attempt at historical fiction!
Reviews encouraged if you want a second chapter.
*Second Edit 4/26*