The clatter of cobblestone gave way to hollow wooden echoes as the family forced their way onto the docks, coming upon a long line of passengers. The sandy haired young boy furrowed his brow and looked around. “Why had they stopped?” he wondered. He attempted to seek out the source of the line. As he looked, however, he discovered strangers, all with their own cases, bags, and a look of anticipation. The young boy climbed his way into his dad’s arms and surveyed the crowd, only to find massive, white sails near the end of the pier. People shoved their way aboard the Promenade while the little boy turned to look back into the empty market.
He peered back across the broken streets and eyed the little shops and fruit stands, now empty, boarded up, or collapsed altogether. The square was unrecognizable, a broken shadow of the city he remembered. The little boy’s eyes followed the roofline of the old inn, coming to rest on a second story window. He squinted, only to discover the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Her blonde hair reflected the dawn and her skin glistened like polished porcelain; yet she was sad, a profound longing, a wound that would never heal.
The longer he stared, the worse he felt. By the time he and his family stepped aboard the Promenade, the excitement of the morning had left him. The image of that girl was burned into his memory. He dropped his head and moved along the benches that flanked the ship’s deck and took a seat. While his family exchanged anxious hopes of opportunity, the young boy placed his head into his hands…and cried.
The blonde girl sat in the window and sighed as families left their homes and boarded the Promenade. She felt their excitement as their hopes bloomed into reality, and longed for the troubles of Wyvern’s Rest to fall away. She yearned to shed a decade of waste and ruin, then watched as each family fulfilled her dream…to simply leave. Ava felt a small tear race down her cheek, but she ignored it; for it was no different from the one she shed yesterday, or every day before that. Ava learned to ignore her emotions, the brittle seal of a fragile vase; yet as she watched the people she knew escape this place, singular thought surface. “Please…take me with you.”
The crisp, ocean air swept through her open window while those haunted words replayed themselves in her young mind. The sun highlighted her blonde hair and her brilliant blue eyes as the young girl awoke from her daydream, startled and afraid. Consumed by thoughts of her past, she struggled to understand how her life had gone so wrong.
Her senses returned, with them the familiar sight of the market below, the ships docked in the peer, and her favorite place, the old windowsill that overlooked it all. While she peered out the portal of her own prison, she reminisced about her friends, the old market, and a life that got lonelier with each passing year.
“Isn’t that right, bitch?” came a gruff voice from the center of the room. Ava jumped at the words, but continued to gaze out the window. She hated the voice, and the man behind it. She suppressed the hate that swelled when she heard it and the sickness that crept up her stomach with each gristly word from his mouth.
“Did you hear me, wench?” he bellowed again, more intense than before. Ava knew of Varin’s lack of patience. She also knew of his lack of empathy, composure, and common decency. A fat, slobbering man with stubble on his face and a stench about his body, Varin Wray was the epitome of everything Ava hated about Wyvern’s Rest, and men in general. The sight of him made her skin crawl, and his scent became the terror from which her nightmares were born.
Ava realized she had not answered her master’s questions. She learned to retreat inside her own mind, to block out reality. It did nothing, however, to appease her master. With reluctance, Ava let down her feet and stood before the window. She knew the expectation, then clasped her hands and shrugged her shoulders, perceived innocence skillfully etched across her porcelain features.
“Yes,” she stated in a calm, ethereal voice. She realized she had no idea what she agreed to, though history had proven this was always word, when in doubt.
She yearned to expand upon her simple statement. “Yes, you worthless piece of shit. Yes, you mistake upon humanity,” but she knew better. She knew what happened when she spoke out of line…or out of turn…or just, spoke. She knew that her ‘owner’ rarely needed a reason to raise a hand to her beautiful face, yet it happened…frequently.
“Yes…….what,” Varin said in an irreverent tone. The last word dripped from his tongue and Ava sensed the venom that dripped with it. The man wriggled free from his oversized chair and stood, a lure to draw out the young girl’s thoughts. He shuffled his feet to balance himself, though gravity and a long night of whiskey conspired against him.
Varin managed to right himself, only to witness the morning sun pour through the window, straight through his young ‘prize.’ The sour, hateful man, saw something beautiful; a rare accomplishment in a world clouded in darkness. The beam of light struck Ava’s sheer pink nightgown and made it transparent, a soft halo that encompassed the otherwise perfect female form.
“Yes……..my king,” she said under her breath.
The words were a wretched poison. Varin Wray was no more a king than the lepers outside the city; however, in this inn…in this city…in this god-forsaken world, this young angel must revere him. She refused to face him, but she did not have to. She was young, but she knew what it meant when a man stared at her, or when they suddenly fell silent. She understood their thoughts, just as she understood Varin’s…and she hated them for it.
Ava’s eyes drifted from the docks and the lonely market below. She gazed upon her windowsill as a child would a broken toy. She pulled the drapes closed, to face her prison, and noticed her arms. She saw her delicate skin reflect through the sheer fabric. She looked again and saw her legs, her stomach, and her chest. The shy, innocent teen stood before the window fully clothed, but might as well have been completely naked, all thanks to the sun, the one thing she still loved in this dark, unforgiving world.
Ava made a revelation in that moment. She realized she didn’t care. She didn’t care that a hideous man stared at her or that the market below could see her. In that moment of self-revelation, she became numb. She lost the desire to care and the will to dream. She lost herself to the most reprehensible being she knew, and the ‘customers’ he brought her every night. She lost herself to the perversion that would sit and watch from his over-sized chair.
The young girl turned her attention back to her window, and joyous line of passengers. Her feeling of loneliness turned to jealousy, then to resentment as the recognition increased, of people she knew, of friends she would lose. Her eyes scanned the crowd of faces and the people that would leave her behind. They came across a tall young man with long hair, pulled tight behind his head. While the rest of the crowd looked forward, he looked back, his eyes locked on the old Inn…on Ava’s window.
She leaned forward and reached out, placing a slender hand on her window. “Taryn,” she whispered. “Not you too.” Her heart ached as the slender man stared back through her window. His apologetic eyes remained fixed, even though the crowd pressed him forward. As he was pushed up the pier, he mouthed a simple statement that only Ava could see…I’m sorry.
Ava collapsed back onto her windowsill. She blocked out the man in the room, and the life she led. She blocked it all from her mind and just stared…at the people, at the ships, at the lives that were not hers. The tear returned to her cheek as she stared out over the harbor. Her eyes returned to Taryn and the Promenade. While the vessel of hopes and dreams left the docks, those familiar words crept back into her mind, “please, take me with you.
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Mists of Kel Doran
Enter the world of Kel Doran and fight alongside our bravest heroes as we present this 'Dark Ages' saga depicting the brutal inhumanity toward man in one of the darkest eras in human history.
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Mists of Kel Doran