A slave in Windley castle?
By Desert Mouse
The Jiyu'rei warrior was just entering the city of Windley for the first time in almost a year. It hadn't changed much since she was here with Red Sword the first time, they traveled from the ruins of a town called Forest Lake after it was attacked to bring a young woman back to Windley castle.
Schala was only stopping in for supplies today, she wanted to be back on the road and out of the uncomfortable city as soon as possible. Windley was abuzz with activity, people cheerfully wandered about their business, children played in the streets and merchants thrived on the city's travelers.
However Schala ignored them all, she wasn't interested in anything this place had to offer except for the supplies she was going to buy shortly. Cities like this, even on the Sutherland alliance side of the world were a necessary evil and nothing more.
She was passing one of the insignificant shops when she heard a commotion that caused her to pause. A small figured woman in her early twenty's ran past her. She didn't scream, or speak but the warrior could tell looking at her that she was very frightened. Shortly afterwards two men in rugged clothing with hardened faces ran past her in chase of the girl.
"Someone help her." a small voice cried out, Schala looked over to see what must have been the shops owner standing by the door looking in the direction the three had just gone.
"Their arms? Was that a faded blood ring around them?" She thought before talking off behind the three. It didn't matter if the two thugs had been former Red Reaper bandits or not, right now they were after an innocent and the warrior felt that she had to put a stop to it.
The foolish girl with long white hair ran herself into a dead end, the two men started to close in on her snickering with what they could do to her before the watch arrived. But they didn't see Schala whose feline speed had allowed her to catch up quickly. If she had full use of her voice, she could have called out to grab their attention. But because of the men that had taken her as a child she could only speak when one condition was met.
Tap-tap-tap her swords hilt clicked against the stone wall of a building. One of the two men turned to see what was causing the noise and when he saw that it was a Jiyu'rei in a strange purple dress brandishing a sword he had to poke at his friend to look too.
"Hey Jim, catch a look at this one." He grinned. His friend turned away from the tasty looking human to see what the excitement was all about.
"It's a kitty, do you suppose she intends to use that sword Herb?" Jim asked laughing. Schala's eyes glanced over at the frightened girl that was now trapped between a wall and these men whose path she was blocking.
"You have my apologies girl for what you're going to be forced to see." She thought. If she didn't know better, Schala would have sworn she saw the victim nod in understanding.
The warriors sword was swift and graceful. Herb was still laughing when she cut him down, and Jim barely had time to register the fact that she had just killed his friend before the sword struck him through the chin and out the back of his skull. Then in a flash it was back in its sheath harmless to the frightened woman.
Schala approached her slowly, trying to determine if she was ok. It silently angered her that she couldn't simply ask like a normal person.
"I…I'm ok." The girl explained in a weak little voice. The feline warrior nodded her head and turned to leave.
"Wait…" the girl said quietly, Schala looked back at her waiting for her to finish.
"Would you…help… me get home?" she asked.
"You will have to lead the way, but I will protect you. Do you know why those men wished to harm you?" Schala asked. The simple question had unlocked her voice. The girl shook her head, she didn't know who the men were or why they wanted to hurt her but she was grateful for the strangers help.
"Its just over there." She said pointing to the west. It didn't help much but the warrior ignored it for now. It took a few moments before the girl understood that she still had to lead the way, but they started walking westward. Schala was surprised when it seemed that they were heading to the castle.
"She lives in the castle? I wish I had known that before." Schala thought with dread. She hated castles even more then she did cities and didn't look forward to what would hopefully be a short visit.
"I'll send her with one of the gate guards. Then I can get my supplies and be out of this place." She decided.
There was no trouble on the way back, the city streets had started to clear out. From the sounds of things the bodies of those two thugs had been discovered and people were encouraged to clear the street for a few hours while it was investigated. In a way Schala was glad that things had calmed down so much, shortly she expected this servant would explain to her employers what had happened and no one would be concerned about the human bodies.
"Good evening Tima, who is your new friend?" one of the guards asked at the castle gate. He gave the white haired girl a warm smile.
"I don't know, she hasn't told me her name yet. Please let her pass…she saved my life." The girl said in a quiet voice.
"What is your name Jiyu'rei?" The guard asked.
"My name is not important, as I have no desire to enter the castle I request that one of you assist this lady in returning where she belongs." Schala replied. The young guard shook his head, he knew that Duke Windley would not be pleased if he did that.
"The Duke will no doubt wish to speak to you about the incident. You are not in trouble, but I do have to ask what your name is." The man said
"If I had known that she was from the castle, would I have gotten involved?" Schala wondered. She tried to turn to leave but the strange girl blocked her path.
"What's wrong?" she asked in a quiet voice, she seemed upset that her hero wanted to leave so soon. Schala almost growled but she turned back to the guards since she now had her window to speak.
"I answer to the name Schala, why should I speak to the Duke? My only desire is to return to my journey. This girl is now safe and my duty is at an end." She stated
"The Duke cares about his people, since she was in danger he will want to talk to you about what happened. Now if you would please just follow me." The guard said. Schala tried to leave, not wanting to set foot in the castle, but between the guard and Tima she was trapped and was shuffled along through the Dukes home.
She was lead through a series of hallways and sharp passageways. Away from the main audience chamber Schala suspected.
"Where are they taking me? I just want to get my supplies and return to the road." She thought bitterly. Her tour of the castle ended when they reached what looked like a smaller version of the library King Sutherland had in his castle. At the east wall there was a table set up and some very comfortable looking chairs. A young woman no older then Tima was sitting in one of them with a book in her hands, while a much older man with the beginning signs of a large belly stood over her pointing out key passages in the book.
"My Lord, I brought you a visitor. She is a warrior by the name of Schala and according to Tima she saved her life in the market." The guard said respectfully bowing. Tima stood there, did a small curtsey to the Duke and went to stand quietly in the corner until her input was needed. Schala noticed the action, but her attention focused on the girl the Duke was apparently teaching. She had long dark hair like Schala's own and a soft red dress. However she seemed very interested in the girl the warrior had saved.
Duke Anthony Windley walked up to her and looked her over carefully.
"A Jiyu'rei warrior? Now that is interesting." He thought. Looking at the hilt of her sword he knew that she had recently spilled blood so perhaps it was true.
"Miss Schala, would you please tell me what happened?" The Duke asked.
"Your servant Tima is just as capable of telling the story. I only came in later as she was running down the street." Schala replied with no emotion in her voice.
"I can speak to her about it later, why don't you tell me your side of things." The Duke suggested. Schala let off a low growl, but the Duke didn't seem to notice.
"She was being chased by what could have been two former Red Reapers. I stepped in and killed them when they had her cornered." She said. There was more but before she could say anything else the Duke interrupted with an almost hearty laugh.
"That's about all I need to know, do you have any pressing business elsewhere?" he asked. But Schala could see that he was concerned about something she had said. His eye twinkled when she had mentioned that the attackers had marking of former Red Reapers.
"No but I wish to…" She said, but his voice cut her off.
"Then I would be pleased if you would remain with us for a few days, Tima you will show this warrior to her room. And see to her needs while she is here." He stated looking over at the quiet servant.
"Yes my lord." She replied quietly. She moved over to where Schala was standing with her mouth partly open.
"Please follow me madam." Tima requested. Schala searched desperately for an opening but neither of them had asked a question. Defeated she followed Tima until they reached a set of fancy looking rooms. They were decorated in various red and pink shades obviously meant for some of daughters of various rulers.
"You may use these rooms during your stay. If you need anything I will be waiting just outside the door." The girl said in a very timid voice. Schala regarded her for a moment, examining her posture and analyzing her voice. Finally she nodded and watched the girl leave the room.
"Maybe I should stay for a short time, something about that girl doesn't feel right." Schala thought looking at the door that Tima had just left through. She wasn't holding herself like a normal servant, and she was acting so timid that Schala actually started to wonder if Windley was involved in something forbidden by the alliance with Sutherland.
The next morning, shortly after she had woken up there was a knock on the door. Answering it she was not pleased when she saw that it was Tima, already with breakfast in hand. Only now she was dressed like one of the castle maids.
"Is there something wrong madam?" Tima asked noticing the unsettling look the warrior had been giving her.
"You haven't been there all night have you?" Schala asked.
"No, I went briefly to change into my uniform before returning to my post by your door." Tima said shyly.
"She slept outside the door to be available if I needed anything in the middle of the night? The Duke may have some explaining to do. If what I suspect is true though, will I be able to kill him like the others? Or will I have to settle for reporting his actions to the King." Schala thought angry. The girl didn't seem to notice as she was setting up the warriors breakfast. When she was done she turned back to Schala and asked.
"Will you need anything else?"
"I may require a word with your duke alone. Can that be arranged?" Schala questioned. The girl looked almost frightened.
"I'm… not sure, I can ask but the guard captain Miles Ripley might not let him. Would the audience chamber be ok?"
"That would be fine, however I would prefer a location more private of possible." Schala replied before sitting down. After making sure there was nothing else Tima scurried out of the room. Schala sat for a moment looking at the food. She didn't want to eat it, but there was a nagging feeling that she should.
"She might be punished if I don't consume this. Until I know for sure perhaps it would be best not to take the chance." Schala decided.
Two hours after she finished breakfast, Schala was walking around the castle observing the various servants go about their chores. Tima had remained at the rooms to tidy things up despite all of the warrior's attempts to communicate that she should go get some rest instead. Since she had still not been granted an audience to speak with the Duke she wanted to get an idea of the girls working conditions.
"Miss you can't be back here." A female voice called out. Schala turned to face an older woman neither dressed as a maid or a guard. She gave the stranger a confused look.
"Are you lost?" the woman asked giving the warrior her window.
"I am not lost, but I seek information. What is your function?" Schala stated.
"I'm Linda, I assign tasks for the servants. What are you looking for?" The woman asked.
"Most of your employees seem quite content at their jobs, but there is one girl I wish to learn more about. What can you tell me about the maid Tima's duties?"
"Why are you asking me this?" Linda questioned suspiciously
"I have concerns about her." Schala said simply.
"There isn't much to tell, she's just a maid. But most of her tasks come from the Lady Rei." Linda explained carefully. Schala nodded and quietly left the servants corridors. Now she would have to seek out this Rei and find out what she could.
When she returned to her rooms to consider her next move, Tima quietly informed her that the Duke would see her in the audience chamber. She was sorry, and seemed frightened that she could not get Windley to see the warrior alone as she had requested. Realizing that it would be useless to try and comfort the girl, Schala headed to the Dukes audience chamber to speak to him.
The audience chamber wasn't as large as the one in Sutherland, or the one she had seen as a teenager in the Black King's castle. But it was the same as those other ones, designed to make the visitor feel the power the man sitting at the end had, but instead it made the Duke seem small and powerless, though Schala had to admit he did seem larger then the Kings.
Schala stood in front of the Duke, taking note of where the guards were stationed. There was two by the door, one by the Duke himself and two more stationed behind Windley guarding the back exit. At the moment the Duke was growing impatient, he had been asked to see this Jiyu'rei but she was not speaking. Finally he broke the silence hiding his annoyance with a diplomat's grace.
"I was informed that you wanted to speak to me, what troubles you warrior?" Anthony asked.
"Your maid Tima interests me. How is it that she came to work here?" Schala asked.
"I don't understand, why are you asking about her?" the Duke was confused.
"The men that attacked her yesterday had a faint red ring around their upper sleeve. Suggesting that at one time they wore the blood dyed armbands of the Red Reapers. However when I mentioned this yesterday you failed to show surprise. What connection does she have to that finished organization." Schala asked, but a different question was at the back of her mind.
"Was that attack coincidence? Or did you fail to pay them when you bought her."
"Why don't you ask her." Windley started to reply, but he paused.
"She was too young, she wouldn't remember would she." He realized.
"All right, yes she does have a connection to the Red Reapers. When she was a child her parents were both killed by them, because they wanted her. I don't know why, and its unlikely yesterdays events are related. In the past they haven't come back for her." The Duke explained.
"He's not lying, so does that mean she came to work here as a child?" Schala thought studying the Duke carefully.
"Does that answer your question?" Anthony asked.
"Some of them, I have come to the understanding that your daughter is the one that understands her the best. Is there any truth to that?" Schala asked. Anthony regarded her for a moment.
"There is…why do you ask?" he questioned
"That does not matter at this time. There are things I must learn before the moment comes to inform you." Schala said.
"No, I think you better tell me what's going on." Windley's voice changed, the humour was replaced by the edge of death he could order at any moment. However the feline in front of him only shook her head, without a question she couldn't speak. Besides she had no intention of telling him anything until her investigation was finished. The Duke made a couple of hand motions for his guards to get ready to take her into custody.
Schala growled at him and raised her hand.
"Are you going to tell me what's going on, or will my guards have to take you to the dungeons?" He asked.
"I won't let any harm come to either Tima or my daughter. She's been unpredictable since her arrival."
"My intention is not to kill you unnecessarily Windley, however if you persist and finish those hand movements. I will have no choice but to eliminate you and a number of your guards to protect my freedom. In time I will no doubt be taken down, but how many of your men will you condemn to death first?" Schala told him with the coldness of death in her voice.
"You will be informed when I am finished, until then the only thing I can tell you without corrupting the investigation is that I have grown concerned about the girls safety. Either allow me to continue and speak with your daughter, or I will leave your home now in peace and report my concerns directly to King Sutherland."
"What concerns?" The Duke asked.
"How did she know I was signaling my guards?" he wondered.
"I will not corrupt my findings, provide your answer please so I may be on my way." Schala replied flatly. She kept her eyes on his hands and herself aware of where his guards were but she made no threatening movements.
"Draw only when you intend to kill, and kill only for justice." The words echoed in her mind. They belonged to a famous warrior who had given her a new life.
"You remind me of someone Jiyu'rei, I'm just not sure who. You may speak with Rei if you must but you won't be alone. You will surrender your sword and have one of my guards with you at all times, is that understood?" The Duke told her.
"Understandable, however you will return my blade before I leave here. You do not need to be concerned about your daughter's safety. On my word as a warrior no harm will come to her." Schala replied unclipping her sword. She presented it to the Duke so he knew she was serious.
"All right, return to your rooms and I will send Rei to speak with you." The Duke told her.
"But only because of Tima. If there really is something wrong with her then I can't take any chances." He thought. Schala nodded and started out of the audience chamber to head back to the rooms she had been assigned.
"My strength doesn't lie in a sword Windley. If your people threaten me now I am no less dangerous then I am armed." Schala thought walking down the hallway. She was aware of the guard that followed her, and exactly how far back he was holding.
"I didn't want to enter this castle in the first place, now it seems I may be outliving my welcome."
She didn't have to wait very long, Anthony was in a hurry to find out what she was after so she would leave. So he had his daughter found quickly and convinced her to speak with the feline warrior. When she entered the red and pink room she found Schala sitting cross-legged on the bed with her eyes closed.
"What are you doing?" Rei started off by asking in a soft voice? She was frightened because her father had determined this Jiyu'rei to be dangerous enough to have the guard come in with her.
"Meditating, understandably I do not like confinement. Now Lady Windley please do not be frightened. I only wish to ask you a few things so your friend can remove his hand from his swords hilt." Schala said without opening her eyes.
"How did?" Rei asked surprised. Schala twitched her ears in demonstration.
"He makes too much noise, it's not difficult to follow every action he takes. No doubt your father has explained the situation to you, leaving out a few details. The truth Miss Windley is that I need to know about your friend Tima."
"What kind of things?" Rei asked. The feline opened her eyes to stare at the raven-haired girl. The Dukes daughter was wearing her favorite mauve dress and stood there with a mixture of fright and curiosity.
"At what age did she come to work here?"
"I'm not sure really, I met her when we were both kids why?" Rei was confused
"Was she working when you met her?" Schala asked.
"Yes, she was making my brothers bed." Rei replied. She smiled at the memory.
"I remember being surprised when I came looking for Mike, and found this tiny girl smaller then I was making his bed."
"Is it that simple?" Schala wondered.
"Oh... I'm sorry. I guess I got distracted. Is there anything else?" Rei asked with a red face.
"From what I have heard around here, the two of you are very good friends. Is that why she remains under your fathers employ?" The warrior questioned.
"I'm not sure why she stays honestly. Yes we are good friends, but father and me have given her the option to live here as my friend. But she's always turned us down. She's always seemed uncomfortable with the idea of living here for free." Rei tried to explain. Schala's mind turned with the possibilities and the new information.
"Interesting, she isn't lying. I think I can guess what would drive her then. So there's only one thing left I must ask and I will know for sure." She thought. With the observational skills that she had been taught she would know if Rei was lying or not. However now she needed to speak and the Duke 's daughter didn't know about the conditions of her voice. So she opened her mouth as if to speak, but closed it like she was debating if she should ask. The action triggered the Lady Windley's curiosity.
"Is there something wrong? You looked…" Rei asked quietly. She was worried that the warrior might have had some bad news or a painful question. Instead Schala smiled when the question unlocked her voice.
"Why did your father risk making a child one of his maids? Had the King found out he could have been in a considerable amount of trouble."
Rei had to think for awhile, dig into her memories for the answer to that one. She remembered asking her father a question like that when she was just a girl. It had made her sad to see her friend working all the time so she had asked him why.
"I'm afraid I don't know the whole story. But she had nowhere else to go. My father felt sorry for her because her family had died in front of her eyes, and I later found out that there was a lot of concern that some men would want to take her if they left her at the orphanage."
Schala got off the bed she had spent the entire interview sitting on. After giving Rei a polite bow she looked over at the guard. The Dukes daughter looked at the warrior confused, did this mean they were done?
"Is that all you wanted to know?" she asked
"Yes, Thank you for your time Lady Windley. Because of you I have gathered all the information I require. Now if your guard would indulge me I must speak with your father again." Schala replied snatching the window for her voice. The guard didn't seem pleased, but he nodded and waited for Rei to leave the room before he escorted the cat back to the audience chamber. There they found the Duke eagerly waiting to hear if she would explain what was going on or not.
At first she stood in silence, with an equally quiet Duke sitting there staring back at her. She had not told anyone in this castle about her voice, so he was obviously waiting for her to speak first. But he didn't have as much patience as the warrior did, so finally he broke up and asked.
"I have allowed you to speak with my daughter. Now will you tell me what concerns you?"
"Your maid Tima speaks, acts, and carry's herself like she is not here by choice. When I first observed these attitudes I had to investigate to make sure that you were not holding her as a slave Duke Windley." Schala replied boldly. Anthony was stunned into silence at first by her wild accusations, but he clenched his hands into fists and glared at her.
"What did you decide?"
"All this was some baseless idea that I was keeping a slave? I should have her thrown into the dungeons for wasting my time." He thought with a growl.
"You are not guilty of such an act Windley. The girls submissive attitude stems from her own desire to repay your family for saving her life, giving her a home, and even the warm friendship of your daughter. Fate stole her childhood and kept her from learning to do things for selfish reasons and though your family may be partially to blame for how she turned out. You are not however holding her here by force." Schala reported.
"If you had judged me guilty. What would you have done?" he asked carefully controlling his voice. Being accused of something so terrible had gotten him very angry.
"If you wish I will explain. But there is little reason to dwell on it as it has not come to pass." Schala replied. She finished before her window closed.
"The sentence for such a crime is death. If you had been guilty I would have been forced to either kill you myself, or take the case to King Sutherland based on opportunity and amount of abuse towards the girl."
"What makes you think Celeus would have listened to you?" Anthony asked curiously.
"You still hold my sword Duke Windley. The warrior who gave me both that sword, and the skills to use it left his swords mark on the blade. Draw it part way and look. His symbol would have bought me the Kings ear long enough to explain my case." Schala replied without emotion. She had only met the King a couple of times, but she understood well the influence that warrior had. The Duke raised the sword he had been holding for the feline and drew it halfway out of its sheath, it was not hard to find the symbol.
Anthony almost dropped the sword when he saw what Schala had been talking about. Scripted on the swords blade next to the hilt were a small mouse, and the words.
"Protected by the wind, find your own path."
"A mouse, isn't that?" The Duke said. Schala nodded and extended her hand to retrieve the blade. It was in fact the symbol of the words most feared warrior Winter Wind. It was well known that the man name Duncan Forester's sword was called Nezumi.
"If she had gone to Sutherland with these claims in the name of Winter Wind. Celeus would have taken them seriously enough to launch his own investigation. By allowing her to continue on her own I may have just barely avoided that. Whatever the king might have found, he would not have taken kindly to my employing a child so young." He thought. He closed the sword and handed it back to the feline warrior. He didn't want her to return to Winter Wind and tell him that he had taken the sword. There wasn't a ruler in the kingdom that didn't fear Duncan's skills.
"Where will you head now?" he asked, his anger at the accusations has subsided.
"I still must get some supplies, then I will head down south. There are many involved in the slave trade there that will need to be dealt with. I thank you for your hospitality but I must make my departure." Schala replied. But the Duke shook his head.
"I'm afraid I haven't been a very good host. I didn't give you a lot of choice about staying here and then I threatened to throw you in the dungeons for you concern over Tima. For that you have my apologies. Hand me a list of the supplies you need and I will make sure that you get them before you leave." The Duke said sincerely. Schala shook her head, but she was unable to protest because he didn't unlock her voice.
Moments later one of the guards gave her a parchment and a quill. Reluctantly she wrote down a list of the things she was going to need, but she hoped that she could sneak out of the castle before they were assembled. Her business here was finished, it was time to get back to the road.
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