One woman's story of her life before and after becoming a Lady of the Moon.
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~Lady of the Moon~
Once when I was little girl, I stumbled through the streets of Alicance, with nothing to my name but a pair of frail skirts and a piece of cloth that covered my battered chest.
I remember the chill winter night had nearly no effect on me, for I felt cold to the bone. The rough terrain beneath my feet felt a foreign comfort and the smell of the blossoms in the air helped clear the pain. Still I ran, passing the town folk that shouted at me and cursed the spirits. My feet carried me past the tall lanterns planted in the pebbled roads, past the mills of metal and wood, through crowds of randy barmen. I ran until my feet could carry me no further and I collapsed to my hands and knees beside the banks of the Seringa River. My harsh breaths made clouds in the starlit night and sweat fell from my nose into little rivulets in the water.
I stared hard at my reflection, glaring at what I had become. Dark red bruises obscured my left eye; my lips were cracked, swollen and brown with dried blood. My cropped blonde hair stuck in all directions and my clothes did little to cover my battered body. I wept at my reflection, hardly recognising myself anymore. I cried for the pain of beatings, being torn from my family and forced into a life that nearly no one would dream of. My heart ached inside my breast and my stomach turned. Wrapping my small arms around my legs and burying my face in my knees, I let the tears fall freely into their own pool of depression.
I didn’t know how long I sat there like that- weeping silently and shivering against the light drizzle that had started, but eventually my ears picked up the sound of light footsteps. I sank my teeth into my arm to keep from whimpering. Surely, I would be beaten for running from my Moonshire, or for appearing to be an incompetent slave.
The footsteps stopped just short from me. I slowly raised my head from my knees and looked at the silent figure standing beside me. The beating never came.
He wasn’t watching me, but gazing out into the river, hands clasped behind his back. The man was middle-aged and tall, dressed in more than common wear, a suit of brown suede and a black neck tie; he was royalty to a slave like me. The moonlight played on his heart shaped face, reflecting on his shining eyes and long straight nose. I soon after fell to my knees and bowed deeply at his feet, cursing myself for staring like a fool to a man of such worth.
“Forgive me sire!” I begged, my voice a hoarse plea. I dipped my head and made sure to not look at him; my body began aching at the thought of the punishment I would face.
“Forgive you for what, child?” he replied, his voice took my breath away. It was clean and crisp, friendly, everything a person never showed me anymore.
I forced myself not to look at him again, “For... for this, sire,” I stammered.
There was a sound of movement against the grass of the bank, as he moved surprisingly closer
“Look at me, child,” he said gently.
Only then, did I truly look at him and not only because he asked, but because I wanted to. I slowly and hesitantly lifted my head, following the line of his body with my eyes until I met his stare.
His eyes were dark and kind; he had a strong jaw and high cheekbones and he wore a small knitted cap that covered his shoulder length brown hair. The most beautiful thing about this man, though, was his smile. It was filled with a foreign kindness and was accented with the small lines it made around his eyes.
I had to look away, I felt ashamed by my looks the most in my life at that moment, when looking into his eyes. I never felt more a child.
And that was what I was, a child, only 9 years of age then. Torn away from my normal life and thrown into the life of a Lady of the Moon. I was but a slave girl, not even an apprentice, charged with cleaning the mess of my elders. This was not the hard part, you see. If I knew in my life of what would come with my age, I’d have stayed a slave forever.
I suppose it’s hard for me to explain how it felt to be looking a true man in the eyes, for I had done it so many times. This man, though, he was different and unforgettable.
“My! Your eyes are like the ocean, child,” he remarked, coming closer still.
I held my hands up to ward him off as he knelt to the ground before me. “No Sire! Please, you... you do not kneel in front of me!” I shook my head vigorously, making a move to stand.
He placed gentle hands on my shoulders and shook his head. “I will kneel where I please,” he replied simply.
I tried to hide my look of shock, but could tell when he laughed that I had failed.
“So surprised! That one lone man wishes to kneel, why child, you are so worrisome,” he said, brushing stray drops of water from my face, his hands were warm against my skin.
“Yes sire, no man kneels at the feet of a slave girl,” I pointed out.
He mused on my words for a moment, clicking his tongue thoughtfully. I waited for a look of disgust to cross his face, for no man or woman liked to associate themselves with a lowly girl like me. Only, his smile stayed placed on his face, and he looked at me with a soft sort of affection.
“Now, why the sad face, ocean eyes?” he asked me playfully, cupping his warm hands on my face. His eyes flicked over my bruises, but he didn’t say a word.
Automatically, I denied it. “I am fine sire, I just fell and hurt myself.”
“You were playing?” he asked, raising his brows.
“Yes, playing,” I replied.
I knew he didn’t believe me, but he nodded to himself anyway. With a scruff of my inch length hair, that made me smile, the man helped me to my feet.
“What is your name, little one?” he asked after brushing off his knees.
I stared at him blankly, watching the rain fall and soak into his nice clothes. Choking back tears, I answered truthfully, “I have no name now.”
Along with my family, life and freedom, The Moonshire had taken my name too. No slave had a name; they were merely there in the background until they grew of age to begin training. That was only if they were sponsored though, that was yet to come.
That night, though, as I thought and wept on the fact that I had become nothing and would never be, my life changed. Because this man didn’t turn his nose up on me, or ask anymore questions.
He simply said, “No girl deserves no name. So I shall give you one myself.”
He bent to my height again, looking deeply into my eyes and told me my new name. “Thalassa... Like the ocean and sea. Fitting with eyes like yours. But Thalassa, know that you will not always feel the pain I see in you. There is a light at the end of every tunnel and an honourable man at the end of every line. You will find happiness, in this life or the next.”
And with that he kissed my cheek and left me standing there, staring at the river and repeating “Thalassa” over and over until I was sure it was right.
That is the name I now go by. It may sound silly, but that man gave me one of the first tastes of hope in my life. My name was all I had of that moment, but even a name from a mans lips can last a lifetime.
It did, and this is my story.
I lived in the small town of Huskana, most known for the vast production of clothing for trade over the lands. Our house stood beside the small farm and mill that housed the town’s sheep and wool. The dyeing factories were scattered around the village and that was where my mother worked her days away, making clothes. My father, an arrogant man, worked in the farms, shearing and handling the cattle. My younger sister and I looked after our house and helped with various tasks around the village, carrying water, delivering medical remedies and sometimes herding. Though most of the time we were ones herded out of the paddocks, we found it the funniest of things.
Inside this village I lived the calmest of lives. From my earliest of years I saw that my sister and I were about as closely related as a snake and mouse. I was very much like my mother, with blue eyes and blonde hair the colour of wheat. My face was the shape of hers too, full lips and high cheekbones, often people remarked on our similarity, though they had no idea how completely different we were when it came to what was on the inside. I was taller than most girls and boys around the village, even at the age of eight. I often asked my mother why I had nothing of my father in me to show.
She replied “Because I was saving it for your sister, Helena,” and she’d given me one of those looks that said it should have been the most obvious of things.
My sister, Abigail who was 2 years younger than I, was so much like my father that my mother couldn’t help gazing lovingly at her all day. Abigail had dark brown hair, that looked black when wet and eyes the colour of toasted walnuts. Abigail’s eyes, however, were so heavily coated with thick lashes that instead of being striking as they were on my father, they made her look constantly tired. Abigail had a remarkable quality of even mimicking all my father’s movements, though hers were always sloppy and sometimes purposely by accident. I think she liked the attention.
My father always says he married my mother for her unique looks and opposition from him, saying he needed to even out the dark in him and gain some light from her. I’ve heard people agree to this, saying everyone needs a balance, and if you knew my father, you too, would understand. My father was always the calmest around my mother, like she was the only thing that kept him from turning to that dark side he so often talked about. When he came home from his work at the farms, smelling of wool and manure, he would head straight to my mother and talk to her until the scowl disappeared from his face. When he wasn’t farming and my mother wasn’t sewing, they would spend hours talking and strolling through the village, without a worry in the world. When I saw my father work, he would summon a look of concentration that would not change until the minute he walked through our little house door. I think this look was what made his face so heavily creased, like each line or wrinkle hid away some distant worry. Sometimes I saw him struggling to hide this face and he always looked tired from the effort.
When I was about five, careless in my questioning, I asked my father one day what the lines in his face meant and why he always looked so angry. He stared at me for a long time that day, his dark eyes narrowed and just shook his head, without a word he walked away from me. Confused, I’d turned to my mother.
Abigail in her arms, she had said, “Mind your mouth Helena, it brings more trouble than good,” and she too, had walked away.
I hadn’t known the truth of her words until I was older and wished that I had perhaps listened more closely to her advice.
My parents wanted to have other children, my father particully fond of the idea of a boy to farm with. After my little sister was born, though, my mother had lost her ability to make more. She had said it was from age, my father had said it was his fault. Of course, I was too young then to understand the strain that my parents were going through, with two girls and trade becoming harder each day with the war that was coursing through the lands. Although, I did see the change it had on our land.
The grass that was always so green became a muddy brown colour and instead of being soft, it crushed and broke as my feet touched it. The sheep my sister and I so loved to herd, became frail looking and the wool fell from their backs before it was sheared. The air that had been so crisp and clean slowly began smelling of oils and rot. It wasn’t only the land that changed though, it was the people too.
You see, my town of Haskana was always livid and loud. As this war carried on, houses were barred up and people rarely left their homes, even to work. The dying factories began closing down and my mother fell into these deep sleeps that became more and more frequent. My father’s face lines grew deeper and I never saw him smile again.
It became silent even in our house, so much so that I found it hard to even play with my sister around my father and sleeping mother. So I took my sister one day, and we went to the dam that most of the children played at. It was a humid day, the sun felt both hot and sticky on my skin. With my sister’s small hand in mine, I guided her through the silent streets and past the boarded up factories.
The air smelt funny and tickled the back of my throat. Looking at my sister, she too seemed uncomfortable, but being so young, she continued sucking her thumb and following me. Haskana had only one road, leading to the main house, which housed the mayor of our village. You could take turns though, that led to the various spots around the town. Along this street, were a number of houses lined along the sides. A number of these house’s front rooms were used for small shops, selling food or medicine. Now though, barely any still stood open.
We approached the dam soon after and went swimming in it, me in the rags of my mothers old dresses and my sister in mostly nothing. We were so close with the children in this village that nudity seemed a natural thing, and well, it was. I always seemed to admire the older girls though, comparing my slim frame to their curvier ones, I looked up to them and hoped to one day be as curvy as them. Womanhood held its appeal to me. While most children craved new toys, I wished for what age would bring.
Until one of the boys would yell, “Look at Jillian’s chest! It reminds me of the mountain peaks of Gillard!”
Some girls would blush, some would yell back at them, but most gained a look of pride and put their noses in the air. I would look down at my own chest and sigh.
Around noontime, I decided to head home for something to eat. Abigail cried and tried to return to her friends in the dam, but I pulled her away and dragged her along the street back home. As we made our way along the pebbled road, I caught sight of something that made me stop short. Mr Fernard, our local meats man, was standing in the alleyway of his work shop.
I know, now, as an older woman, that I should have kept walking. For what I saw was far too much for the eyes of a little girl. I almost did start walking again.
Until, Abigail gave a little giggle beside me and said, “Look Helena, Mr Fernard is letting that woman play with his snake.”
As she said it, I closed my hand around her mouth to quiet her, but the woman in the alley with Mr Fernard, turned toward us and scowled. Mr Fernard put his ‘snake’ away and said something quietly, before scampering back into his home.
The woman was wearing something that I had never seen before. Her dress clung to her body, like a second skin and it shimmered in the sunlight as she stepped out of the alley. I could do nothing but stare at her, she was beautiful and very much a woman. Her face was flushed and beautifully made up. Her rosy cheeks were high and her blood red lips were curved into grimace. Her long brown hair hung in curls around her shoulders and down her back. A strange little crescent moon was painted on her forehead.
She rested her dark gray eyes on me for what seemed like forever and then I watched as she gave a huff of annoyance and disappeared down the path. I looked at her retreating figure, the dress that swayed with her movements, the way her hair swayed back and forth in the light breeze. She seemed the most mature and beautiful woman on earth to me that day. She knew things that I would never know; and she had an elegance and grace that I would never have; and her clothes were finer than anything I would ever hope to wear.
Considering I was a little girl of eight, you have to understand why I didn’t understand what had just happened with that woman and why Mr Fernard was in that alley with that her and not his wife. In my defence, I was young and naive, so with a confused little sigh, I continued on my way home.
Little did I know, that was my first encounter with what I would become.
A Lady of the Moon.