Chapter 4

Chapter 4

A Chapter by Havatara

It was a bright dawn in summer when the people came for Mary.  Mary was a girl who was eleven years old and lived with her family on a farm in a country called Dragonland.  There weren’t any dragons in Dragonland anymore, but there had been centuries before.

“Mary, come and gather the eggs for me, will you?” her mom called.  Mary groaned and got out of bed but didn’t argue.

Her oldest sister Anne laughed at her.  “Brush your hair before you go out.”

“The chickens don’t care about what I look like,” Mary retorted, trying to straighten her long red locks as she walked out the door.

She was in the middle of collecting the little brown eggs when a horse came up in front of her.  On the horse was an important looking man.  He asked, “Are you Miss Mary?”

She set the basket down.  “Yes I am, sir.  Can I help you with anything?”

“I’d like to talk to your parents, Miss Mary.  Do you know where they are?”

Mary frowned, thinking.  “I think my father is in the barn milking the cows, and my mother is inside making breakfast.”

The man made a face at the thought of going into the barn with the cows, so he said, “Can you bring me to your mother?”

Mary nodded and led the man inside to the kitchen where her mom was making pancakes.  Her mom looked up from what she was doing and asked, “Can I help you with anything?”

“I’m from the royal palace of Dragonland in Draco City.  We received a letter informing us that you wanted your daughter to work for one of the Lords of Ladies of the palace, and there is an opening that she can fill.  She would work for Lady Jade,” the man informed them.

Mary looked up at her mom.  “What is he talking about?”

Her mom looked down at her with an unhappy expression on her face.  “Honey, we need you to work in the palace.  We just don’t have enough money to pay for food and everything.  Don’t worry, you’ll be in Draco City.  My sister lives there, and it’s only a few hours away on horseback.  You’ll be able to visit often.”

“So I won’t be able to live with you anymore?” Mary asked miserably.

“I’m afraid so, sweetie.  Maybe you can get a day off every weekend or so to come visit us,” her mom said cheerfully.

Mary smiled weakly.  “That sounds good.”  She looked up at the man.  “Do I need to bring anything?”

“No.  Everything you need will be provided for you.  But come.  Lady Jade is expecting us.”  He led her back outside to his horse and a spare horse that he had brought with him for her.  Then Mary got on the horse and they headed for the castle.

The ride to the castle was very boring.  Sure, there were a lot of pretty places that they passed by and interesting animals to see, but for the most part she sat in her saddle and watched the clouds, imagining they were different animals.  One of them looked like a bear, and another looked like a dragon.  Mary had never seen a real dragon, but there were pictures in her history book at school.

Mary tried to get the man to talk.  She asked him about where they were going and what Lady Jade was like.  She asked him about his favorite color and where he grew up, but he still wouldn’t talk.

The only thing she got out of him was, “We’re only ten miles away from Draco City.”  Sighing, Mary slumped in her saddle and gave up.

As boring as the ride to the city was, there were a lot of things for Mary to look at when they got there.  The streets were completely lined on either side with stores and colorful fruit stands and vendors shouting their wares.  There was even someone selling a pig and a couple of chickens, but Mary didn’t know how anyone would be able to raise them with so little land and so many buildings.

“When we get to the castle, you’ll have time to eat and get changed before you see Lady Jade,” the man said once they could see the palace.

“Why would I have to change?” Mary asked.

“Your clothes are dirty from riding.  They must be uncomfortable,” he pointed out.

Mary shrugged.  “I don’t really notice it anymore, to tell you the truth.  Would Lady Jade mind if I met her in my dirty clothes?”

“She should mind,” he said.

“Why should she mind?  They’re my clothes,” she said, greatly confused.

“Because you wouldn’t be presentable.”  And that was all the man would say about it.  Mary tried to get him to talk more, but he refused to say anything more.  Mary sighed and decided to just watch the many people on the streets and take in the sights and smells of the city.

When they got to the castle, a flurry of things happened all at once.  Mary was taken from her horse and set down in the middle of a courtyard, and before she knew it the horse was gone.  Then she was led by a stout, grumpy woman that everyone called Madam Seamstress to a room where she had to wash and changed into a clean, stiff dress and given an apple to eat.  Before she knew it she was sitting on a fancy couch in a fancy room with a lot of fancy things that she didn’t want to touch because she didn’t want to break them.

The man came back after she had waited for half an hour.  He said, “The Lady will be here shortly.  You may relax until she’s ready to see you.”  He paused and said almost as an afterthought, “And remember to be polite.”

“Yes, sir,” Mary replied, thinking about how much he sounded like her mom.

Mary had to wait another fifteen minutes before the door finally opened.  She stood up quickly and waited excitedly for Lady Jade to come in.

Whatever Mary had expected, Lady Jade was the exact opposite.  She had long black hair that was disheveled and flying all over the place like she had been in the wind.  She had a smudge of dirt on her nose and some more dirt under her fingernails.  There were twigs and leaves all over her rumpled clothes.  The only things about her that made her look like a Lady were her shining green eyes, the same color as her name.

She smiled cheerfully.  “I’m sorry I’m late.  I was climbing trees.  Have you ever climbed a tree before?  It’s so fun!”

Mary smiled back at her.  “My mother always yelled at me whenever I did, so I couldn’t very often.”

Lady Jade frowned.  “That’s so sad.  We’ll have to change that.”

The man sighed.  “My Lady, you’re almost twenty years old.  Don’t you think it’s time you stopped climbing trees?”

Lady Jade laughed.  “Oh, Russell, don’t be so serious.  You’re not having any fun, are you?”

“No, but that’s besides the point.”

Lady Jade  put her hands on her hips.  “No it’s not.  If you’re not having fun in life then you’re not living, that’s what I think.”

While they were arguing, Mary was standing there, shocked.  Lady Jade was almost twenty?  She seemed so young!  Just looking at her, she seemed fourteen at the most.  Mary just couldn’t believe it, so she blurted, “Are you really almost twenty years old?”

Lady Jade sighed.  “Unfortunately, yes.  Doesn’t it seem so old?”

“A little bit,” Mary admitted.

“Can we get down to business now?” the man, Russell, begged.

Lady Jade looked confused.  She asked, “What is there to talk about?  Miss Mary is my maid and she’ll be living with me in my house, and that’s all there is to it.”

“What will you pay her for her work?”

Lady Jade thought.  She asked Mary, “Is three hundred dollars a week to little?”

Mary’s jaw dropped in astonishment.  “That’s too much!  One hundred a week is all I need.”

Lady Jade shook her head.  “Your family has to get money somehow.  I’ll go as low as two hundred and fifty dollars, but I won’t go any less than that.”

“Okay,” Mary replied dubiously.

Lady Jade smiled.  “Finally, we’re done with that boring business.  Now come with me and we’ll get you hanged and we can go tree climbing.”

As Mary followed Lady Jade down an elegant hallway, she thought about how lucky she was.  She would get two hundred and fifty dollars a week just by climbing trees?  That would be easy!

After a few more minutes of walking, Lady Jade stopped in front of a door that had elaborate drawings of animals that Mary couldn’t identify on it.  She was about to ask what they were, but Lady Jade ushered her into the room before she was able to form the question.

Lady Jade said, “You’re going to be sleeping in the room next to mine, and for breakfast we’ll both eat at that table by the window over there.  Then we’ll just go about our daily business.  We’ll have lunch wherever we happen to be, and for dinner we’ll be in the Grand Hall with everyone else.  Does that sound good to you?”

Mary walked into what would be her new room.  It had a bed that was larger than she was used to, with a nice big window next to it, with thick curtains on it in case she was able to sleep in.  There were bookshelves lining one wall.  Most of the books were about animals.  Cats, dogs, birds, deer, you name it, it was there.  She turned back to Lady Jade and said, “That sounds wonderful.”

“Great,” Lady Jade smiled back.  She looked out the window at the bright red setting sun and added, “I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to climb trees.  It’s dinner time, and if we’re late we’ll miss all of the good food.  Wait here while I get dressed.  Don’t want to get the seats muddy.”

“Okay,” Mary said.  Lady Jade walked to her room and closed the door.  A few minutes later she came out wearing an elegant dressed fit for a princess.  She smiled at Mary, “Come on.  I’ll show you where to sit.”

Mary was led down numerous hallways.  There were so many of them that she decided to make a map so she wouldn’t keep getting lost.  Finally they stopped at a door.  This wasn’t an ordinary door.  It was ten times taller than Mary and twenty times wider.  Standing next to this door were four big ugly creatures with bald heads and big flappy ears.  They scared Mary, but all of her fear was forgotten when they opened the door.

The Grand Hall was indeed very grand.  Mary thought that her entire farm could fit inside it.  There were three sets of tables.  The set closest to them was where the butlers and maids and other hired help sat.  That was where Mary was going to sit, considering she was a maid.  The second set was where the upper class would sit.  That would be where Lady Jade sat, with all the other Lords and Ladies and rich merchants.

The last set wasn’t really a set.  It was one long, grand table on the far end of the room.  It was raised a bit from the rest of the tables, and sitting at it was the royal family.  The king sat in the middle, with his wife, the Queen, on his left and his heir, his eldest son the Prince, on his right.  The rest of the table was filled with the king’s other family members and some chief advisors.

“You can sit here, next to Miss Lily.”  When she heard her name, a girl with blond hair and a button nose turned around and smiled.

“Hello, Lady Jade.  How are you on this fine day?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m lovely.  This is my new maid, Miss Mary.  Can you take care of her until she learns how to do things here?” Lady Jade asked.

Lily smiled brightly.  “Of course, Lady Jade!  Anything for you.”

Lady Jade nodded, satisfied.  She told Mary, “You can eat here with Miss Lily.  I’ll come get you when I’m ready to go.  Is that okay?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mary replied, sitting in the empty seat next to Lily.  Lady Jade smiled at her and pranced down to the other tables to sit next to her other friends.

“How was your ride here,” Lily asked, grabbing a piece of chicken.

“Boring,” Mary complained, also filling up her plate.

Lily smiled.  “Did Russell pick you up?”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“That’s why, then.  If her other butler picked you up, then it would have been fun.”

Mary asked, “Russell is a butler?”

“Of course.  What else would he be?”

“I thought he was her brother or something.  They seem so close,” Mary replied.

Lily laughed.  “That’s because he’s worked for her since she was a baby.  He practically raised her.”

Mary and Lily continued talking, but suddenly someone tapped them on the shoulder.  They turned around to see another girl standing behind them.

Lily smiled.  “Hello Claire.  It’s so good to see you again.”

“I wish I could say the same,” Claire said.  She pushed their chairs apart and sat in between them.  Turning to Mary she said, “So, I hear that you’re Lady Jade’s new maid.  I feel so bad for you.”

“Why?” Mary asked.  “She seems so nice.”

Claire laughed harshly.  “That’s how she seems, but she’s really cruel and heartless.  I heard that she hit her last maid.”  When Mary’s face turned sickly green, she smiled, satisfied, and got up and left.

Lily scooted back next to Mary.  “She’s lying, of course.  Claire always lies.  Lady Jade’s last maid was my sister, and she said that Lady Jade was the nicest person in the whole world.  The only reason she left is because she wanted to get married.”

Mary relaxed, but only a little.  Claire’s words still haunted her.  For the rest of the night, she only played with her food.



© 2010 Havatara


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Added on May 31, 2010
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Author

Havatara
Havatara

The Town That Moved, St. Louis County, MN (aka Hicksville), MN



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