This is the first chapter in a new book I'm working on. Hope you enjoy and please feel free to thoroughly critique!
I pretended to hurry myself down the busy market street. Buildings made of stone and wood lined the stoned pathway I walked and loomed over me, threateningly. Windows stood ajar from the buildings and flags and banners flew in the wind. The commotion on the street was busy and hectic, but that only gave me more opportunities to blend in.
Shop after shop and stand after stand I took trinkets and pulled them into the folds of my dress, making them stay in place while I hurried about. Because I was an average and lowly woman, no one paid me any attention.
I grabbed a piece of bread from the baker as he turned his back, and jewel from a woman's neck as she bent over. My movements were smooth and quick and I floated along the busy street, taking what I desired.
Once I was out of the busiest part of the street, I snuck into a nearby abandoned ally and observed my collections. I was pleased to find that I had gathered a variety of jewelry and food. I didn't hesitate to indulge myself in the breads and fruits I stole, stuffing my face quickly. As for the jewelry's, I knew someone would be in the ally and I could sell them soon enough.
Just as I predicted, within the hour a shady looking man entered the ally. He walked up to me proudly and spoke in a low voice, so as not to make a commotion.
"What goods do you have today, M'lady?" His voice was gruff and I could tell he was in his later ages.
I studied him closely to make sure he wasn't a constable or knight. I could tell he wasn't by the way he held himself and spoke, so I quickly pulled out the goods I had taken that day.
He observed the jewels closely and gave me an offer, which I accepted. We exchanged goods and currency, then just like that he was gone.
I watched him walk out of the ally, blending in with a passing crowd. His breeches pockets were heavy with the stolen jewels he had just bought, but no one paid him attention. They were all too caught up in their own lives.
I loved living the life of a thief.
Sure, it was a dangerous and lowly life, but it suited me well. I was stubborn and smart, so I could always spot the best places to take from. Many around here think thievery as a crime punishable by death, but they just don't understand. A girl's got to eat! And when that woman has no home or husband of her own, she must take matters into her own hands.
I slid down the brick wall in the alley and smirked to myself. Stealing from these commoners was almost too easy. All I had to do was play the part, and no one looked at me twice.
I took a berry from my hand and chewed it thoughtfully. I was done for the day, as night was soon approaching, so I allowed myself a moment of silent peace. Night was always a time I dreaded, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Even if I did love this life, at times I hated it. It was lonely, after all. Many nights I slept in abandoned cottages or in an alley like this. I had no true friends or family, just men and woman I did business with. I couldn't dwell on the loneliness I sometimes felt though, for there was no other option for my life. Ever since I had been sent here, I have been the scum of the streets, trying to work my way up.
At first I had tried my hardest to live an honest life and gain redemption, but a few years on this wretched earth broke me.
I sighed as I remembered my past and quickly pushed it out of my head. Dwelling on it would get me nowhere.
I noticed the sun setting and quickly cursed myself for losing track of time. There was a curfew in our kingdom and missing it was not a good idea. I began to lift myself up when I heard heavy footsteps echoing down the alley I dwelt in. I held my breath and tried to melt into the shadows, fearing it was someone out on patrol.
My fears came true when an older man stepped into the light, his expensive clothes practically glowing in the setting sun. He wore the kingdoms colors of white and gold, with long black boots. His hair was blonde and stuck straight up, and his square jaw was set in a firm line. He was intimidating and his entire frame spoke of power.
I thought quickly to myself of what I could do to get out of the situation. I was beginning to hope he wouldn't notice me, when he peered into the shadows and began to walk over to me. I did the first thing I could think of and buried my hands in my face, letting fake tears spill over them and onto my dress. I knew that most men cringed at the sight of a woman crying, and I hoped the same for this one.
The closer he came to me, the more unsure I could tell he was becoming. He paused briefly before stepping into the shadow I was cowered under, and spoke softly to me.
"Is there something wrong, miss?"
I let a fake sob tear through me and spoke in short breaths. "No-no, I'm alright, my lord. Please, forgive me."
I went to stand myself up and before I knew it the man was in front of me, helping me. He had a tender look in his eyes and he spoke again.
"Please, I insist. Tell me what is bothering such a woman as yourself."
I silently cursed him as my mind raced as to what I could say. Without missing a beat, I responded to him.
"Well, my lord, it is my fiancé. We were engaged to be wed tomorrow and he has gone missing!" I sobbed harder as the lie escaped my lips.
The man was becoming more uncomfortable with my statements and flowing tears, but he stayed by my side.
"That is most unfortunate, miss. A beautiful woman like yourself shouldn't have a man running out on her."
I was shocked by his words but kept up my pitiful act. I cried harder and the man pulled me closer to him, guiding me out of the alley.
"Please, tell me where your residence is and I shall walk you home." He held on tightly to my arm that was linked around his elbow.
This man was relentless! I thought harder of the places around that no one knew was abandoned, and I settled on leading him to a small cottage just up the street. The entire way there I sobbed pitifully and dabbed at my eyes with my handkerchief. Once we reached the door to the cottage, I looked up to the man and swore I saw his eyes narrow.
Could he know no one lived here? No, that was impossible.
I pushed away the fear and unlinked my arm from his. I respectfully curtsied to him spoke in short breaths once again.
"Thank you, my lord." I let out another sob for emphasis. "For your true kindness." I curtsied once again and turned to walk to the door.
Before I was able to take a step, he grabbed my hand and met my eyes with sincerity.
"Please, miss. Grant me with your name." His blue shining eyes searched my light brown ones. I filled them with tears once more spoke respectfully to the man.
"Grace, my lord." I smiled sweetly then turned to the cottage once more. When I reached the door he called out to me again.
"Mine is Alexander. I hope to be met with the pleasure of your presence again, Grace." He smiled dashingly and I faked a blush as I entered the cottage.
I shut the heavy wooden door behind me and listened for Alexander's footsteps to fade away into the night. Once they did, I sighed a breath of relief. That was a close call. I smirked to myself as I recalled how easily he accepted my lies. From the tears, to the sob story, even my name. I chuckled lightly at the last thought. Grace was not my name, but the name of a merchant girl in town. I always refrained from giving out my name, as the risks of someone finding out who I was were too high.
I looked around the cottage and decided it best if I stayed the night here. It was dark and dusty, but it was warm and provided a roof over my head.
As I inspected the cottage, I found pieces of old and dusty furniture lying around. Things like broken chairs, rotting tables, and beds with broken frames. Someone wealthy must have lived here before, for the bed in the back room still held a cot for sleeping on. Granted, it was old and dusty, and could hardly be called a cot. For me however, it was perfect. I walked over to the bed and laid down, resting my arm underneath my head. I soon drifted off into sleep, dreams and memories clouding my mind.
I walked the crowded street and gazed at the people around me. They ranged from men and women, wealthy and poor, sick and well, merchants and knights, and so much more. They all spoke with one another in conversation as they traded goods and kept out of trouble.
Oh, what a simple life they were leading.
I walked down the cobblestone path, peering into shops and listening to conversations, trying to learn all I could. This human world was new to me, and I needed to learn the ways they interacted with one another. If I was to blend in and help them, I must become one with them.
That was always what the great angel had taught us.
Fit in, blend in, help. Stay in line, stay on course, and help. Speak softly, speak lovingly, and help.
I sighed at the pointless teachings as I peered around once again. How were these teaching supposed to help me? All my existence I was taught how to help others, but never myself. You always came last, and others first.
How was I supposed to help others if I couldn't help myself, though?
I sighed and continued walking, not used to the balance of human form. Children laughed and played alongside me and parents scolded them. The sun shone brightly in the sky, but seemed dim compared to the light I was used to.
I sighed once again. I missed my home. I missed the brightness and glory there, I missed everything.
I held my chin high as a thought passed my head. I wanted and needed to get back, and the only way to do that was to prove myself worthy.
I knew I must put some ounce of good on this earth in order to redeem myself.
I just didn't know how I could do that. Or why I needed redeeming in the first place...
I awoke to light streaming in my face from an open window next to me. I groaned and lifted myself off the old bed I slept on, rubbing my eyes in the process. I really hated mornings, but I knew it wouldn't be smart to sleep in the same place much longer. I stretched my limbs and stood up, straightening out my dress in the process. I frowned when I looked down at myself, and realized how awful I must look.
My green and black dress was beginning to become worn and torn and the bottom, and it was covered in stains of dirt and dust. I sighed, realizing what this meant. I couldn't walk around town in a dress like this, the commoners and watchmen would question my appearance and I would only draw attention to myself.
This meant of course, that I had to steal another dress. This wasn't particularly something I like to do, because it was one of the more riskier acts of thievery to pull off. However, that also meant that it gave me a thrill and a challenge. I smiled to myself slightly at the thought, and realized that I would have to enlist the help of my fellow thieves around town.
I knew it must be a woman who could give a decent distraction, so that's why I made up my mind to find Genevive. She was a well known mistress who was stunningly beautiful and could make any married man want her. I needed these talents, for the dress shop was run by a happily married man.
The challenge the day held swept away my morning drowsiness and caused me to practically burst out the back door of the cottage. I walked the cobblestone streets, making sure to stay in back alleys and shadowed buildings. I knew this is where I would find Genevive, probably with a man plastered to her.
Sure enough, within the hour I found her in a back alley with the towns baker. I caught her attention as she looked over the mans shoulder at me, with fire in her eyes. I gestured that I needed her to follow me, and she quickly understood. She indulged the man she held for a few more moments, before breaking off their embrace.
"That'll be 30 pounds, sir. Any more and it's doubled." She held out her hand and awaited the money.
The baker stared at her in shock and responded breathlessly. "What? That's double last time!" He roughly took coins from his breeches placed them in Genevive's open palm. She smiled seductively at him and tucked the money away.
"A girls got to eat, doesn't she?"
The baker shook his head and began to walk out of the alley. I hid myself behind a corner and waited for him to disappear, before I approached Genevive. Once I came to her she embraced me with open arms spoke in light tone.
"Angelique! It's been too long, sister." I smiled at her word of endearment and responded lightly.
"As for you, Genevive." I hugged her once again before we let go and she smiled at me.
"So, what sort of trickery can I help you with today?" Her eyes were wild with a fire burning that matched the color of her hair.
I grinned at her bluntness and spoke. "Well, as you can probably see, I am in need of a new dress. I need you to…umm…distract the owner of the shop while I find a suitable one. I will pick something up for you too, of course."
Genevive jumped for joy at the opportunity and before I knew it we were walking down the back alleys to the dress shop.
We both walked into the shop and immediately the owner's eyes went to Genevive. She wasted no time and walked over to him, flirting and successfully becoming a distraction. I looked around the shop I had been in many times before and pondered where I should start looking. The gowns ranged from formal and expensive material, to plain commoner's clothing. I walked over to the area for the commoner's clothing and began rummaging, trying to find the perfect dress for Genevive and I.
I occasionally looked back to where Genevive and the shop owner were, but they were busily engaged in each other. I smirked to myself at how easy this had become as I slipped the dresses under my arms and walked out the front of the shop. I waited outside for Genevive to come and meet me, and within a few minutes she did. She smiled at me mischievously a looked at the dress I grabbed for her.
Her eyes lit up when she saw the red material and she hugged me tightly, squealing at how she loved it. I smiled and looked at my own dress which was a plain blue material.
Before the shop owner could notice the dresses missing, we both hurried away to the other side of town. We were parting ways for the day when Genevive spoke.
"That most certainly was fun, sister. We must do it again soon!" Her eyes shone with excitement.
I laughed at her enthusiasm and replied. "Of course. You know where to find me." I smiled warmly and we embraced before parting ways.
As I walked down the back alleys with my new dress in hand, I thought of the peculiar relationship Genevive and I had. If I ever needed help I would go to her, and she was more than willing. If she was ever in a tough spot, she came to me and I helped get her some coins to last.
I remember a day when she got in trouble with a man she was involved with, and how she hid out in one of my abandoned cottages for nearly a week. For such a fiery woman, she sure did scare easily.
Because of this, I never fully trusted her. I knew if the day came where I was caught, she would turn me in in a heartbeat, especially if it meant her freedom.
I sighed sadly but kept walking. This was just the sort of life I lived.
Before too long I entered an old cottage and donned my new dress. It was nothing extravagant, but I was quite fond of it. The blue material made my black hair stand out, and accentuated my light golden eyes. I smiled looking down at myself, and I hid the old dress.
I walked back out into the streets and blended in with the busy crowd, while taking my share of food from each merchant stand. I munched on cookies and bread as I walked, and as usual, no one paid me a second glance.
The sun shone bright over me and I basked in it, missing the warmth it gave when I dwelt in the shadows.
As I was walking, I soon hear a scuffle and activity coming from up the street. I peered around people to see a woman in the midst of several knights, crying and kneeling before them. With shock, I realized the woman was Genevive.
I stared at her and she searched the crowd for some mercy, when she locked eyes with me. I knew what was going through her head and before I knew it, she was calling out to the guards to arrest me. Her shrill and scared voice broke through the crowd in a scream and I cursed her silently.
"There! Her! She is who I got this gown from! It was not I who stole it, but her!" She pointed her finger at me threateningly.
At her words, I quickly tried to melt away into the crowd. However, they had made a clearing around me and countless eyes now bore into my back. I bowed my head and knew that denying Genevive's claim was pointless, as the guards were already advancing towards me.
One walked ahead of the others, and I realized with a shock that it was the same knight I had met the night before, Alexander. I stared into his striking blue eyes and tried not to cower from the powerful aura he gave off.
"I knew it." His gruff voice rang loudly through the streets. "Tell me, miss. Where did you get that lovely dress of yours?" Alexander's eyes were glowing with power and he knew he already won the battle.
I held my head high and refused to be made a fool of. "Surely my lord must already know, or he wouldn't be asking."
His eyes narrowed at me and the knights around him started to advance towards me. Alexander held up a hand for them to stop, and grabbed me by the upper arm. He dragged me over to where Genevive still lay on the ground and shoved me next to her.
"Is this the woman you claim to have gotten this dress from?" He addressed Genevive harshly.
She looked at me with no sorrow in her eyes and replied loudly. "Yes. She is the thief."
My eyes shot daggers into her and if looks could kill, she would be long dead. Alexander picked me up from the ground and addressed the crowd before us.
"Men, take this mistress to the prisons. She is guilty of many more crimes than buying stolen goods, I'm sure." The other guards and constables that were with Alexander replied with a curt nod and took Genevive away, screaming.
I watched them tow her away, feet dragging and curses flying out of her mouth. I smiled at her despair, knowing she would get what she deserved.
Alexander pulled me out of my thoughts by roughly yanking on my upper arm, taking me with him. He spoke low and harshly to me while walking.
"As for you, you're coming with me."
I rolled my eyes at him and refused to respond. I expected him to start walking towards the castle prisons, but he steered us in the opposite direction. I eyed him warily, knowing that you could not even trust an honorable knight in this kingdom.
We kept walking and by now the sun was setting in the distance. Alexander led me through a series of streets filled with expensive homes. When the sun had set completely and our shadows were diminished to nothing, he stopped in front of a grande door. He opened the large oak doors and shoved me through them, stepping inside after me.
I looked at the house in awe, admiring the countless possessions placed around. To my right was a strong oak table with matching chair, and to my left was a towering fireplace surrounded by bricks. Directly in front was a staircase attached to the wall, which led to what must have been a bedroom. There was an archway next to the staircase and table that led to another room, but I couldn't see what was there.
Alexander cleared his throat behind me and I whirled around to face him. Mischief filled his eyes and he regarded me hungrily.
"Welcome to my home, Grace."
I looked at him in shock and laughed when he used the fake name I gave him. Surely, this man must be joking. I was supposed to be taken to the prisons and then hung for my crimes, not taken to a knights home. Alexander's eyes narrowed at my laugh and he continued speaking in a demanding tone.
"Listen carefully, woman. I can take you to be hung for your crimes right now. That would be the honorable thing for a knight such as myself to do."
I flinched at his words and glared at him hatefully. He continued on. "But, I am just a man, and I am here to offer you a deal." Alexander smiled at the end of his sentence as if he knew something I didn't.
I glared harder at the man. "What sort of deal do you propose?" My voice was icy and I left no doubt that I hated the man.
Alexander laughed at my rudeness and continued. "Firstly, you are still talking to a knight of the king's court so I suggest you watch your tone." He paused for emphasis and smirked my way. "As for the deal, well, I propose that if you want to keep your head, then you will stay here with me and work as my maid. You will receive no pay, but I will not breathe a word of your treason to your kingdom."
My mouth dropped open at his words. Could he really be serious? The offer he was proposing was treason in itself. I turned away from him and knit my brows, trying to decide what to do.
I couldn't die, not yet. If I did, I knew eternal torment waited me on the other side. I groaned and lifted my hand to my temples, knowing my only option would be to stay with Alexander.
I turned towards him once more to find he had sat down at his table and now had his feet propped up. I glared his way hatefully and spoke. "Fine. I will stay, but I have conditions." I held my voice strong and steady, prepared to argue my case.
Alexander put his feet down and laughed hard. "I don't think you're in the place to be making a bargain!" He laughed once again and stood up from the table, walking towards me. "No, I think you need to be the one to listen to my bargain." He was now uncomfortably close to me, declaring his dominance.
"First, you may not leave this house. Second, you are to clean everyday while I am gone on duty, and I expect a meal on my table when I return at night."
I stumbled back in surprise from his demands. They infuriated me and I had to hold myself back from yelling at him.
"I refuse! I will not be treated in such a way, doing slave's work! I am not your bitch!"
He laughed at my words and continued in a menacing tone. "Oh, but I think you are. What choice do you have? I could always tow you away from here and have you hung." Alexander's eyes darkened.
I scoffed at his impudence at growled in frustration. In a split seconds decision, I dashed for the front door to try and escape this place. Alexander must have been anticipating my move, for he quickly stepped in front of me and lifted me off the ground onto his shoulder. I hung there limply, screaming at kicking.
"Unhand me! Put me down!" I hit my hands in fists against his back and kicked him wherever I could.
He laughed at my feeble attempts and started walking towards the wooden staircase at the back of the room. He held me tightly as I struggled, and my movements didn't faze him. Up the stairs he walked, only stopping to open the door at the top of them.
I heard it creak lightly and he walked inside the room, his heavy footsteps echoing against the wooden flooring. I still struggled in his grasp as screamed once again.
"Put me down! I demand it!"
He chuckled lightly and whispered to me. "As you wish, m'lady."
In a moment I was free falling through the air, having been thrown off his shoulder. I fell to something soft beneath me and felt myself being engulfed in pillows and heavy blankets. Alexander laughed at my shocked expression and began walking out of the room. Before I had gained my composure, he was at the door.
"I think it best if you stay here and contemplate your options, Grace. Not that you have very many." He laughed darkly as if he won the battle, and shut the door behind him.
I heard the unmistakable sound of a lock and quickly scurried off the bed, going to check the door. I cursed loudly when I saw it was locked, and heard Alexander laugh somewhere downstairs.
I started screaming at him wildly. "Let me out of here this instant, you pig! I demand it!"
I heard Alexander laugh once again and then the front door open and close. I screamed in frustration and sunk to the ground, defeated.
What was I going to do now?