Prologue: The Servant GirlThe big polished marble castle stood on a mountain within the majestic rolling hills and amazing valleys. Under the castle laid a curved river that served as the moat and the only way across it was the mile long bridge made of stone and wood. It was rather splendor in its own way however the sky was shrouded in thick fog and so the atmosphere was sinister. This wasn't the perfect day for a carriage to arrive at the castle walls. The carriage held inside 2 women, an older woman with wrinkled hands and silver straight hair sat in a seat holding onto a pair of clothing. Across from her sat a pretty young woman with long brown hair and green eyes. The young woman looked around early 20s and she was wearing rags for clothing and a scowl on her face. On first glance, anyone could tell she hated the woman sitting across from her. "Stop giving mean looks, Serafina! I'm not the one to hate as of yet. The King and Queen ordered your arrival and I can't keep watching over you anymore." the older woman spoke. On her old wrinkled hands were many rings, mainly cheap, fake silver ones. Her eyes were the color of maple bark.
"I didn't wish to come along, Ather. Why does the King and Queen want me for? I've asked you several times now and you've never answered me." the girl, now known to be Serafina Maroon, said to the older woman. The expression on the fellow woman's face she could not read, but it spoke of nervousness and worry. "Serafina, the King has ordered me not to speak of the reason why he wanted you to come here, you cannot disobey royalty - no one can." Ather spoke and when Serafina began again the old lady shushed her immediately. "Hush child, we're here." she explained and then gently took Serafina by the hand with her own and when her hand was removed, there laid a golden locket necklace. Serafina gasped and then looked shocked at the poor older woman. "Ather, I told you I didn't want this!" she protested but Ather just shook her head. "Keep it with you, where you're going it won't matter. Just make sure it doesn't get into the hands of anyone else, got that?" Ather said in a hush-hush tone. Serafina could tell by the way Ather spoke that this locket must be kept a secret to everyone else.
The young woman tucked the locket in her scarf's hidden pocket for safe keeping and looked towards the door when the man who was driving the horse peeked back. "Serafina, it's time to go." the man spoke. He was just as old-looking as Ather, the two of them had taken in Serafina when her parents died and had raised her as their own child. Ather couldn't have any as her own being barren. "Ather, why are you telling me to keep this locket away from everyone? What secrets are you hiding?" Serafina asked but the woman kept her mouth shut and shushed her again. Serafina stepped outside after being handed the clothing Ather had held and her small pointed shoes hit the gravel road below with a loud clatter. Serafina shivered at the looming castle's figure above her and couldn't believe this place belonged to royalty. It appeared as though it belonged to some vampire of some sort, but Ather always told her vampires did not exist. Fearful and feeling dizzy from that fear, Serafina made the small trek to the door and used the doorknob to knock hard on it. The large heavy wooden doors opened and she was led inside by two armed knights in full armor.
Serafina only had one second to look back before those heavy doors closed with a loud slam. She looked towards the knights with wide eyes and gulped. The one knight spoke to her in a calm and soothing tone. "Don't worry, we're not going to hurt you. Follow us into the meeting hall, ok?" the knight said before they both led her single file down the rocky road and towards another wooden door - which led inside the castle. Once inside, Serafina gasped as she looked down at the floor. The floor was so shiny and clean that she could see her reflection on it and her shoes made soft scuffles as she followed after them. She looked at each knight, wondering why only the one had spoke and then worried about where they were leading her to. If the King and Queen wanted to meet her so badly, she worried about why. Following after them, she glanced around on the walls at the marvelous gold-paned paintings that hung every few feet. Some of them were portraits, other random paintings of the beauty of nature. One of them caught her eye. It was large painting of knights fighting a dragon breathing fire on them. The expression on the one knight's face was that of complete terror and the dragon's of rage.
She was then started by a sudden noise so loud it made her jump. The knights stopped and looked back at her and then towards the source of the noise. There, in a separate hallway stood a young girl about the age of ten with servant's clothing. On the floor laying beside her, a dusty old broom. The poor girl had dropped the broom which had made the noise that startled her so. The knights didn't look too pleased. "Servant girl, the King has ordered these halls to be empty about this time. Take your broom and head to the kitchen before you cause another ruckus." the other knight spoke roughly. He was much more meaner than the one that had spoken earlier. His tone scared the poor young girl so much she quickly grabbed the broom and ran off, her footsteps echoing in the now quiet halls. Serafina felt bad for the girl and glared at the knight silently without a word. He had no reason to be mean to the servant girl, she was just doing her job like he was doing his! The knights both looked at her. "Don't be too spirited, the King doesn't like rude people so watch your tongue around him." the nicer knight warned softly and then they moved onward.
Serafina was already getting tired of this and she looked down at the clothing she was carrying in her hand. So colorless was the fabric it made her feel very unimportant. She glanced up at the knights and frowned. "So, can I ask you two your names?" she asked them politely with a little glare between words at the mean one. "I'm Sir Yakut and this is Sir Falor." the nicer one answered her kindly and looked back at her. "It doesn't matter what the knights' names are, anyone in here has a name and eventually they will be on gravestones, though some names are more important than others." the meaner one muttered in response to Serafina. Serafina glared at him and was about to respond when someone suddenly bumped into her. She turned towards the source and was surprised to see someone in very expensive clothing there. He had platinum blonde hair with blue eyes and by first glance he must be royalty. The male backed away and wiped the dust from his clothing with a scowl and then looked Serafina over. "Oh, I'm sorry if I hurt you, milady." the young male said, his voice was smooth and regal.
The knights before Serafina suddenly bent down in a bow to this male. "Prince Louise, I apologize for any trouble." the knights said in unison. The Prince looked at them and chuckled lightly with genuine laughter. "Come, come now, no need to bow to me. I'm not crowned yet." the Prince spoke softly to them, still chuckling between his own words. The Prince looked towards Serafina and then smiled warmly. "If you don't mind, I'll take over as her escort thank you." Prince Louise muttered gently and both knights left without a word. Prince Louise wiped off his clothes a little more and smiled wider than before. "You look tense so I came by but as you can tell I tripped and bumped into you. I apologize for Sir Falor, he's always been like that though, so you can't really blame the guy." he explained softly. Serafina would realize she liked the Prince. He was more laid-back than she had originally thought. But she dared not speak for Ather had told her that in the presence of most royalty, you can only speak when they let you to. The Prince looked at her strangely and then chuckled. "So, I heard you were taken in by Ather the wise. How interesting." he said and when the girl before him still remained silent he figured it out.
"Oh, you can speak whenever you want around me, I'm not harsh at all." he informed her calmly. "You just can't do that in front of my dad, the King. He gets very impatient sometimes and he hates rude people." he added in with a scratch to the chin. "So I've heard." Serafina spoke, her tone just showing how bored she truly was in this whole introduction. The Prince didn't seem to mind and continued onward after giving a shrug of his shoulders. After less than 5 minutes of walking they arrived in a large chamber and in the middle of the chamber against the one wall stood 4 thrones. Sitting in two of them were finely dressed people but the crowns upon their heads said everything. Serafina looked upon the faces of the King and Queen of her kingdom with silent awe. The King was just as regal and wise-looking as Ather had described. His hair the color of rust covered metal complete with a graying beard. His eyes were emerald green. Beside him to the right sat a young, dainty fingered woman with long blonde hair and brown eyes. Serafina came a certain distance closer and then bowed down to them in respect.
The King nodded in approval and glanced towards his son as he sat down at his mother's side. As far as Serafina and Ather knew, she knew the King and Queen had two children, Prince Louise and Princess Zana. She had yet to meet the Princess but Ather had warned her that the Princess craved to own everything jewelry and that worried Serafina if the Princess caught a glimpse of the golden locket. She wondered what was with Ather when she had said to keep it away from everyone she meets. Then she remembered that Ather had kept many secrets, like how she got those rings on her fingers and why she adopted Serafina under her wing. The King stood up and walked towards her. "Serafina Maroon, I imagine you have a lot of questions. Let me answer them for you. You were summoned here because we are in great need of new scullery maids, and Ather told us how exceptional you are with cleaning and taking care of livestock back at the farm. Consider this meeting as hiring you, we will treat you with more respect most maids will get." The King explained to her. Serafina didn't speak at all, she just bowed. A job?! This is the reason why we took 3 days' travel to get here was for me to get a job?! Serafina found herself thinking to herself. She didn't dare show the anger in her heart physically because if she did she knew the King would absolutely take heed of it.
The King looked at her. "You can speak, young one." he said softly in response to her silence. Serafina blinked her eyes and then gulped. "Forgive me Your Majesty, but Ather and I travelled for 3 days' time all the way here just to leave me here to work for you? If you were so desperate for more workers, you could've sent out work fliers to your kingdom. I'm sure there's better qualified people out there than me." Serafina said softly and respectfully. The King chuckled. "Yes, but none of them as pretty as you." The King said. "Your Ma-" Serafina began and the King clapped his hands to silence her. "I imagine you're really tired from the trip, follow Prince Louise, he'll take you to your room. Tomorrow morning you'll be called in for duty." The King said and the Queen stood up, glanced once towards Serafina, and then followed her husband out of the throne room and into a separate hallway. Prince Louise glanced after them and stood up. "I'm so sorry, I could speak to them about having Ather visit you from time to time, but.....until then, I'm sorry." the Prince apologized to Serafina and then began to lead her to her room, glancing around.
In the halls on the walk over the servant girl from before was spotting staring curiously at Serafina before walking away. Prince Louise led her through the halls, past the dragon painting. "What's that painting about?" Serafina asked Prince Louise. "It doesn't matter, all the dragons that threatened kingdoms have been killed and their bodies were buried years ago. A bunch of shamans believe there's still one dragon out there but nobody here believes them. Ather was a shaman once." he said to her and then stopped in front of a door and opened it. "You'll have to sleep in the same room as someone else, but I think you can handle it." he told her and then walked away. Serafina walked over to the soft bed and crumpled onto it after shutting the door and sobbed into the pillow loudly. She couldn't believe this at all! This couldn't be happening to her! She then gasped as the door opened and the girl with the broom stepped in. The tiny skinny younger girl had black hair and brown eyes. She gulped a little visibly and then Serafina would realize - the girl was shivering. "Are-are you okay?" Serafina asked, a tear rolling down her cheek. The girl walked over to her, she had stopped shivering. The young girl sat down on the bed and covered up with a blanket. She was quite pale. Was she sick? Serafina thought she was, so Serafina went outside and saw Prince Louise was still around. "Prince Louise, your Highness, do you have any medicine? The little servant girl in there looks sickly?" she asked him politely.
Prince Louise nodded and walked off and then returned with a bottle of syrup and a spoon. "Make her have one teaspoon this twice a day, okay?" he said, handing it over to Serafina. Serafina smiled in return and bowed after grasping the bottle and spoon. "Thank you." she said and then went in. "Young girl....take this, please." she said after getting a spoonful of the medicine out and holding it in one hand. The young girl took it without question, and then cringed at the taste. "Ugh, it's like ear wax." the young girl said and then frowned. "I'm Agatha." the young girl introduced herself and then yawned. She then laid down on the bed she was on, still covered up, not even bothering to get undressed. As night fell upon the castle, and the young girl was asleep, Serafina took out her scarf and took out the locket. She accidentally dropped it on the floor and cringed a bit at that, glancing towards Agatha's fast asleep form, before bending down to pick it up. As she did so a glowing light came from the locket and she realized the locket was open, and inside was a white gem, as white as snow. The white gem was pulsing a strange blue light and it lit up the whole entire room with each beat of it. She glanced towards the sleeping form of Agatha and gently closed the locket. Was Prince Louise right?! Was Ather really a shaman - or was she a witch? She had heard from Ather about dragons many times, they didn't seem like "heartless creatures that would destroy anything whenever they wanted to" like they were stated so in books. How could humans fear something that is so mythical and kill it? She needed to know why all the dragons had been killed off - and more importantly why Ather thought there was still one dragon still alive.
Her thoughts remaining, she found herself yawning widely. Placing the locket safely under some clothing in a drawer close to her bed, she retreated to bed and quickly fell asleep. She hoped tomorrow would be better than today. In her dreams she found herself flying through the sky, going through clouds and looking at the beautiful world below her.
The next morning, heavy and loud knocks banged against the door to her room and jolted Serafina awake. She looked towards the door and yawned widely with a stretch. Noticing her necklace was still safe she put it around her neck and hid it from everyone else underneath her shirt. She quickly got dressed in her new job's outfit and opened the door. The little girl from last night was gone and so upon opening, she saw a large bodied woman with about the same outfit on. She had chubby cheeks, large width arms, and long black hair pulled up in a pony tail and her eyes were the darkest shade of brown - almost black like her hair. "Are you done wakin' up, lass?" the much older woman said in a booming voice that made Serafina wince. The older woman must've saw the wince and smiled. "Don't worry, darling, I won't hurt you none. But we need to start washing clothes or else the King will be awfully mad." she explained to the younger lass and then heard loud shouts and frowned. "The Princess from Aetobrook should be here today, so best be on good behavior." she warned and then began leading Serafina to the place where she was going to work. She found herself wondering how the little girl from last night was doing but that thought briefly came up and she started wondering why her necklace was glowing last night.
In her thoughts she became distracted and she pathetically walked right into a wall and then shouted and held onto the top of her head. The older woman stopped and looked at her. "Are you alright, dearie?" she asked worriedly. "Yes, I'm fine." Serafina responded with, but it was a partial lie because her head still hurt. "By the way, youngster, my name is Flora." the older woman said and then gave her a thumbs-up. "I'm Serafina, I guess you'll be my boss." Serafina told her softly and continued to follow after the woman until she came across a wooden door that Flora opened and inside were lines and lines of drying clothing as well as large pool-sized buckets filled with water and soap that 10 other woman were cleaning clothes in by rubbing them against boards while in the water. Serafina was amazed by how much clothes was in here and so walked in more. Flora clapped her hands and the girls gathered around after they stopped what they were doing. "Everyone, meet Serafina. She's new here so make her feel welcome and show her some of the ropes if she needs your help." Flora explained to the ladies, all different ages before them and she noticed none of them were male but for some reason Serafina heard a voice ringing in her ears. A deep male's voice. It was saying "Almost there" repeatedly and she wondered what was going on.
Little did she know she'd hear that voice again.