The One Who Sees Me by Kandi J Wyatt by Kandi J Wyatt - Read Online

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The One Who Sees Me - Kandi J Wyatt

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Acknowledgments

To the Langlois Community Church’s

Adult Sunday School Class

Thanks for all the discussion—

and even speculation—about Abraham!

❖ Chapter One ❖

Yes, she was glad that she had been born into King Cyning’s household. She leaned her head back against the cool stone wall and brushed her long, curly, black locks out of the way. A stray curl wrapped itself around her finger. Twirling it, she continued her musings. Here in the castle she was safe. In her errands to the village for her mistress, Faru had seen the looks given to her. Her dark hair stood out among a crowd of blondes. It wasn’t just in the village, though. When King Cyning had banquets, the attending lords also looked at her. She was grateful that her mistress protected her and that the King wouldn’t allow freedoms with servants, unlike what happened in other castles.

A stray voice broke into her thoughts, bringing her back to the present and the little nook. No one ever came into the garden at this time. She looked down to see a tall man walking around the rose bush. The sun turned his hair copper. Despite being old enough to be Faru’s father, he was striking. His voice, deep and resonant, seemed to echo off the walls like a singer in a cathedral.

I am honored, sire, he was saying, by your interest in my cousin.

With a beauty like her, I am surprised no one else has spoken for her. King Cyning climbed the few stairs to the pagoda, and ducked his golden head to get through the door frame.

The other man waited until the king motioned him up, then he followed. Seen side by side, King Cyning dwarfed his guest. The king sat down and motioned for his guest to join him.

Ah, well. The other seemed to gather his composure. The right one hasn’t spoken up yet.

Even from her window viewpoint, Faru could see the predatory smile cross her master’s face. His perfect teeth caught a glint from a stray beam of sunlight reflecting from a window. The chiseled features of his face no longer seemed so beautiful. Faru had seen it before when he wanted something. When he looked like this, he was willing to do anything to get his way.

So, Cegrol, how much do you want as compensation for her?

Cegrol ran a shaky hand through his red beard and shook his head.

I don’t know.

Of course you do. Everyone has a price. I can make it worth your while. You do realize how powerful I am, don’t you?

Yes, sire. The fight seemed to drain from the man. She is my only cousin, the only daughter of my aunt. When my aunt died, Cwen came into my care. I promised to look out for her welfare.

Ah, the king’s voice softened. You can see from my home that nothing here will be hurt. I am powerful enough to have a peaceful kingdom. I brought you here specifically so you could see the women’s gardens.

He paused and then pointed up to the window where Faru sat eavesdropping. She tried to shrink against the unyielding wall.

That is the women’s quarters, Cyning stated. It is located in the keep just in case the unthinkable happens. Cwen will have her own set of maidservants. She will have all the comforts my castle affords.

Then it would be an honor to place her into your care.

Come. The king rose and his smile stretched in satisfaction across his rugged face. We shall seal the deal in my den.

Faru watched as the two left. What had just transpired? It seemed as if another woman would soon be around to give orders. With a sigh, Faru put the conversation out of her mind. Her mistress would take care of her, just as she had her father and her grandfather before him.

❖ Chapter Two ❖

Faru had returned to her duties in the kitchen. Each day she oversaw the plating and delivery of the queen’s evening meal. It was with a jolt of surprise that she heard her mistress’s voice call out her name.

Thank the gods, Faru, the tall, fair queen exclaimed. I’ve found you.

Milady? Faru drug the word out a bit with apprehension. In all her life in the castle, she had never seen the queen concern herself with dinner preparations; she doubted today was any different.

Even in the surroundings of the hot, sweaty kitchen, the queen seemed to preside with the dignity of her position. She moved with a lithe grace that Faru had always admired. Yet, underneath that poise, Faru saw an uneasiness that was unusual.

Faru, come with me, the queen commanded, in a voice that was not to be questioned.

The prep cook just shrugged and called to another servant to take Faru’s place. Faru turned and followed her mistress, a fear beginning to settle in her stomach. She knew better than to ask any questions.

The queen’s steps tapped a staccato on the stone floor. Her skirts swished as they brushed past servants, potted plants, and other decorations in the hallways. From past experience, Faru knew that her mistress’s anger was much like a volcano. It could erupt at any moment, and it didn’t matter who was at the receiving end of her wrath.

As they rounded a corner, a drapery swished past the queen. With precise movements, she ripped it down. Dreading what she was about to do, Faru opened her mouth.

Your majesty?

With a frustrated sigh, the queen turned around, her blonde hair swinging behind her.

Faru. Her voice came out soft compared to her movements. It is nothing that you did.

Faru raised a delicate eyebrow, her dark eyes pleading for more information.

No, young one. It was my lord.

Faru nodded understanding. The royals were known for their spats.

The queen pulled Faru into an alcove where they were out of the way of castle life. She laid a shaky hand on her servant. Faru’s initial reaction was to move away, but the tenderness in her mistress’s touch surprised her.

When I first came to Suden, it was your grandfather who took care of me. He watched over me like my father had. Because of your grandfather’s kindness to me, I gave your father his position among my servants, and then you have been my personal servant.

Faru stood quietly, shocked at the queens actions. Never had she seen her mistress in such a state. Her emotions must have been showing on her face, for her mistress seemed to draw herself together and straightened to her full height.

I may have to live with his decisions, she said, as if talking to herself, but I will not lower my position by groveling at his feet. With a visible effort, she continued, Faru, you have been traded to a foreigner in exchange for his cousin. The contempt showed through the queen’s voice as she said the word cousin. She will come be my newest rival, and you shall go serve the foreigner.

With that, she headed out of the nook and motioned for Faru to follow. Taking a deep breath, Faru tried to gather in what she had just learned and at the same time walk humbly behind her mistress. They passed through the stone hallways without seeing the light and shadows playing along the walls, hangings, and suits of armor. It wasn’t until the hallway opened into a wide atrium that the words the queen had spoken finally made sense to Faru. With wide eyes, she continued behind her mistress as they turned off into a waiting area. Seated in the room was the same redheaded man she had seen in the garden with King Cyning. Beside the visitor was a striking woman whose hair seemed to reflect the candlelight. She sat with bowed head, yet she exuded the same feeling of nobility that the queen did.

My lady, King Cyning’s voice drew Faru’s eyes to her master. Permit me to introduce Lord Cegrol and his cousin, Lady Cwen.

The queen inclined her head in acknowledgement. It is a pleasure to meet you both.

Lord Cegrol stood and bowed. Your majesty, the pleasure is all mine. I am honored to be invited to your castle and lands.

A smile crossed the regal face of the queen. Thank you, Lord Cegrol.

Now, King Cyning stated, Lord Cegrol has received all of the bride price except for what you have to offer him, my queen.

As you wish, milord, she replied, and motioned for Faru to come forward. Lord Cegrol, I offer you the services of my most trusted maidservant. She will serve you faithfully and well. Faru, this is now your new master.

Faru knew what to do: suppressing a sigh filled with dread, she knelt down and bowed in front of her new master. What would he be like?

Your highness, Lord Cegrol stated, you do my cousin a great honor by this. I will make sure that your gift is not wasted.

Good, the king answered, all is finished. Lady Cwen, I will show you to your quarters. My queen will escort you, Lord Cegrol, to your carriage.

With a bow, Lord Cegrol stood. Faru glanced at Lady Cwen as she stood. Their eyes met and locked. Faru saw the same horror, loss, and fear she felt reflected back at her in the green eyes of the foreigner. The lady nodded to her and then turned to follow her new lord.

Come, milord, the queen stated as she turned for the door.

Faru followed Lord Cegrol as he trailed behind the queen. The lord’s shoulders seemed to slump, Faru noticed, which seemed odd if he had just gained immense wealth. Then the haunted look in Lady Cwen’s eyes came back to her, and she wondered if maybe this whole arrangement hadn’t been completely voluntary on the lord and lady’s part. Maybe King Cyning had used his power to take what was not willingly given—just as he had done with her.

❖ Chapter Three ❖

The carriage pulled to a halt, and Lord Cegrol looked up from where he sat. The ride had lasted close to half a glass, Faru estimated, and in that whole time, the lord had not said a single word to her, nor had he looked up from his folded hands. Now he graced Faru with a smile. It was a sad smile, but a smile nonetheless.

What is your name, child? his musical voice inquired.

Faru, milord.

He seemed to see her for the first time. His eyes took her in, and Faru felt the heat rush to her face.

Well, Faru, welcome to our home away from home. He paused as he looked out the window. It is nothing like my Castle Fearann, but it is comfortable.

They descended from the coach onto a cobblestone drive surrounded by blooming rhododendron plants. The whites and pinks softened the harshness of the reds. Beyond the bushes, Faru noticed the house that loomed up above her. The dark bricks were a stark contrast to the stone she was accustomed to. Lord Cegrol led the way up wide, winding stairs to the front door. Torches on either side flickered against the brickwork, which seemed to trap the light instead of sending it out to welcome the master home. As Cegrol opened the door, he was greeted by a portly, elderly lady.

Lord Cegrol, welcome home. You must be exhausted. Let me get your cloak. You just go up to your den. I’ll have Trystan bring you your evening meal.

Thank you, Kadi, Lord Cegrol replied. I would appreciate that. First, though, we need to help Faru get settled.

Don’t you worry at all about that. I’ll take care of everything.

Lord Cegrol nodded and slowly plodded up another wide staircase. The motherly woman turned to Faru.

And you are?

My name is Faru, ma’am, the young slave girl replied, trying not to fidget with her long curly hair.

Lord Cegrol told me your name. What I want to know is, why are you here?

Faru shivered, not just from the draft that flickered the candles in their sconces, but also from the internal cold.

Ma’am, a glass ago, I was preparing my mistress’s evening meal as I have done since I was old enough to help my mother. The queen came and brought me to a parlor where King Cyning and Lord Cegrol and Lady Cwen sat. King Cyning walked off with Lady Cwen, and my mistress showed Lord Cegrol and me to the door where the carriage was waiting. Lord Cegrol brought me here. I do not have anything with me. I am at your disposal.

You are right about that, the woman said. I am Kadi, the housekeeper. Anything that happens in this house, I direct. That includes you.

Kadi paused, sizing up the new servant before she continued. What besides serving meals are you good at?

This was territory that Faru understood.

I clean rooms. I’ve done some cooking, but more so, just helping the cook prepare food. I’ve taken care of little ones so others can do their work, and I’ve been taught to weave.

I see, Kadi stated, pursing her lips. You won’t have much opportunity to take care of children in this household unless it is servants’ children. She stood, looking Faru up and down before she continued. I suppose for tonight, you can just get settled in. Tomorrow is early enough to start. Follow me.

With that, the woman turned and headed back under the stairs through a doorway half hidden in between two bookcases. As soon as they passed the bookcase, the splendor disappeared. The walls, which had been painted a bright yellow and hung with draperies and paintings, turned a dusty grey. Nothing adorned them, leaving them like a forlorn woman robbed of her jewelry. Where wall sconces had filled the room with light and cheer, here they only covered small areas, leaving larger ones in the dark. The hall twisted and turned with various doors leading off it, but Kadi stayed in the center. After what seemed like a quarter of a glass, they turned at an unmarked door. It looked the same as the hundreds they had passed earlier.

This will be your quarters, Kadi broke the oppressive silence. In the morning we will see what you can do for the household. In the meantime, stay here. Don’t go wandering around the house. It will only get you into trouble.

Faru felt her stomach rumble, but she would not grovel to this woman. So instead, she just nodded and moved into the doorway. Once in the room, she turned as the door shut behind her with a final click. With a sense of futility, she tested the door, only to find her fears had come true. It was locked. She had no way of exiting the room.

In the dim light coming through a window, Faru found a candle and some flint. With deft movements she struck the stone and lit the match, bringing light to the room. The glow revealed a small narrow space with a bed in the back. Before her stood a table with a bowl of fruit and the candle sitting on it. Quickly, she set the light to the candle stub. A single chair had been pushed up to the table. Between the bed and the table seemed to be the dressing area. She walked to the wardrobe on the left side and opened the door. Three dresses hung limply on the rod. This was the extent of her belongings, three handed down items. Tears formed in her eyes, but she refused to give in to them. Turning around, she saw a dresser. Some inspection revealed a few toiletries, two towels, and a washcloth. Again her stomach rumbled. Seeing the fruit, she picked one up. Her stomach would have to be satisfied with it. Finishing her last bite and with nothing better to do, Faru headed to bed. Maybe morning would bring better tidings.

❖ Chapter Four ❖

The morning didn’t bring any better tidings. However, soon the days began to fall into a routine. Faru was assigned the task of helping in the kitchen where she soon was accepted as another member of the team. It took her a while to find her way around the kitchen, but once she knew where things were, she could then be proactive in contributing to recipes