~300 years later~
Much has changed since my ancestors ruled the land once known as Kashum. After Queen Sarinda died at the hands of the Rammulan prince his people invaded our land, burned our cities, and killed many of our people. All of Sarinda’s children were forced into slavery, but one escaped.
Sarinda’s youngest daughter, Ani, fled from the harsh burden of captivity and a horrendous life of service to the Rammu royal family. Once free, she was found and saved by a farmer’s family, who took her in and, once she was of marriagable age, she married their son.
Her children, then children’s children lived as farmers, gaining a respectable reputation. Time passed and the hunt for Sarinda’s descendants slowed, halting occasionally when the Rammu arrested someone, then tortured them to death. The blood of many innocents was shed freely by the Rammu.
It wasn’t just those people that the Rammu took from their everyday lives and killed. Those who commited crimes of treason or were indebted to a Rammulan man were forced into the same punishment as my ancestors- slavery to the death. People longed for the return of the Kashum royal family, and none longed for it more than I.
My family had abolished slavery five hundred years ago, only to have it undone two hudred years later. Many loathed these changed, and stories of the heir to the Kashum throne returning to take control, saving the oppressed spread in whispers and in the shadows. These stories inspired me, Kala Del Kasharllam, and I dreamed of being the hero of my people.
Such stories are viewed as being dangerous by the oppressors and the number of arrests grew. It was no surprise that they were scared- there had been rebellions in the past, and last time the people had laid seige to the castle for a year, starving most of the nobles to death.
I’ve never been afraid of the Rammu. No one had ever touched my family before, so why would we be taken in for questioning? That was my mistake.
My family lived in a small cabin, with two rooms and a loft, divided in half by a sheet. IT was cramped at times, but always comfortable, and it exhuded the love and warmth in the cold, dark times.
Father, rough looking with his dark beard and salt and pepper hair, was always there for my sister and I when we needed him, slipping us little trinkets or candies from his merchandise when he could afford it. He was a trader, you see, a fair and honest man. Above all, he loved people, especially his wife, my mother.
Being of royal blood, my mother possessed a kind of grandeur and majesty, even when she was covered in dirt and sweat, sleaves rolled up and her hands on her hips as she surveyed the mess. She loved life, and could find the beauty in everything. She was wise, though not as educated as she had wanted to be.
My sister, Tristiana, was sweet but spoiled. She was cute and had a way of twisting everyone around her finger, and those traits would spare her from hard taskes later.
Everything was as it should be the evening they came for us. My father had returned home from a trip the previous day, and we had spent the afternoon unloading cart. Mama and Tristi had worked in the garden all day, weeding and picking the ripe things.
Supper had been eatten, and everything had been tidied up and put away. Mama had been telling Tristi the family stories, and Father was playing checkers with me. It was a perfect evening, and the world seemed to be at peace.
“What happened next?” Tristi begged everytime mama paused for a breath.
“Why, darling, I’m getting to the best part,” mama replied. Normally father would listen to the stories quietly, but that night was different.
“Do you think it’s wise to tell the girls these stories?” he asked. “Several arrests were made the other day.”
“No one’s found us in three hundred years,” mama said, holding her head high. By now father had learned to not give her a direct order, but when they had first been married he had tried. It was one of his favorite stories to tell, and he told it with a lot of gusto.
“If you think that’s wise,” was all my father had said. Mama continued her narrative.
“Queen Sarinda was brave and strong, but above all, she loved her God and her family. Even when she knew that she would die at the evil Rammulan prince’s hands, she refused to turn over the key. The prince killed her, then had her body searched for the key to the keep, but it wasn’t found.
“Would you believe it? Queen Sarinda had buried the key in her cell’s privy, digigng to make the hole larger with her hands. Remember, Tristi, Queen Sarinda had never needed to dig, like you and I do in our garden.”
Mama paused for another breath and before she could resume her story the door burst open. A short Rammulan woman stood in the door, with a knife drawn.
“Have you told your daughters about how nobly they were defeated?” she asked, her tone mocking. “How they bled when they rebelled?”
“Who are you,” Mama asked, standing and gently pushing Tristi behind her.
“Who I am is not important,” the woman said, stepping a little further into the house. “What is important is that your house is surrounded by soldiers loyal to the Rammulan throne, ready to burn down this building if you do not surrender and come willingly.”
“Go where with you?” Father asked, also rising and moving forward. “And on what charges?”
“Where is on trial in the capital,” she said coldly. “On the charge of being or with-holding information from the great Empire of Rammu about the traitorous family of Kashum.”
“You have no proof of that,” my fahter said defensively.
“But I do. Your beautiful wife here has been telling treasonous stories,” the woman said, switching her grip on the knife so she could throw it easily. “I think that proof will be no problem.” Suddenly she threw her knife, and father gasped.
The handle of her knife was sticking out of his chest, and he weakly reached up to grab it. Mama screamed and lunged at the woman, weaponless with the exception of her fingernails. The woman threw up her arms defensively, but it was too late. Four trails of blood appeared on her face, and she grabbed at mama’s hair, which was tied back in a loose braid.
“Erstnemecrofni!” the woman screamed hysterically in Rammulan. Several soldiers entered, and pulled mama off of the woman.
Tristi began screaming hysterically, and I moved to confort her. Father had changed drastically in a mere matter of minutes, from a cozy and comfortable night at home to a nightmare, the work of the Rammu.
I held Tristi, trying to silence her hysterics. That was when the woman turned her attention to us. As she moved across the floor I gripped Tristi more tightly.
“Now,” the woman said, kneeling in front of us. “Are you going to come nicely, or will I have to haul you out like your homre?” Tristi whimpered, and I impulsively spat in the woman’s eye. “You little brat! Children of the Tormentor!” Screaming curses and profanities involving the Rammulan dieties, she jerked me to my feet and dragged me out, with Tristi clinging to my hand.
“Mocrednam, is there a problem?” a man’s voice cut through the chilly night air.
“Tie these brats up,” she ordered, shoving me into the chest of yet another soldier.
“What about the man?” the first man asked. The mocrednam snorted, and mounted her horse.
“He’s dead. ‘Tis no loss to us, though. He wasn’t of the royal blood of Kashum,” she said briskly. “Are the brats bound?”
“Yes, mocrednam,” another soldier, who was binding my hands, said.
“Cadem, Natsyel,” she said, sharply. “The brats will ride with you.”
“Yes, mocrednam,” they said, and one of them lifted me up onto his horse behind him.
“Now, let’s go,” she said.
This was the beginning of everything. Things would change drastically, but I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was that I would be punished for merely existing, and I was scared of the future.
There’s a saying that things have to get worse before they can get any better. Little did I know that it was about to be proven true yet again.