She was a terror, a hellion. At least that’s what the neighbors said. She could be heard yelling defiantly at her parents at all hours, sneaking out, sneaking back in, throwing things when she was upset.
They’d tried everything: cajoling, yelling, threatening, therapy, punishment, pleading, none of it worked. Finally, in despair, they threw up their hands and sent her away to her great aunt in Britain.
Grandma Leona, as everyone called her, lived in a small town about two hours north of London. Hell on earth, Brie thought. And they seriously expected this old crone to tell her what to do? She began here just as she had ended at home, sneaking out with boys, going to the local pub at all hours, terrorizing the neighborhood girls. But her behavior was not limited to outside Leona’s house. Brie messed with her tidy cottage as well, breaking things, stealing, hiding things to confuse her great aunt.
However, Grandma Leona was less patient than her parents. She tried a few things, even swatting the girl with a switch, but her old bones were not made to deal with someone else’s mistake.
One night, when Brie had snuck out, again, Leona took several household items and made her way into the deserted back garden. Placing a jar of honey, a bowl of mead, and some bread and pork at the woods’ edge, she stepped back twenty paces and turned her back on the tree line.
“Good Neighbors and especially you, O Darkened King, please hear my words. My grand-niece is a terror amongst mortals. She flaunts all rules, mortal and your own. I beg you, come teach her a lesson. Teach her the necessity of rules, of obeying those who know more than she. Take my offering and help me, please.”
Grandma Leona waited for a few moments and then headed back to the house, leaving the offering for whichever of the Good People would see fit to accept it.
The next day, Brie was a completely different girl. Kind, courteous, obedient, helpful.
A completely different girl…
= = =
“I don’t belong here. I want to go home. Please! Please let me go home,” she sobbed and blubbered.
He stood over her, an ebon cane in his hand, which he brought down on her back again. Unfortunately, she only cried harder.
“I want to go home, you bastard! You can’t—you can’t keep me here!”
“I shall do whatever I please with you, you ugly trollop. First, we must make you presentable.” He clenched his hand and raised it upward.
The shackles around her wrists rose up, the chains clanking heavily as she was raised to her feet, the large shackle around her neck forcing her head up.
He paced and forth before her, observing, examining. His painfully, terrifyingly beautiful face was serious, grave. Then, raising the cane, he moved it along her face, feather-light and white-hot all at once. As he moved it along her face, her features began to reshape themselves. A higher brow here, get rid of those mortal wrinkles and blemishes, deepen the dimples, straighten the nose, draw out the cheekbones. He spent all night changing her, listening to her screams as her skin stretched, retracted, bones moved and realigned.
Finally, just as the Arcadian sun began to pink the horizon, he stopped.
“You shall remain here, now that you are a little less ugly,” he droned, the wolfish look in his eyes flashing.
She just hung there, the shackles tight around her wrists, ankles, and neck. Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, she fell asleep in that position.
= = = =
She never knew how long she was there. But he came to her every night, fashioning her until she was perfect in his sight. Then, when he came to her, it was to revel in that beauty that he had made…whether she wanted it or not.
After a while, Grayfold moved her from her cell to a rich, ivory-laden room. She was his favorite nocturnal concubine. But the shackles always remained. Even when he bedded her, the shackles were never taken off. They were part of her now. Her freedom was totally gone; Grayfold decided when she ate, when she slept, when he had his way with her, who else had their way with her. She never saw daylight; her room had no windows, only candlelight; he always came to her at night, and the darkness was her life.
Slowly, over the years, she began to change. Her skin darkened, as did her hair. The shadows of her room became a part of her, swathing her body, wrapping her like clothing. This pleased Grayfold, for when he came to her, all it took was a swipe of his powerful hand to disperse the shadow-raiment and lay her body bare to his sight and touch. That body that was now beautiful and perfect.
She never knew how she escaped. One day she was in her ivory tower and the next, she was scarred, bruised, cut, and broken in a place totally different. A place that smelled, looked, sounded, and felt different. Some part of her knew she was “home” but it felt…wrong in a way. Oh, yes, she was glad to be away from Grayfold, but something was missing. It was then that she looked down at her hands.
Her shackles were gone! Her beautiful nightmetal shackles had disappeared. On her wrists, ankles, and neck were only thin, whitening scars outlining the bindings that had been there for years. Her limbs felt strangely light…and entirely wrong.
It was then that she began to cry—breaking, wracking sobs. It was as though she had lost five very important limbs, five very intense parts of her. Those shackles told her who she was; what she was for; what her life’s purpose was; what her place was in the world. Those shackles were her identity. And he had taken that from her, tossed her out into the cold like a used-up doll.
Even as she cried, she began to weave leaves together and wrap them around her wrists, neck, and ankles. Anything to cover those scars, anything to make her feel normal again. She felt better once they were covered but it still felt wrong. She would have to figure out a way to make it right again. She HAD to make it right again.