Of Ash & Blood

A Brief History of Estrus

Amabels P.O.V

”Miss Amabel, your fathers requested you to the drawing room, ” followed by a light rap on the door emitted through, breaking the silence in the room. I put down my book with a sigh and straightened my dress, taking a quick look in the mirror to ensure nothing was out of place, studying my pale blue dress for any wrinkles before opening the door. Mary, one of the nursemaids, looked at me sheepishly.

”Did he mention what for? ” I asked, following her down the dimly lit hallways leading to the stairs. ”Im afraid not, my Lady. ” Mary offered me a small smile before opening the door to the drawing room, shutting it behind me as I stepped in. I stood at the window, peering down at the dreary scenery. Flowers and grass were turning brown as the cold set in. I jumped slightly at the sound of the handle turning on the door. I straightened myself immediately and turned from the window to face the door. My father quietly shut the door behind him, not even bothering to start with any formalities such as a hello before motioning for me to sit in the armchair across from him. I lowered down, smoothing out my dress as I did so.

I gave a small smile and began to speak first, ”You asked to see me, Fath- ”

My father held up a hand, signaling to me to keep quiet. I immediately shut my mouth, and began to bite my lip. My father was a big man, and while it was rare I was punished, I still knew what awaited me if I spoke out of turn. I looked around the room nervously, waiting for him to begin talking.

”I have requested a visit from Lord Moraeu, he should be arriving sometime within the next few weeks. I plan to offer your hand once he arrives, I have already summoned a seamstress to be arriving within a day or two. We need you looking your best, assuming he agrees to take you, we will have the wedding within a fortnight. Do you understand? ” My fathers impatient voice rang in my ears, but my mouth was too dry to reply. I felt my stomach drop and my blood run cold.

”You plan to offer me to L-Lord Moraeu? ” I managed to choke out, clutching a handful of my dress on my side. I thought back to the last time I saw him, a shudder going down my spine. Of course, I remember the summers spent my the pond, but the older he got, the more he reminded me of a beast rather than a man. It seemed as though through the years, he lost more and more of his humanity. He stopped speaking to me, only glancing my way at the table during meals, until finally, it appeared he forgot I exist entirely. His cold, unfeeling eyes flashed into my mind and I almost visibly shivered.

My father ran a hand through his beard, letting out a sigh. He looked at me, and I couldve sworn I saw a bit of sadness behind his eyes. ”There are things about to come out, Amabel, things I cannot tell you right now. This is for- ”

I shot up from my seat, surprising even myself as the chair hit the wall behind with a dull thud.

”I-I refuse! I do not wish to get married, father-please-do not make me! ” I cried out, reaching to grab his hands. He flung from my grasp and stood up, holding his head high and gave me a grave look.

”I did not ask, and I am sure Lord Moraeu will make a fine husband. His land has almost tripled in size over the years, you will live even more comfortably- ”

I understood full well my fathers intentions by this marriage. I was his youngest daughter, unwed at the age of twenty. It was time I married and moved on, and I knew that. Women are merely property for men to trade off to one another, land was almost held to a higher worth. Marrying Lord Moraeu would only strengthen my fathers relationship with the King, seeing as my sister had failed in doing that already. I stared into my fathers eyes and took a daring step forward, as if almost challenging him.

”I will not end up like Iris– I will not marry him and you cannot make me! I will- ”

A sharp pain emitted from my cheek and a jolt pushed me to the ground, I braced myself with my arms as I fell sideways onto the floor. My hand reflexively went to my cheek, and I looked down to the floor, not daring get up to anger him more. Standing up would be seen more as a challenge. My fathers boots came into view as I bore into the floorboards, not daring meet his gaze I felt burning a hole into my head.

”Do not dare speak her name! ” He bellowed above me. He reached down and grabbed my cheeks, forcing my head up to meet his stare. ”Perhaps I was too soft with you, showing as now you feel you have a choice. Assuming Lord Moraeu will have you, you will be married, even if I have to lock you in a room until the ceremony. One day, you will see that this is the best choice we have. Now, get out of my sight. ” He spat, letting go of my face with a shove. I nodded and slowly stood up, smoothing out my hair and dress before waiting for his nod, giving me permission to leave the drawing room. Mary waited outside the door, looking at me with empathetic eyes as she followed me down the hall leading back to my bedchambers.

”I-I heard Lord Moraeu is quite handsome, and strong my Lady! I am sure once you see him, you will feel much better! ” She chirped. I turned to face her, tears burning my cheeks as they fell down.

”Oh-my Lady! Your face- ” Mary reached out as if she were going to touch my face. I leaned back from her touch and turned back around and continued with my way. ”I will get the healer straight away! ”

”Do not bother, it will not scar. It will heal on its own. ” I snapped, making long strides up the steps and around the long hall that led to my bedchambers at the end. ”Can you please bring my meal to me, Mary? I wish to eat alone tonight. ” I asked, lessening my tone with her. Afterall, Mary was simply trying to cheer me up, and being cruel towards her would do me no good. I reached my door and opened it slightly before turning back to face her, making sure she had heard my request. Mary opened her mouth as though she was going to say more, but stopped herself as she saw my helpless expression. There was simply nothing else she could do.

”Of course, my Lady. I will bring you your meal within the hour. ”

With that, I stepped into my bedchambers and studied the room as if it would be my last time standing in them. And soon, I would spend my last night in here. My fingers brushed on the soft blankets on my bed to the furs that laid on the foot of the bed. I walked over to my chair sat in front of a mirror and studied my red face. I took a cloth and dipped it in the water basin on the desk next to me and gently pressed it to my burning cheek. I studied my chin, where my fathers fingers had already left bruises. I let out a small sigh and wondered over to the window, studying the pale orange of the sky as the sun set. I sent a silent prayer to the Fae, for peace, for my sister, and for myself. Hoping that this time, they would hear my pleas and show me a sign.

Of course, I do not think they would ever hear me.

Mary knocked quietly on the large door and my eyes flitted over, giving a small call out to say it was alright to come in. She set my dinner tray on the small table next to where I sat and gave me a small nod as she left the room without a word. I sat next to the fire, barely touching my food for almost an hour before slipping my dress and chemise off and into a night gown. I peeled the blankets from my bed and slid in, bringing my legs to my chest. My heart had not stopped pounding since my conversation with my father. It felt as though there was a war drum in my chest, about to rip out. I hoped, possibly, that it would. I hugged my legs and forced my eyes closed, hoping that sleep out take over as I listened to the small sounds of the fire in the room.

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