Bound by Truth written by myself – Pen name Nicola Smith
I feel its important to state that all copyrights are reserved by myself in accordance with Australian Copy Right Act 1968 (as amended). Any fraudulent use of my work, republishing or using elsewhere without my prior approval is not allowed. That said, you are welcome to share this post and promote if you feel its worthy.
I am so very nervous to share this with you all but at the same time and so unbelievably excited! I’ve almost finished my script and am working on getting it thoroughly edited and ready for Publishers to view. Share with me your thoughts and let me know where I need to improve. I’m not just writing for me, I’m writing for you and your feedback matters.
All I ask is that all comments good or bad, be made in good nature. Negative unconstructive comments are not needed.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us,
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
‘Ralph Waldo Emerson’
Even though the risk of Neil finding out, was greater than him not, we still chanced this meeting once a year. It was the worst night of every year in so many ways. Memories of what could have been and what should have been, sprang to the surface as I turned the corner down a dark and dank alleyway. There, was the tavern that we’d enjoyed so many happy meals at before my life had become a literal living hell. A prison that I couldn’t escape, no matter how hard I tried.
The dingy sign was still the same as the year before and the one before that, desperately needing a fresh coat of paint. It was so rusty that I always worried it would give way and hit me on the head as I passed under, but it held strong each year. That didn’t stop me from rushing beneath it. As I drew closer it creaked and swayed in the wind and I clutched my cloak tighter, wrapping it around me like a shield. I held the hood of the cloak down making sure to keep my face covered.
The sound of music drifted from the open tavern door, I stopped in my tracks and berated myself for my lack of control. I forced myself not to turn to that sound of life and hope. It was an effort not to look back at what I most desired. What I couldn’t have. What had once been such a part of my life. Tears were flowing freely down my face but I batted them away with an angry swipe of my palm. I could not afford to draw to much attention to myself tonight and standing here stupidly in the middle of the street, listening to the drunk merriment inside was only asking to be noticed. So with bleary eyes, I pushed down further into the street and tried to think of anything but that fateful night even as each step took me closer toward what my heart craved. I couldn’t help but miss the life that have been stolen from me, the life that had been ripped out my hands and thrown into the fire like discarded rubbish. Everything had changed in but a moment but tonight, for a few stolen minutes I got to see him.
My footsteps sounded loud on the uneven ground, they slapped against mud and rocks, echoing as I walked through the moonlit streets. All the windows were dark as I passed through the street, their candlelight long since snuffed out, it was so late that not even the worst kinds of men came out at this hour. Only the stupid. My lips pressed together, I guess tonight, I was one of those stupid people.
The rain had calmed to a trickle now, meaning I had a chance of keeping dry tonight, though, the edges of my coat and skirts still mopped the street as I walked. The water soaked linen picked up the dirt and grim of the filthy city streets and stuck to my ankles like weights trying vainly to prevent me from this meeting.
I took the next left turn and found a group of men standing before me probably heading toward the tavern. This was not ideal. My heart began to beat an unsteady rhythm in my chest, men were always more advantageous when in groups and with the addition of alcohol, they were also rude. Each time, they would try their luck with me but each time they were left shocked when I put up a fight. Each time I would win, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous that this year would be the year I was outmatched and I could hear my heavy frantic and nervous breaths in support of this thought. My hand slid to the knife hidden in my skirt pockets, preparing myself for the sure struggle that was coming.
The men abruptly fell silent, staring at the abnormality before them, like I was some kind of miracle. Humans I sighed. They completely underestimated their female counterparts unlike the Fae, the Fae treated their women as equals. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get used to being thought of as submissive and helpless.
“Hey there pretty, needing some company?” One called, a cat-call followed from one of the others. I ignored them and kept pushing forward. I managed to brush past one of them without incident but another grabbed my arm forcing me to a stop, the momentum pulling the hood from my head and revealing my face.
“You don’t see many pretty faces like that out after dark, a responsible Father normally locks his precious girls behind closed doors at this hour.” Strangely, I could hear the softness in his voice and though I stood there still and silent, waiting, I knew he meant me no harm “You know someone like you would be safer at home.” He had a hard look about him like most in this retched place, this city sucked its people dry.
I hid my surprise as he let me go and added, “The next guy might not be me miss, don’t you think you should be heading home were its safe?”
“I am heading home.” My tone was distant and sad. Within those words were hundreds of mixed emotions fighting to the surface, before I stood their crying like an idiot I sprinted away, only stopping to catch my breath once they were finally out of sight. Wiping my shaking hand across my forehead I thanked whatever God was looking out for me tonight. Gathering my courage I continued my walk down toward the bridge.
The bridge was beautiful, its massive archways beheld the city, the intricate carvings of animals long since extinct bordered each arch, details like the eyes and claws of beasts were accentuated with silver trimming, it was exquisite. It stretched for over a span of five hundred meters and was maned only on the other side. The towers on the city side had not been used in years. This bridge was the gateway into the city, the only way in and the only way out. It was the ugly reminder that I was in the belly of hell, and damnation was the only way out.
I headed toward the bridge slowing my pace as I reached the large oak tree that sat beside it. I held my breath for one short moment gathering myself before I scrambled down the tree and landed beside him. He had been waiting for me, for quite some time it seems from the way he was fidgeting.
As always, Darius, was dressed impeccably. His jacket was clean and pressed, his shoes polished and his chocolate hair was combed back in the clean cut look of the wealthy men in the city. He sighed as he saw me and instantly wrapped me protectively in his arms. I leaned into him not believing he was actually here. I pulled him closer needing to feel him to believe it. Like always he smelled like the sea, salt and water, all clam tides and raging storms, exactly like his personality. Every year I longed to be able to smell him and touch him again, and, every year I worried this would be the last. Every year, I wondered how long it would be till we got caught and would be hung for our deceit.
“Finally” He whispered. “I thought you weren’t going to make it this year. I didn’t know if I should wait to see if you came or leave in case Neil had finally figured us out and set a trap.” I could feel his voice shake on the last part. Not fear but anger laced his words. The first words we’d spoken to each other all year, and he was angry. Some part of me knew I couldn’t blame him for his tone, Neil had stolen everything from us and we both longed for vengeance but lacked the support and freedom to obtain it. We were both prisoners. He might walk the streets freely but his grief stopped him from moving on with his life. People didn’t understand his anguish and they never would. No one would ever know our shared secret. My prison was more physical than mental. The tyrant King, Neil, had me locked within the palace walls. Any attempt at friendship with the people who also reside within the palace had been burnt. He would put the ‘threat’ down or would punish me for even looking at someone too long. I had no friends in the palace. I was utterly alone. These short moments where all I had, and, all that got me through each year. I needed these moments to remain unblemished. But despite my inner blabber, the only words I could muster were warnings.
“You should always leave, never wait if I am not on time.” We both knew that if Neil found out about our meetings, he would kill Darius, and, he’d make me watch. There was no room for forgiveness or understanding with Neil. He was an insane and being insane and powerful was proving to be a dangerous combination. His fanatical tendencies towards war and cruelty and torture were widely known.
But this one night, was what had kept me sane all these years. For it was this night that was worth all the risk. It was the anniversary of our son’s death and nothing would stop us from honouring him on this night. We would meet under this bridge, next to the oak tree and spend these few precious hours mourning our loss and taking comfort in each other. Sometimes we would lie under the tree staring at the stars, my head in his lap, his fingers brushing through my hair, not talking, because just being there together was enough. Other times we would sit at opposite ends of the tree and talk about what we had missed in the last year, too afraid to touch. Last year, Darius had been trying to devise escape plans, his pacing and rambling had got me so nervous I’d almost screamed at him that I couldn’t do this anymore, I couldn’t or wouldn’t meet him again. The pain of what I could never have, would drown me and I’d had to remind him, that what he was describing, the future he was dreaming of was the stuff of fairy tales and he needed to accept our sorry story. We would have no happy ending. Our harsh truth was that there was no escape. There was no cottage on a hill with three little kids running around our home all giggles and laughter and light. Reality was that I lived in the castle, stuffed in a tower, guarded by ten men at every hour. I could hardly go to the bathing room without one of them knowing it. Meanwhile Darius still lived in his family manor, carrying on the family business and living life the best he could knowing that Neil was by my side every night. That it would be him in my bed and on my skin and not him. So it was last year, when I crushed his heart that I knew Darius had given up searching for positives. That was what made this year, this terrible but sweet night so morose. It was the last time, we would never meet to console each other under the bridge beside the tree again.
“Have you at least made a friend in the castle this year?” Darius asked bringing me out of the past.
“How do you suggest I make a friend Darius?” I could hear the clipped, tight tones of my voice but couldn’t stop “Maybe I could befriend one of my guards, but no it’s been five years and I don’t know a single one’s name. I could try talking to my maid but she’s terrified of Neil and flits about like I have some sort of disease. Perhaps I should try making friends with the healer. At least she pretends to care every time she cleans and bandages up my cuts or bruises or believes when I say I fell down the stairs like a clumsy lump. No questions, no distrust and the only person who ever looks at me without pity” In truth I hated the wretched witch of a healer, she was a sower old woman but there was no point in saying that.
So much had changed in the span of five years, how was he to understand? He wasn’t the lovesick boy he used to be and I wasn’t the reckless girl I used to be. Life had dished us out a much harder lot. It was cruel but there was no changing it.
His hand slid down my side and I tried to move before he noticed but it was too late. He’d seen me wince as he’d brushed my ribs. He made to lift my shirt but I slapped his hand and stopped him.
“Don’t. Just, please don’t look. It’s nothing.” But it was no use, he knew it was a lie, and he turned on me, eyes blazing.
“He is a brute. How can he do that to you all the while saying he’s in love with you? How someone could be so cruel and insane is just unfathomable to me. It’s not fair Leanna. All of this. Why us? Why you?” He yelled, “None of this should have happened. Axel, he should be here, walking around and splashing in the river.” He gestured to the water glittering in the moonlight, “He should be celebrating his fifth birthday. We” he shouted “should be married and living in my home together.” He put his head in his hands and stifled his sobs. I held mine in check, I’d cried for our son Axel earlier today. Neil knew what day it was and each year he would visit me in my garden and apologize for my loss like any normal caring person would. He’d ask if there was anything he could do for me, like he wasn’t the source of my anguish. This year I’d lost it and I’d tried to enact my revenge, I threw a vase at Neil’s face, a stupid split second decision made in anger and grief that still gave me gratification every time I thought of the shocked look, on his stupid face. But a bruised rib and a lot of pain was the consequence of that but that didn’t bother me so much as the fact that I’d missed. He’d ducked, expecting me to lash out and it had shattered uselessly on the ground. Much like my heart must look if you opened me up.
“Life is not fair Darius. Fair, is for the lies we tell our children before bed. Best you start to realize that soon because next week I will be married and you will not see me again.”
I pulled his hands from his face and kissed him deeply. I soaked it all in, his smell, the feel of his muscular chest pressed to mine, his thick lips, his soft hair. And then I pulled back stood up and walked away. I couldn’t help notice the tears streaming down his face before I turned, and as I climbed back up toward the bridge, his devastated face was all I could see. Once I reached the top and jumped back onto the pavement I let go. I put my fist in my mouth to stifle the gasps that escaped, my chest was exploding, heaving violently and my ribs were screaming at me for abusing them so soon after Neil’s attentions. But I kept walking away from the man I loved and the father of my son toward my betrothed, the man I hated, the man who had murdered my son.
I retched the contents of my stomach on the side of the road.
I sighed as I got up from my dining table, the sun was spilling through the floor to ceiling windows and reflecting off the mirror on my dressing table, providing a kaleidoscope of warm and rich colours that moved throughout the room. I paused staring longingly past the servants skittering about the grounds out to the hills far beyond the city. Every day was the same. Servants running about the citadel, children giggling and birds humming but it all seemed too perfect, for such a beautiful and extravagant existence something had to give. We were in a whole other world on this side of the huge rock wall that protected all this beauty and within these walls it was hard to believe that there were those on the other side who suffered. From my perch overlooking the palace grounds I could almost believe that life was as beautiful as the furnishings around me. Those on the outside would never guess that this palace with its beautiful surroundings was really nothing more than a gilded cage, a pretty little coop for the king to keep his most valuable birds. Where he could watch them chirp and flutter through their life. The sparrows on the outside didn’t realise that the once you got locked behind these pretty bars you would become a jailbird subject to the whims of a king who pulled the strings of everything within his cage. His birds, these birds stuck in this coop would never fly again and even if they managed to escape he always laid one last trick that made sure they wouldn’t get far. Leanna sighed as she stood and turned away from the window.
All it took was a few clipped wings.