Musical notes floated through the dark garden on a faint breeze, weaving a spell in the silver moonlight bathing the trees and mist. Animals stopped in their tracks to lift their heads and listen to the enchanting song, the voice of the singer so pure that it could break hearts and bring the coldest man to tears.
A girl moved through the garden, a natural grace in her every movement, her voice continuing to weave its spell in the darkness of the night. She was a hauntingly beautiful girl, tall and slender, with pale skin and long, raven hair falling down her back. A pair of midnight blue eyes framed with thick, dark lashes caught one's attention, their gaze simply mesmerizing.
The girl's beautiful singing stopped abruptly as a woman stepped out on a porch close by. The woman was beautiful, but looked weary and frightened, dressed in nothing but a nightgown. Long, blonde hair fell in large curls down the woman's back, and dark blue eyes gazed into the darkness of the garden.
"Desari?" the woman whispered.
The girl stood perfectly still, not even breathing as to not reveal herself.
"I know that you are out there." the woman whispered again. "I heard you singing."
With an inwards sigh the young girl moved out of the shadows and into the moonlight by the porch so that the woman could see her. Her midnight blue eyes caught the woman's gaze and held it.
"I am here, mother." she said softly.
The woman smiled sadly. "You must not sing, Desari. He could hear you, and you know that it angers him."
"I sing if I wish to." Desari said, straightening and raising her chin proudly.
"Do not do this." her mother pleaded. "I do not wish to see him angry with you."
Desari nodded, but said nothing, and soon her mother entered the manor again. With silent steps Desari moved away from the porch and found the entrance to her own chamber through a window. She crept into her four poster bed to get some sleep before dawn.
Desari awoke to find her maid standing by the bed wringing her hands.
"What is it, Tegwyn?"
"Milord wishes to see you. You must come at once."
Desari got out of bed and was quickly dressed and groomed by Tegwyn, to be dragged out into the hallway. With a sigh she started walking down the corridor towards the great hall where her stepfather was likely to wait. Her father had died many years ago, and her mother had soon after re-married with the man who was now the lord of the manor. He did not like Desari, and the feeling was mutual. Desari found him to be a cruel man without feelings, and he found Desari to be too proud and stubborn, not yielding to his every wish like the others in the manor.
The great hall fell silent as Desari entered, everyone's eyes following her every move as she walked up to the little platform where her stepfather was sitting on a large throne like chair, her mother on a smaller one by his side. Her stepfather was not an ugly man, in fact, he was thought by many to be quite handsome with his wide shoulders, dark hair and beard. His eyes, however, were cold and without any warmer emotions. As they looked at Desari from head to toe they seemed to burn with some kind of interest, which made Desari shiver.
"You called for me?" she said, standing straight with her chin slightly raised in challenge.
"I did indeed. I have heard that you were outside again last night." His voice was as cold as ever his eyes. "Singing." he added then, spitting it out as if it were a bad taste in his mouth.
"You admit it?"
"I see no reason to lie."
Desari gave her mother a quick look, only to see her shake her head, she had not been the one to tell him.
"You know I disapprove of you singing. Especially in the middle of the night. Outside at that." Her stepfather didn't sound very pleased. "You need to learn to obey, child." He looked at her again. "How old are you now?"
"Sixteen." Desari answered warily, uncertain what he was getting at.
Her stepfather seemed content with her answer. "As I thought. You are old enough to get married."
Desari barely managed to hide her surprise at his words, and a warning shake of her mother's head kept her silent.
"I think I have a good man in mind for you as well." Her stepfather stood up and walked down to her. Although she was quite tall for a woman, he still towered before her, looking down at her with disdainful eyes. "A man that can teach you obedience and curb your pride and stubbornness."
He grabbed hold of her chin between his thumb and index finger, none too gently, turning her head from side to side scrutinising her.
"Your looks may be enough for any man to find it worth the trouble to curb you."
Desari glared at him, but held her tongue, she would gain nothing from arguing with him.
"Lord Georgiou will be pleased to have you, and will enjoy breaking your spirit. He has had his eyes on you for quite a while." her stepfather continued, seemingly speaking to himself.
His words made Desari feel sick; Lord Georgiou was a personal friend of her stepfather's. An ill-tempered man who enjoyed beating women and paid no heed to anyone but himself. She would not survive long in that man's household.
"Now leave. I am tired of seeing you." Her stepfather abruptly let go of her, leaving two red marks on her chin, and returned to his chair. Desari did not wait but quickly left the great hall.
The next night she crawled out of the window to her chamber into the garden again, this time with a backpack. She was not going to stay around and see herself married to Lord Georgiou. Silently she hurried through the garden and escaped through a hole in the tall wall that surrounded the manor and its grounds. A vast forest spread out before her, but she wasn't worried about wild animals or the growing darkness, so she went into the forest, hoping to get as far as possible that night.
She did not stop until the sun had already started rising, and the early morning mist was starting to clear. Exhausted she pulled her cloak closer around herself and sat down below a tree to get some rest.
She was abruptly awakened before the sun had even reached its highest peak by someone grabbing for her.
"So you think to escape me, brat?" a hoarse voice said gruffly, pulling her against his hard frame.
Desari fought the man, quickly recognising him as her stepfather's friend Lord Georgiou. Someone must have betrayed her, or he could not have found her this soon. They would only just now notice that she was not in her chambers. As she was fighting Lord Georgiou's assault her mind was racing to try and remember who could possibly have told her stepfather she was leaving. She had only let her maid know, so that the maid could tell her mother the next morning, but she couldn't believe that Tegwyn would have told her stepfather.
Lord Georgiou was a lot taller and stronger than Desari, and her struggles did close to nothing to keep him away from her. He was holding her in an iron grip, crushing her against his larger frame, squeezing the air out of her lungs.
"You're going to be mine, brat." he growled, pressing his mouth against hers. "Your stepfather has promised me you will be, and I see no reason to wait until we're wed."
"Let me go." Desari said coldly, trying to break free.
A cruel smile touched Lord Georgiou's lips as he shook his head and once again bent to kiss her. Desari started to fight harder, his mere touch making her feel sick, but her struggles could barely budge the large man. In despair she could feel her dress being ripped apart, the Lord now able to touch her bare skin. Tears spilled down her cheeks in fear and pain, the Lord not caring if he was gentle or not, paying no heed to the fists that were pounding his back.
Desari soon grew weary, but kept struggling. As she tried to push him off her, she felt the familiar shape of a dagger, still tucked into a sheath in his belt, which he had not bothered to remove. Panicking she grabbed the dagger and pulled it out of the sheath and sliced his side with it.
With a howl the Lord rolled off her and got to his feet. Desari quickly stood up as well, crouching before him with the bloody dagger in her hand.
"Devil's offspring." Lord Georgiou growled at her. "I knew you weren't normal. Who could be with a father like yours?"
Desari hissed at him. "Speak no ill of my father."
A cold smile touched the Lord's face as he looked at her. "Your father was a fool, trying to fit in with humans. He should have stayed away, hid in the night with the others of his kind." The Lord touched his bleeding side and cursed violently. "Witch. You hurt me!"
"I was not yours to touch." Desari said coldly, trying to hide the weakness in her legs and the sickness in her stomach at the mere sight of him.
"Who would care?" Lord Georgiou said, glaring at her. "Everyone knows who and what your father was."
"They respected my father!"
Lord Georgiou grinned coldly. "They feared him. They were all happy when I and your stepfather killed him."
Desari lunged at the Lord then, the dagger in her hand. The sheer surprise of the attack gained her an advantage, and before the Lord could react she had buried the dagger deep in his chest. Stepping back from him she looked at him with cold eyes as he stared at the dagger protruding from his chest, and then at her. He seemed surprised at the fact that he would die at the hands of a mere girl, but before he could express any feelings on the matter he fell to the ground.
Only then did Desari hear the sounds from around her. Others were coming through the forest. She gathered her things in a rush, pulled her cloak around her to cover her torn dress and started running through the forest. She hadn't gone far before she heard the angry roar of her stepfather as he found his friend's dead body, and she could soon hear the thunder of a horse's hooves beating at the ground in pursuit of her. Although her legs were still weak from the earlier attack she quickened her pace, running for her life.
Her heart was beating hard in her chest, and soon she wasn't sure if it was her own heart she heard pounding or if it was the horse getting closer. Then she was roughly pulled up and put across the horse on someone's knees and held fast there with ungentle hands.
"You will pay for this, you devil fry."
It was her stepfather's voice. All strength left Desari, and she lay across the horse all the way back to the manor without even struggling. Back in the courtyard her stepfather let her slide to the ground, doing nothing to ease her hitting the ground, to then dismount the horse himself. There were several of his soldiers behind him on horses, all dismounting after their master. Desari looked at them all in silence, waiting to see what fate awaited her. Stable boys quickly came and brought the horses away, and she saw her mother standing by the entrance to the manor biting her nails, not daring to come out into the courtyard.
Her stepfather grabbed hold of her arm and pulled her up, looking at her with eyes burning in a cold fury. She looked back at him, not betraying with a sign the pain he was causing her.
"You killed my friend." he growled at her.
"He shouldn't have touched me." Desari said slowly.
"You were his. Or as good as." Her stepfather looked at one of the soldiers. "My whip! Get me my whip!"
A cold shiver ran down Desari's back as her stepfather looked at her again. "I have had it with you." he said. "You're only in the way, just like your father."
He threw her away from him and motioned to a couple of his soldiers to take her. They did, dragging her to a pole that was standing in the middle of the courtyard, tying her hands with a rope to the pole, her body pressed against it with her back exposed. At another sign from her stepfather they tore the remaining pieces of her dress from her upper body, letting it pool in shreds around her hips.
Closing her eyes, Desari could hear the people moving around the courtyard, the soldier returning with her stepfather's whip. She could hear her mother running up to her stepfather, pleading with him, getting no response. Then she ran towards Desari, and she opened her eyes to see her mother's dark blue eyes look at her in sorrow, tears spilling down her cheeks.
"Desari. I'm so sorry." she cried. "I only meant well. I couldn't sleep last night, and I went into your room to talk to you, and you were not there. I understood that you had left, and I only wanted you back. The world is cruel and not meant for a young girl to wander through alone."
Desari said nothing, only looked at her mother with emotionless eyes.
"Get out of the way, woman!" her stepfather shouted from behind. "Or I will use the whip on you as well."
"I'm sorry." her mother whispered again and ran back into the manor.
As the first lash from the whip hit her slender back Desari bit down hard. She refused to scream or cry, not wanting to give her stepfather the satisfaction.
The large moon painted the silent courtyard in silver moonlight, not a soul was moving, only some shadows were skulking in the corners. In the middle of the courtyard a wooden pole stood, a still form tied to it. As the moon rose higher and covered the form in the silver moonlight one could see that it was a young girl, her torn dress hanging in shreds about her hips. Her legs were barely able to hold her up, she was more or less hanging from her arms that were tied to the pole. Her bare back bore terrible witness of what she had endured.
There wasn't a patch of undamaged skin on her back, it was all covered in blood, with thick cuts running across it from the tearing lashes of a whip. Long, raven hair fell down her side, here and there some strands of hair were plastered in the dried blood from her back. Some of it hung in cakes of dried blood. Her body was so still and pale that one would have thought she was dead, had her eyes not opened every now and then to gaze into the darkness.
Then the girl's lips started moving slowly, and clear silver notes filled the air in a beautiful song. The girl's voice was soft, the song barely more than a whisper, but it seemed as if time had stopped, anyone within hearing compelled to stop and listen.
A shadow crept out of the manor close by, walking silently up to the girl to stand beside her, but the girl did not stop singing, nor did she acknowledge the presence of the other person with as much as a look. Silently the shadow started to clean the girl's damaged back, the girl not moving an inch, although it must have hurt like the fires of hell.
When the girl's back was clean, the damage to it was even more evident, and the shadow let out a cry of despair. A dagger was pulled out, and the shadow cut the girl loose from the pole. With no energy, the girl slid to the ground, unable to keep herself upright. The shadow disappeared for a moment, to soon return with a horse, and then helped the girl to mount the horse. The girl was too tired to sit up straight, leaning wearily over the horse's neck.
Desari finally looked at her mother as the older woman pulled a cloak over her damaged back, but she couldn't bring herself to speak. Her mother looked at her, tears spilling down her cheeks.
"It is my fault, Desari." she said sadly. "I should never have told him you had left. I was a fool. I thought he would simply bring you back home. Back to safety."
She tucked some provisions into a saddlebag and tied it to the horse's saddle. "He believes that you will be found dead in the morning." she said, looking up at Desari with a sad smile. "You have your father's blood running in your veins, and cannot be killed that easily. He doesn't understand that. Please leave here now, and do not come back, or he surely will kill you."
Desari said nothing, only looked at her mother with eyes void of emotion. Then she turned her head away, uttered a soft command, and the horse started moving. She could hear her mother crying behind her, but did not turn back. She would go out into the world, she would learn to fight, become stronger. Not until she was strong enough would she return, and then only to kill her stepfather.