--- UNEDITED ---
Sweat poured profusely off Camiel's back as he dug the fork deep into the dry, cracked soil. He grabbed the bucket that was half full of water from next to him and sloshed some over the ground. The earth greedily sucked up the liquid, so that no sooner had Camiel again struck the ground with the fork, it was dry and hard again.
It's not only the Moon that can be a curse, he thought bitterly, dragging the large metal prongs through the ground with limited success.
Camiel had been working on the Silverstone farm for three years now, ever since Zora had disappeared while out gathering herbs. Before, he had been apprenticed to the cook - though he had no special talent - and it was all because of Zora. When she was gone, Camiel had been doomed to many years of hard labour working in the fields; labour that had left him tanned and muscular, yet inside, he still wept in sorrow for the loss of his only remaining family - that is, family that actually cared about him. The conclusion he had drawn was that Death was greedy, and that Fate had favourites - and victims.
Camiel paused to wipe the sweat from his brow, before attacking the ground again with the fork. She didn’t deserve this, he knew. His sister had never done anything wrong, never hurt anyone, never insulted anyone… Unless there was some kind of feud going on that he had yet to discover, his sister had been unlucky – extremely unlucky.
He punched the ground with anger, earning only a sore knuckle and a few scrapes. Still, the physical pain did help to take away the mental pain of losing a sister, the mental pain that had stayed with him for three years.
Half an hour later, Camiel had finished his allotted area of the field, and headed back to the large stone manor house. Not that he would be sleeping on the finest swan feathers or in a king sized bed, like the Silverstones did – he would be confined to a dark cupboard like room with a hard bed and straw mattress. Camiel was used to it by now, after spending five years sleeping on it.
It was only four in the afternoon, but this was his day off – the single time of the week that he got to enjoy himself on – at least for a few hours, after work. Camiel had been planning all week how he was going to spend this especially special day. Smiling, he changed out of his work clothes and washed his face in the basin if cold water. Shivering, he pulled on his Sunday best – the same clothes that he had packed five years before – now small, shabby, and slightly patched. Camiel did not care though, for he could not afford any better. All his earnings were stored in a small cloth pouch that he wore at his neck.
Stretching, Camiel opened the door of his quarters, looked around, and whistled sharply. A hooded figure walked out from one of the nearby rooms, saw him, and walked over. The figure drew back its hood, revealing a beautiful young lady, dressed is similar attire to Camiel himself. Her eyes sparkled with blues and greens; her hair was restrained only by a large metal slide. It was auburn in colour, and curled into loose ringlets at the ends.
“Rachael,” he whispered, smiling. She took his offered arm and together they walked out of the servants’ quarters and out of the manor house.
They were headed for a forest that was hidden beyond the manor house. It was old, very old, so old that it was rumoured that not even the elves had seen its creation. If the trees had a name, it had been long since lost, and they were referred to by locals as simply “the Forest”.
Silent as ghosts, Camiel lead Rachael deep into the forest, to where a small stream gathered in a pool of crystal clear water. The banks of the pool were covered with brilliant green grass and the bright colours of flowers, mainly daisies and buttercups. There were also bluebells, which sent a pang through Camiel’s heart; for they had been Zora’s favourite flowers.
Rachael sat down by the pool and dipped her fingers in the sparkling water. She turned and looked at Camiel, as a smile lit up her face.
“Happy birthday, Camiel!” she cried, standing up and hugging him tightly. From within her dress she pulled out a small package wrapped in cloths. Gingerly, Camiel accepted the gift and unfolded the material. Nestled inside was a beautiful golden ring. “It was my father’s,” she told him sincerely. “Bear it well.”
Camiel felt touched and grateful at her kindness. It was always so that the father would give his eldest daughter his wedding ring for her to present to her chosen husband. Camiel’s only regret was that he could not do her the same honour, as his mother’s ring had long since been given to his eldest brother, Machan.
“Thank you,” he replied solemnly. “I would be honoured to be your husband.” He drew a length of ribbon from his pocket and they clasped wrists. He tied the ribbon around their connected arms. Together they said, “I promise.” Camiel untied the ribbon, feeling slightly giddy. He was engaged to marry Rachael!
“You have changed so much since that day five years ago,” Rachael told him, while caressing his cheek.
Camiel didn’t reply. The subject was still a sore one for him to discuss. He couldn’t help feeling that if he had just gone to the town, or even stayed at home, Zora would still be there. She would still be alive. She would not be with their mother, Sidheme.
Camiel forced himself to stop. Thinking and regretting was a dangerous habit of his.
“Are you ok?” Rachael asked, concerned.
“Fine,” he replied, shaking off the guilty feeling that had been stalking his mind.
“I must report back to the Silverstones soon,” Rachael murmured, giving Camiel a quick kiss on the cheek. “I love you!” She disappeared into the trees. Camiel lingered on before following.
When he arrived back at the manor house, the sky was already darkening as the Sun fell beyond the horizon, to be swallowed by the sea. Camiel hurried inside, away from the fast advancing frost and cold. He had missed dinner, he knew – he would have to go without. Stomach grumbling, he curled up underneath the thin blanket of his bed and tried to sleep.
“Camiel!” a voice called, as if from a distance.
“Go away,” he muttered, still asleep. The voice called again.
“Camiel MacGent, you must get up NOW!” A rough hand shook him awake.
“W-what?” he asked, his speech slurred from sleep. The face came into focus. It was Rachael.
“There are soldiers here! On behalf of the Irilu! They are here to arrest you!” She cried. As her face finished coming back into focus, he saw that tears were streaming down her cheeks. “If I help you, they will kill me!” She cried. “You must go with them! Take care of my ring!” And with that, she ran out, sobbing. Camiel listened. There were heavy footsteps on the floor above, and he could hear the quiet tones of the soldiers’ voices. He scrambled to change out of his bed clothes. Just as he finished, the soldiers burst in.
“Are you Camiel MacGent?” asked one. It was too dark for Camiel to see his face, but his voice was powerful and commanding.
“Yes,” Camiel replied nervously.
“You’d better come with us,” replied to voice.
“What? Why?” asked Camiel urgently. He got no reply, and a hand with grip like iron grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the room. Camiel’s heart started beating out a fierce taboo as he was taken, helpless, to a wooden cart and thrown inside. A hood was shoved over his head. It stank of carrots and swede. The cart lurched into motion, jolting on the badly maintained road.
Seconds, minutes, hours seemed to last a lifetime as Camiel was thrown about by the cart’s drunken movements. He could not see anything, nor could he hear anything over the sound of the cart’s wheels crumbling the road to dust. After what seemed like an age, the jerky motions stopped. As the hood was yanked off his head, Camiel’s heart rate burned a fierce tempo, and his breaths came in short gasps. He had no idea why he had been arrested.
He was lead inside to a room lit by a roaring fire. The glare of the light and heat it emitted made Camiel reel back, his eyes stinging from the smoke. He was forced into a wooden chair, his wrists and ankles bound to the arms and legs. Finally, a face entered his field of vision. IT was heavy set, with dark eyes that seemed to be brooding under a highly pronounced brow. The hair was jet black, thick and tousled. The eyes scared him the most – they seemed to be deciding the best way to kill him, or planning some exotic and painful torture.
“Now then Camiel,” he said, smiling cruelly. With a jolt, he realised it was the same voice that had spoken to him at the manor house. He hardly dared to look up. “I am going to ask you some questions. You are going to tell me the truth, or the consequences could be… severe.” Camiel kept his head down, his breathing heavy and laboured. The voice continued to circle him, weaving a web of lies so intricate it was impossible for Camiel to find the true thread. “What do you know about the Edohlmir?”