The morning sun shining across my face woke me much earlier than I appreciated. It was, to everyone else, a normal morning; songbirds were singing, the sun was shining, the sky was periwinkle blue. But for me, it was the start of a new job and, hopefully, a new life.
I've been alone ever since my parents died, almost two years ago now, and I've been lost without them. I've been travelling around the kingdom, looking for any work I could find; doing anything to earn myself a bit of money, but with no permanent jobs being offered to me.
Then, three weeks ago, I met a young woman, Alianor, in the market square of the town where I was staying at the time. She had known my parents when they were alive, but she fell out of contact with them when she moved to Moonmount Castle to take a position as a scullery maid. She had managed to secure me a job in the stables of the castle, and I'd readily accepted the position.
My mother and father never made it above the positions of groom and kitchen maid, at a much smaller estate in the far south of the kingdom. Even if they had been given the opportunity to come to Moonmount Castle, they wouldn't have been able to afford to move our family. Besides, at the time Alianor moved to Moonmount, my grandmother was too ill to travel, and my mother would never have left her behind.
I suppose what I'm saying is that until I met Alianor, and she managed to get me the job at Moonmount, I've never had a chance to prove myself.
I always knew I'd end up working as a servant somewhere, but I never imagined that somewhere would be Moonmount Castle.
Moonmount is one of the largest castles in the kingdom, home to the Devereux family. Lord Theophilus Devereux is richer than almost every other noble in the kingdom, aside from King Benedict. Lord Devereux is one of the king's closest advisors and oldest friends, and was given Moonmount Castle in return for his loyalty to King Benedict during the Eleven Year War.
I hopped out of my new bed, feeling really alive for the first time in many months, but still cursing the sun for its early rising. Another hour's sleep would have been appreciated. There was another bed in the room, but my bed-fellow, one of the other stable boys at Moonmount, was already awake and departed.
After washing quickly in the cool water I found in a tall jug stood on the small, roughly carved wooden dresser, I turned to my outfit for the day; brand-new servants livery, delivered last night while I slept.
I eyed the outfit appreciatively for a moment, before I began to pull on various items.
I turned to the small, chipped, dirty mirror on my wall and looked at myself carefully.
The servants' uniform looked good on me; a sky blue tunic, falling to my knees, exactly matched my eyes. The Devereux family crest, a shield emblazoned with a stag's head, with a scroll of the family motto (Duty, Dedication, Obedience) beneath it, was stitched onto the left corner of the fabric. Tight black leggings and leather knee-high black boots gave me a great deal of movement, which I would need to look after the many horses stabled at Moonmount. A thin black belt tightened the tunic around my slim waist, and a white undershirt was just visible around the neck and cuffs. A red, motto-embroidered overcoat had also been delivered, but I wouldn't need that today; the days had been unusually hot recently.
The only thing that marred my reflection was the long scar slicing down my face. Beginning on my forehead, cutting down over my right eye and ending just underneath my chin, the scar was a souvenir given to me by my parents' killer.
Brushing my fair hair tidy with my fingertips, allowing my fringe to just dangle into my eyes, I stepped out of my room and headed down to the kitchens. Alianor had given me a quick tour of the servants' quarters the night before, so I managed to find the kitchens without too much trouble; I did somehow find the female servants' quarters first, however, much to their shock and mine. After standing through a long berating from the head housekeeper for daring to enter the female quarters, I finally managed to explain I was lost, and obtained directions for the quickest route to the kitchens.
After a hurried breakfast of cheese, crusty bread and a thin sliver of cheap salted meat, I made my way down to the stables. As I was crossing the courtyard outside Moonmount, I heard someone calling to me.
I recognized Alianor's voice and turned back to her.
She joined me at the end of the courtyard, giving me a few moments longer to look up at Moonmount Castle, its high white stone walls gleaming in the morning sun.
Alianor linked her arm through mine when she caught up with me, and carried on with me towards the stables. "How do you like Moonmount so far?"
"I love the castle," I grinned at her, and she returned it readily. "It's an amazing place to work. And everyone I've met so far seems really nice; apart from the head housekeeper, whatever her name is."
"Cornella?" Asked Alianor. "Oh, she's alright. She's very fair, but mind you don't get on her wrong side, else you'll be beaten to within an inch of your life with her tongue."
"I know. I accidentally went into the women's quarters this morning on my way to the kitchens, and she spent ten minutes giving me a lecture on women's privacy and all that." I snorted. "I tried to explain that I was new, and lost, but she wouldn't let me speak."
"Well, most of the servants around here know how to avoid being lectured by her," Alianor said with a grin. She was a few years older than myself, with an ever-present cheeky twinkle in her brown eyes. "She likes having new servant around. She says she doesn't often have the chance to lecture the servants who have been here longer than a year or so, and she enjoys keeping her tongue fresh on the newer staff. You'll soon learn how to please her well enough, although I don't expect you'll see her much, working down in the stables."
I nodded, thankful I wouldn't see the strict head-housekeeper often.
Alianor and I reached the stables, which were built a short distance away from the main castle courtyard. The stableyard was built in a sheltered grove of tall oak trees, surrounding almost all of the stable buildings. The grazing paddocks were on the other side of the grove, out of sight of the stables.
Moonmount Castle had some of the finest stables I'd ever come across, and I've worked in a few.
"I'll leave you get to work." Alianor squeezed my arm reassuringly and hurried off to start on her own day.