Part one Section One
Kalavai had been different from everyone else for as long as she could remember. Her pointed ears and bright green eyes had marked her different from the rest of her foster family, and they hated her for it. Perhaps that was why they gave her the most menial chores and whipped her so often. Or perhaps it was the fact that she had been found, just lying there, in the forest by the eastern edge of Lord Garrik’s land. No one knew who had put her there, or where she came from. When Lord Garrick found her, he took her in and made her part of his family after much persuading from his first wife, Birrania. Kalavai had liked Birrania. She had always been kind to her, convincing Lord Garrick not to punish her for her differences. But Birrania had died on her ninth birthday and Garrick had remarried to Lady Siddan. Kalavai shuddered. Lady Siddan was even crueller than Lord Garrick, if that was possible. The thin lipped, icy-eyed woman was the cause of the scars across her back from many a whiplash. Just ten minutes ago Lady Siddan had sent her to her room, the tiniest room of the keep, for speaking back to Lord Garrick. He would have given the order, but had been unable to speak in his obvious rage. Any moment now Lady Siddan would come with that wretched whip. . .
Heavy footfalls sounded on the stairs; Lady Siddan was coming. Kalavai knew she had to hide and glanced wildly around the room. But all that was in it was a small, worn down cot, a tiny wooden table, a shard mirror and a thread-bear rug. Perhaps, Kalavai thought, she could hide under the cot. She was thin enough after living off of table scraps for the past six years. She dove for the shadowed space under the cot, but it was too late. Lady Siddan walked in, but instead of the whip she held a small leather bag in her hand. Seeing Kalavai freeze with fear and surprise, Lady Siddan allowed a wicked grin to light her face.
“Tisk-tisk, trying to hide now, are we Kalavai. Is that the proper way for a young lady to behave?” Lady Siddan questioned, circling Kalavai so that her back was to the wall. “Come on now, don’t be frightened. I haven’t got the whip.”
Kalavai could only whimper in fear. Whatever was in that pouch was not good as far as she was concerned. Especially if Lady Siddan chose it over the whip. But there was no way for her to escape; Lady Siddan was directly in front of her, a dagger in hand. . .
Kalavai woke up with a start, breathing heavily. It had been a dream. Just a dream. Then she flinched. One thing was for certain, the fact that she had been whipped for talking back. The new welts across her back were an angry shade of red and still sore, causing her to wince as she sat. Glancing around her room, she wondered at the cause of her awakening. She did not have long to wait.
“Kalavai! Kalavai! Wake up! Don’t make come in there and get you!” Lady Siddan yelled, in her usual morning temper.
“Coming, Lady Siddan,” Kalavai replied. Trying her best not to bend her sore back, Kalavai pulled on a servant’s dress of blue and a white servant’s apron. Then, walking over to the shard of glass that served as a mirror, Kalavai tried desperately to arrange her hair.
“Hurry up in there girl,” Lady Siddan shouted through the closed door. “We haven’t got all day, you know.”
“Sorry, Lady Siddan, but my hair, it isn’t cooperating. . .” Kalavai replied as she struggled uselessly with the long, golden white tangle.
Angrily, Lady Siddan muttered and drew a small silver key from her pouch. She rammed it into the lock, turned it, and opened the door. Seeing Kalavai’s hair, she audibly groaned. “Girl, what are we to do with you?” she muttered.
“Sorry, Lady Siddan, it’s just. . .”
“Never mind, girl. Hold still,” Lady Siddan commanded. From her small, jewelled purse she took a brush carved of ebony. Then, she began to vigorously smooth Kalavai’s wild hair, ignoring the girl’s winces. “I shall braid it for you. You must look your best today. We have visitors, and I want everything to be perfect. No mistakes.”
Kalavai opened her mouth to ask who was visiting, but Lady Siddan would brook no questions. “A servant should do what she is told and ask nothing of her mistress” was what she received instead of an answer or a chance to speak.
Finishing her task, Lady Siddan gave last minute instructions to Kalavai. “You are serving breakfast; everything you will need is in the kitchen. You must serve the meal at ten thirty; no later nor earlier. You will serve our guests first and than myself and Lord Garrick, than bring in the drinks and serve them in a likewise manner. Once that is done, you may fix yourself a meal from what is leftover. If I ring the bell, you must come within five seconds of its ringing, or earlier if you can manage. You must not speak with the guests unless you are given permission from his Lordship or me. When you go down, take the back way. You should be neither seen nor heard. That is all. Go now.” Then Lady Siddan shoved Kalavai towards the back stairs and left.
Giddy with excitement, Kalavai silently made her way down to the kitchen. Who could be visiting? It was obviously someone of importance for she hadn’t seen Lady Siddan this excited since her youngest daughter, Halviana, married and moved to live at Bree. Once she got to the kitchen, however, she became even more excited. So much food was heaped on the cooking table that Kalavai knew that their visitors were both very important and here for a significant reason. She hadn’t had so many fine foods to cook since the time when Lord Garrick married Lady Siddan. Why, there were even spices and fruits that were so rare that they had to have come from Gondor! Who were these guests? Kalavai thought that she could have stared forever at all those luscious foods, but at that exact moment Lady Siddan came in.
“Well, what are you standing around here gaping for? Get to work!” she barked.
“Yes, Lady Siddan,” Kalavai replied. She turned to the enormous heap of food, dug out some bacon and sausages and lit a fire in the stove.
Satisfied that she had made her point, Lady Siddan turned and walked, away saying over her shoulder, “I’ll ring the bell for when the food is to be delivered. Be ready by ten thirty.”
The next hour and a half was torment for Kalavai. She baked and fried so many sausages, bacon strips, and eggs that it felt like her hands would fall off if she tried to dig out more bacon from the ever dwindling pile of food. She had arranged so many platters of fruits that she thought she was going to go crazy if she had to do just one more. Not to mention the various other foods of all shapes and sizes that flashed before her eyes as she hurried to complete her task before the deadline.
Finally, she was done. Kalavai had turned to where the pile was to find nothing lying there waiting for her to cook it. Immensely relived, for she thought if she had to cook just one more dish she would throw up, she started to tidy herself up. Cold water and soap washed away all the soot and smoke that had settled on her face and hands and refreshed her within a matter of seconds. She then brushed away a couple of specks of dirt and such that had landed on her apron and re-braided a few strands of her hair that had fallen out. Seating herself near the door to the eating room, Kalavai settled down to wait for the ring of Lady Siddan’s bell.
Ten minutes later, an extremely nervous Kalavai walked in to the eating room and almost dropped the large platter she was carrying in surprise. Seated at the table were five elves dressed in colours of green and gold. Their golden blond hair was long and strait and their blue eyes were as bright as her green ones. The oldest of them seemed to be not more than twenty-five years old, but the way they moved and something in their eyes told Kalavai that they were quite old indeed. Although all of them were fair and pleasing to the eyes, one elf caught her eyes and held them.
He was quite tall and had two thin braids in his hair by his pointed ears. Towards the back, another portion of his hair was drawn back and fastened with a tie. His clothes were as beautiful as him, with white swirls and leaf designs on a back round of green and gold. His hands, which were rather large, were clasped in front of him. On certain places of his hands were fleshy areas, the tell-tale marks of a good bowman. His arms were as muscular as the rest of him, and he wore boots made for woodland travelling. No wonder she had to fix such foods; all of the elves had about them an air of nobility.
Kalavai could have stood there staring, but an impatient cough from Lord Garrick brought her back to reality. Greatly embarrassed, Kalavai rushed up to the elves and began to serve them their food. Forgetting her orders, she began to babble apologies before she knew what she was doing.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to stare-” Horror burst into her eyes as she realized what she had done. “Oh, elenath!” She was not supposed to talk at all, much less babble her head off like an idiot! Lady Siddan was so going to kill her. The elves looked at her in amazement.
“Kalavai, the food please?” Lady Siddan interrupted with a furious glare fixed on her face.
Kalavai’s thin face turned red as she rushed to the last elf, the one who had held her eyes, to give him his food.
“Thank you,” he said.
Kalavai stopped and stared at him. No one, not even Lady Birrania, had ever said thank you to her before. Without thinking, she said, “You’re . . . you’re welcome.” Then Kalavai clamped one thin had over her mouth before she could get herself into even more trouble. She was so dead. Hurriedly, Kalavai rushed over to Lord Garrick, who gave her a storm-like glare, and Lady Siddan, who stomped sharply on her foot. Kalavai winced, but served Lord Garrick and Lady Siddan nonetheless.
“Kalavai,” Lord Garrick said stiffly, “you are dismissed. Go to your room and stay there. Now.”
Tears of pain in her eyes, Kalavai limped slowly towards the stairs. She paused long enough at the foot of the stairs to overhear Lord Garrick apologizing to one of the elves.
“I’m sorry, Legolas,” he said. “You must excuse the girl. She is . . . not the most well-mannered of servants. . .”
The tears flowing freely now, Kalavai made her way up the stairs and to her bedroom. Hobbling over to her bed, Kalavai sat down and examined her foot. It was red and swollen, but, miraculously, not broken. However, her biggest toe was bleeding, along with a large blue and purple bruise in the centre of her foot. Although the pain she got from her bleeding foot was intense, Kalavai knew it was nothing like what Lord Garrick and Lady Siddan would do to her once Legolas and the other elves left. Kalavai shuddered. She would most likely not get any food for a week and a very severe whipping. Or something worse. Lord Garrick might forbid her to visit Rowan. Rowan was the only source of joy in her life; to not be able to see the reddish brown gelding would break her heart.
Kalavai managed to get her crying under control, using a corner of her bed sheet to wipe away the tears. She heard light footfalls on the stairs; apparently the elves had been invited to stay for a while. Treading carefully on her injured foot, Kalavai walked over to the door and looked out of the keyhole. She arrived just in time to see one of the elves, Legolas, turn to Lord Garrick.
“We will only be staying for a while. We must leave tomorrow at dawn,” he informed Lord Garrick.
“Are you sure? You are certainly welcome here, Prince Legolas,” Lord Garrick replied anxiously.
“We will stay until dawn. No later. As for now, my companions and I shall rest. If you have rooms that we could borrow, we would be greatly obliged. We have ridden for the past seven days, and after that much time even elves need rest,” Legolas replied firmly.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Lord Garrick said, “this way please.”
Kalavai relaxed. Lord Garrick had lead the elves much further down the corridor and out of her sight and she had not seen Lady Siddan anywhere. Maybe they had forgotten about her. It wouldn’t have been the first time. But Kalavai had no such luck. An instant later, Lady Siddan stormed in, looking fit to burst. Kalavai winced. In her hand Lady Siddan carried that dratted whip.
“Kalavai! Come here this instant. No, don’t walk away from me girl. You’ll only get yourself in more trouble,” Lady Siddan said, hateful eyes fixed on Kalavai.
Kalavai scampered fearfully away.
“Girl, I’m warning you. . .” Lady Siddan hissed.
Again Kalavai scampered away, but this time Lady Siddan was ready. She reached out and grabbed Kalavai’s arm. Then Lady Siddan wrenched Kalavai around, twisting the younger girls arm in the process. Face white with pain, Kalavai could only stare at her captor. But the worst was yet to come. Face emotionless, Lady Siddan grasped her long rawhide whip.
“Those elves are the most important guests that we have ever had! And what do you do?! Blunder around like the stupid idiot you are! You have dishonoured the entire keep; no one will ever come here now! I’ll make you whine for mercy long before I stop, wench!” Lady Siddan spat. “Come with me. I am to take you to the cellar for your punishment! And that reminds me, no more visits to the stables. Rowan is to be moved away tomorrow at noon.” Lips set in a straight line, Lady Siddan dragged the resisting Kalavai down the stairs to the cellar. They were passed only by Legolas, who stared at them wondering if such harsh treatment was normal.
Once there, Lady Siddan practically threw Kalavai onto the floor. Bony face pale with fright, Kalavai looked up at the furious Lady Siddan. Slowly, Lady Siddan raised her whip. Frozen with fear, Kalavai could only expect the worse as she cringed against the cold stone floor. She was not disappointed. The whip came down blindingly fast, striking again and again.
The whole keep echoed with Kalavai’s screams.
Kalavai woke up to find she was lying cold and hungry on the floor of her small room. Her back felt as if it were on fire and was a furious shade of red, plus parts of it were bleeding. She started to sit up and then fell back down, gasping with pain. Lady Siddan had down her job well; every inch of her back was red with welts from the whip. Kalavai ground her teeth and sat up. Every fibre in her body urged her to lie back down, but she willed herself to rise from the floor. But the second she stood up, the world spun before her eyes and she had to stumble over to a wall to steady her shaking body. Once the world had righted itself, Kalavai looked towards the window to see what time it was. She was shocked to see that it was just an hour before dawn. Kalavai knew she had been unconscious for a long time, a fact for which she was thankful. Wait a minute, she thought, almost dawn?! The elves! They were leaving at dawn! Her head snapped up, and the sudden movement sent a wave of pain down her back.
But Kalavai ignored the pain. She had a plan. She was going to leave with the elves. No longer would she be a servant to Lord Garrick and Lady Siddan. She would make herself known to the elves once they were far away from Lord Garrick’s keep, that way they wouldn’t take her back. Even if they wanted to return her, when she let her presence be known they would be too far away. While she planned, Kalavai’s hand travelled over to the many scars on her back. Feeling them, her mind made itself up. She would leave with the elves, and if they tried to send her back she would not give in without a fight.
Once finished her inner debate, Kalavai set herself to the task at hand- preparing to leave with the elves. Kalavai carefully changed into pants and a loose shirt; her back was still sore and her servant’s dresses would be no good on a journey. She then put on her travel boots which she had made. Kalavai went over to the door and checked to see if it was locked. It was. Looking around the room for another escape route, Kalavai’s eyes fell on the window. Of course, she thought, now all I need is a bit of rope. . . Again Kalavai searched the room, but her keen eyes found no rope. Instead, they found her bed sheet and servant’s dresses. Taking the overly large bed sheet, Kalavai tied one end to the window frame. Then, she ripped off pieces of her dresses and attached them to the makeshift rope until she thought it was long enough. Leaning out over the window, Kalavai checked to make sure no one was watching and then dropped the rope out of the second story opening. The end of the rope just touched the ground. Glancing towards the sky, Kalavai could tell that if she was to leave with the elves she would have to go now. With a last look at the room that had been hers for sixteen years, Kalavai climbed down swiftly to the ground below.
Kalavai ran straight to the stables once she reached the ground. Once there, she carefully unlocked the door and went in. One by one, she unlocked all of the horses’ stalls and shooed them off to the forest on the eastern border of Lord Garrick’s keep, Mirkwood. The last stall she reached was Rowan’s. Tears in her eyes, Kalavai ushered Rowan outside and towards Mirkwood. However, instead of leaving with the other horses, the gelding stood and looked at Kalavai sorrowfully. “I know, Rowan, but you must leave,” Kalavai told the gelding mournfully. Rowan looked at Kalavai one last time and then trotted off into the woods. After a moment, Kalavai too left, following the voices of the elves to freedom.