“What is this dreadful noise? Is the organ broken?” My Lady quickly crossed the ballroom floor to where Alyssa was playing the organ. “Do I need to remind you that I have zero tolerance for maid servants who disregard my property?”
“N-n-n-no, my lady. I was practicing the m-m-music our emperor requ-qu-quested.” Alyssa looked to the bottom of My Lady’s skirt as it was generally the safest place to look.
My Lady’s skirt moved moments before her hand struck Alyssa’s face.
“I will not tolerate lies from my maid servants!” My Lady’s words were slow and deliberate.
“I-I-I’m sorry my lady. I will not l-l-l-lie again.” Alyssa apologized but didn’t move her gaze from My Lady’s skirt. Every time the skirt moved, Alyssa flinched.
“Of course you won’t.” My Lady moved closer to Alyssa causing yet another flinch. “You won’t get another chance to spread your lies. I cannot risk having a disobedient maid servant in the presence of our emperor.” My Lady’s voice was low, forcing the rest of the room into silence. Her skirt twirled as she turned toward the door. “Mary!” The loudness of her voice was startling in the quiet room. “Mary! Take this rodent to the laundry room. She is no longer any use to me.”
Mary’s feet pounded against the floor as she entered the room. “It would be pleasurable to do this My Lady.”
Mary dug her nails into Alyssa’s arm as she grabbed it. The tight grip forced Alyssa to follow close to Mary as they left the room.
“You’ll learn to like the laundry room rodent. If you have luck, you may even get out.” Mary leaned close to Alyssa, her breath sour to Alyssa’s nose.
“I am not to stay there for the rest of my days?”
“If you can keep your sight, you may get out. But you’ll be working with bleach. You’ll be blind by tomorrow rodent.” Mary’s laugh screeched through the air.
They reached the kitchens and Mary led Alyssa through a door which stuck in its frame. The stairs behind the door creaked as they made their way down to the cellar. The further down the stairs they went, the more distance there was between the lanterns.
“Get use to the dark rodent.” Mary sneered as they reached the bottom of the stairs. “You won’t be out of this cellar for a long time.”
“Fresh meat?” A man’s voice slipped out of the darkness and Alyssa strained to see the person it belonged to. “I can lead her from here.”
“Good luck rodent,” Mary’s breath tickled Alyssa’s ear. “You’ll need it if you want to get out of here alive.”
A damp hand grasped Alyssa’s wrist, its bony fingers surprisingly strong against her skin. “This way child. Forget about Mary and what you learned in the main house, those lessons will do you no good here. I run things a bit differently here in the dark.”
“Yes sir.” As Alyssa’s eyes adjusted to the black, she could make out the silhouette of a spindly man. If she hadn’t felt his skin against her wrist, she would have thought the man was merely bones brought back to life.