If anyone chances upon this story, please let me know if the first person voice is actually interesting. I generally prefer third person stories but I think this might be better in first person….any feedback is welcome


I've not always been called 'murderess' or 'whore'. I was a daughter once. Well loved. The daughter of a King and a Queen, the monarchs of fair Ilium. I was once known as Essylt, Pearl of Ilium.

Branded a murderess at the tender age of seven, in all the years after there are only two things I vividly remember from all that's passed: the touch of my mother's soft lips upon my brow and the Raju's blood running hot and red over my fingers.

Perhaps the memory of softness and warmth are not that strange for these two things I have oft been denied. It is something I think upon when it's coldest but then not even these memories can dispel the suffering I've endured since.

Some would say I escaped fit punishment for such a crime, for murdering a prince of a foreign nation would in any other circumstance require a death in return, but peculiarly they did not demand my life. I quickly learnt that this was perhaps more cruel, for life seemed the greater punishment and death the kinder fate.

I cannot say much of my trial, it was unlike any before it, luring Princeps and their subjects from across the seven duchies to Lis so that the waters all about the isle were alive with the bright sails of their bobbing ships. The Ordinals in their glum robes sang their mourning songs behind the sealed doors of the temple, the Grand Diviner's dome plumed with divining smoke and my fate was pronounced as the sun set in the Asbean sea.


Before the sun rose on the spires of the Arclight the next day my guilt was seared in an elaborate M on the back of my neck, a brand that would ever testify to my crime. Afterward there was none of the comfort of the palace gaol, no four walls nor writing desk, quill nor parchment for my amusement, no sumptuous meals prepared to keep me hale nor armoured guard posted at my door to keep me safely within. Instead I was sent to toil in a place of grey rock and dust. The tin mines of Ambion. I was stripped of my silk petticoats and slung without ceremony into a dusty pit like a common criminal with the overseers dicing for my silks.

After the tears were spent and the nightmares blurred into softer dreams and then to rarely a dream at all, the years passed seamlessly.

After the tears were spent and the nightmares blurred into softer dreams and then to rarely a dream at all, the years seemed to pass seamlessly. I sit in the shadow of the gray mountain, just one of many girls with backs bent over their work, crushing the ore to make precious tin – the lifeblood of Ambion.

I suppose I did know something of time as my back ached, my spine curved, and my rough fingers trembled with the repetitive motion of crush crush crushing.

The sound of the brass horn climbs eerily in the craggy valley summoning the Molls to the evening meal. I look up at the sky to be greeted by an expanse of grim grey clouds, not even the carrion birds flew this side of the mountain. No living creature was there that did not have to be.

The women groaned and unfolded from their work.

"Signus fuck." The grizzliest of Moll's grunted shaking her right hand wildly in the air. She received cruel laughter in response. "Laugh you ugly shrews." More laughter ensued. "Why can't you be more like Little Moll, least she's some respect for age."

I cringe inwardly when they call me that, Little Moll, for I am made small and am younger than most here. Sometimes I wondered if they know who I once was; once, long ago, the Pearl of their fair country. Did they recall me draped in bright Serecin silk and even brighter Pojaani gold, bathed in luxury, rubbed with citrus oil and favored as the most valued coin in the kingdom? Now who could tell?

I appear like any other Moll, hair dusty grey and shorn jagged about my chin, enough to signify me as female, and it leaves my brand clear to see. I'm clothed in a shapeless muslin smock that does little to ward off the chill of spring or hide the rail thinness of my body. Little Moll. I stare woefully at my fingers, they are blunt, callused, and the tips are stained grey, a colour I cannot remove no matter how I might scrub. My fingers ached, lines of invisible fire ran up my forearms, and my eyes are dry and throbbing with strain. It's hard work.

"S'not respect." Another snarled. "A broken bitch knows to bite her tongue."

"Poor Sun Scorched lass." Another uttered.

I drop my tools to the ground with a pronounced clunk, dust invades my mouth and I sputter as it settles in my throat.

"C'mon girl. Stop dawdling in the dust." Grizzled Moll said as she propelled me to my feet with a bony hand on my elbow. I am instantly battered by the bitter spring wind, currents that came between the two humps of the Ansild Mountains funneling the bitterest of air, and being skinny, malnourished, lacking vitality of a healthy girl, I was ready to be blown over. Surrounded by a ceaseless sniffing, noses dripping steadily and skin burnt ruddy by the wind.

"Whist." The Moll behind me laughs velvety dark under her breath. "You'll catch your death."

"Promise?" Another Moll intoned and snorts loudly, she makes a great and terrible noise in her throat before spitting on the ground.

"The Lord of Air whistles and I freeze my ballocks off." One hissed. Another laughed. Another murmured. "If we were but born with ballocks."

I do not lend my voice to the idle talk, I rarely speak at all for my voice was not the lilt of the Molls, my voice is the dulcet tones of a high lady, a sound that provoked the crueler of the women. Here they were thieves, whores and debtors all of them common save me.

"Soon it'd be the Feast of First Blossoms and we'll have some meat to eat, that'll put some flesh on your old bones."

"All hail the Stormrider." Someone said dryly and they shared another laugh.

I stopped listening to the women salivating over the prospect of meat on the future feast day, I care little for the gods, not anymore. They'd not condescended to save me from my fate and so I would not condescend to acknowledge them. I was merely eager for a cup of tasteless oats to clear my palate of Ambion dirt.

In the distance I saw the Kens shuffling toward their quarters just as we Moll's ambled toward theirs both commanded by the same crude sound of the horn. Men and women were kept separate lest they be tempted to burden the valley with more mouths to feed. The Kens mined the ore and carted it away daily and the masters and their overseers saw the spoils in their coffers.

The overseers and their eager whips, the sight makes me shiver, they were never slow to use them. Always flexing the lash with men cowering in the dust. "It is this way because this is how The Three wishes it to be." Lash. "It is this way because it is how our King wishes it to be." He paused to wheeze from his exertions. "And finally, my pitiful friend." Lash. "It is this way because I say so." Lash. Each purchase of the whip into the miner's flesh makes me flinch; such scenes were not uncommon here but they were no less painful.

"You are not a slave, Ken." He continued with laboring breath, his linen shirt soaked through with sweat and stretched tight over his distended belly. "You are a prisoner and here I'll decide your recompense to the Crown." He moved the whip lazily now and it danced like a snake in the dirt.

Slave. Prisoner. There was no difference to those stuck in the dust. In Ambion life was measured by the sound of the overseer's horn which directed their hands, feet and their appetite.

"Get moving." Someone barked and I quicken my pace, feet wrapped in rags sliding rapidly against the grit, inured to the pain.

The women's quarters were little more than several crooked hutches bound together beside a midden heap, it was pungent with the smell of sweat, blood and mildew caught in the weave of the rags they hung to stave off the worst of the wind. It was a poor shelter and did nothing to preserve the Molls through the harshest weather no matter how they might pray to the Lord of Air.

"Water." A voice crooned.

"Hail Father Ocean." Someone exclaimed dryly.

A chorus rose from the Molls, it was both an eager and sorrowful sound but I do not share their pleasure, instead I shiver with dread.

"Come. Let's get washed and fed." Moll murmured and put an arm around my shoulders and I lean into the warmth of the old woman's body.

My eye fell upon the lone cast iron tub filled to the brim with cool, clear water, the sight was a change from the stale dusty pools in the troughs. I knew the clarity of the liquid would soon turn sooty it would only take one bold Moll to make it so. Water was not gifted lightly, I know well what it means and so I meander toward the trough and dunked my head heedless to the murkiness of its depths. I emerge from the trough gasping for air and my hair shines darkly marking me instantly different from the women who surrounded me with their twisted and matted locks emerging from the water in shades of white, blond and russet reds. Women of milk white skin, shades of golden hair, with eyes as true as the spring and summer sky or as green as the tangle of the mysterious wood, these were the Ilé maidens. I am not one of them.

I wrap my head with a rag knowing it wiser not to flaunt my otherness. Some here might have enough mind to know who I once was and may begrudge me the life I had had. Once I had seen a Ken new to the valley gawp at me from across the dirt and invoke the Three in protection, pressing three fingers to his lips, to his breast, holding them up to the sky.

"…I only took a brooch. The Lady has hundreds. Never wears 'em." A Moll groused as she scrubbed her hands with a sodden rag. "Didn't know she cared s'much for a piece of Jaani tat. S'not fair. Fucking nobles." Stories such as these were not remarkable. Every thief was innocent. Every debtor honourable. Unfortunate.

I quietly fetch my ration of oats and slither into a dark, cool corner where the shadows beckoned. I find it best to be quick about necessary tasks like bathing and eating. All too often the savage Molls went after the meek for their rations. Even in the linen heap where the women gathered to sleep spiteful Molls often reached out to scratch, pinch or bite in the night. There was no time for story or song, they had no hearth fire to keep them warm, just one another and the only serenade was the whimpers and sobs of the new prisoners chorused with the deep snores of the seasoned Molls.

The shadows gathered where I sit; wrapping its dark arms about my skeletal frame whispering gently in my ears, a nothing sibilance of sound to drive out all other sound.

"They'll come for me, Shadow." I murmur drowsily oats cling to my lips.

First you will sleep. The shadows whispered back and I am powerless to disobey.

The trader wore leather gloves, it was what was most distinct about him the leather being newly stitched had that scent of animal about it. Long shadows cast through the latticed divider, fluttering across the sleeping bodies. Messire Girson's hands came together as he rubbed palm to palm, his shallow set eyes were gleaming.

"Get up." He grunted and kicked a girl's rump. There were indignant cries and panicked screams. Useless. All useless. "Move out the way. Be grateful the Ordinals don't attend you this night. Where is she? Ah."

Grirson snatched a pile of rags to reveal my wretched body curled into a tight ball. "Messires." He sighed. "As promised."

"I hear darky cunt splits sideways." One man murmured.

"For a Leonid you might well find out." Grirson's hands rub rub rubbed.

The man flipped a solid gold Leonid toward him who accepted it with a wolfish smile. "Pleasure gentlemen." He said and whistled as he walked away.

Miss S