Inheritance: Part One
“Did you hear?”
“Hear about what?”
“The Daviaus. There was a horrid fire just a few days past, and it’s rumored that most of the family died in it.”
“Most. The only one who survived was poor Mabelle, their young daughter.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of her, poor thing. They say she had the most beautiful voice.”
“Yes, she was at some voice lessons at the time, they say, and only managed to find out about the fire on her way home.”
“So, where is she? Who is she staying with?”
“She went to some relatives living at the edge of the country, who are rumored to work an inn.”
“How sad. To go from living in such comfort to going to people who will no doubt put her to menial work.”
“Indeed. If only there had been some way to help her...”
Mabelle Daviau was a pretty little thing, as was made obvious as the years flew by. She was a petite pink Ixi, and while she wasn’t the most beautiful creature for miles, she possessed a fairly attractive face and a voice that fascinated many of the villagers.
She didn’t mind where she was now. In fact, she’d adapted to her situation quite well for somebody who had lived in the style that she did before the transition. Her parents had been successful merchants who were proud of where they stood in society, but they didn’t let their daughter grow up doing nothing for herself. Every day she was instructed to do at least one thing that helped the servants out, so she wasn’t completely ignorant on the process of completing tasks that many of her peers considered beneath them.
It didn’t stop her from not being able to wait until she was of proper age to receive her inheritance and leave this place. She wanted to continue the work that her parents did, or at the very least make a living using her voice, like many of the bards who came on through the village were doing. Before the fire and her resulting move to the small village of Dewberry, she’d been on the verge of giving a performance at the castle, but all of that had been put to a halt.
She couldn’t ignore her talent to sing. Every chance a bard or music teacher came across their inn on their travels she prodded them to give her some advice, and she frequently sang while doing her chores. Every once and a while she would receive compliments that would spur her to keep on going, and give her a spare hope that she hadn’t lost the ability that she’d built up while in the capital.
Mabelle hummed softly as she ran her hand along the window, watching as rain fell steadily from the sky, and her heart soared. Rain meant that there wouldn’t be many people travelling, and fewer travelers meant that there would be less work for her to do. Sure, she still had to clean the rooms and make sure that those who were already here were satisfied, but she wouldn’t be waiting on them every second of the day, and if she could keep out of the sight of her Aunt and Uncle, she might be able to catch a few seconds to herself.
Her nose twitched. As much as she enjoyed watching the rain, she had to get to work if she wanted to have some free time later in the day. Maybe she could sneak out of the inn and see if she could get to her hideout in the woods. It wasn’t too far, anyway, and the trees would at least protect her from some of the wet. While she loved the precipitation, it was always a terror to get her fur dry afterward, and she didn’t need that trouble added to everything else.
She turned away from the glass and hurriedly changed into something more suitable for work than her shabby nightgown, which was dirty and had several patches in it. The only nice things she owned were her serving outfit—a pretty green dress with a stark white apron—and her old necklace, with its incredibly thin silver chain and a small red stone. It used to be her mother’s, she’d been told when she was being prepared to leave with her relatives, and her mother had favored it above the rest of her jewelry. It had only seemed fit that the young Ixi would receive it as her own special keepsake while she was away from home.
Mabelle frowned as she tucked it beneath the collar of her dress and patted it softly. If only she had been able to remember her mother wearing it, at least once. She hated not being able to see her with such a special ornament.
“MABELLE!” shrieked a voice from downstairs, and she cringed, hesitantly scooting over to the stairs that lead down from her small attic room. “Mabelle, you come down here right now!”
She winced, and carefully—so as not to make too much noise in case that infuriated her caretakers more—walked down the steps, jumping each time the old wooden boards creaked. As she came to the door at the bottom she could hear a quick, steady thumping not too far from where she stood.
As soon as she slowly leaned her head out of the door, two swift, sharp fingers grabbed her ear and yanked her out, causing her to stumble and nearly fall.
“Don’t you ‘ow’ me, missy. You cost us a lot of money yesterday with what you did!” cried the sharp voice of her aunt, a tall gangly Eyrie with claws so pointy that Mabelle believed she was practically punching holes in her ears every time she did this. The Ixi stumbled forward, gasping as her eyes watered and swatting at her relative’s hand, and nearly tripped several times as she was dragged into the bustling kitchen.
“What did I—ah!” she cried as the grip was released and two paws shoved her toward the drawer were they kept all of the silverware for the guests. Mabelle stood still for a second, rubbing the tears that had built up in her eyes, and looked at the drawer.
Over half of the dining utensils were gone.
“You forgot to lock the drawer last night, and some thief decided to waltz right in and take the lot of it!” shrieked her aunt, who was leaning down towards her and looked incredibly like a bent twig.
“I thought it was the chef’s job to lock the silverware up!” she said, and the look the Eyrie gave her made her fear for her life for a second.
“Delby had to go home early yesterday, half wit!” she hissed. “To make up for this ‘mistake’, you’re going to be washing the dinner dishes for the rest of the week. Now go and start working, you lazy lump!”
She didn’t even bother to help her niece as she shakily stood up. Real tears swelled in Mabelle’s eyes as her throat clenched up, and she took several deep breaths of air. When she’d come here, she’d been forced to get used to doing a lot of things, such as working for more than an hour at a time, constantly serving other people with no reprieve, and sleeping beneath the kind of blanket that did little to keep her warm at night. However, she took it all silently, never complaining because if she did she knew she would have received a lashing from her aunt and uncle that was worse than the grievance itself.
Her aunt gave her that chore because she knew that out of all of the things that she did around here, washing the dishes was the worst thing she could ever dream of. Mabelle was slow at it, because she was always worried about leaving an extra crumb of food on the dirty plate, and it was such a mind-numbing, monotonous chore that the Ixi felt she could die before she even touched the first dish. With the kind of crowd they got at dinner time, it’d take her hours before she’d get a single wink of sleep.
She missed her mother, with her kind words and gentle tone, and her father with his round stomach and booming laugh. They wouldn’t treat her like this, even when she had made a mistake. Oh, they never let her get away with things—whenever she was caught at them—but they wouldn’t make her feel as if she was as low as the dirt she walked on, either. She only knew of one person in the village that could bring back memories of love and happiness, but they didn’t have much sway in her life, not here.
“Get a move on, girlie!” shouted a gruff Gelert as he walked by, carrying a basket full of wild strawberries that he must’ve paid some poor kid to go outside and pick.
Mabelle scuffled out of the way, and sighed as she went and picked up a tray laden with food. She read the number of the table on the slip of paper and went out into the dining room to start what she knew was going to be an incredibly long day.
She spent a long time running back and forth between the kitchen and the tables because the breakfast crowd never seemed to end. Many of the villagers liked to come here for their daily fares, and it didn’t help that many of them liked to ask questions of the actual travelers, to ask what they were doing and where they were from. Because they were near the border, they got a lot of foreigners, and while some didn’t know the language at all, others were from Brightvale—who did speak the same language—and more were just well-learned and wealthy; it seemed as if only the rich were able to travel nowadays.
The Ixi was working so hard that she forgot about the punishment she was to do later that day, and started to hum quietly while dodging mugs that belonged to exaggerating fishermen and enthusiastic conversationalists. She was almost in a good mood again as she strode toward a table where a pair of drenched pets sat, talking quietly to each other.
“I don’t see why King Skarl wanted me to travel with you,” said a shadow Lupe, sighing as he leaned back in his chair and pushed back his glasses. “After all, it’s not as if I have a talent for diplomacy.”
“You underestimate yourself, pup,” said a very much older, graying Kyrii as he tugged on his long mustache as Mabelle walked up. “There would be a lot more fights going on at the castle if you weren’t there to gain an education.”
“Oh, you’re from the capital?” asked the Ixi, mildly surprised. “I used to live there.”
“Dreary place, isn’t it?” asked the younger of the two guests, grinning broadly. He frowned as he looked at Mabelle, and inside she panicked. She didn’t have a tear in her dress, did she? Her aunt would be very unhappy, and that didn’t spell good things for her... “You look familiar. Have I seen you before?”
“We may have crossed paths when I lived where you’re from,” said Mabelle, “...unless you’ve come through here before.”
“No, I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere else,” he said, studying her closely.
“In your dreams, maybe?” joked the Kyrii, and, not getting the joke, the Lupe shook his head.
“Ah!” said the Lupe, recognition flitting across his face. He then looked at her with obvious disbelief on his face. “I knew they sent you to the border, Mabelle, but I didn’t think you’d be sent here, of all places! Do you remember me? Theodore?”
Mabelle gaped, for sitting right in front of her was Theo Perrot, her closest friend from before the fire.
To be continued...