The Bandits of Edrea

This is a group story written by myself and bored_chic1002. We hope you enjoy it!

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Chapter 1

Gwynn of Kallista

Warm air billowed around me as hot water washed over my skin. I sank into the warm bath as my ladies maid poured in the last of seven buckets. "Is that enough m'lady?" she asked raising her eyes to mine. I nodded and she scurried from the room closing the large wooden door behind her. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My life was a picture of perfection; my father was the Lord of the small collection of villages located around Kallista. He ruled with an iron fist and listened to no one, the taxes he levied on the people were steep and those who could not pay were thrown into jails until their families could find some way to pay. I did not know what my father's men did to the people who could not compensate him, it was of little concern to me. I had to many other things that occupied my time; being tutored in languages, music, sewing, dancing there was very little that I did not know how to do. I was an accomplished rider and my father had taken it upon himself to teach me the art of archery -at which I excelled. He had even given me lessons on sword fighting and the use of an ax (although these he was a bit reluctant to teach me). Archery he said was more ladylike and I was a lady, I should make no mistake of that.


At 19 years of age it shocked everyone in my father's household that I was not married. I was pretty enough according to my father's advisor. With midnight black hair that curled to my waist when unbound and shadowy blue eyes that sparkled with intelligence and wit. I had a hardy constitution and was rarely sick, but I refused to draw attention to myself. I dressed simply and I rarely spoke unless around those that I trusted. So while girls younger then I with far less education were entering wedlock, I remained unmarried. Which is why my father had deemed it necessary to throw a feast and invite all those who were worthy of my hand.


"M'lady?" A short rap at the door accompanied by the reedy voice of my maid drew me from my thoughts.


"Yes? What is it?" My voice rang out impatiently, I sat up and ran a small long fingered hand over my pale face.


"It's time for you to get dressed my lady, you must prepare." I suppressed a groan, and sank lower into the bath hoping to drown out her voice. But again it came as loud and clear as ever "M'lady??"


"Come in then, Constance, if you must." I growled. No sooner had the words left my lips then the hinges of the door creaked as she pushed into the room. I could hear the scuff of her slippers and the swish of her dress as they hit the stone floor.


"Oh, m'lady you aren't even out of the bath." Constance moaned. I glanced up at her flushed face, small grey curls escaped the snood that covered her head and brown eyes surrounded by wrinkles surveyed me with dismay. She took a deep breath and grabbed a bar of sweet smelling soap before she assaulted my skin and hair with her strong hands.


"There we are," she huffed as soon as every part of my pale body had turned pink under her harsh scrubbing and my hair had pooled around me smelling of honeysuckle. "Now, here's your robe m'lady." She held out a garment of made of pale blue silk and waited as I stepped from the now lukewarm water. I slipped my arms into the cool fabric, Constance took me by the arm and sat me in a low stool padded with leather. She immediately moved on to her next task drying my hair; roughly she rubbed my long curls with a towel.


"Do I have to do this Constance?" I questioned, sitting straight up and looking directly in front of me as my hair was combed away from my face. Marriage was not something I wanted, I knew of girls who had married and their lives had seemed to end there...nothing but having children and pleasing their husbands. I valued my life of freedom to much and I didn't want to lose it.


"You know the answer to that m'lady," Constance huffed. "Up, up." I stood and followed her numbly to my bed where a new dress had been laid out. I shed the robe, which was damp from my wet skin. Constance threw my chemise over my head and helped me into my other undergarments. Then she picked up the sapphire blue dress, slipping it over my head she pulled here and tugged there. Until it was just right.


She gathered my hair in her hands and tossed it over my shoulder so that she could lace up the back. The dress felt heavy, even though it was one of the lightest garments that I owned. The pressure I was feeling from tonight's events seemed to gather in the material and weigh me down. The long sleeves felt as heavy as if they had been made of lead. Constance finished yanking on the laces and came around to face me.


Her eyes lit up and she put her hands to her face. "M'lady you look lovely."


"I don't feel lovely." I sighed, pulling on a strand of my hair and trying to shift the imaginary weight so it felt more comfortable on my shoulders.


"Well, that doesn't matter, you look it but you don't necessarily have to feel it." Constance muttered. Her hands grabbed me again and brought me back to the stool, her fingers worked quickly pulling on my hair and plaiting it before placing a small metal band on my head. I felt the smooth surface of a gem pressing on my forehead. Constance bustled around and grabbed a pair of kid slippers that had been dyed to match my dress and slipped them on my feet. "There you are m'lady, let us see that you meet your fathers approval."


~


I sat beside my father at a long wooden table, 3 other tables were set up around the hall and about 20 people sat at each one. On my other side sat my father's advisor, Hugo Culpepper, he surveyed the multitude of people around me. As though he was trying to pick out the person that would give the most power to my father.


My father stood and his voice boomed out "I hope you're all hungry!" There were a few "ayes" and other various grunts. My father continued, "As many of you know my daughter Gwynn is in need of a husband, a man who will be fit to be Lord of this manor." My father looked around the room, his ice blue eyes staring intently into every soul. "But I also want my daughter happy. So while I will have the final say...she will choose." Then a grin crept to my father's face, "But first let us eat!" Then servants came streaming into the hall carrying large platters of food. Rich soups, breads, salted meats, fish and kegs of beer and flasks of wine. My father must have spent the majority of this year's taxes to pay for the feast but I doubted he cared.


A young girl with hair as red as fire leaned over and filled my glass with red wine. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye, she must have been about 14 years of age. She kept her eyes lowered and did her best to fill the goblets without spilling, I could see her heart hammering in her chest.


I picked up my goblet and raised it to my lips, the fruity taste of wine danced over my tongue. Another girl came forward and ladled soup into my bow, she had hair the same color as the first but she appeared older. But where the other had kept her eyes lowered this girl looked around discreetly, her eyes met mine. She tilted her head as if trying to read my expression before I lowered my eyes and looked at the bowl in front of me.


The meal passed in relative silence for me. The same red haired girl refilled my glass whenever it got low and I nibbled on things here and there. When the food was gone my father stood again. "Move the tables! And gather the musicians! Let's dance!"


Lively music filled the air as the tables were pushed up against the walls. "Would you care to dance my dear?" My father asked, holding his hand out to me. I took his hand and gave him a slight smile.


"Beautiful." I turned at the sound of an unfamiliar voice, a young man with dark brown hair that fell past his ears smiled at me and my father as we came to a stop. I cast a quick glance up at his face and found his dark green eyes inspecting me.


"And you are?" My father held me by the hand and looked over the gentlemen. He was clean shaven and his clothes were well made.


"Wolfe of Ragnild, m'lord" He replied giving a curt bow. At hearing the boys name a strange ambitious glint lit in my father's eyes, it made him scarier more like the power hungry man everyone saw him as. It was unsettling to see.


"What a curious name...Wolfe." I murmured, my father squeezed my hand as if he were trying to tell me to stop.


The young man smiled and then turned to my father. "My have this dance?" My father smiled and placed my hand in Wolfe's.


"You may." Then my father made his way over to Culpepper and left standing there waiting for the music to start.


"I meant no disrespect, regarding your name." I said, glancing back up into his green eyes. The music started and I moved my feet in time with it.


"None taken. Most find it odd...they always expect me to behave the same as the animal after they hear it." He smiled again, I laughed and his grin widened. "You have a beautiful laugh, m'lady." I lowered my head and concentrated on not messing up. He continued, "In fact...you have bewitched me..jinxed me. I haven't been able to take my eyes off of you all evening it's a bit of a curse actually."


I raised my eyebrows, "Isn't that the definition of a jinx? To be cursed? Plagued, if you will, by something?" The music started to slow, the dance nearing its end. Wolfe opened his mouth-


"M'LORD! M'LORD!" A grey haired man plowed into the room knocking people over as he tried to reach my rather.


"What is it?!" My father bellowed. His eyes shot daggers at the intruder and I could tell he was about to call his men to have him removed.


"P-people my lord. They're marching here, near a hundred of them. They're carrying torches and they're yelling "Down with the Lord of Kallista!"" The man sputtered as he tried to catch his breath.


I pulled away from Wolfe and looked at my father. His eyes were cold, I rushed to him. Grabbing my face in his hands he looked me in the eye. "Go and hide."


Then he addressed his guests. "I should advise you all to leave!" Then he swept from the room.


~~~~~


I crept to the armory I was dressed in my riding clothes and I had a pack of supplies (as well as a few things I couldn't live without) with me. I grabbed my bow and my ax. Before grabbing my short sword and my quiver, I snagged as many extra arrows as I could, I was leaving and I was never coming back.


So much had changed in two hours. I realized what a monster my father was...how cruel he was to his people. I couldn't be a part of it. Fleeing the armory I made my way to the stables, saddling my horse, Zephyr, and securing my things on the back of the saddle. I led him slowly from the stable and out into the courtyard. I glanced back, a light glowed in my father's window where I could see his shadow passing, deciding how he would punish the up risers. That's when the bell tolled.


"Gwynn's escaping!" A loud voice shouted. I swung myself up onto Zephyr's back. I could see my father's shadow rushing toward the door. Before I turned, spurning Zephyr into a full gallop I made it out of the courtyard as the gate closed. "Get her!" More voices joined the clamor.


I wasn't going back. I couldn't. I leaned low, close to Zephyr's neck, "Let's get out of here," I whispered. His whinny filled air and his legs thundered on the ground as my cape billowed out around me I steered him in the direction of the one place I could hide, the dark woods that extended from Kallista to Ragnild...the Forrest of Edrea.

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