They call me Adrianna the Beautiful. But I was peasant born and Addie had been my name.
I grew up in a village that bordered the west side of the Ancient Grove, the woods where the Sorcerer of the Caverns had made his domain.
For generations, the people steered clear of the dark forest of the Ancient Grove because everybody knew the Sorcerer preyed on the hearts of young girls and virgin women so he would never die.
Yet every so often a pretty maiden from the village succumbed to the Sorcerer’s temptation, only to show up one day with a breast empty of the heart she had sold and the look of smut about her.
They were fools, those women. What excuse could they have had, after hearing cautionary tales about the Sorcerer since they were children? I found that the girls who fell often had dreams and desires bigger than their comfortable lives could satisfy.
Most of the Sorcerer’s conquests were middle class girls, daughters of merchants and officials. Most highborn maidens were out of reach, and of course, the Sorcerer never bothered with the peasant girls.
The ones who had any beauty at all were usually defiled through force or deceit by the patron sons and merchant men of the village before the Sorcerer got to them.
Yet even for those peasant beauties who exercised the prudence to protect their maidenheads, the relentless hard labor of their lives destroyed their allure along with any fairy tale dreams they may have had.
I was not one of those personable peasant girls.
From time to time, I received a compliment about my eyes on those scarce occasions when anybody bothered to really notice me. But I had been born to be a human mule, that’s how most people saw me, and I certainly looked the part.
Made for arduous work, my body was stocky and sturdy, with muscular hands and meaty fingers. My skin was thick and sallow, my wide face cursed with pockmarks. The mane of horses was softer than my hair, which was frizzy and the color of mud.
No possibility of a fairy tale twist of fate for me. It was impossible that I would even get work as a house servant, where at least I might have married a steward. Our patron and patroness preferred pretty girls as housemaids, and I was hideous.
I was meant for the fields, the hardest labor, and the longest hours. Every year, in the peak of harvest, my fingers never stopped bleeding, that’s how long and hard I worked.
The lay of the land where I worked added insult to injury.
The Big House, where our patrons resided, stood at the crest of a small mound overlooking the vast fields where we peasants labored. So our ruling family could look down on us, while we couldn’t look up without being assaulted with opulence of the Big House.
It was ugly too, the color of rotten food retched from starving bellies with so many curlicues and carved shapes of satyrs and nymphs pointlessly frolicking around its façade. We often got headaches if we stared at it for too long.
Of course, the hideous manor boasted every luxury. The sight of that monstrosity made it impossible for any of us to forget where we were or for whom we worked.
My people worked for one of the most tyrannical patron families in the country. They were cruel, greedy, and despotic. Once a family was in debt to them, their lineage would be enslaved for eternity.
Everybody around us had been indentured by an impossible debt to pay off. No matter how hard we worked, the money owed grew every year from the ridiculous tariffs and penalties added. There was no end to the drudgery and misery of our lives, especially fifty years ago.
My people had been indentured to them for too many generations to count. The burden of paying off the never-ending debt was especially painful for me because I was an only child. Even though I had been fully productive since I was fourteen, my parents were worked into the ground until my sixteenth birthday.
As ugly as I was, it was improbable I would marry and birth progeny to this misery. Since I was most likely the last of my family line, I was treated even more brutally than everybody around me. At least once a week, I had welts on my back and bruises on my belly from being whipped and beaten for the most inane offenses.
Of course, I despised my patron and patroness. Grateful for minor mercies, they only had two children, a daughter and a son; and they were exactly the kind of people one would expect from such a family.
They were always above their company even though they had no superior qualities beyond inherited status and wealth. The son was so foolish, lazy, and frivolous, it was a stretch of the imagination to picture such an imbecile as the next patron in the village.
But the enmity I felt for the parents paled in comparison for the loathing I had for their daughter.
PS This 1st person narrative is an excerpt is out of my WIP, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.” If you’d like to read the previous excerpt, “I Used to be Ugly,” click here.