The elegance of mind and immaculate manners of the patron family from the southeast incensed our patron family in the northwest.
For the patron family from the southeast made it graciously clear that they had no wish to nurture this new connection into a friendship.
Thanks to the eavesdropping of the housemaids, we heard all about it in luscious detail.
The patron family read the letters out loud many times, and there was much crude cursing and bouts of raging lament once they realized they had been rejected.
Everybody relished that the marvelous Noble Son was not so blinded by the beauty of the Patron’s Daughter.
His parents were also not impressed with our patron family. They often expressed shock and disgust at the lack of kindness and courtesy with which our patron and patroness treated their household servants.
Although they had said nothing at the time, the housemaids swore they overhead a conversation between the Noble Son and his worried parents.
Concerned that their Noble Son was smitten, they implored him that a marriage to such a young lady as the Patron’s Daughter would only cause him heartache and grief.
The housemaids insisted that they overheard the Noble Son reassuring his parents that he had no significant interest in her at all. That as beautiful as the Patron’s Daughter was on the outside, he didn’t much like what he saw on the inside.
I rejoiced at this miraculous news.
We all did.
To know that our horrid patron family had repulsed truly splendid people cheered us up magnificently.
Many suppers were shared amongst us, and our conversation was lively and animated as summer progressed. We had never been able to enjoy a comeuppance before, and we savored our vicarious victory.
As much as I relished the Patron’s Daughter finally getting her due, I was despondent with the departure of the Noble Son and my romantic dreams about him.
As outrageous as my fantasies had been, my longing for the Noble Son made me feel alive in a way I had never known before.
So not only did my heart ache after he left, the dullness of life became suffocating.
Because it was summer, work was as excruciating as ever. But for once, I threw myself into it.
Driving myself to exhaustion in the merciless heat gave me something to do with my pain.
Yet no matter how hard I worked, I always took a long walk through the trees of the Ancient Grove before I went home.
That was the only place I could cry and lament, for I knew I would be alone.
I couldn’t stand for anybody to see me in such a pitiful state, nor could I bear the scolding tongues and wagging fingers of those who would call me a fool to dream of a man far out of my reach.
I already knew that, and the forbidden woods where the Sorcerer of the Caverns worked his evil magic, was the best place to avoid my people.
It was also the best place to wail over my unfulfilled desires, as well as the eternal bleakness ahead of the thankless labor and dreariness that would be my existence until I met the Reaper.
But I was strong and built to last. Decades of drudgery would pass before life finally killed me. And there was no way I could accept this miserable fate as a beast of burden any more.
I started to ponder suicide on those walks.
I knew I would disgrace my parents with such an act, not just to my patron family but to the other peasants as well.
Yet, our patron family was a disgrace amongst other patron families. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too hard on them. Disgraceful or not, my lineage would be free with my death and my parents could not be forced back to work.
On my walks through the thick woods of the Ancient Grove, I reflected on every method to kill myself.
No peasant possessed a pistol, and the thought of slitting my wrists seemed risky and even kind of weak.
Although I was ugly, I knew there would be no way I could cut my throat. That would have been agony and I would have made the most hideous mess.
I considered hanging myself in the trees, but the thought of struggling for air and flailing about if my neck didn’t make a clean break was terrifying.
Throwing myself in the river to drown was also frightening. My life had always been full of suffering.
I wanted to die easy.
An overdose of laudanum was the most appealing way to die I could think of. But how would I get any, much less enough?
Any medicine was a luxury for the peasants. I would have to steal something so precious, and not get caught.
I met the Sorcerer of the Caverns one evening, during one of these brooding ambles.
I stood at the bank of the river, staring at the rocks.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that if I threw myself head first into the rocks, the crush to my skull would probably kill me immediately. And if it didn’t, I would surely be knocked unconscious and would not experience the panic of drowning.
I remember congratulating myself on how brilliant that was, this perfect solution to my dilemma.
It was at that moment that the Sorcerer of the Caverns intruded on these bleakly cheerful thoughts.
“You aren’t the kind to take the coward’s way out.”
He had the deepest baritone I had ever heard, and that booming low voice almost made me jump out of my skin.
I lost my footing and nearly fell into the river for what would have been an ironic and accidental drowning.
But he caught me by the wrist and held on until I regained my balance.
I stared at him without a word for what seemed a really long time, and was probably only a moment.
I knew he was the Sorcerer of the Caverns before I saw him, at the moment he spoke.
He looked exactly as he was always described, dressed in flowing black robes with tangled, straggly hair and beard that was the color of dust.
I’ll never forget his eyes.
His pale, colorless eyes held the emptiest gaze I had ever seen.
Really, his presence made my flesh crawl.
Most people found the Sorcerer terrifying, probably because of that desolate stare of his. But not me.
I was never afraid of the Sorcerer of the Caverns. I wasn’t afraid of him in that moment or later, even after I witnessed what he was capable of.
“I’ve been watching you,” he said.
“Oh yeah?” I snapped. “And what do you see?”
“I see a girl who wants what she can’t have.”