The Cold King(8)

By: Amber Jaeger

The king continued. “You will attend me from sun up to sun down. You will bring me my meals, clean my rooms, care for my wardrobe and fetch anything I require. You will also attend me during any meetings I may have.” Calia’s skin tingled painfully and she could tell he was looking her up and down. “I see we have some work to do in order to make you presentable. But first… Come with me.”

Calia jerked back as he rose from his throne and swept past her. He was taller than she had thought, as well as quick and graceful. He radiated a strength and confidence she could never hope to possess.

The king was at the door before she could force her legs to move and she struggled to keep up. He left out the door the opposite way she had come in and led her further into castle. He didn’t pause before starting down a winding, stone stairway. The air chilled considerably as they descended and she wrapped her cloak a little tighter around herself. The king said nothing, just skipped lightly down the stairs until they opened into a gloomy, low ceiled room.

Calia pulled to a stop on the bottom step. “But I thought…” Her voice and resolve crumbled as she looked around. Five wooden doors held shut by wide metal bars lined the room. Each had a small slot in the center and bucket next to it.

“First,” the Cold King said, “you must learn that I am now your master.”

“But I know that,” Calia protested.

The king turned around and she was struck again by his cold perfection. “I am your master and you are my servant. From now on, anything you have or possess is only because I choose to give it to you.” He reached for her and she stumbled back and fell onto the stairs.

“Please do not do this,” she begged but he ignored her pleas and grabbed her arm. She had no strength to struggle or fight as he pulled her up and to the closest door. With an improbable ease he flung up the bar and the door swung open to reveal a cold, stone cell with clean straw and a bucket in it.

“It’s best this way,” the king said softly.

“How long do I have to stay in here?” she cried.

“Until I let you out.” He let go of her arm and she tried to back away. With a sigh he pushed her into the cell and she stumbled to her knees. Something landed on the floor beside her. “The first gift I give to you is a blanket. You are going to need it; it gets quite cold in here.” And with that he shut the door. The slamming of the bar echoed in the small cell.

Calia stayed where she was, frozen on her hands and knees, her unseeing eyes pointed at the floor. His cruelty was beyond what she had imagined and burned out any hope she had left. The straw crinkled under her as she got to her feet to look around. There was one high, thin window with only metal bars to keep the cold air out. Calia wrapped her cloak a little tighter around herself and inspected the rest of the room. It was small, low, cold and grey but one wall held a curious amount of exposed pipes and a very awkward seat. After a long moment she grasped the use of it and stared in wonder. She had never even heard of such an implement. But her fascination was short lived.

Why had he locked her down here? How could she possibly do all of the things he wanted her to if she was in a cell all the time? Maybe this was where she was to stay when not serving him.

The last of the light faded and she was left in the dark room alone. Her heart and mind were empty and she could not even cry. Calia pressed all the straw into the corner furthest from the window and settled in, pulling the blanket over herself. When her eyes slid shut she did not fight it and fell into an anguished sleep.

Morning came and she awoke to the same painful reality. Calia wiped at her gritty eyes before rubbing her temples. The throbbing in her head would not let her reason out how she had gone from living with her family to being imprisoned by the Cold King in one short day.

Loud, slow footsteps began to echo down the stairwell and into her cell. She stood up as the bar thumped against the door and it swung wide open. The king stepped through, balancing a tray on one hand and steaming bucket of water in the other.

“Good morning,” he said blandly. “I hope you slept well.”

Calia’s mouth dropped open. “You cannot really mean that,” she finally stammered out.

He set the bucket down and the tray on top of it. “That I hope you slept well? Do you think I wish you ill?”

Her cold fingers ached in protest as she squeezed her hands into tight fists at her sides. She could barely make out his eyes flashing down to them and back up to her grim face. “Yes. I do believe you mean me harm. I came here to be your servant and you locked me in the dungeon.”

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