Here’s the second part…
Twelve Years Later…
Alexia awoke, being shaken violently.
“Up, you lazy cow!” her father shrieked in her ear.
She slowly sat up and dressed. She would have washed her face, but it had been long since she had been denied water for washing.
“SPIN!” he screamed, pointing to the wheel and the pile of hay. He then left on his short, stubby little legs and she could only be grateful.
This was her daily routine. She was awakened by her father and made to sit and try to spin straw into gold. Lately he had taken drastic measures and taken away things. Washing water, clean clothes, good food, rags, and even the sight of her mother were now denied to her for failing to comply with his ridiculous request. For the first few years of her teenage life her mother had tried to plead with him, but her mind was slowly unraveling and she could hardly put two coherent words together let alone try to stand up for Alexia.
She slowly sat on the hard wooden stool and picked up a piece of straw with her scabbing fingers. Working with the straw everyday had made her fingers bleed, and since she never stopped, they never healed. She sighed and began to try to spin. Excuses were useless, this was the gift she was expected to have, but she knew it was completely foreign to her. Reasoning was useless. Her mother could no longer talk coherently, but her father was well and truly mad. He had always expected it of her.
A sudden knock at the door startled her from the tranquility of her own mind. Two men in soldier’s garb entered.
“Are you the wench known as Alexia, independent in her own right?” the man on the right asked.
“I am Alexia,” she replied, “but I am not independent. My father takes care of me.”
The one on the left laughed. “You expect me to believe that midget is your father. You look nothing like him.”
The right one shook his head. “You are under arrest for failing to pay your taxes to the crown, which is required by all independents.
They took her and bound her wrists, ignoring her feeble protests.
“Wait! No!” she struggled, especially when they passed by her father, who was grinning maliciously.
“The king always wants…profitable people.” The guards said as he threw into the big cage wagon.
They carried her wriggling form in the main courtyard of the castle. As soon as she entered, it seemed as though all eyes fixed on her. A small group of noble ladies passed by, giggling at her filthy appearance and smell. She held her head high until a handsome young count walked their way.
“Fallen in the world, Casper?’ he asked the guard. “Carrying the painted about now are we?”
As they laughed, her head drooped in humiliation. Her eyes were shut tight even when they reached the door. They threw her onto the tile floor, her knee bled, her hands stung, but her eyes did not open.
“Look at me.” The words were compelling, in a deep baritone. She slowly raised her head and looked at the handsomest face she had yet seen. She had never had an opportunity to see many handsome men, so that wasn’t saying much, but he was handsomer than all the young nobles in the courtyard. He had black hair that came to his shoulder. On his marble face, there was a black beard, cut perfectly. His eyes were as black as pitch and possessed no trace of mercy or compassion. He stared at her.
“This is the girl?” He did not remove his eyes from her dirty face, but directed the questions to the guards.
“Aye, my lord. This is the girl said to make straw into gold.”
She looked back sharply. Apparently, her father had relayed his suspicions and demands. Would the king relentlessly pursue the spun gold as well?
“Go to the dungeon, make sure everything is prepared.” The guards left. “I have long searched after the one who is able to spin gold. It is an asset invaluable to my kingdom. Now, I have the being that does such things. Your silence confirms you.” Her eyes bored into the floor. “I will tell you, that if you are lying, and you do not have this…gift, you will be killed, as well as your father and mother.”
She looked up quickly and stared in horror at that stony face. “Your—” she cut off, her voice gravelly and dry. She swallowed and tried again. “Your Majesty, my mother—”
“Is in no danger, if you are telling the truth.” The guards returned and the king finally tore his gaze from her face. “Let’s go.”
They grabbed her again, and again she was dragged through the castle. They went down many levels until finally they reached a door made of stone. It was open and she was unceremoniously tossed inside.
“I will be back in the morning. That,” he pointed to the straw in piles around her, “should be gold. If you fail to turn it ALL into gold, your mother’s life will be forfeit.”
The door was shut and barred and she was left alone with her tears.