The last part I believe! Sorry…
She had tried to remain quiet at first. Her sobs were swallowed, her cries repressed. However, after several hours of examining the room and finding no way out, she let everything go. Her screams and tears seemed to be torn from her for days, but the time was surprisingly short. When there were only a few hours until morning there was nothing left in her. No tears, no voice, and no feeling, except that of utter terror. It was with a heavy heart that she began to examine the walls closely. She started on the right and worked her way around examining every crevice and every crack. There was no window in this room only a small lantern that emitted little light. As the minutes ticked by, she grew more panicked and less thorough in her search for an escape. She was examining the left side, her heart slowly breaking when she found a loose brick. Excitedly, she began to wiggle it out. Hope filled her as she got it halfway out, but there it stopped. She tried to pull it out further, but it was stuck and refused to move. Her heart fell and again she burst into tears, pushing the brick back into its spot in defeat. As it returned to its initial position, a small door swung open and clouds of dust billowed up, forcing her eyes to close so no dirt would get in them. When the clouds cleared and she could open her eyes there was a small wizened old man standing in the doorway.
“Hello my beauty.” He croaked. She took two steps back and ran into the straw behind her.
“What do you want?” her voice was raw, barely a whisper, the result of screaming for hours.
“To help you, of course. I always want to help.” His voice cracked, and he cackled softly.
“Who are you?” she asked in her whisper.
“No one of consequence.” He giggled.
“What do you want?” she repeated.
“Your necklace.” He glanced at it with bloodshot eyes.
She stared at his face. It seemed familiar somehow. His hair was all white and unruly, spiking in every direction. Wrinkles covered his face and dirt covered his wrinkles. His clothes were rags that weren’t really a color because they were so dirty.
“You can’t have it.” Her hand went protectively over the gold rose pendant that hung at her throat. “My mother gave this to me.”
“No, that is my necklace. I made it.” His red eyes held hers captive.
“You made this?” she gasped. It was beautiful and she found it hard to believe a man such as he had made anything beautiful.
He looked at her shrewdly. “I spin gold. If you give me the necklace, I will spin all this straw,” he waved his weathered hand at the enormous pile before them, “into gold.”
“Really?” she looked at his frail body skeptically. Spinning was hard work and he seemed as though he would fall over if a breeze came by. “Prove it.”
He cackled and went over to the wheel. Out of the pile, he plucked one piece and sat at the wheel. Slowly he brought it through and then held it up for her to see. She snatched it from his hand, examining it closely. It was pure gold.
“I will do the rest if you give me the necklace.” His raspy voice grated over her. She thought about refusing, but she remembered her mother. Quietly she reached up, unclasped the necklace, and held it out to him. Greedily he grabbed it from her hold and began to spin furiously. Awed, she sat on a pile of hay to watch.
The next conscious thought was as a guard roughly shook her awake. She opened her eyes slowly, feeling old and not willing to move. As her vision focused, she saw the king and scrambled to stand. Except he wasn’t looking at her. In fact, no one was. They were staring at the huge pile of gold that sat on the floor before their eyes. She saw it and her mouth fell open. She hadn’t been able to stay awake; she was too emotionally exhausted. He had taken all of the straw and created a tower of gold that dazzled the eyes and awakened the imagination.
“Take it to the treasury.” The king’s deep voice broke the reverie. “Put it in the vault.” He swept out of the room. The guards briefly glanced at her, wondering what to do with her, when a young servant came scurrying into the room. His face was one of digust.
“You, girl, come, you are to follow me.” She could not help but stare. He was rather handsome with green eyes and light brown hair. His voice was pompous, and the tone said to anyone who mattered that he was better. His skin was eerily white and his entire being seemed to glow, in contrast to the dirt surrounding him. He was a vision of perfection.
She stuttered, “I-I beg your pardon?” and continued to stare stupidly.
“Follow!” He cried and quickly walked out of the room. After a quick glance at the guards, who were filling a huge bag with gold, she followed the man.
“Quickly!” he called behind him and she ran to catch up. They went up the stairs and the higher they got, the cleaner it was. As they rose, the man got visible more comfortable and Alex got visibly less. She was filthy, covered in bood and dirt. Surely she would make a mess of anything clean. When they reached the top, he opened a white door and beckoned her through. She did so and was immediately seized by rough hands that threw her into a tub of boiling water. They scrubbed her roughly and quickly, only allowing her to surface for large gasps of air. Then the two burly women packaged her into a large, course towel. The pompous man reappeared and motioned with one finger for her to follow. He strode swiftly with her waddling behind him. The next door opened to reveal a strong looking seamstress. Alexia winced. She had bruises forming from the two other women.
“Outfit her with the proper attire for a level one maid. His Majesty wants to see her when you are finished, so send her to the throne room when you are done.” He looked at Alexia, sniffed, and quickly exited the room. The seamstress shook her head as he left.
“Don’t mind Lionel.” Her accent was rough. “If he werent’ that way, he wouldn’t be Chief of Staff and Ceremonies.” She brought Alex to the center of the room. “My name’s Cynthia, and I am a lowly seamstress out of many seamstresses.” She smiled. “And you will be a lowly maid, out of many maids.”
Alexia returned the smile hesitantly. “I’m Alexia.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Alexia.” Cynthia said retrieving her tools.
An hour passed by and Alexia didn’t notice. Cynthia was kind to her and helped her find work clothes with ease as she entertained by recalling anecdotes about her first days in the palace.
“Well lass, it looks like you’re done. Come, I’ll take you to the grand hall myself.” Alexia looked in the mirror. She was clean and smartly dressed. She smiled brightly.
“Come lass!” The smile disappeared when she remembered where she was going. She hurried to catch up with Cynthia. The trip to the throne room was short. When they arrived Cynthia opened the door and whispered, “Good luck,” before pushing her through.
Lionel was there, whispering in the king’s ear. The door closed behind her with a soft click and Lionel’s beady eyes latched on to hers. He straightened and motioned toward her. The king turned his head and fixed her with a menacing stare.
“Come here.” His voice rang in the empty hall. She timidly walked forward until she stood right in front of him. “You have done a service to your country. In exchange for this service, I offer you employment here, in the castle, as a maid. What say you?”
Alexia stared, unbelieving. It was obvious what he expected her to say. But could she?
“I would be honored,” she curtsied, “Your Majesty.” The words had escaped from her lips. “Thank you.”
“Good. Lionel will place you where he deems you will be of the most use.”
Alexia rose and glanced at Lionel’s ungainly expression. His nose went up in the air and he sniffed. “Certainly, sire.” His voice was solicitious, but his face showed his utter contempt for the task. “This way.” He speedily traveled the expanse of the room. Alexia ran after him, knowing that if she didn’t he would leave her behind.
Alexia was named a level one maid. She cleaned everything on the lower floors. The task was daunting, but she was not alone. There were three other level one maids who worked as well, Kiara, Maria, and Sarah. They trained her and taught her the ropes of palace life. Within two weeks the four had established a routine. Alexia cleaned the south quadrant, Maria the north, Kiara the east, and Sarah the west. The bottom floors were cleaned by lunch. Usually, after that, Alexia would go help the level two maids. That kept her busy until night fall, for the level two maids had much more to do They were in charge of all the royal chambers. There wasa dusting and straightening and mopping to be done and there were only three level two maids. They were very arrogant and gave her the menial tasks, but Alexia was just grateful for work. It allowed her to escape from her imprisonment. For she knew that’s what it was. The king did not want her to escape and every so often Lionel would appear to make sure she was on task and still there.