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It was never the sight that bothered him. It was always the smell. The incorrigible stench that seemed to seep down through the very walls, landing most inappropriately inside of his nose. He always knew when they would arrive because he could almost taste the fear and burning flesh that soon followed. Humans. It was amazing that they thought that they were the most superior beings to walk this planet. In reality, they were even more of an animal than he was. That he maintained to be true. Funny how they judged in order to be withheld from their own judging.
Though it was no light and very little air, he could tell of those above him and how they moved, flittering around to and fro like little rodents. Flashes of heat in forms of footsteps, seemingly hundreds of them scattered about almost nervously above him and he felt his lips smirk. Such anxious creatures. And yet they reasoned he should be the one contained. The thought almost made him laugh.
All humor within him ceased as he turned his attention to the door which lied in front of him. The bolt to the lock retracted and he heard the door be pulled open.
“Your meal.” A simple yet hissed word from one of the handlers and a bowl was shone from the small sliver of light to be shoved towards him.
“How am I to eat where there is no light?” He asked, lifting eyes from the slop to see the shape of an obviously male body.
“Figure it out. You’re lucky we feed you at all. Ungrateful scum.” And like that, the door was sealed once more. Scum he said. If only he knew that the real scum didn’t exist in cages like he did. They walked around freely with no thought or consequence. Turning away from the undesirable porridge, he stared at nothingness and oftentimes familiar black.
He was past the point of despair. He was past the crippling emptiness and humiliation. Now, fire set his chest on fire and it burned most fervently. He was furious. There would come a day very soon when he would show them who and what scum really was. That he too maintained to be true.
“The Mistress of the house will soon arrive. I expect them to be cleaned and dressed properly.” Clutching fingers tightly, timid brown eyes lifted to look upon the other unfortunate lot with which she had been brought in with. Most of them were the same colouring as her but there were a few dirty yet obvious white faces. Extremely poor this lot of them were, having been sold off to relieve debts or perhaps to bring them. To this household, they all were to be regarded as fodder. That she understood most clearly. But what she also understood even more clearly was this: Those who had been born free had some semblance of authority over those who had been enslaved by law. It was bittersweet to say the least. Those from the lowest of working class had been given a way out. She and those of her ‘kind’ to her knowledge had not and never would be.
“Don’t just stand there! Get a move on! Up, up up!” Confused, she and the others were ushered up one of the grandest staircases she’d ever seen in her life. Massive in size and covered in luxurious red, it wound up and around. Delicately carved round niches royal blue in background housed magnificent marble busts of men, gold ornate trim around the edges. Speechless, she wasn’t given time to marvel too long as they were rushed down the hall.
“Take everything off and clean yourself. The number one rule here at the Nolan Manor is to be clean and presentable at all times. When you have washed appropriately, your uniforms should be put on. Do take care to make sure that you are ready and downstairs by the time Lady Nolan comes in.” Before them on long tables were wash bowls, towels and lye soap. Surely, they didn’t expect them to strip down as in the fashion of a public bathhouse…
Surely though, some with no shame began to undress and reach for the soap and lukewarm water. Swallowing, she began to do the same and once her body was bare, tried to ignore the staring eyes of the other women. They all observed each other, the forms and shapes, their abundances and lack thereof. In the back of each woman’s mind… they wondered. How could they attain a higher status within the house? Would that one with the plump breasts and shapely rump seduce her way upward? Biting her lip, she turned her gaze on her now cold rag and finished cleaning herself.
It wasn’t everyday that she was given lye soap to wash with so even this she considered a luxury. Taking in the other varying shades of brown skin, the small group of them looked at each other, some cold and detached and others frightened and green.
“Where are you from?” Eyes turned to meet pretty blue. Fair and tall, the one who spoke had gorgeous copper coloured hair with a slight golden shimmer. Slim and shapely yet awkward, she stood shivering like a leaf.
“London. East End.” She answered quietly, drawing her eyes away from the woman and instead chose to hand her a towel to stop her dreadful shaking.
“Ah..t-thanks. I didn’t anticip-pate it b-being so c-cold.” She answered, taking the towel and patting her arms.
“Ah well… I come from a poor country family. Sent here to try to make somethin of meself.”
“Mm.” Nodding, the two grew quiet and began to dress. They took turns helping each other lace their long stays and pin their dresses closed. All that was left was the maid cap.
She found herself somewhat tired from all of this already but once the door to the room opened again, they all stood straight, boots pointed forward. In walked the housekeeper and two other people.
“This is the Master and Mistress of the esteemed Nolan Manor, Mr. Alexander and Mrs. Charlotte Nolan. They will from here on out be your formal employers. Should you desire to keep your positions in this home, you will do what they ask with excellence and grace.” A handsome couple they were but she knew better than to gawk, turning her eyes onto her feet. Mister Nolan eyed each and every one of them as did his beautiful wife, her lips pressed sternly. She came forth and began to inspect them, lifting their gazes, demanding they open their mouths, curtesy.
“Housemaid. Lower.” …“Scullery.” ….“Housemaid. Upper.”
As she sealed their fates with a simple declaration, she felt her heart pound in her chest. She noticed most of the ‘coloured’ servants had the position of kitchen maid and her belly burned. She prayed that she did not meet the same fate. She’d worked with women whose hands had been permanently damaged, scourged and tore up from the lye and sand used to wash the dishes and clothes. A sharp click of her heel and she stood in front of her.
“Lift your face girl.” She ordered, keen gaze slipping across her. She focused on a beauty mark on her shoulder and did as she bade.
“Hm. Open your mouth. Smile.” As she bade.
“Where do you come from?”
“London. East Side madam.”
“What experience do you have?”
“I worked for several fine families in the Hawkton Sector before this opportunity madam.” That caught her interest and she glanced back at her husband. A silent conversation ensured before she gave a stiff nod.
“Very well then. Housemaid. Lower.” A wave of relief washed over her as she passed onto the next frightened victim. It would be hard work but at least it would not be in the bowels of the kitchen. When she’d finished, she turned to her husband with a pretty smile.
“Are you satisfied with the order my dear?” His eyes roamed over each of them and yet somehow when they found her gaze, she grew stiff.
“That one. What is her position?”
“Lower rank housemaid.” He drifted eyes down her body and back up to her face.
“She is just above average in terms of looks. Wouldn’t you think it wise to assign her to upper housemaid?” A deep frown line marred her otherwise perfect complexion as she too looked at her again.
“But of course darling. Whatsoever you wish.”
“Very good then.” As he left so did she.
Eighteen Hundred and Fifteen
“I want my bath half past 10.”
“Of course madam.” If the water was to stay nice and hot then she’d better get a move on now. Gathering the skirts of her dress, she turned and began the long descent down the never-ending staircase.
“Mornin’ Zadie.” Smiling at another maid, she gave a friendly nod.
“Mornin’ Anne.” Sighing to herself, she bit the inside of her cheek and entered into the fray of madness.
Five years. It seemed so long ago now. That’s just how fast time had seemed to pass them. Having been a girl of 18 years now a woman of 22 years, she had more than gotten into the swing of things. There were days that she wanted to try her hand at running away. But then the thought never was entertained long, what with the extensive staff on watch. She couldn’t be like the white maids and simply leave.
While some of them were indentured and most for hire, she was not. She wanted to be that of the wall paper and fold up into nothingness. While she appreciated the fact that the Nolans seemed to have an equal amount of distain for the entire working class as a whole, she knew enough about the affairs to know that even the dirt poor had the tiniest shred of liberty. Her steps were quiet as she cut through the loud steamy kitchen to a small door, leading to outside. There some of the other maids had begun to fill their pots.
“Has Lord Nolan summoned you to prepare his bath again Zadie?” A slice of dread cut into her belly and she nodded at the unfortunate fact. One of the coloured maids rolled her eyes.
“I don’t know why they do this. They know those white girls can leave whenever they want. We on the other hand… they own us. They don’t think we know that?”
“Ssh! Colette!” Another hushed her, glancing around them for any lingering ear or eye.
“I’m just saying. Whose to stop him from taking every last one of us should he want to? We don’t have the ability to contact the local police. We’re nothing to him. Nothing but a warm hole to fill should that of his stomach not be.”
“I said hush! Headmistress could be anywhere at anytime. Be glad for what you have! At least they don’t punish us too terribly bad. We have clothes given to us, a bed to sleep on and even two meals a day. That’s more than I got where I was last.”
“Won’t find me thanking them for what is our due right.” She said nothing as she poured steaming hot water into her pot. The Master of the House… Mister Nolan. Some of the white maids fancied him. Talked about him and what they would do were they his wife. Quite naughty uncouth things.
She supposed he was handsome. Blue-grey eyes. A handsome brow and beard. Wavy hair that he always had pulled back as was the fashion of the day. Nice height. Strong and wiry. He was to be desired she supposed. He was a very prominent man in Hawthorne, had a lot of political connections and even relatives to members of English Nobility. Any sensible woman should break her ankle to have a grab at him. Steam rose up from the pot and made beads of sweat appear on her top lip and nose. If only they knew what kind of man he really was. Perhaps they would not desire him so much.
The smell of burning flesh rose like smoke and the hiss of the red hot poker against the melting skin brought a sick twisted grin to him.
“Amazing. How quickly the skin melts like the fat of a pig from the bone.” He remarked as the once stiff flesh now began to bleed, the seal of his house now covered in angry red.
“My Lord, will you do nothing else to him? He tried to escape.”
“I was to be satisfied with the branding. But perhaps you bring up a good point.” Eyes filled with a sick pleasure met those of the runaway, his eyes weeping anguish.
“Perhaps we should ensure that you don’t run away again hm?” Standing, he retrieved a blade as hands forcibly held the man down. Putting it to the open flame, he watched as soon it grew just as bright red as the blood still seeping from the wound inflicted on his chest. Turning, his grin fell away and in its place stood the look of a monster. Watching in intrigue as the flesh peeled away from his thigh, he soon sunk the blade into the muscle and cut through the sinew and meat of the hamstring.
The tortured cries of the man infuriated him. The stench of burning flesh itself burned a hole into his senses and he shoved his arm across his nose in an attempt to prevent it from furthering. The bolt to the door retracted and he turned to see the filthy dog enter, demented smirk on his face.
“My my, how you’ve kept the place while I’ve been away.” He moved not. He said not. Simply looked at him with all the rage and hatred he felt inside. The glow of the candelabra drew nearer to him until he knelt in front of him.
“Not hungry I see?” He questioned, eying the spoiled porridge. Oh, that he was. And should he draw any closer he would eat to his heart’s content.
“What are we to do with a beast such as yourself? Perhaps you desire a more fulfilling meal? Perhaps that of a woman would do?” He answered not, simply looked at him.
“Perhaps I should entertain myself with you. Experiment on you a bit hm? I wonder,” He asked as he stood.
“Are you immortal as they say? Can you really not die? Do you really feel no pain? All these questions cruelly left unanswered.” Smirking, he knelt back down.
“Either you eat. Or I pick a body part to cut. Take your pick.” His answer finally came in the form of saliva and it drifted across his chin. The almost playful look of before was gone and a dangerous fury was left in its wake. Taking a handful of the spoiled porridge, he smashed it into his face, forcing some of it into his mouth.
“Vile beast! I should flay you limb to limb!” Spitting out the rotten curds, his eyes lifted up from underneath his hair.
“You show your emotion worse than a woman.” His simple sentence was rough yet his tone was unbothered. That he sensed angered him even more than the insult. Coming to his feet, he said not a word as he turned on his heel and left him once again in the dark.
A/N: HEY GUYS! Y'ALL STILL OUT THERE lol. I know it's been a long time since I've uploaded anything hehe. Sorry about that. Life got in the way lol. I know y'all were probably expecting a Yeonwang update and that's what my intention was. However... my brain had other plans and I got a tickle from Kieran and Zadie instead. So, here we are. whew. I am trying to finish this and enter it into this year's writing contest for the Wattpad Wattys 2021. I hope you guys like it. It's dark. I told you. haha. Y'all know it be taking so much out of me to write this graphic stuff. Um... yeah I intended originally for this to take place in Victorian England but my mind did a 360 and settled on Regency Era England which was between 1811-1820. I absolutely adore the fashion and everything about it. It's a new historical era for me as well so that's ALWAYS exciting hehe. I hope y'all like it! Here we go to the next chapter hehe.