Chapter 04 — Marissa’s Fate
In the Spring of her fifth year, her parents had left her in her uncle’s care and never returned from their journey, their bodies never found. The mountain, sapped by rains, had fallen on top of the road they were traveling on and had covered them and two others from their party. Those who had escaped with their lives had no memory of events of that night and nobody was going to dig under the mountain of dirt to try and recover bodies or valuables they had taken with them to offer their liege lord at the annual meeting…
She was orphaned and if she did not do her uncle’s bidding, she could forget of her lady status and find work to support herself. A child was not good at hard work, aside work in the kitchens… But doing as she was bid did not mean she agreed, or that she liked it. Her aunt was not an especially bad woman, but compared with her own mother, this one was simply evil.
Her uncle liked her and they could have done well together, but his wife, her aunt, was a totally different matter. She had made it clear from the very beginning, on the day after the news of her parents’ death had arrived brought by the few who had escaped the mud avalanche. Marissa was good for only one thing – a good alliance through marriage. Now, after six years, the aunt had found the BOY, to force the girl out of the castle through marriage. Mayhap, Marissa thought, she could manage to find some secrets and thus compensate the betrothal event that seemed would change her fate so much!
Her grey place was wide and large, bigger than her Mam’s had been. She could reach it from any place, but better without witnesses. She had well learned from her Mam — never have witnesses or they could hold it over your head and bring all kind of mischief and misfortune.
She could walk through the grey, and if she thought about a place she wanted to be, next she came out of the grey exactly where she had wished. How about wishing to be in the grey but close enough to the people in a room to hear them talking? She did not know how it worked, but as soon as she tried, it was clear that she could go as close as she wanted to hear their voices through the wall of grey… She had found she could do thus soon after her betrothal, by sheer chance…
Now that she had discovered she could advance in her grey space close enough to people to hear them, Marissa decided that it was a good idea to pass her time listening when she thought secrets were about to be discussed. There was a slight danger of being found out, but her affinity to her grey space was very special indeed, as her Mam had explained to her — she was almost born there and such was the power of grey that she could ask for anything at all and, as long as she could imagine it, it would be given her.
A pity she did not spend more time listening to her uncle and aunt. They were not nice. Her uncle and her aunt were at each other’s throat every day, all day long. And what they said meant they were murderers… Even her parents’ death seemed to have been provoked by a small quantity of black powder exploded by one of her father’s men, one who did not escape his own evilness.
Marissa hoped that her mother had got out into the grey in time but she could not be sure, as she had not had any sign from her in all this time… And all at once, through their death, she was a rich heiress. On top of that, as her betrothed’s father had met his end in a most gruesome accident she was next to inherit after Peter… It was an accident only for those who knew not the truth. Her guardians had arranged for the accident to happen and for the BOY to be accused…not of a crime, but of grave negligence, and now he was hiding and nobody knew where he was. All that was needed was for him to bed her and then to die as well, for the marriage contract to come full force, making her the sole heir of the old lord — his Father.
That convinced her to leave her uncle’s castle and find refuge in the grey — at least for a while, to gather her thoughts and decide what to do, (and of course — to spy some more). From that moment on, she was seen only sporadically, mostly in the kitchen, where she visited in order to get more victuals, but not long enough to get spoken to… Two years had passed, and there was talk of getting her a new betrothal. True, she could take ownership of her missing husband-to-be properties, but it was not yet right. The BOY was still alive, or so claimed her Aunt.
Marissa needed an ally and the only one she could think of, was Peter, the BOY. Finding him was no problem, if she looked for him from her grey, but she needed to be strong enough to pass for a boy, for she had decided not to be at anybody’s hand again. Her guardians were bad enough to last her for a whole lifetime. She was already a consummate rider, but one could not take horses in all possible situations, so Marissa took to walking longer and longer distances and carrying bigger and bigger loads. She needed suitable clothes and started taking from her mother’s old chest things that seemed made for her measure, so much did she resemble her mother, at least in stature, if not in any other way…
Soon she thought herself well prepared and set out to find the BOY. He must be seventeen by now, and if the promises of old came true, he would be a good enough knight to serve her purposes. She was not clear yet about those, but some kind of revenge for being made orphans by the same wicked people was her dearest wish.