Had Juliene’s mother, Audovera, not been known for her radiant beauty and charm, she would never have been able to remarry after the death of her first husband, much less marry a man of station like the Vicomte. Audovera had been thrilled at the match. She smiled at the young Juliene every time that she mentioned his name, Vicomte Galien. Her happiness was short-lived. It was not long into the marriage that new bride faded away. Illness stripped her from the world of the living and Galien was not to be consoled.
When the question of what to do with Audovera’s daughter arrived in Galien’s mind, he chose to rid himself of the living reminder of his late wife. The girl had seen but five or six springs and was of no use around the house as a servant. She was too young to marry off. Galien sold the child to slavers from the south and thought of her never again. Juliene was sold and resold many times over the next few years. She was a shy and lonely child that kept to herself and developed the ability to manipulate other people’s thoughts and the world around her. The child’s strange powers of the mind disturbed and frightened many of her short-term owners. New buyers heard the tales of the Juliene’s bizarre thought manipulation tricks.
Juliene sat at the slave market unsold for months before a wealthy man calling himself Lothar stalked the market every night for a week. Lothar claimed to have traveled far to shop in this particular market. He had a fine house and needed to replace many slaves that had died over the past year due to illness and harsh mountain weather.
Lothar asked the dealers many questions and stopped at every stall at least once during the week of his visit. He never arrived before dark and never stayed long past midnight. “The rumors about the girl do not bother me,” Juliene overheard him speaking to the slaver that currently owned her. Juliene could not feel the mind of Lothar at all. He was strange and foreign to her. A cold feeling came over her every time he came by to look her over. Eventually the wealthy man purchased a large number of the slaves, including Juliene. Lothar’s staff made sure the every head was accounted for as the newly purchased goods were lead away to his mountain estate.
The journey to the estate was a long and harsh trip. The caravan only traveled all day with almost no rest periods. Lothar and a few of his more trusted staff members traveled ahead of the slow moving troupe. The staff members were ready and waiting when the slaves arrived. Each was roughly bathed and clothed in simple, loose robes. Small, but clean cells were prepared for each slave in the manor’s basement. While each slave was given their own individual cell, there was no privacy. The food was robust and the water was pure. It was excellent treatment for field workers.
Most of the slaves were put out to field every day at sunrise and brought back in just before sunset. Several were brought up stairs during the day to clean and tend to the manor. Only one slave was ever designated to work in the house at night. Lothar granted that slave immunity from the nightly feedings in the dungeon cells. Each night, one of the slaves would be attacked in the darkness by a terrible beast. The monster was fierce, strong and hungry. It tore at the necks and limbs of the slaves and fed off their blood. The chosen victim was left weary and in pain for days.
There was always one slave left to work upstairs. This slave was immune to the nightly attacks but always disappeared after a few months, never to be seen again. When the months went by and Juliene was never attacked, the other slaves pitied her, knowing her fate. Eventually the current house slave failed to return to her cell in the morning. That day Juliene was told to rest. She would not be going into the field that day. Her duties were now upstairs at night with Lothar.
The night the slaves rebelled, Juliene was bathing, a nightly ritual demanded by Lothar. The distraction was enough for her to slip away into the night. The frigid night air chilled the droplets of bathwater clinging to Juliene’s skin. Her frozen fingers grasped tightly at the dressing robes that provided almost no protection from the harsh mountain winter. Barbarous tree branches and thorny plants lashed out as the young woman fled into the night. Jagged rocks and hard ground glistened under the light of the moon, damp with Juliene’s blood. Her pulse quickened at the thought. “A trail of blood for the beast to follow…”
The horrors of the many months spent captive shoved the frozen woman down the mountainside, blind to all but distance. Time was a distorted haze. “How long until sunrise?” Juliene asked herself. The valley below answered the unasked question as the earliest rays of the sun illuminated the wafting smoke from dozens of morning cook fires and pottery ovens. A great city sprawled along a muddy river. With the reassurance of the sun ahead of her, Juliene stopped to rest. Overlooking the unknown city before her, she pondered the life she might lead.