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Eighteen Years Earlier

Lady Menodora Wulcey

1674 March 17

         The wind blew against the sails, calmly swaying the vessel from side to side. The ripples of water lapping against the hull was gentle tonight, compared to the rampage that was yesterday. During the day the tranquil navy-blue waves reflected the sunlight in glistening sparkles but during the night the leaden waters were gloomy and suspicious. I have never sailed before and I find the dark waters eerily frightening. I did not know what sea-sickness truly was until I boarded this vessel as I belched the contents of my meal over the rails for the hundredth time. I know Gerhardt was beyond displeased with me, but as far as my knowledge went; there was no cure for sea-sickness. I see it in the way he looks at me; I was a burden to him and maybe he is fair to think that. I know he did not choose me to be his companion. Nor did I ever think I would be running away from my own home; and certainly not with the heirs to Ataxia. It's been two weeks on this cursed vessel since that wretched night, yet I cannot seem to come to terms with it.

         On that first night we spent on the ship, I realised raising children was not an easy task, and a part of me was thankful for my contradictory life choices. It was extremely rare that a woman my age remained unmarried, but I hope Father will finally be proud of my undertakings. The twins wailed and shrieked, waking each and every stowaway and escapee on the vessel. The sailors and merchants were fuming the next morning and Gerhardt had to pay another hefty sum of coins to the captain to prevent him from throwing all four of us overboard. I was worried to my very core, for the captain did not look like a benevolent man. His beady black eyes spoke volumes; to this day, my judgments in character have never failed. That very first day, I held the twins to my bare breast allowing them to suckle my teats. It quietened them for a while and the silence was a welcome treat to my ears. Eventually, they started up the wailing again in hunger, for my breasts could not nurse their empty bellies.

         Sir Gerhardt combed the entire vessel in search of a nursing mother among the individuals from Ayenvale. But his exertions were futile for there was naught. I did not think I would be able to live with myself if the future heirs of Ataxia succumbed to death in hunger at my breast, so I sent Gerhardt hunting again. This time he returned with a goat under his arm, carrying the heavy brute. He had managed to purchase the animal off a family who had brought it along as a "belonging". I was surprised the Captain had allowed it. 

          I had never milked a goat before, there were always servants at the castle, and at the estate I lived in when Mother was alive, to attend to such matters. To my complete astonishment, Sir Gerhardt was adept at the task. When I questioned him on it, he told me he was the son of a farmer who had climbed his way up through the ranks. I would have never guessed it - the way he carried himself. He taught me how to milk the nanny goat. At first it had kicked and stomped, whining at my painful grip, in due course it had finally quietened down, allowing me to drain its swollen udders. Then Gerhardt and I dunked a piece of linen in the milk before feeding the babes drop by drop. I was proud of myself that day. Yet, these past days have been tireless - I cannot fathom how easily these tiny humans went hungry. If the people on the vessel thought we were an unnatural family, they did not inquire. I am forever thankful for it. I am not sure how much of a good fibster I am.

         The vessel was filled with fleeing people from Ayenvale. I worried continuously that they would recognise us; after all, I was the Queen's Left Hand and Sir Gerhardt was the second in command of the infantry. So far, they have not said anything, they were either too preoccupied with thoughts of their families left at Ayenvale or were simply loyal to the Crown. Whichever reason it was Gerhardt was wary and I was apprehensive. Ergo, we took turns sleeping. There was always one of us awake to keep an eye on the twins.

         On that first day, Sir Gerhardt picked the furthest corner of the hold for us to rest in, placing rugs and hay he managed to find in the storage hold, and finally surrounded our small keep with barrels. I had never slept in such an uncomfortable berth before, though it was the last thing on my mind. An enormous part of me was glad for Gerhardt's presence for I did not know what I would have done if not for him. He knew what had to be done and when to do it.

          We mostly stayed out of others' way, depending on the rations that the maid had stocked in the satchel for us. She obviously had not predicted such a long voyage, for the rations only lasted us just three days. Sir Gerhardt had to go up to the deck in search of gruel - anything to fill our famished selves. He brought back unleavened bread with boiled, salted meat. I did not question how he found it, I preferred not to know. Though it filled our stomachs, it did not mellow our worried conscious.

           There was no way to know what had happened two weeks earlier at Ayenvale. I constantly find myself wishing that this was a nightmare that would soon be over, but I highly doubt it. There was not one way we could get a messenger out here at sea. I am desperate for information from land. These days at sea are tedious. Even with the twins occupying my hands, my thoughts had time to wander to my family at Ayenvale. Was the Queen alive? Did she make it to the stronghold in time? What was her reaction when she realised her babes were not there? I hope you trust me Athena, I will never fail you. I will take care of the babes till my last living breath. Wulceys always keep their promises.

           Maybe, Sir Gerhardt's prediction was an utter mistake and we will be able to pitch a ride in a carriage back to Ayenvale and all will be as it was before. I hoped this was the state of affairs, with so much fervor it was almost a prayer. I believe myself to be an optimist, no matter what Sir Gerhardt says. When I voiced my thoughts two days earlier, he laughed and told me that I was naive. Maybe he was right, if not he was a pure pessimist.

           I have never known motherly feelings, and have not been exposed to such feelings from a mother after my own's death. I am immune to these feelings - or so I think. I find myself constantly worrying about the twins. They were so tiny and fragile, the girl even smaller than the boy. It is difficult to tell who looked like whom, as of yet. I hope the girl grows to be as kind and beautiful as Queen Athena, and the boy to be as determined and generous as King Sylas. I keep wondering if all newborns were this tiny? Was it normal? Or am I not feeding them properly? I wash them daily, and feed them whenever they demand, I clutch them to my chest in hope of giving them motherly love and I constantly find myself humming lullabies that I was not aware I knew of. Am I doing it correctly? I feel as if I should question a mother on the vessel, though it will sound very strange. I shall run it by Sir Gerhardt.

           I noticed the baby boy's forehead and body was warming today at daybreak. I had placed a wet linen on his tiny forehead in hopes of warding off the fever. What I realised by this endeavour was that newborns were certainly not physically strong enough to travel on voyages. This was a severe miscalculation made by Sir Gerhardt. I will not voice these thoughts, for his ego is far wider than Queen Athena's train of veil on her wedding day. 

        There is not one physician on this damned vessel. If he worsens there is nothing Sir Gerhardt or I will be able to do. But I will not fail Queen Athena. I promised her.

         Which is why we need to cease our journey at a port soon. I sent Sir Gerhardt to talk to the Captain in hope of information, he still has not returned. Oh, wait! He just climbed down the flank.

          Aye, he has gotten information. We are four days away from Sutherfield. I hope these few days fly past for I am impatient to know about the happenings at Ayenvale. I pray for generous state of affairs. But more importantly, I hope that the ailing prince survives the four days of voyage. I pray every hour for his betterment. I pray all of us make it out of this alive.

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