The girl stood looking at her reflection in the mirror with a newly bought scarf twisted in a fashionable twist. She could barely recognize her own reflection. Her reflection was no longer of the lost little girl but of a woman who seemed to be in control of her own destiny. She had joined the house of the Mistress, a house that was an exchange for recruiting spies and assassins whose main trade was information, out of gratitude. The girl owed the mistress her life. She had developed a survival mechanism wherein she would not commit to anything. The bottom line was survival, after all. The girl instinctively took the side that ensured her survival. Some may say that her moral compass was weak, although the girl would be vehement about disagreeing with this, if not in a straightforward manner, then definitely in a covert manner. Only a few were aware of the passive aggression that brewed in the girl, the anger she covered up with a gentle yet firm manners. The girl constantly felt that she was lying to others and longed to come clean. She had been used before and her vulnerability had been exploited. She could not trust anyone easily. The mistress used this to suit her objectives.
While the girl did not like being used, sometimes against her moral judgment and values but also her respect. While the mistress gave corporal punishment to discipline those under her and incite fear, she was clearly different with the girl. If any of the members had a problem with it they did not dare question things as they were. However, she handled the girl, it proved to be effective. The girl was inspired and she was starting to get a taste of power in a way that she never had before. If she was a spy or an assassin in training she did not know, but she trained to be better, better at everything. The girl from being slightly chubby had acquired a lithe form. She moved lightly on her feet, was much more aware of her surroundings and was learning to be still almost in a zen like mindfulness about her environment.
The girl bowed to the mistress, even though the mistress did not demand it. The mistress tried to dissuade the girl from doing so, but after several attempts realized that this was something she would have to accept if she did not intend to waste time. The girl seemed to be alert about the situation and modified her behavior accordingly. Since it didn't seem to ultimately affect the bottom lines, even though it was an out of place gesture on some occasions. Instead of standing out this gesture often made people dismiss the girl, which the mistress then used to her advantage.
As the girl bowed again, the mistress did not attempt to acknowledge let alone respond to it. She started to talk.
“You know what to do.” It was a statement that sounded like a question. The girl knew what that meant. It meant that she better know, because she was given time to study.
“Yes, Mistress.” The girl did not wait for the mistress to respond and continued to elaborate, as was the custom between them. It was an occasion for mistresses' guidance that the girl had come to be immensely valuable. “Sir Rosland is a noble landlord who looks after a small town. I am to investigate him and report my findings to you, through a contact who will make themselves known to me after I establish credibility and trust.”
“You will be his wife’s main helper. It has been difficult finding you a place, so your conduct for the next month is going to decide whether she trusts you or not. Her trust is vital for you to gain access to her husband. He is known to have interests outside the marriage. The details of which are shrouded in mystery, and one cannot tell if this could work to our advantage or not. Till such time that the contact gets in touch with you, you are on your own.” said the mistress,
The girl had learnt not to show emotion. She managed to keep a blank expression as her heart sank into her stomach. She knew what this meant. If she was caught, or could not complete her mission her life was under threat.
“The slave trade is underway, he will take you.” continued the mistress looking beyond the girl.
He was heftily built. The bulk was all muscle that looked like fat. He may look unkempt, but he was not. His cringey look hid his shrewd and alert eyes. The worst thing one could do is underestimate him. The girl took a moment to come to terms that she had no time to prepare. She had to leave immediately. If the girl hesitated it did not show. She nodded…
The mistress looked at the man “You know what to do. This is a sharp girl. Let her know anything you need in advance, she will handle the rest.” She nodded at the girl as she finished her sentence.
The slave trade was… humiliating. The girl stood there, her clothes a little more than rags. She looked starved and in need of desperate rescue. Two days after she had walked out of mistresses house, she lived in a prison with other girls. She was treated like other girls. They were not fed and leered at by the stinking men who guarded them. Although she was an orphan, she always enjoyed protection from someone who was more powerful than her. A protection she no longer had. All the girl could do was pray.
By the time they reached the arena of the slave trade, the girls spirit was almost broken. She started to feel that her mistress did give her away to slavery. How she stood there, she did not know. Her legs had no strength, and her hunger had given away to a swimming head. If she did not hold herself up, she would be beaten again. Slaves were not humans.
The girl could barely see the woman. She seemed elegant but she was not as composed as the mistress. The girl tried not to compare, and tried to mentally set herself up for a new life. The woman was stern and seemed unyielding, but the girl could sense the kindness in her through the stoic expression she wore. The girl put her head down. This served her well as she no longer had the energy to hold it up.
After what seemed like an eternity someone came to the girl's side and tried to nudge her forward. The girl offered no resistance. She moved as she was led. What happened she did not know, nor could she pay attention to the path as she had resolved to. Somewhere on her journey she could no longer keep conscious. She blacked out.
She woke up in a room which was a little better than the barn in which animals were kept. As she tried to get up her head started to swim again and she collapsed back into the bed. The shrill voice of an old matron pierced through her consciousness and would not allow her to slip into darkness. The girl was lost to her loud mutterings. While the girl slipped between various states of consciousness warm broth filled her mouth. She swallowed with instinct. She did not have the energy to even wonder if this was the kindness of a stranger or if someone was going to poison her because her identity was revealed. At some time the broth found her way to her stomach and vitalized her again. The comfort instead of waking her up made slip into a coma like sleep.
The girl's new mistress was very strict. What was worse is that she was fussy about things that really did not matter in the grand scheme, or at least that was the girls' educated assessment. It had been over a month since the girl served the woman who had bought her. They had settled into a routine, and as she would every day, the girl set out to make the woman’s hair. The girl was rarely spoken to. Initially it was difficult for the girl to understand, but as she got hold of the happening of the day the girl realized that there was nothing really to talk about. One day the woman suddenly spoke directly to the girl… “I will be dining with my husband today. You will come with me to take care of my needs”
The husband liked to look and the woman needed to be discreet about it. There were a lot of whispers, nothing was confirmed nor denied. The mystery around the fact was the best defence. Those who knew about it never spoke of it. The girl had to be dressed sensually and she would be the server for the woman and her husband for the night. The only people who were present were the guards.
During the whole dinner the woman looked over to the girl. Whether she approved or disapproved remained unknown as her expression was unfathomable. The woman and her husband chatted, ate good food, and playfully argued. To an outsider it was a special evening between a husband and wife who held the comfort with each other built over two decades of marriage. Only the girl knew that they did not share a bed at all. She could tell from the way the husband looked at her. Whether the girl would be required to serve the woman's husband or not she could not tell.
The warmth of the night slipped into serious discussions about trade, politics, society and household matters. They looked like partners managing a shared responsibility. For some reason the husband seemed meek in the conversation, he seemed to update and the woman seemed to be giving instructions. The girl could catch only snippets of conversation and when they got comfortable enough with her being around. The poignancy of the girl's mission dawned on her as a deep realization. She was assigned to take down the reputation and the growing business of the man, but the business was not run by the man, it was the woman. The girl was assigned to take their operations down from within. The girl’s heart skipped a beat and she almost spilt the hot serving on the woman. The girl could not have been more grateful for the leering man. The woman looked over to the girl, took an extra moment of happenings in the room. She had a roundabout way to check her husband, which had served well in the past. She dismissed the situation as not being worthy of her attention and went back to the dinner with her husband.
The dinner was not spoken off and life returned to normal. The girl was concerned , anxious even as no one contacted her.
After two weeks of no incident worth a mention, when the woman asked about how she felt, the girl tentatively replied “It is both my duty and honor to serve you Mistress.”. The conversation could not be carried further, as a maid came running.
“What is the news?” asked the woman in a monotone with abject indifference painted on her face.
“The mistress's house is in chaos. She has disappeared and it is certain that she will not be back. No one knows who the next person will be."
At that moment the girl knew she was completely on her own. Was her mission still valid? She wondered. Perhaps her cover would now become her life. If the girl looked disturbed the mistress did not notice.
"Inform the kitchen to send me tea," the woman instructed the girl.
This was the first time the woman had asked her not to do something herself. The girl had gotten used to the menial and humiliating tasks. From staying in the house she knew that this meant that she had been promoted. As she walked to the kitchen she tried to contain her agitation.
Unlike a bustling kitchen, it was uncharacteristically quiet. There was a new cook in the kitchen and no one else. The girl went to this person and asserted authority that she felt was appropriate. The girl almost did not recognize her mistress in simple clothing, with a talkative disposition and almost clumsy action.
The girl had learnt not to act out of character no matter how safe it may seem. She simply instructed the cook to hand her tea for her mistress. When the cook handed her the tea a guard walked in asking the girl what she was doing in the kitchen. When she explained his frown relaxed and he said the master has become very strict, and that the girl should be mindful.
As the girl carried the tea to the woman's chambers. The appearance of her mistress confirmed that she had been successful in the first step of her mission and her threat to her safety and life loomed closer than ever before. As to what came next, only time would tell.
As the girl walked out, a guard who had fancied her, pulled her aside asking for a date to shop in the market. The girl did not have time or space for personal activities, or luxury to acknowledge her feelings. They had had a good time on chore, and this was the logical next step. “I am never going out with you again.” the girl said proceeding to the woman’s chambers without waiting for a response.