Mrs. Trigg, or Lady Mia Trigg as she introduced herself, arrived shortly after dark. After a sharp berating of Viktor for spending the day loafing around, she composed herself and motioned for us to join her in her study. A stunning woman, with skin like cocoa and porcelain, and frizzy black hair like a midnight storm, Lady Trigg seemed to glow under the evening candlelight. Truly a woman that embodied perfect nobility.
"My darling husband," Lady Trigg began as we entered, "tells me that you wish to enquire over property in the Boundary Coast. Please, take a seat."
Inside, Ada and I moved over to a cushy, velvet sofa, and took a seat. Opposite, a regal high-backed chair sat facing us. Behind that, stretching the length of the wall, a stacked bookcase towered overhead. Lady Trigg closed the door and seated herself on the chair.
"Will Lord Trigg not be joining us?" Ada asked.
Lady Trigg shook her head, smiling slightly. "Though my husband is the lord of this land, he has not the head for such affairs. No," she said, giggling. "He would have snuck away had we forced him to join us. Being with his entourage - or, should I say his friends - is far more interesting than this. For him, at least. Fear not: I have the authority to help you."
Ada and I looked at one another and nodded. Once more, we told our story, and Lady Trigg listened intently. When we were done, she sat for a moment in thought.
"And why Boundary Coast? As much as I love this land, it's not generally a place chosen by those that were not reared on the bounty of the sea."
"It's to be as far away from this boy's father as possible," Ada said.
Off script, I considered. That wasn't part of the plan.
My body felt tense. Lady Trigg's demeanour was warm and open and dignified. Her soft-spoken elegance had put me dangerously at ease. I watched as Ada's eyes became wide. She hadn't meant to spill the beans.
"The boy's father?" Lady Trigg asked, brow furrowed. "This was not part of your tale."
This time, I spoke up: "N-no, m'lady. He's a nobody, a dangerous nobody. W-we didn't mention him because, well... he really isn't worth mentioning."
Lady Trigg sat for a moment, eyes trained on me. Her dark eyes betrayed nothing. Ada, to my side, was tense. She squeezed the hem of her cheap dress in balled fists. Sweat beaded above her brow.
Lady Trigg's attention moved to Ada. "How much are you looking to spend on a property, young lady?"
With shaking hands, Ada took her silver talents and placed them on a small table nearby. Lady Trigg grimaced.
"I," she started, eyes hovering over the talents. I watched as her expression devolved into pity. "I'm sorry, but… This won't be enough to purchase anything we have available. I would say thirty-silver talents would be the going rate around here… I'm… I'm sorry."
Lady Trigg stood and scooped the talents up into her hands. Then, she stepped over and knelt at Ada's feet and placed them carefully back into Ada's hands. Lady Trigg's eyes were wet now with tears.
"I understand my blessings. Money is scarce and hard to come by for most," she said. "That will be enough to last you in renting off some of our local merchants, but don't expect much. I'll put in a good wo-"
I drew the three golden talents from my pocket and held them out. Lady Trigg's mournful look was wiped immediately off her face by surprise. She moved over to me, still kneeling.
"M-my boy, where did you get this?" She asked.
"It's my inheritance. The official letters are in the carriage," I said.
Lady Trigg shook her head and stood, moving back to her chair. When she was sitting once again, she took a deep breath. Any shock or awe that had betrayed her proud demeanour, was gone. Her powerful visage returned.
For a while, Lady Trigg silently watched me. Her obsidian gaze felt as if it peered deep within me. An abyss of beauty and regality. Impossible to look away.
I'm not sure how long we maintained eye contact with one another, but when she finally spoke, I realised I must have been holding my breath for most of it.
"Halmer's bastard child," she said, nodding. "It all makes sense."
I froze. How? How had she…? All the warmth in my body flushed away, leaving only a chilling cold. This woman was as dangerously sharp as I had expected.
No, I thought. So much sharper than I could have ever imagined.
"N-no… H-Halmer?" I stammered, but the words regressed into a meaningless sound. Lady Trigg waved me away and her stare became trained on the ceiling.
"I don't care for the squabbles of other noble families. True, it's no secret that the families of Trigg and Halmer have historically been at odds but... Hmm, yes, the news of Halmer's bastard kicking the bucket seemed odd and seasoned with little information, still... This? Exiled to the Coast? What is Halmer thinking..." Lady Trigg's thoughts trickled out into the open. She glanced at me, locking my stare once more with hers. Then, her voice became razor-edged. "What happens next will be wholly determined on what is next said. I will ask you both again: why are you here?"
We told our story. The true story. From the execution of my mother, something that happened two weeks before I was reborn, to Halmer's ultimatum, to our arrival. No detail was skimped. No morsel of information not served to the Lady Trigg. She listened, interrupting at times for clarification, and, once we were done, Lady Trigg stood.
She looked down at us, her dark eyes alight and fierce. "You were both fools for following his orders. Boundary Coast is no friend of the Halmer family, disgraced or not."
Lady Trigg made her way to the door and pulled it open.
Ada quickly spoke, desperation choking her voice: "Lady Trigg, please! Most of the surrounding villages are friends with Halmer! Had we gone awry they would have repor-"
"Enough! I've made up my mind!" Lady Trigg barked. She motioned towards the open door.
Ada, with her voice low, murmured: "Let's go, Kay."
We pushed ourselves to standing and made our way to the door. My legs seemed to drag as if shackled with iron. My stomach churned.
"Fifty silver talents," Lady Trigg said. "That's my decision. The property sits on the edge of Boundary Coast. It's a large building, hence the price."
I stopped in my tracks, looking up at the Lady. Tears brimmed at the corners of my eyes.
"Hurry off now, speak to Miles," she said. "We haven't the reserves to return the four-hundred and fifty silver talents change for a golden talent right now. It'll take us some time to gather. In the meantime, hold onto what you have, we'll collect it when we can. Now go, go."
"M'lady," I said, head low. "Thank you. Thank you so much. I'll forever be in your debt."
"Nonsense," she scoffed, her nose pointed up. "It's like I said, we're no friends of the Halmer family." Then, she looked down at us both and sighed. "But, I suppose the family of Yorick is welcome into the Boundary Coast. Now go, go! Before my outburst of clemency fades."
Ada and I bowed low together. "M'lady."
Before we knew it, our journey seemed to have come to an end.
The property, a large, wood and stone villa, sat on the edge of the foreshore. Six rooms, a small pier of its own, a garden out the front. It became home. Despite two full-time staff, Ada was determined to undertake most of the housework.
As for me, I spent a lot of time with Viktor. I guess he took an interest in me and my feeble frame because one day he arrived at our property and demanded that I allow him to train me. Perhaps it was a game to him - or maybe a personal challenge - but over the months we trained daily in various forms of combat. As time passed, my body became firmer, more defined. The heavy diet of fish and potato-like 'tubers' accelerated my development. I never got close to Viktor, though. Every time I made a stride in skill or strength, Viktor became seemingly more insurmountable. He ensured the gap increased as I increased in strength.
"One day," he said during a session. "That gap will start shrinking. Then, laddie, you're close to beatn' me."
So I trained and trained and became faster, stronger, more dexterous. And Viktor returned that tenfold. The strength the man possessed appeared limitless.
Still, I never stopped. I never gave up. And, before long, I could hold my own against some of his moderately experienced crew.
Those days seemed to last forever. The sea breeze in the air, the sun shining above. It was there in those months that I found it.
Meaning. A reason to be.
I didn't need a complicated journey or ludicrous success to feel that way, either. Life was simple, as simple as I had ever known it. But every day I had a reason to get up, and every day I worked and learned something new. I enjoyed the little things, relishing in the modest company of my peers.
And, for the first time in a long time…
I was happy. Truly happy.
God, if only I knew that disaster had already washed up upon the sand of our quaint Boundary Coast.
Along the sandy shore, a cat bounded down from the weathered pier of its owner's home. Its graceful frame made little sound as its paws sunk slightly into the dark sand. Overhead, the bright eye of the moon washed the beach in a blue glow. The feline's hungry eyes scanned the shoreline. Waves, lapping against the sand. They brought with them many treats from the great blue. Tonight was no different.
The cat's sharp vision fixed on something moving slightly beneath the sands of the foreshore. Cautiously, it stalked the mound and edged closer. A starfish. Around the size of its owner's palm. The starfish struggled, violently in the sand. Moving its spiny arms desperately. With its paw, the cat swiped at it, pulling the creature out of the sand.
It was at that moment when the feline's own hunger and curiosity defied its instincts. The starfish landed face-down. Its spiny arms were covered in a thick, green ooze, and on its back, dozens of bulging tumors were stacked over one another. To the cat, it was simply an odd bounty of the sea. A human would have seen otherwise. The starfish jolted up, standing on the tip of all five legs. From it, a slight angry hissing could be heard.
The cat growled in response, dropping its front and raising its hind legs. Its pupils were wide and excited. Then, the cat pounced.