I remember little of my beginnings. I suppose no one ever really does. My first memories aren’t of a loving motherly smile. Victoria tried her best, but she was a teacher first and a protective guardian. Mothering didn’t come easy to her. In fact, most anything traditional challenged her. Being an inverted hierophant, anti-establishment was her nature. She was a terrific actress when it mattered. But living with her every day of my life, I felt something missing.
After acquiring me, Victoria had a contact provide her with lakin venom. The small marsupials bite isn’t deadly, at least not in small quantities. But it does present symptoms similar to the debilitating muscular disease known as dystropolsy. Her motions grew rigid, her breathing took effort, and her muscles quickly began to atrophy. This way she could retire and no one would bat an eye if they never saw her again.
With a convincing diagnosis, she took her leave from the court. She settled the two of us into a small cottage past the edge of the city. It was beyond the middle ground where she last saw my parents. She owned a large plot of flat land, and the border of it backed up all the way to the edge of the cliff. There was no one around as far as we could see. And no one to see us. Or me, anyway.
It’s the aloneness and the view that are my first memories. My first memory is locked in a haze. Warped in a way that only imperfect hindsight can. I remember being small and standing on the edge of the cliff. Tears streamed down my face. My heart felt as empty as the ocean looked. I remember digging my bare toes into the cool grass. During the small bouts of free time that I had, I’d often go and gaze at the sea. Sometimes, at the drop off. It feels strange looking back that my heart could be so heavy so young. And yet, the feeling is there. One day, that feeling, the sensation that stained my first memory, nearly killed me.
It was a few years later. My days were always the same. Wake up before the sun. A plain and quick breakfast. Then training. All day there was training. I learned about politics and math and language. I learned about the city and the world outside of it. Victoria would sometimes tell me of magic, but had none to teach. I liked that lesson. But the bulk of the day was dedicated to training. Knives progressed to swords. Sticks to bows. When I was big enough, hand to hand combat. In the early afternoon, I’d get a short break. A glass of tea and a moment of free time. Then, more training til sundown. At that point, I spent the evening doing chores and working on any assignments that hadn’t been finished during the course of the day.
Everyday this happened. And everyday, I felt alone through it all. Victoria was my only companion. I loved her. But she was also my instructor. She was the designer of my torment. I tried to complain, but she didn’t sympathize. Couldn’t. She didn’t mean to make me feel as I did. She believed that what she was doing would some day save my life. And she was right. But she was very close to it having the opposite effect.
One morning, when I was seven or maybe eight, I snuck out of the house just before the usual waking time. I had laid in bed awake for hours already at that point, trying to summon the courage to do what I had planned to. I tried to be quiet as I could to not wake Victoria. I failed. I could hear her stir as the door clicked shut behind me. I ran as fast as my feet could carry me. I ran towards the edge. My feet slid easily on the dew covered lawn. I fell against it. It half soaked my skin. I got back up, but there was a hand on my shoulder before I could go any further.
“What are you doing?” Victoria demanded.
I began to sob.
“I can’t live this way!” I yelled.
Victoria trailed her eyes to the cliff. They widen as she realized I had meant to jump.
I expected Victoria to yell back. To lecture me, or give me a hard lesson with her hand. Instead, she pulled me to her stomach and held me close. She promised me that if I gave her a chance, she’d make it better. I never expected it she would do it how she did.