It was a dark and dusty room. There was no fire in the hearth, as they would never allow it. Leila was laying on her tiny bed against the wall. She tried to place her bed as far away from the door and broken windows as possible. The wind chilled her to the bone at night. She was exhausted after another day of hard work. After only having a small piece of bread for dinner, she was still hungry. Yet she couldn’t sleep; the cold kept her awake.
She heard a voice, then a footstep. Someone was turning the doorknob. She hid herself under her sheet. She didn’t have the courage to sit up or confront them. She believed all horrible experiences would pass eventually, if she chose to bear it all, and wait for time to heal her wounds. This had always been her way of life. She shut her eyes and pretended to be asleep.
It was her uncle, her aunt’s husband. He entered her room, quietly tiptoeing. Leila felt a sense of relief wash over her. Her uncle had always been good to her. When her aunt wasn’t home, he would bring in some brushes and scrub her floor for a little while, or let her rest and eat a cookie. Sometimes, he would even save a tiny piece of sausage for her, which was a very tricky thing to do, seeing as her aunt had eyes like a hawk. She knew about everything that happened in her house - where the meat had been put, or how many bottles of wine were left. Leila used to try to sneak a small chunk of cheese to eat; she would be famished after all the dirty and heavy chores she was forced to do. Her aunt realized almost instantly. Leila was nearly beaten to death.
Her aunt hated her. Leila was a mongrel, born from a dragon and a human. She was also the reason her aunt’s sister died. Leila’s mother was just an ordinary citizen living in the city of King’s Harbour, a normal descendant of the dragons, the same as Leila’s aunt and uncle, holding the lowest rank among their race. However, Leila’s father was a human. Humans, the lesser race, were only allowed to be servants and slaves for dragons. Leila was the first-ever mongrel, a bastard, a disgusting half-blood. Her mother died as she was giving birth to her, and her father was so scared that he ran for his life. It was a secret, having a half-blood in this family. They had to keep her in the dark, or else the whole family would be executed for poisoning their sacred dragon blood. But Leila’s life was even worse than that of a human slave. She was hated by the human slaves in the house for her half-dragon blood, and she was abused by her dragon half-sisters and brothers; they saw her as a dirty stain on their family name.
All her life, her uncle was the only one who had shown her any kindness. She pretended to be asleep, but wondered what he had brought her - maybe a pie. She felt his hand gently caress her cheek. He brushed away her hair and pulled her sheet down a bit. She knew that he was staring at her. He sometimes did that to her, but his stare was loving and kind. She felt a kiss on her forehead. This was the first time he’d done that, but it wasn’t terrible. Then, suddenly, his mouth glided down to her neck, his hand rubbing her breasts and between her legs. His beastly hands clutched onto her so firmly. At first, she couldn’t figure out what he was doing. It didn’t seem like a game - it seemed like he simply wanted her body. A strange, tingling feeling arose inside her. She was shocked and opened her eyes, then pushed him away, using all her strength. He didn’t expect this reaction. Her uncle run away in embarrassment, scared that her aunt might have heard something.
Leila was all alone in the darkness. A deep dread was exploding inside of her. She was ashamed of herself. She felt an anger towards her uncle, a rage, accompanied by pain. Before this, she had no idea what it was like to feel aroused. Her entire young life, she had never even touched herself; sexual excitement was something she had never been aware of. This was her first experience. She couldn’t forgive herself… She felt something between her legs, a secret intimacy that turned her insides upside down. She looked at the dusty walls. The amorphous shapes, the mortar along the rim of each rock, the ugly patterns. She knew each one of the stones like the back of her hand. Under the low light of the cold moon, she cried in silence.
The next morning, something horrible happened. Her uncle’s disgusting behavior was discovered by her aunt. A human servant had seen him enter Leila’s bedroom and reported this scandal to the lady of the house, first thing in the morning, and was rewarded with a whole loaf of bread. Her uncle justified his actions and blamed Leila for tempting him. Her aunt was furious. All her feelings of hatred were released at once - the pain she felt in losing her sister, the constant risk of hiding a mongrel, and the fact that her husband was attracted to this dirty, impure creature. She picked Leila up and smashed her against the wall, slapped her face, and threw nearby dishes at her. She shoved her, and Leila rolled down to the base of the stairs, left almost unconscious. Blood oozed out of innumerable wounds on her head and body. She knew in her heart that her aunt wanted to kill her.
She could barely open her swollen eyes. Her cousins were eating their breakfast like nothing had happened, and the human servants and slaves were minding their own business. She wondered if she was a ghost, invisible under the bright daylight. The screams and insults being thrown between her aunt and uncle were thundering upstairs. Right then, she saw the farmer come into the house, holding a big basket of vegetables. He walked inside to put down the delivery, leaving the door slightly cracked. There was no time to hesitate. She needed to run for her life.
Leila forced herself to climb forwards. No one turned their gaze her way. She pulled herself up and tumbled towards the door. It was only meters away, but it felt like the longest journey she had ever taken. For the first time in her life, she wanted to escape from this house. They had constantly told her that the outside world would be hell for her, that she would be dead as soon as she stepped foot outside. Compared to that, a hot meal and half a piece of bread would be heaven after she finished a hard day’s work. She had no desire to go outside. But now, she had no other choice.
Finally, she reached the door. She opened it wider and stepped outside. Before she could move another muscle, a scream burst out from behind her. Her aunt had seen her. Leila ran with all her strength. If she went back, she was sure she would be beaten to death. She ran and ran. All the people on the street were beyond shocked to see her. Her aunt and cousins were after her. Leila felt too weak to run any further, but she couldn’t stop. She veered left onto another street. Turning her head, she saw her aunt was catching up. She was so scared of being caught by her again. Before she could react, she found herself smashing into something hard and metal.
She was knocked back by the sudden impact. Leila lifted her eyes to see what she had run into. A tall, strong knight with a golden sword and shield was standing before her. His armor shone with a golden light under the bright, hot sun.