"Who was it?"
Those words echoed around them. Dami stood in line next to 11 other children as a man paced before them with a whip.
Every day this happens.
"Was it you?!"
He grabbed a small, frail girl shaking her about until she burst into tears. Dami glanced at her, but quickly went back to a blank gaze forward. He moved to the girl beside her, this time hitting her with the back of the whip's handle. She shrieked in pain falling to her feet. He sucked his teeth and spit at her before continuing his way down.
Lord Robert always comes here looking for a punching bag. Every other workhouse official is of his same rank yet, he's the only one that thinks it gives him the right to terrorize us.
He strode over to a young boy cowering behind a girl that looked seconds away from bolting. He stroked the boy's cheek cooing in a calmingly manner as the sleeve of his grey robe swept across the boy's little chest. Officials like him wore grey robes with golden embroidery over their uniforms and hats to match. The robes were meant to show their rank and typically had the soldier's family crest embroidered on it. Dami flinched at the realization that she had embroidered the robe that'd be covered in another poor child's blood today.
A rooster with a sword in its mouth was ordered to be embroidered on the man's robe in the finest gold thread. The man's name is Robert Ocearus, the second son of General Ocerarus. General Ocearus is a celebrated general known for his multitude of victories on the battlefield with his first son --Calius Ocearus-- not far behind. However, Robert has always done very little to uphold the family name and was sent to oversee the workhouse after abandoning his men like a coward. The rooster fits him perfectly. An official that yells and yells at them day by day, yet only pecking at the weak. His thin face with sunken brown eyes and a long pointed nose bore a resemblance to a rooster to Dami. His dark brown hair didn't help as it sat messily on his head like a rooster's comb. Envisioning him going "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" she let out a chuckle.
"Number...1763. Dami! My precious Dami. This is funny to you, eh?"
"N-no sir." she managed to stutter. In Dami's mind, she's courageous and strong-willed; but in reality, he'd make her piss herself with just a glance. She remained facing forward trying not to meet his murderous eyes Dami knew he was giving her. He huffed raising his hand.
"You disrespect me and ignore me?"
"Who do you think you are?"
"Do you know why you're still alive, Dami?" Dami turned to face him holding her cheek with tears in her eyes. He didn't need to remind her because she already knew the answer. Dami was part of a group of war prisoners brought over from the neighboring kingdom of Zirea. Zirea had been locked into a fierce war with the kingdom of Brarius for a decade. Brarius had suffered many losses but turned the tides two years ago. Not a month later Zirea fell.
When Zirea fell the Brarius soldiers marched through the land and burned every city unwilling to convert to the Brarius monarchy to the ground. All nobles were killed and people made servants or slaves. Dami was moved to the Brarius capital city --Kliman-- and made a workhouse servant. She was doomed to a fate of wasting away embroidering the uniforms of military officials and soldiers.
"Take her to the stake. My patience is thin tonight and I'm not tolerating disrespect."
"No! No!" Dami screamed "I-I'm sorry. Please don't send me to the stake. I'll be good!"
"Oh? Looks like you know how to speak now? Unfortunately, my patience is already worn. Take her."
The stake was the most terrifying part of the workhouse punishment system. It was a long wooden post in the middle of the workhouse courtyard. Whenever a servant committed a grave offense they'd be tied to the post and a man is known as the "punisher" would use a sharp, dagger-like knife to cut off pieces of skin from their body. Sometimes 10 pieces were taken, sometimes 30 with the highest being 50. Dami had seen this frightening spectacle occur many times but had always done her best to avoid the same.
I didn't commit any serious offense to go to the stake!
Two soldiers grabbed her and dragged her off. Her feet dug into the dirt trying to resist but they jerked her forward. As they did this, the urine she had been holding back flowed down her leg. They let go of her letting Dami fall to the ground. She laid begging and crying for them to let her go.
"Disgusting wench!" one of them yelled
Please just let me go. Please!
"Robert, what is going on so late?"
A woman came running over to Dami. She was beautiful with porcelain skin and red hair that seemed to glow as it fell to her shoulders. Her bright green eyes questioned the soldiers frantically. She tried to help Dami up but Dami quickly pulled away. The woman is Robert's wife, Lady Rebecca. She was the reason they were all being tortured. Whenever they had a disagreement or problems Robert would herd everyone out of the workhouse servant's quarters and into the yard to take out his frustrations. He didn't want to touch his precious wife, so he'd beat them instead.
Like clockwork, she'd come running out to show herself to be the gentle and kind mistress of the workhouse begging him to stop only to watch as he'd disregard her every time. Dami hated her. To Dami, her show of being innocent was complete crap. If she cared for them she'd stop purposely creating trouble. The truth is, Dami had seen her purposely orchestrate drama to upset her husband. She'd also seen the sickening grin of pleasure Lady Rebecca plastered on her face whenever a servant was beaten. The same expression she was looking at Dami with.
"Dear, don't you think this is enough? Sending her to the stake is too much! It's already quite late. The Punisher won't want to get up to handle her now anyway. And look, the poor thing has peed all over herself. Isn't this enough to let the situation be?"
"My love," he replied "she was beyond disrespectful to me while I was disciplining the others. What kind of leader would I be if I let her go unpunished?"
She smiled and hugged him, kissing his cheek softly. "You'd be my forgiving and gentle head official, Robert. She is just a savage Zirean girl. Why waste the night away with her when you could play with me?" He blushed and kissed her back before motioning for the men to dissipate. The other servants helped Dami to her feet. They scolded her for being so stupid.
"Dami are you nuts?" the scared girl Robert had shaken from before whispered "You know his temper! Why would you laugh? You're lucky Lady Rebecca came running out."
The frail boy from before used a little of his sleeve to wipe the blood from Dami's lip. "Dami are you okay?" Dami smiled and hugged him. The little boy is like a brother to Dami. They were brought to the workhouse on the same day and he naturally latched onto her. She looked out for him in any way she could. However, it proved to be much harder than she thought as he's a sickly child. She'd have to do both workloads whenever he was sick. But just looking into his sullen blue eyes and nudging his faint blonde hair she felt he paid her back for it all in full.
"I'm okay Theo. Don't worry about me."
I can't have him getting too worked up. He may faint.
"Awww how sweet." they turned to see Lady Rebecca behind them "Putting on a brave face when just moments ago you were stake fodder?"
The children scurried off leaving Dami on her own to face Lady Rebecca. She grinned at Dami and kneeled beside her. She stared deep into Dami's eyes before squealing in joy. She grabbed Dami and pulled her behind her towards the main house. Dami tried to object but Lady Rebecca tightened her grip.
"L-Lady Rebecca I am not allowed to enter the main house!"
"I am the lady of this workhouse." she said glancing at Dami "If I say you can enter, then you can enter."
"But Lady Rebecca!"
No! I just escaped the stake. I'll be sent for sure because of this!
Lady Rebecca stopped, huffing to catch her breath. She turned to Dami and with gleaming eyes hugged her tightly.
"You won't be hurt." She cooed "I'll make sure of it. I've finally found one of you. I knew you weren't all gone. I just knew it!"
"Lady Rebecca, one of what?"
What is she talking about? There are many servants here.
"Oh?" she said tilting her head "Do you not know you're a Hollow?"