The Innkeeper’s Daughter

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Here’s another stand-alone story that’s kind of in a period piece/classic fantasy type setting. If you like it, make sure and let me know what you think and what else you’d like to see! And don’t forget to check out my other work on this account or on my old one!

Hard Times

For my mother and me, the inn was everything. After my father had been killed after being drafted into the great wars, he had left behind two things for my mother, the inn and my little brother. I was only six when I learned he died. My little brother had not even been born yet.

The next twelve years, I worked in the inn alongside my mother. It was by no means prosperous, our in being in a small frontier town, far from the big cities Elandria, we made a living. Our customers ranged from royal messengers and traveling traders in the need of a room for the night, to the local farmer wanting to have a pint of ale after bending his back all day in the fields.

Each day, my mother would wake me up before sunrise, help me brush and braid my long golden locks that hung down past my backside. Then I’d braid my hair and roll it up and secure it with pins on the back of my head and I’d start my long day of work.

I’d start off by helping prepare breakfast, usually a hot porridge for the poorer customers and things like bacon and fresh eggs for those who had a little money to spend. The bacon and eggs were never for me, even though my stomach would grumble as I stood over them cooking. My breakfast usually had to wait until everybody else had eaten and by then the hot porridge would no longer even be warm as I would hungrily scoop it down. These were all sacrifices that had to be made if we ever wanted to get ahead. At least that’s what my mother told me.

I would then clean up boarding rooms and start getting the midday meal ready. Then I’d work as the serving girl, bringing people their meals and drinks. After the midday meal, I’d clean dishes and the dining area of the inn. Then, I’d chop wood for the ovens and stove, as my mother’s hands had always been too delicate. At least that’s what my mother told me. Then I’d help prepare supper, serve people their food and drinks, clean up, and then collapse into bed to wake up and start the whole thing over again.

Everybody in town knew me, the innkeeper’s daughter with the long golden hair. Even as a little girl, my hair had been long and thick, never having been cut. Then, as I transitioned into womanhood, my body grew shapely, my bosom grew pleasantly but not overly large. The hours of hard work kept me lean and fit, while my mother’s bloodline made me beautiful. She had given birth to me at just 16, the age that most women in town got married. Her hair was long and golden, just like mine. She had long been considered the most beautiful woman in town, a prize that seemed unachievable. Until I replaced her. She and I both had plenty of suitors, but none of them were good enough. At least that’s what my mother told me.

My little brother eventually got old enough to help, but my mother wanted to secure his future and instead sent him to serve as an apprentice under my uncle, the captain of the town guards. He was one of the wealthiest men in town but had no sons and would need someone to succeed him in his role. Having an uncle as the captain of the town guards had its perks and I learned that, although many people considered me attractive and told me as much, everybody kept their hands off for fear of losing them at the hands of my uncle, the angry veteran of the great wars.

So, since my little brother was busy polishing armor and learning the trade of the guardsman, my mother and I had to be the ones that kept the inn running, with the occasional help of the hired hand who worked for room and board. It was a hard life, but I always went to bed with a full belly, even if it wasn’t the most appetizing food. I was lucky. At least that’s what my mother told me.

And so this went on for years. Daily we’d wake up, brush and braid our long golden hair, work for hours, and then sleep hard. Birthdays came and went, holidays, celebrations, and throughout it all, we never stopped working. We needed to do it to get ahead, a goal that seemed forever out of reach. But we just needed to work harder, do more. At least that’s what my mother told me.

A Special Day

Then for the first time in my life, at the midday meal during a festival that included many traveling traders from faraway places setting up stalls in the marketplace, my mother told me something different.

”Isabella, how would you like to have the afternoon off? And the evening as well?” my mother asked me.

I nearly dropped the dirty plates I was carrying, ready to hand them off to a man who was working for his meal. An afternoon off? And an evening as well? At 18 years old, I had never been given that opportunity. It had to be a dream, especially considering this was the dream I most often had while sleeping.

”Really, mother? What will I do?” I asked eagerly.

”Why, take some of the money your uncle gave you for your birthday, let your hair down, put on a nice dress, and go out to the markets to see what you find. Then come back and use some of that birthday money to buy yourself a nice supper and plenty of ale. You can even pay half price,” my mother said, taking the plates from my hands and pulling me to her side.

”Really mother? I’ve never gotten to go to the markets, or drink ale!” I said, planting a kiss on her cheek.

”Yes, dear! This festival has brought us plenty of business and these hired hands can cover your work for the night. You’ve earned it. Besides, I went out earlier and the markets were amazing. You just have to see it all,” she told me.

I squealed in delight as I pulled off my apron and ran upstairs to our room. “Thank you, mother!”

Opening the door to our room, I opened the chest that held all of my worldly belongings. It wasn’t much, but it was all mine. Some toys from when I was younger, clothing, a small purse with coins, the remainders of the money my uncle had given me over the years that hadn’t been invested into the inn. My mother usually took most of it to pay for things in the inn as it would one day be mine anyway. At least that’s what my mother told me.

I pulled out my favorite dress, a blue one with short sleeves and a plunging neckline. I pulled off my work dress, a simple green one that still showed off my bosom, something my mother insisted upon following my entrance into womanhood. It would make the customers happier. At least that’s what my mother told me.

I pulled on the blue dress and cinched it around my waist. This was my favorite dress because it was the most expensive and most flattering one I owned. It showed off my womanly curves, sitting tight around my waist and breasts, while hanging from my shapely hips as it flowed down. The fabric was soft and cooling, perfect for the summer festival I was about to go out to see for the first time.

Letting my hair out of the bun and untwisting the braid with my fingers, I ran my brush through my golden locks, brushing out the curls formed by hours in a braid. Using a small hand mirror, I even took the time to put on some cosmetics. A little blush for my cheeks, some color on my lips, and a shadow on my eyes. Like the beautiful wealthy women I had seen come into the inn. Finishing it off with a single spritz of perfume, another gift from my uncle, I was ready for the market. Maybe today would be the day I’d meet a man that was good enough for me. At least by my mother’s standards.

Festival Days

As I stepped into the sunlight, I was welcomed by a sweet onslaught of sensations. The sun was warm on my skin, contrasted by a cool breeze that carried my long locks gently. All around were bright flags and banners, bustling townspeople and colorful stalls set up with all the wares I could imagine and so much more. I could smell the aromas of sweet and savory foods on the wind and I could hear the traders peddling their goods.

I closed my eyes and took in the sounds and smells, listening for a trader to shout out something that drew my attention. Rolls of fabric, furs, weapons and tools, none of it was what I was interested in. I had clothes, I could never afford the furs, the weapons and tools were for men like my uncle. Then I heard something that I had always pined for.

”Jewelry! Silver and gold jewelry! Anything that suits your fancy!”

I opened my eyes, a smile forming on my face as I worked my way through the crowd. Several townspeople greeted me as I moved along.

”Isabella, how nice to see you out!”

”Isabella, you look lovely today!”

With polite smiles and polite replies, I passed through and found my way to the jeweler. I didn’t have much money but I hoped I could find something small. Maybe a ring, a charm that I could wear on a string around my neck, a broach. I owned nothing of real worth and this could be the start. Even my mother would love it if I found something that would reflect some wealth, something I could wear every day.

”Hello, young lady! My are you beautiful, perhaps even too beautiful for my simple work,” the jeweler said, fanning a hand over the jewelry he hoped to sell.

“Thank you, sir. I don’t have much money but I was hoping I could find something small. I can’t afford anything in gold, but maybe something silver?” I asked.

”Absolutely, my dear. I have items for everybody, even young ladies with golden hair more beautiful than anything I have ever crafted with my hands. Have a look here,” he said, showing me a fabric lined box that held smaller silver items.

I looked through the box, not even daring to touch them with my fingers for fear of tarnishing something I couldn’t afford to pay for. There were simple silver bands, small cross pendants, small silver symbols of health or prosperity. Then I spotted something I could not move past. A small silver dove, carefully shaped from silver. It was delicate and simple, not excessively ornate like items in the other boxes. It had a single silver loop on the back to allow a string through.

”Does the lady see something she likes?” the jeweler asked, seeing my eyes stop on one item.

I blushed, “Yes, sir. This dove is beautiful. There’s no way I can afford it but I love it.”

”I’m sure we can come to some kind of a deal, a beautiful lady deserves a beautiful dove. How much do you have?” he asked.

I pulled out my coin purse and dumped the contents in my hand. One silver piece, six copper pieces, and nine iron pennies. The jeweler looked at my hand and smiled at me.

”Well, darling, I would normally charge two silver pieces for this but for you, I’ll take,” he gestured to my hand that held the coins. I reached to him and he picked up the silver piece and two of the copper pieces.

“For you, I’ll take this. Only because you remind me of a sweetheart I had when I was young,” he smiled at me fondly, his brown eyes twinkling in the midday light.

”Thank you, sir! You are far too kind,” I said, putting my few remaining coins in my purse and carefully lifting the dove.

”I’ll even include a string to tie it around your neck if you’ll tell me your name and give me a kiss on the cheek,” he said with a wink.

”Oh, sir! I would do that anyway! I’m Isabella,” I said, leaning across his table and kissing his gray stubble covered cheek.

”Well, Isabella, I’m Horace. Thank you for making my day,” he said, taking my hand and patting it gently. “Now come around here and let me put this on some string for you.”

I walked around the table he had set out and turned around, pulling my hair over my right shoulder and lifting it slightly. He took the silver dove and slid a single piece of brown leather twine through the loop. He then tied it around my neck, the dove resting right above the neckline of my dress. I looked down at it with pride and turned to face him.

”It looks beautiful but nowhere near in comparison to you Isabella,” he said as he inspected his work.

I kissed him on the cheek once more, which caused both of our cheeks to flush red. “Thank you, Horace. You have made this special day so much more special.”

With that we parted. As I stepped away from his stall and began to walk away, captivated by the dove that I now held, still attached to the string, in my open palm.

”Isabella? I heard a woman’s voice ask.

”Ma’am?” I asked, turning to find who the voice belonged to.

”Did you say your name was Isabella?” a woman, standing behind a table not far from Horace’s stall that had a chair behind it.

She was small and looked to be a few years older than my mother. She had beautiful brown locks that were pinned up in intricate loops and curls, like a woman from the big cities. Her clothes looked expensive and she was adorned with jewelry.

”Yes ma’am,” I said, letting my dove hang around my neck.

”I met your mother earlier, I should have known you were her daughter, you look just like her,” the woman said.

”Yes ma’am, I am Florence’s daughter, if that’s who you met. She would say I look like her little sister, though,” I said with a slight smile.

The woman chuckled, “That wouldn’t surprise me. I am staying at your inn, my name is Lucinda.”

”Nice to meet you Lucinda, I’ll be serving you your breakfast in the morning, I’m sure. Normally I would serve you your supper, but Mother gave me the evening off,” I said, moving my hips and letting my dress sway.

”That sounds lovely, it’s nice to meet you, Isabella,” Lucinda said.

I looked around at her stall and was confused. The chair was obviously not what she was trying to sell and the only other thing in her stall were some chests that were closed.

”Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking, what are you selling? It doesn’t look like you have anything out,” I asked.

She laughed, “That’s because I’m not selling anything. I’m here to buy!” She swept open one of her chests and revealed that it was filled nearly to the top with hair.

”You’re buying hair? Why?” I asked, unconsciously holding my own hair as though it might spontaneously leave my head to join the hair in the chest.

”I’m a wig maker and you frontier girls have the best hair in the kingdom,” she said, pointing at my hair.

I smiled politely but still kept my guarded stance, “That’s very nice of you to say. Mine isn’t for sale, of course but we do have very nice hair out here.”

“That’s a shame, young lady. Noblewomen in the capital city would pay a fortune for your hair. Why for even a few inches, you could buy a horse. For all of it, you could buy a whole farm,” she said, eyeing my long locks with envy.

”Your hair is beautiful, have you ever sold yours?” I asked, trying to turn the unwanted attention away from myself.

Lucinda laughed, “Dear, this isn’t my hair. I got this from a young woman about your age in some other frontier town. I can’t afford blonde hair like yours for myself though.”

I laughed politely, “Well, I will see you at breakfast tomorrow, ma’am.”

”Perhaps I’ll see you even sooner than that,” Lucinda said with a polite bow.

I didn’t know what she meant by that but I was not going to let some strange interaction ruin my day. I walked around some more, spent two of my iron pennies on a candied apple, and even watched some musicians perform. Before sunrise I was even surprised to see my uncle, Lionel. My little brother, Edward was right behind him. Both wore the uniforms of guardsmen, with Lionel’s chest being adorned with the badge of the captain of the city guard.

”Isabella, it’s lovely to see you! What is my niece doing out on her own on a festival day?” he asked, taking my hand and kissing it.

”Hello Uncle Lionel, Mother let me have the afternoon off. Do you like my dove? I bought it with some of the money you gave me for my birthday,” I said, happy to see the closest thing I had to a father.

”That is lovely, niece! The trader didn’t take too much for it did he? I’d hate to have to go track him down,” Lionel said with a wink.

”Don’t worry, Uncle, he gave me a great deal. I didn’t even pay for its weight in silver,” I said, looking down at the ground and kicking a stone with my toe.

”Can I escort you to the inn? It’s nearly time for supper and I thought I’d stop in,” he said.

”Yes, sir! I was just about to head that way,” I said gratefully.

It was about to get dark and truthfully I didn’t know my way around town well. The hours I spent in the inn gave me very little time to explore town. Lionel offered me his arm and I took it as he led our small party along the way.

Edward had been quiet so far, only greeting me with a discrete smile and nod. Lionel must have noticed because he chuckled.

”Boy, when are you going to greet your sister? You don’t have to wait for my permission to greet family,” Lionel said, reaching behind us to pull my brother forward.

”Hello Belle,” he said, calling me the nickname he had given me as a young child, struggling to say my full name.

”Hi Eddie, it’s lovely seeing you. Mother will be thrilled that you two are coming to eat at the inn. Mother said I can even pay half price and get the nice food like the patrons get,” I said happily.

”That’s wonderful news, perhaps this will cover that,” Lionel said, slipping me a new silver piece, replacing the one I had spent earlier in the day.

I gasped and quickly put it in my coin purse. “Thank you Uncle,” I said, reaching up and kissing him on his bearded cheek.

”Anything for my favorite niece,” he said with a wink.

”Uncle, I’m your only niece,” I said, rolling my eyes.

”That’s a small matter, now here we are!” he said, sweeping an open hand at the inn that now stood in front of us.

A Night at the Bar

Once inside, Lionel, Edward, and I took a seat at one of the tables. Lionel always took a seat where he could see the whole room. Even while out for fun, he still carried his sword, always at the ready. Soon my mother came to our table.

”I see the mighty Captain of the Guard has graced us with his presence. It’s good to see you Lionel. And you too Edward. Isabella, I trust you had a good day?” she said, greeting everybody before checking in on me, eyebrow raised.

”Yes, Mother,” I said, with a curt nod.

”Florence, it’s great to see you as well. We’ll have whatever is hot and delicious,” Lionel said, ordering for all of us. “And a mead for me and for the young lady.”

I tried my best to remain calm but I couldn’t help but perk up at the thought. I had never gotten to drink mead before but it looked like that would be happening tonight. My mother returned with plates of food for each of us and with a pint of mead for Lionel and me.

We ate and drank and laughed. I found mead to be a little bitter at first but soon developed a taste for the drink. As soon as I finished one drink, my mother would bring me a new one. Again and again, I emptied pint after pint.

Soon, my head was swimming and still I continued to drink. The night turned into a blur of laughter and even some dancing. At some point everybody laughed at me but I couldn’t figure out why so I laughed along with them, holding a half drunk pint in the air before throwing my head back and drinking more.

An Awful Surprise

The next morning I awoke in my bed, still wearing my dress from the night before. My head pounded and I groaned. I reached my hand up and rubbed my temples, giving no respite. I was painfully thirsty and searched in vain for a cup of water. Sitting up, I put my legs over the side of the bed and rested my arms on my knees, hanging my head down. There was a bucket next to my feet that I clearly had used the night before to purge some of the drink I had consumed.

I lifted a hand and held my head, fingers rubbing into my scalp, massaging my aching skull. Moving my hand to tuck some of my long hair behind my ear, I suddenly realized something was missing. I reached up with both hands and searched my head. It didn’t feel right. Standing up in a flash, I didn’t feel anything fall to my shoulders. Something was wrong. Then I found my small hand mirror and looked at myself. I could only scream.

Looking back at me in the dim morning light, wasn’t me. It couldn’t have been me. I had beautiful long flowing locks. The girl that looked back at me had anything but that. Her hair was brutally short, perhaps an inch long all over. It stood straight up in all directions, uneven and choppy.

I reached my hand up and searched. Where was my hair? It was gone. The girl in the mirror was me. I screamed again.

”Isabella, stop that screaming,” my mother scolded, looking into my curtained off room. “You’ll wake the guests.”

”Mother, look at me! What happened?” I asked, desperately pulling on the short tufts of hair on my head.

”Don’t worry about that now, I need you to do my hair. We need to get our day started,” she said, rolling her eyes.

”But mother-,” I started.

”Isabella, not now. Come, you’ve already overslept,” she said, throwing a scarf at me. “Wrap that mess up in this, like you do when you are baking to keep the flour out of your hair.”

She turned and left and when she did, I saw her hair fly out behind her. Her long hair was missing too. It wasn’t as short as mine, not even close, but it now was cut off bluntly at her shoulders. Then it all suddenly came back to me.

I thought it had been a dream. Several drinks in, my mother and the wig maker Lucinda had approached me. My mother’s hair was already short. They planted me in a chair in the inn and gave me a drink. I happily took a big swig as Lucinda stood over me with scissors. She then began to pull up sections of my hair and snip it off, handing the locks to my mother who held them in her hands.

One at a time, she snipped away my long beautiful hair. Soon, a crowd gathered to watch and as my hair grew in my mother’s hand and diminished from my head, people started to laugh. I cheered and raised my pint and drank some more, sending even more laughter throughout the inn. When she was finished, Lucinda held a mirror up for me to look in.

”Who is that boy? Somebody needs to fix his haircut,” I said before letting out a long belch.

The inn patrons roared with laughter at the former beauty’s drunken stupor. Then I remember Lucinda handing my mother a large coin purse. My mother pulled out a coin, a gold coin and inspected it. She then nodded and shook Lucinda’s hand.

My mother had done this to me. For gold. And she had gotten me drunk to do it. Tears began to stream down my cheeks but I refused to let my mother hear me cry. I rose and walked past my curtain into the main portion of the room where my mother slept. She was sitting on the stool we always took turns at to fix each other’s hair.

I began to work on her hair. The normal long braid would not work, in fact it was too short to even do a normal braid. I instead set to styling it in a single French braid like I had done to help ladies that stayed in the inn. That would do the job of keeping her shorter hair out of the way for the day. Mine would need no such style.

Finally I could hold it in no longer, sniffling and crying. “Why, Mother?” was all I could ask.

”Why what? Why did I sell your hair?” she asked not looking back at me as I continued to braid her hair.

”Yes, Mother. Why? It’s not fair,” I complained.

I finished the braid as her hair was so short that it took almost no time. My mother turned around and looked at me, incredulous.

”Why, Isabella? Because I have finally gotten us ahead! We can finally break out of this cycle we’ve been stuck in. I can’t believe you were so selfish that you didn’t volunteer to do it when you met Lucinda in the market. That’s the whole reason I sent you out there,” she explained tersely.

I put my hand to my head and ran it over the short hair. “But it’s so short! I look like a man! You sold yours too, why couldn’t I have as much as you have? That would be better than this!”

My mother stood up and slapped my cheek, sending stars in my already aching head and stinging my cheek.

”Don’t you dare talk back to me like that! This will buy us everything we need! We can hire workers so we don’t have to slave away all day every day. We can buy a farm so we don’t have to live in this stinking inn! Besides, she wanted to take a razor to your head to take everything but I talked her into this instead. It lost me a whole gold piece too!” she scolded.

I sat down on the stool, tears flowing down my cheeks as I sobbed silently. My mother wrapped my head with the gray scarf she had thrown at me earlier, covering up my shame.

”There, now nobody has to see it,” she said, softer.

”I can’t wear a scarf all the time,” I said through my tears.

”It’ll grow back. It may take years but it will. But when it does, Lucinda will be back to do this again,” my mother said, wiping the tears from my cheeks with her apron.

”Again?” I asked, looking up at her.

”Yes, again. That hair you grow on your head is more valuable than anything we can make in the kitchen or grow from the ground. You’re going to be our new money maker. I don’t care how you feel about it,” she said, tying off the scarf and helping me to my feet.

”Yes Mother. We finally get to get ahead,” I said dutifully, still sniffling.

”Exactly. You’ll get used to this. And at least you’ll get to have it for a little while. Once my hair starts to go gray, it won’t be worth anything so I’ll stop but you’ve got years before that happens to you. Now come on, I haven’t hired workers yet so we need to get breakfast out for the people,” she said, leaving me standing in the room.

I looked at myself in my hand mirror and cried some more. I was no longer the most beautiful girl in town. Instead, I was a hideous freak with no hair.

I went down and did my day’s work, sweating heavily under the scarf. My mother made me keep my hair covered, not that I was eager to let people see. All day people came in and made comments about me and my drunken stupor the night before. Lucinda had even come by and told me that it had been a pleasure doing business with me. Like I had even gotten to see a single coin my mother had made.

That night, by candlelight I had tried to do anything with my hair. It was too short for curlers and I couldn’t even comb it down. My hair had been so long and heavy, without all the weight it would only stand up. Perhaps when my mother had hired some workers, I could take a proper bath and the water would help hold it down.

The Aftermath

Time went on and my hair did in fact grow in. After a few days of wearing the scarf I decided I’d rather be ashamed than sweaty and quit wearing one. The scarf had helped train my hair to lay down so it wasn’t as bad anymore. People mocked me and I cared, but not enough to make me want to put the scarf back on. In two months, I had enough length to put it into curlers. I looked like the poodles that wealthy travelers brought through town, but at least I’d didn’t look like a man. In a year, it still wasn’t as long as my mother’s had been when it was first cut.

Slowly, people stopped making fun of me, especially as our wealth grew. My mother had been able to hire workers to run the inn and even to maintain the crops and animals at our small farm. She invested the gold earned from my golden locks wisely and it did truly get us ahead. And fortunately for her, she got to be wealthy without looking like a man.

After two years, my mother had found a husband. Uncle Lionel, my father’s brother, had also lost a spouse. The mother of his daughters, both younger than Edward, had died from a plague. The two had grown close, especially after my mother and I became wealthy, and the two married. Two years after having my hair removed I had hair just slightly longer than my mother’s had been when she first had it cut. I was able to style it for the wedding, even though I got to jealously style my mother’s hair that had grown back nearly to its former glory.

Mother and Uncle Lionel were happy and my mother took Uncle’s daughters in as her own. Perhaps even better than her own. Whereas I still was treated like one of the crops in the field, my hair being cared for as an investment my cousins were treated like princesses. I even still had to work in the inn, now as a manager which was easier at least. But I knew my mother would never chop off my cousins’ coppery locks for anything.

After three years, my hair reached my mid-back. I had also begun to be courted by the mayor’s son, a high profile connection. He was sweet to me and also was competent and brave. I actually liked him which was not common in matches made like ours. On the third anniversary of my big haircut, I saw Lucinda, just like I did each year at the festival. She inspected my hair and was pleased with the growth.

”Next year. It’ll be where I want it next year,” Lucinda had told my mother.

In a year, I would be married. And I had hoped I wouldn’t lose my hair again. Until my betrothed, Benjamin, had heard how much my hair was worth. Rather than telling me, he asked me.

”I know it’s asking a lot, but it would give us a great start in our marriage. And it’s just hair, it grows back,” he had said.

And just like that, my fate had been sealed. Until the day my golden hair went gray, I would be nothing more than livestock. An animal that could grow hair, like some common sheep. At least, though, I would get some say over things. Perhaps, receiving some of the gold, I’d be willing to take things all the way and have my golden hair removed completely by a razor. In a year’s time, the world would know.

One response to “The Innkeeper’s Daughter

  1. Here’s another stand-alone! I hope you enjoyed it, maybe this one could even be revisited one day. Let me know what you think and let me know what styles you like and maybe even what genres you would want to see me venture into!

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