This story is a part of the chain story called "Laresa's World", started by RedHairedandFriendly. I hope that my own contribution is worthy of the theme and the series. This is the 7th Chapter in this series. It is set in the Late Middle Ages, during the Black Death and the Hundred Years' War.
Welsh March, October 31, 1355 (Julian Calendar):
Harry Llewellyn was no baron or merchant. He didn't belong to a guild. He was certainly no knight. He had neither title, nor land of his own, or even freedom. Harry Llewellyn was a serf. He belonged to the land. The land, of course, belonged to King Edward III of England. It didn't matter to anyone outside of Wales that no English lord had any business owning Welsh land and assigning it to English vassals. It didn't matter that the native Welsh were oppressed by their feudal overlords. The Crown still owned the land, and he was bound to it for life.
"Harry, the lady Gwynn insists that you bring her the new coat that your sister wove before her death. Then you must summon the apothecary and the priest. The lady is not well," Meredith informed him.
Meredith Owain was another servant, but she had it a little easier. She was a house maid, after all. That was far easier than Harry's work, since he was a tanner. Harry wouldn't lie and say that Meredith was a gorgeous woman, but she wasn't ugly per se. She just bore pock marks from the smallpox that she acquired as a young girl and somewhat "miraculously" survived. It was some miracle. She was scarred for life. Everyone assumed that none would marry her.
Harry thought it a sad thing, but he had greater problems. He strongly suspected that the lady Gwynn had the Black Death. Furthermore, bringing her things increased the danger that he would contract the plague. As he was now the only Llewellyn left on the manor, he didn't appreciate losing his own life too. The family had to continue, after all.
If that wasn't bad enough, Harry hated the lady Gwynn. He felt that none deserved the Black Death more than that woman. She betrayed her fellow countrymen by marrying an English March lord for personal advancement when her merchant husband died under suspicious conditions. He also hated her late husband, who had conscripted his father into the war and forced Harry to take over the tanning shop at the young age of 14. Both died in some distant battle in France.
That was the beginning of the family troubles. His mother died not long afterward, from the Black Death. His sisters also succumbed to the plague, after which his younger brother fell ill with smallpox and died as well. He was an orphan at 18.
The manor now technically belonged to the lady Gwynn's son, but he was too young to rule it. Instead, that bitch controlled everything. She was twice as cruel as her husband, since she knew how much the peasants hated her. She also prevented any of her male serfs from copulating with her maids. This was supposedly on "moral" grounds, but everyone knew better.
The lady Gwynn liked to make a serf pleasure her now and then, after which she dropped him and took another. This would be fine, if she didn't make sure that life was awful for the former favorite when his time with her was done. She interfered with his marriage choices, making sure that only the least compatible women were allowed to wed him. The married serfs counted themselves lucky, however, since the lady Gwynn liked to keep up her "moral" reputation by avoiding other women's husbands.
She had not done this until her husband's death, since she wished to be sure that he couldn't punish her for it. She took a vicious delight in making former lovers miserable men for the rest of their lives. This woman was not one that any male serf wished to bed anymore, no matter how pretty she was. Not only was she cruel, but she was so selfish that many men left her bed without ever cumming. Most people made a sign of the Cross, whenever they saw her progress through their section of the manor.
Harry grinned when he saw the lady Gwynn, however. Despite cursing when he saw that she was naked, he laughed inside when he realized how far gone she was. He felt a little guilty at his joy in her suffering, but then he remembered what a wicked woman she had always been. The lady of the manor was almost gone. Most of her body had already rotted and her mind held on from sheer terror of the afterlife. No doubt that was the reason for calling for the priest. She was desperate to avoid peril to her eternal soul. Harry personally thought it was much too late for her to escapes the fires of Hell.
"Well, Meredith, I think the lady is doomed," Harry whispered to the friendly maid, when she entered the bedchamber as he prepared to leave it.
He always liked Meredith and vice versa. The poor woman never received much attention from the other men of the manor, but Harry understood her loneliness and saw what a sweet girl she was in fact. Of course, most men partly ignored because of her appearance, but they were also motivated by the risk of getting too close to a maidservant. Harry wouldn't mind marrying her, if the damned lady of the manor would just hurry and die. He doubted that he could do so, however, even then. The manor would pass to the custody of the steward, who would probably discourage the maids from taking husbands.
While Harry doubted that he could be strictly faithful, it didn't matter anyway. Even if she wed him, she would be subject to the feudal rights of the steward, acting in lieu of the lord. It wasn't likely to be a Church wedding anyway, and only those were sacraments involving vows. Everything else was unofficial and few peasants of either sex were physically exclusive. That was especially true during the Black Death, when the nuns and harlots were buried in the same graveyards.
"I'm sure that you're right, Harry. However, I have another question for you. Did you see that ring over there? Could you take it with you and sell it? We could split the money and use it to flee the manor. Wouldn't you like to do that? I could live in a convent, since they don't ask questions about novices. You could join a guild in some large city. I know it's theft, and it's wrong, but please do it? We both hate it here, and you're the only man who has ever been nice to me. If I want anyone to be a free man, it is you," Meredith suggested.
"Normally, I'd say 'no', but I have no scruples about robbing a traitorous whore like the lady here. Yes, let's do it. I'll take it off her hands. She doesn't need it like we do, and we deserve some payment for our years of servitude," Harry agreed happily to her naughty scheme.
"Thank you, Harry. You won't regret it. Now, please leave with it quickly and leave me to my chores," she replied, touching his hand as she did so.
It was clearly meant to be subtle, but Harry wasn't fooled. It was the first admission that Meredith might feel the same way as himself, even if she planned to take holy orders. Most likely, she simply assumed that she stood no chance with even Harry, and consequently planned her life to manage without him. She thought herself to be ugly, since everyone deemed her that way (except for Harry, of course).
"Well, Meredith, I have my own plans for you, and they do not involve a nunnery," Harry swore to himself, when he was safely in the tanning shop.
He was her best chance for a husband, and he wanted her to have one, if for no other reason than someone would give her company and protection. Someone would cherish her and father children on her. Besides, he didn't mind the idea of a wife. He just avoided marriage, despite the risks of becoming the lady's favorite, because he wanted to marry Meredith. He refused to take another woman as his bride. Since he knew he couldn't have her, he didn't care about not having good choices. It was his silent protest against the rules of the manor.
"Damn, I wish that there would be some confusion and panic on this manor long enough for Meredith and me to run away!" Harry exclaimed, not noticing that he had twisted the ring out of a nervous habit.
At that moment, a lovely blonde had appeared before him. He heard footsteps, turned slightly, and saw her. He assumed that he was dying or something. Perhaps this was a fairy or something like that.
"Excuse me, but are you a fairy?" Harry probed, more curious than afraid.
If he died, so be it. Life on this manor was worse than death. He didn't care, if he didn't get to be with Meredith.
"No, Master, I'm a genie," the woman said.
"Master? I am no man's master, including my own. I am a serf, belonging to the land here. My name is Harry Llewellyn, but you can call me Harry," he corrected her.
"Sorry to contradict you, Master, but now you are someone's master. You're mine. I am your genie. I do your bidding. I grant any wishes, with a few rules and exceptions. Master just made a wish, in fact. I am certainly willing to perform it for you. If you make it again, it will be official, now that I am out of the ring. My name is Laresa, by the way," the genie informed him rather bluntly, but kindly.
"Do you mean when I wished for confusion long enough to escape with Meredith? What if I simply wished to be gone from here, without even the confusion? That wouldn't cause other people trouble," Harry inquired, truly stunned at this notion. Nothing the Church taught him ever spoke of a "genie". What was that?
"If you wish it, I'll grant it, Master. That is, unless it is against the rules. Just do not lie to me. If you do, I will vanish from your life forever," Laresa explained.
"Then I will be honest with you, even if it embarrasses me. I can't afford to lose the first good luck I've had in my life. I wish that you take Meredith and me to Hereford. That should be far away and large enough of a town that none will realize that we are runaway peasants. All we have to do is evade capture for a hundred days, and the law says we are free," Harry finally decided.
"Then, there you go!" Laresa declared, and the three of them disappeared from the manor.
Meredith stood shocked inside the walls of Hereford. She had not realized that Harry's ring contained a genie, of course. Seeing herself, along with Harry, inside the town, was enough to tell her that something magical had happened. What had caused it, and whom? Did God or one of the Saints grant her prayers? Did the Blessed Virgin free her at last?
"Harry, what are we doing here? Do you know? Where are we? It looks like the English town of Hereford, but I have never been to England, so I can't be sure," she asked him, approaching him with some panic of her own.
"It is Hereford, I assure you. My genie took us here. She came out of the ring and gave me wishes. She called me 'Master'. Can you see her? She's right here, in fact," Harry tried to calm Meredith down.
"No, I can't. What's a 'genie'? I've never heard of those before. Is it the same thing as a fairy?" Meredith asked him.
"No, they are different somehow. Laresa, can you appear to Meredith, so that she can see you?" he wondered.
"Yes, Master. If you wish, I will show myself to her as well as you," Laresa answered him. She was pleased to do that, since Harry seemed kind and good. Something about him made her happy to be his genie.
"Thank you, Laresa," Harry replied, hoping to prove his claim to Meredith, so that she didn't think that they were both drunk or mad.
Meredith suddenly saw the most gorgeous woman she had ever met in her life (of course, for a peasant girl in the Welsh March, that wasn't saying much). Her clothes were very colorful, exotic, and scanty. She loved the look of the girl, and instantly wondered if she was an angel or something.
"Are you an angel?" she suddenly asked Laresa.
Laresa smiled and reassured her, "No, Meredith. I'm one of the djinn from the Near East. I was in the ring that you found and gave to Harry, in order for him to sell it for money. I belong to Harry, although I would have belonged to you if you had summoned me instead. I doubt it matters, however. I suspect that Harry has a few wishes to make concerning you. Don't you, Master?"
Laresa had realized not too long before that Harry loved Meredith, and it was probably mutual. Unless Harry ordered her not to meddle, she hoped to see the two peasants wed. She also knew that Harry was not the sort to be exclusive in terms of his lovers, but she knew that he secretly preferred to have a couple of wives, instead of a long series of nameless women. Harry wanted variety and quantity, but he also wanted love and a happy family that keep him from being lonely. He would likely want to bed her, as well as Meredith, but would then be faithful to the two of them. That was just the nature of this man. He loved Meredith, but he now fell for her as well.
"Yes, I do. I wish that Meredith was my wife, well, one of my wives. I wish that you were the other. I want no other women. I know that I haven't bedded either of you, but I know what I want, and it is both of you," Harry said, much to Meredith's surprise.
"You want her and me? I can understand her. In fact, I was even more prepared to wear the nun's habit now, since I can't compete with such ravishing beauty. I am just thankful to be free of that place. You want to marry me? You're not lying or teasing me, are you?" she demanded to know, the red face of shock and embarrassment matching the red hair on her head.