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The following is an excerpt from The Origins of the Cult of Vormund, an unofficial publication detailing the private lives and backgrounds of the followers of Dagda Vormund.

Melissa was born into the poor Gardner family. They worked as servants at Isidore, the estate of Lord Hugh Zosimus in the city of Tyr. Lord Zosimus had taken his own life some years prior, throwing himself into the river from the battlements, and his wealth was managed by his wife, Lady Sibylla.

His lordship had two sons, Stephen and Gavin. As the eldest, Stephen was set to inherit his father's fortune. Gavin was quite jealous and resentful of his brother, whom he thought undeserving of such wealth.

One day Gavin encountered Melissa as she was at work in the garden. He spoke to her at length, finding she was easy to talk to. Before long he was visiting her every day, just for the pleasure of having someone willing to listen.

Though he tried to hide it at first, he fell in love with her. One morning he raised the possibility of her becoming his mistress. She refused.

"Why not?" he asked. "Tell me, what is it you see that you don't like?"

"It's nothing I see," she replied. "It's what I hear that I don't like."

"Who's been telling you stories about me?" he demanded, knowing how household servants like to gossip.

"You have, sir, from your own lips. Ugly stories of your envy for your brother, your desire for your dead father's wealth, and the people you tolerate only because they are useful to you. What few conquests and accomplishments you've had are always besmirched by your wounded pride and longing for more."

Naturally the young master was offended, but he didn't want to lose her favor. "Would you appreciate my compliments more?"

"No, sir. I've no use for flattery," she replied, turning back to her work.

The next day Gavin returned, having spent a sleepless night thinking about what he should say. But by the time he arrived in the garden that morning, he found nothing worth talking about.

So he sat her down on a bench, took her gardening tools from her, and said, "Tell me about your dreams and your obsessions. Let me listen for a while. I'll be quiet."

"I'm afraid you'll find me foolish, sir."

"No more foolish than I am, madam."

Her dreams were simple, and it didn't take long to describe them all. She talked about traveling the world and going on adventures, though always with a home to return to. When she was ready, she would settle down with a husband and children in a little house by the sea, to catch and sell fish perhaps, or to grow crops. While she spoke, the young lord did her share of the day's work.

Come dusk, they were still together even though the work was long finished. They lay in the shade of a willow tree, resting on the soft cool grass.

"Your desires are just as distant as mine," he said. "You know the house by the sea is far from your grasp."

"That may be so," she agreed.

"If you were my lover, I could give you all you desire," he added. "I'm not as rich as my brother will be, but I have enough to fulfill your dreams."

"I still refuse," she said, rising to her feet.

He grabbed her arm to stop her. "I can see by the look in your eyes that you feel something toward me. Isn't that enough?"

"You think you have to buy me, but I'm not for sale," she replied. "If you loved me, you'd have us bound on equal terms."

"You'll settle for nothing less than marriage!" he exclaimed. "I can't marry you."

"Why not?" she fired back. "Will your family not let you, or is it because of your own prejudices?"

True, his mother wouldn't approve of the marriage, but he had no inheritance to worry about losing. He was not afraid of besmirching his reputation. He didn't care what anyone else thought.

But at the same time, he couldn't bear the thought of shackling himself to one woman for the rest of his life. His mind rebelled at the thought, comparing it to willful slavery.

"I can't marry you," he repeated. "Find a man that's truer than me."

"Truer! Better, you mean. But who is better than you?" She put her hands on her hips. "Do you know what I would do if I were in your place, and you in mine?"

"You would make me serve you."

She shook her head. "I would wed you, in spite of what everyone else thinks, in spite of my lack of wealth, and in spite of my family's approval."

"Under what conditions?"

"I have no conditions. For you see, my love, I am trapped too. Why not find our freedom together?"

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