Chapter 2: Things That Bode Ill

Chapter 2: Things That Bode Ill

A Chapter by Kayla
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The new arrivals to the town get settled in, but the town brings unease to all who pay attention.

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Chapter 2: Things That Bode Ill

“My lord, visitors have arrived to the town.” a woman, as beautiful as a setting sun with just as much radiance as one rising, curtsied deeply before a darkened man sitting beside an open window as she delivered the news. He turned his head and a raven lock of hair fell across his ice blue eyes. The movement brought his eyes into the glow cast by the sparse light of a nearby candle. They twinkled, and whether the twinkle was from the clash of fire and ice or some unknown reservoir of happiness hidden deep inside can never be known.

“Is that so? So soon after the first one? How unusual. Do they appear to have any connection or interest in the man whose presence we so enjoyed before?”

“No, my lord- they are a royal family. They would have no affiliation with such a base deserter.”

“Wonderful. Send someone to collect them immediately. Have them sent over as soon as the pass is clear.”

“Shall we invite them to dinner?”

“Of course. We are not barbarians, that is only the polite thing to do. How many shall I be expecting?”

“Three, and plenty of servants.”

“How very grand,” he said smugly as a small, derisive smile crossed his face. “It is a pity, though, that our last guest had to be so uncivil and shatter the window. We had to get rid of him too quickly. I am afraid my appetite has been quite ruined now.”

“So does that mean…?”

He turned towards her, his eyes flashing with a new kind of light that was strangely piercing and managed to make even her shiver. “Prepare the castle.”

Off in the town, the countess and her daughter were being introduced to what would be their temporary abode.

“Good heavens, there must be so much miasma here!” the countess griped worriedly as she fanned her face with her hands. “Mihaela, make sure you keep your handkerchief on you, I don’t want you breathing in too much of this.”

“Yes, Mother.” Mihaela said as she grasped the cross that hung about her neck in an attempt to find the strength to not give her mother a scathing retort.

Attendants flocked about them, offering them refreshments. Even though they weren’t back at their mansion, they were still being attended to as though they were.

“My lady, may I escort you to a seat and give you a cool compress? You look like you need to sit down for a moment.” one of the maids who had seen many years under the count’s employ offered the countess.

“Yes, that would be agreeable,” the countess breathed airily as she allowed the maid to guide her towards a cushioned couch.

Mihaela gazed around the house appraisingly, taking in the high ceiling and plush rugs.

“Countess Mihaela, I could show ye to yer room if that is to yer liking,” a woman lined with the passage of time and hair of spun silver offered. Quite along with her years, she was still stacked like a bull, and Mihaela got the sense she was no weakling.

“Please do.” Mihaela told the woman with a tiny yet pretty smile. It lit up her face and for a moment graced her with a classic beauty. As a plain looking girl she never had a claim to that, but when she smiled her light shone out and her inner beauty escaped her. That smile had often enraptured those around her and was perhaps her one escape from ordinary.

“Right this way then, m’ lady.”

“Of course.” Mihaela said graciously before following the lady up the stairs. She watched the woman’s quilted skirt sway as she walked up the stairs, her leather heeled boots that were as cracked as her peeking out as she walked.

“Your dress is very beautiful, but quite unusual. I wasn’t aware people still wore that style of dress. Everyone in this town wears clothes just like that, it’s quite…”

“Old-fashioned?” the woman replied with a wheezing cough.

“Well, yes,” Mihaela blushed, “but that isn’t to be taken as a bad thing.”

“Nobody ever leaves this town, an’ not many people come. We’re cut off from the outside world. We don’t really know how fashion has changed.”

“O- oh. Why is that, exactly? Do tell.”

As Mihaela asked the question the lady stumbled before grasping the stairway railing for support.

“My my, these stairs are- are getting too much fer the… these old bones,” she wheezed as she leaned against the aged wall, trying to catch her breath.

“Are you alright?” Mihaela asked as she stood uncertainly by, wringing her hands.

“Ju- just an old lady. Nothin’ to be consernin’ yerself with, now. Come on, yer room is just around the corner.”

“Of course.” Mihaela said somewhat quizzically, suddenly wondering if her question had been purposely ignored or if the breathing attack had been sincere. Mihaela would have thought she was being paranoid if the town weren’t so strange and the woman didn’t seem so hardy. She shook off the feeling and followed the woman up the stairs, finally reaching the top after what felt like an eternity.

“This is yer room, riiight… here.”

The lady pushed open a door to reveal a mid-sized room. It had already been prepared by the servants that had journeyed with the earl’s family, and so it was as comfy as could be hoped.

The white comforter with hints of blue around the ruffled edges and yellow and orange birds sewn on had been freshly cleaned. There was a sturdy dresser in the corner, made of the same walnut wood as the bed, that shone from the intense scrubbing it had received. It had a middle chest with two towers rising up on either side topped with cream stone. On the dresser sat a crystal vase filled with beautiful purple flowers.  The three windows had been thrown open earlier to air out the room. They were now closed and shuttered against the dark that hovered right outside, the light blue curtains drawn closed. Mihaela wondered how she had gone from the grim gray of the world outside to a place so full of color and light it sent visions dancing before her eyes of sisters sharing secrets and laughs and a happy family crowding around a robust baby newly born into the world. It was as if all the life that had once been in the village had fled to the tiny corner of the world she was now in.

Mihaela smiled as she looked around, taking everything in. “It’s quaint,” she told the lady quietly, not at all meaning it to be condescending. There was not an insincere bone in her body. She couldn’t help but think that the simplicity of it was the only way people needed to live. She touched her cross softly as she thought of the vice she had lived her whole life; in the midst of immense wealth she had watched from safety and security as the world crumbled around her, surrendering itself to death and hell all over the petty affairs of man. She should have devoted herself to God, but her mother had always reminded her of her duty to her family, forcing Mihaela to place her relations on earth before her one true Father.

“I know it’s not what yer used to…”

“No, really. It’s everything I’ve needed.” Mihaela assured her sweetly as she looked around.

The woman looked at Mihaela skeptically. She may not have been around many royals in her life, but she was certain that wasn’t how they acted.

“What is that you have on your neck?” the lady asked with a clarity Mihaela had yet to hear from her.

“Do you mean the cross?” Mihaela asked inquisitively as she loosened her hold around it and held it up for the woman to see, walking towards her.

“Yes. I’ve only heard of them. I was beginning to think they were only a myth, like the lochness monster or mermaids.” the woman said as she examined the cross closely, squinting her eyes to better see the minute details.

“You’ve never seen a cross?” Mihaela gasped in shock, resisting the urge to reel away.

“No, never.”

“How is that possible?”

The lady slowly released the cross, returning it gently to Mihaela’s chest and giving it a last pat before hesitantly withdrawing her hand. “I think you’ll find God has turned his eye from us- so we have turned our eyes from God.”

Mihaela’s heart broke. She had been so ready to judge the woman as a base heretic when she was just another sheep, much as Mihaela had once been. The glory of God was that He was always there for guidance.  Reaching out, she grabbed the woman’s hand, holding it close. “I know this war feels like it has broken us, but those times when God tests our will is just him providing us with the opportunity to show our true strength.”

The lady looked at her quizzically, her softened lips pulling down into a frown, only serving to add more wrinkles to her aged face. “War?”

At Mihaela’s puzzled look the woman quickly collected herself. “Right, the war. Well- I’m afraid wars aren’t always so apparent.”

“Uh- uh, yes. I suppose.” Mihaela mumbled, wondering what form of dementia the lady was inflicted with.

Suddenly, the lady grabbed her arm.

“If your God is there, if he tells you things, then you should listen.”

Scared, Mihaela tried to slowly back up- she didn’t want to offend the woman, but she wasn’t used to be touched at all, nonetheless touched like that.

“I do, I listen all of the time, but God doesn’t usually see fit to lead his creations down their path in such a manner. All I can do is follow his word as a faithful Christian-”

Faith will do ye no good here!” the old woman barked. “We need fire. No- we have had that this whole time. We need water, a cool wave to cover the land and drive the residin’ flames out. What I would give to see that, to witness the day when all the misery ends and I get to see the blue crest of freedom.”

Mihaela looked at the lady in wonder, her eyes wide as she thought about what to do. The woman was making no sense- she was obviously hopelessly deranged after all. Then again, everything in this land seemed to be yielding to a pressing despair- Mihaela could feel it weighing on her, calling for her to give in. She could hardly wonder too hard at what was to blame for the distressed mindset of the poor woman, especially when it was considered that Mihaela herself had only been in the town for a few short hours.

“Countess Mihaela,” the maid who had helped the Countess Mother to her seat interrupted the two, much to Mihaela’s relief- she had found there was no way of politely extracting herself from the woman’s grasp, and she was at her wits end as to what to do.

“Yes?” Mihaela responded as she spun towards the maid, unable to contain her relief. The old woman had already retreated, going back out into the house with remarkable speed for someone who complained about achy-breaky bones. She had released Mihaela as soon as the door had opened and had been out of it in a flash.

“The Countess sent me to make sure you were breathing through your handkerchief, m’um,” the maid said regretfully with an apologetic curtsy. Mihaela was someone held in high regard  by the servants. Though a bit stiff she was never superior and always well meaning, something the servants were unable to say for other nobles they had worked under.

“If the Lady Mother requests it then I shall. I am bound by God to love and respect my parents, after all, as I do him.” Mihaela replied demurely as she whipped out the object that had managed to become so offensive to her in just a few short hours. She had never been forced to breathe through it as often as she had that day, having only ever passed quickly through the poorer parts of town her mother deemed unsafe.

The maid turned to leave but before she could go Mihaela cried out to her, unable to stop herself.

“You know I don’t buy into all of this miasma foolishness?” she asked the maid almost pleadingly.

The maid gave Mihaela a tender smile as she considered how lucky she was to have a post that allowed her the chance to watch as Mihaela bloomed into such a gracious and intelligent woman.

“I know you would never think so lowly of another, my lady. You are well above that. I feel comfortable saying you were God’s greatest creation.”

Mihaela blushed red. “He loves us all, and in his eyes we are all equals. I am no better than the next person.” she insisted, and it would have been modest did she not truly believe what she was saying down to her very core.

“That is exactly what I mean, Mihaela. Only you could say that and mean it.”

Mihaela watched as the maid went and couldn’t help but feel a twinge of remorse. While she did not consider herself one, she had played everyone for a fool. She wondered how they managed to ignore it, how for all these years nobody had noticed- her devotion to God was so deep because she was so deeply flawed. Purity had no claim to a soul that had even a drop of poison, and though she managed to stow away her sins in the darkest and most hidden corner of her heart, to keep them hidden with a key that had long been tossed into the ocean, the touch of darkness was still there. It resided within her, buried deep inside but hanging onto the edge of the cage, waiting for that moment to escape. And inside it rose, and rose…





© 2017 Kayla



Author's Note

Kayla
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Added on November 1, 2017
Last Updated on November 4, 2017
Tags: Moving, intrigue, politics, new arrivals, mystery, suspense, danger, underlying danger, underlying threats, uncertainty, religious themes, God, mentions of God


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Kayla
Kayla

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