A place to call my own
In the couple months that followed, I grew ever closer with Remington. The other staff, noticing the shift in dynamics, soon stopped asking or trying to find out about Ellerie. In fact, it was as if she never existed. Instead, they often waited outside the library or my room—wherever I happened to be—in an attempt to gain my trust. Nonetheless, if ever, I only let Maayan, my first personal maid at the castle, in.
No news came from Arula directly during the whole while, although rumors began to spread throughout the land that Lady Ellerie was “losing her composure” or “turned into a different person”. Remington doubted nothing, as it could very well be true, with or without Arula’s help.
One day, as I was browsing through the many shelves in the library with Remington, the world stopped—again.
“Are you absolutely certain that you are fine?” I asked when all returned to normal.
He shook his head lightly, rubbing his temples. “There is no point in denying it anymore.”
“At this rate, the whole castle may know,” I remarked.
“It might extend further than that,” he said. “I am looking for a way to suppress the power; I have very rarely used it, and it seems to have a mind of its own.”
“I am looking too,” I said, “Though...I don’t suppose Calder’s castle has a library even close to this.”
The day of my departure was drawing near, and Remington’s library had to be second only to Arula’s.
“Calder himself may not read, but his adviser certainly should. That being said…” There he trailed off, halting in his movements to meet my gaze. Remington smiled softly. “It is my responsibility to contain myself. You will be busy enough as is.”
I smiled back—out of the joy of being able to temporarily escape this man soon. “It was because of me that you used it,” I said, “I insist. Besides, I assure you that I will not get in your way.”
“Of that, I am confident.”
I entered Calder’s castle under the wary gazes of the guards and the harmonious scrutiny of Baker, the adviser. He greeted me with a polite bow, and I nodded in return. Then, we made our way into the castle. Baker was a mellow man with graying hair, his back slightly bent with age. Along the way, he explained to me particulars of the castle—which was scarcely decorated.
“Lord Calder must have been quite outward-looking,” I said lightly, looking around as he gestured.
“What makes you say so?” asked the older man quietly.
“This place is furnished, but not overly so. Am I wrong?”
“Not at all, Lady Larissa,” he replied.
That successfully changed the topic from unimportant furniture to the last lord of the castle. From the way Baker spoke, I gathered that he was still mourning the loss of Calder—and, as Arula had speculated, they were like father and son. Eventually, we ended up sitting at the top of a tower in the castle, looking out at the greenery outside, void of people and filled with an endless sky.
“My lord—excuse me; Lord Calder—”
“It’s fine,” I said, “He will always be your lord.”
“...thank you. Lord Calder used to climb up this tower every once in a while to look at everything, and say, someday, people of all the land would be his to conquer. I asked him to be wary of Lord Remington and Lord Arula’s alliance—I told him they had all that he did not, but he was a hot-headed young man…”
I nodded along, listening to his tale.
“Looking at the world from here does give me an illusion that the world is in my hands,” I remarked, equally quietly, so as to not break the peace in the atmosphere. “But the most important matter to look at is oneself after all. The world can see you; what danger it would be if you could not see yourself too.”
This time, it was Baker who nodded. “It is no wonder that you were the one chosen to take this territory—my lady, you seem wise beyond your years.”
That was because I did live beyond my current physical years—not that I would ever say that to the adviser.
“If you don’t mind my asking, how was it that you ended up in this tangle of blueblood political struggles?” he asked.
Ah, another question I had been waiting for. Old men are too predictable.
“It started long ago…” I told him selective chapters of my tale—the negotiation, the library, the battle, betrayal, master of the house...emphasizing, of course, my father’s alleged betrayal.
“True,” Baker noted, “Rather than staying in Lord Remington’s castle, this is a more appropriate form of equality.”
“Will you lend me your assistance?”
“Naturally, my lady; I wish only for stability.”
Thus, beginning with the man second only to Calder—myself, now—I slowly but surely gained respect of the territory. Here, they knew me not as the witch, but merely as the lady. If the people mourned, I let them mourn; if they rejoiced, I let them party.. At the same time, anyone who went against me was publicly penalized—subtlety would only go unnoticed here.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering why Baker talked with me for so long on the first day of my arrival, the answer is “social skills”.
Many magical things in life have nothing to do with magic.