The maid's truth

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Chapter 10: Playing cupid.

I arrived at the stables right before dawn where a boy not older than twelve was saddling a horse and explained lord Lancaster had ordered for me to use it. The horse’s name was Thunder, it had jet black and lustrous mate and was ginormous, standing next to it I barely reached its muzzle. When I approached it, I noticed a plaque engraved with Damian’s personal seal attached to the leather band crossing the horse’s chest. Then it hit me, Thunder was his personal horse.

I was helping the boy check on the horse while thinking why reason could Damian have to give me his horse when we brought so many to pull the carriages when lady Nuria arrived. She was wearing the typical jokey attire, tight white pants, a long-sleeved black blouse and a leather vest with high boots. I was very glad with my suggestion of going for a ride, because she was beaming with excitement. And if she noticed I was wearing my baggy uniform pants, she didn’t comment on it.

“Good morning, Enid.” She was practically jumping of excitement. “I see you are ready, let’s go!”

Her horse was one fine beast with marbled fur in gray. It was considerably smaller than Thunder, which was adequate for lady Nuria’s size. After warming up a bit and we started to ride for real, the size difference wasn’t a problem at all. It was quite obvious she was an experienced jokey and knew the terrain as the back of her hand, despite my horse’s physical advantages I was having trouble to keep up with her.

We stopped to let the horses drink, the sound of birds chipping and the low murmur of the creek our only company. I was internally regretting coming for a ride with lady Nuria. I hadn’t expected for her to go so fast and hard; we had probably traveled a good ten miles through the forest and I was sore all over.

I got off the horse and groaned when my feet touched the ground, the vibrations making my inner tights and my pelvic bones ache. Lady Nuria, on the contrary, dismounted with an elegant and swift move, landing gracefully with a beaming smile.

I rolled my eyes internally, thinking she needed to find a man who liked to ride with her. She would give him a run for his money.

“We should go back, my lady. I must give back Thunder to his owner.” I pointed out, her smile faltered a bit and I felt bad for cutting out our fun. “Maybe we can come back tomorrow, it would be fun and I need to practice more.”

“All right, but we need to find you another horse.” She stated, pleased with the promise of another day outside.

We headed back at a much slower pace, taking our time to talk and enjoy the view. She was giving me some advice to take care of my sore muscles, at which I felt slightly embarrassed for my obvious lack of experience. And I encouraged her to interact more with the noblemen and ladies during the festivities and after them. The season was only a popular time-lapse to flirt and date, but there were no rules about doing it after.

We arrived at the stables and noticed many horses were missing, meaning some groups left very early to begin the hunt. I was wondering what the rules for the hunt implied and if leaving this early was allowed. I felt bad for Damian and his team, lending me his horse meant departing later in the day or having to use a less fit horse for the activity.

As if on cue, lord Tiberius arrived when lady Nuria was dismounting. Her graceful move catching his attention. Lady Nuria didn’t notice the intruder and was beaming with excitement.

“We must go tomorrow, too! I’ll show you an even better place to…” her sentence was cut short when she noticed the humongous frame of lor Tiberius in the entrance, staring at her. I saw a little pink flash in the light around her and paint his cheeks. I was already plotting a way for they to meet again, I curse my controlling self for wanting to play cupid.

The rest of the day was uneventful to say the least, boring being a more adequate description. Whoever did the riddles was terrible with puzzles and hiding, the hints were so obvious we were done in a couple of hours and, despite being half way through, I had a very good guess to where the Treasure would be. I confided my guessing to lady Lisa and Baroness Krishna, but we would have to wait a couple days to prove me right.

We were having dinner with the gentlemen after a long spa session at lady Nuria’s bedchamber in the afternoon. I’d done their hair and make-up, lady Lisa praised me as always but her friend, Lady Daphne, was giving me a funny look. I was wary of her, her light a permanent gray tone gave me the chills.

“You look beautiful, baroness” I whispered to Krishna before we entered the dining hall. I’d made a very traditional make-up of the Seven Lands and tied her hair up with complicated braids, she’d never changed her style since getting married and was afraid her husband wouldn’t like it. “If lord Henry displeases you, you can always kick him out to sleep with lord Damian”

“I don’t think lord Lancaster would appreciate the snoring” she giggled. “Thankyou Enid, I had lots of fun and I’m finally making some friends in this country thanks to you.”

“You flatter me, but I cannot take the credit. You are a great person, I’m sure you would have warmed up to everyone in due time. If not here, back home during a tea party. I’ve been dying to meet you since countess Whiteclay showed us your work, you are very talented.”

“If you liked anything in particular tell me, I’ll be glad to give it to you or make something similar. I have a lot of time in my hands nowadays.” She smiled and squeezed my hand reassuringly, her nervousness long forgotten but spiking my own.

“I really liked a painting of a hose in the forest” I began, my voice shaking slightly “The detail of the gate was outstanding, I must admit I’d not seen a crest like that in the Seven Lands Empire”. Now I was fidgeting, nervous to ask. I felt silly, it wasn’t a royal secret or classified information, but for some reason I wanted to be cautious of who I included in my family search; the experience with Damian had been a bit sour.

“I’m glad you liked that painting. My mother-in-law doesn’t understand that I’m always painting landscapes of my natal country, but not many notices those details and she still show them.” We were a few turns away from the dining hall and I didn’t want to miss the chance, so taking a deep breath I finally asked her.

“I came across a similar crest and was wondering if you knew where it is from” I held my breath and tightened my grasp in the dress fabric, any tighter and I would rip it.

“Of course, if you’d bring the sketch, I’ll gladly try to identify it. But I must warn you, my knowledge of the noble houses of Sion is limited.” I blinked surprised to how easy it was, a wave of relief downing on me. We reached the entrance and the baroness uneasiness came back. “Well, here we go”

“Don’t worry. Lord Henry must be blind if he doesn’t melt at your feet”

I was seating between lady Daphne and Lisa, making small talk and appreciating the light dinner. Without my daily work routing I was afraid I’d put on weight with all that fancy food. Lisa was giggling at something lord Luca said and I caught that ugly yellow and green light coming in waves from lady Daphne; she was jealous but doing a good job at hiding it. If it weren’t for my ability, not even I’d tell.

We all agreed to have lunch outside the next day, the competition would finish early and the changes of relationship between the guests was obvious. Everyone wanted to spend some extra time just mingling.

I saw lady Daphne whispering something to Lisa and moving to talk with lord Luca, making him frown and leave without a word; leaving my friend confused. I followed after her to our chambers and saw the blue light filling the room.

“Lisa, everything alright?” I approached slowly, Lisa was sniffing and pulling mercilessly at her hair trying to undo the braids. Taking the brush from her hand I took her blond locks and gently untangled them. “What did lady Daphne say?”

“They’re childhood friends and she know I like him a lot. We’ve been spending a lot of time together just talking, he’s nice to me; he makes me feel pretty and listens to what I have to say.” Hot tears rolled down her pink cheeks and began sobbing. “I told Lady Daphne I hopped he would court me officially and she said she would put on a word with him… And then he run up the hills.”

“Oh, honey.” I hugged her, overwhelmed by her sadness and furious with Lady Daphne. If my ability was right, I would bet she said some nasty stuff about my friend to lord Luca. “I think you should speak to him directly. I have a hunch lady Daphne wants lord Luca for herself, you should trust her no longer”.

“I don’t know, Enid, he looked really upset. Maybe I imagined everything…” my heart broke at her statement. Lisa was used to be looked down on and I wasn’t taking it.

“Of course not, young lady. We are going to clean you up really nice and I’ll drag you to talk to him if I have to” I said grabbing her by the arms with a determined glare. She nodded, big and surprised eyes staring at me. I stood up and began doing her hair again. “I’ve noticed the way he looks at you, don’t let this seatback to take happiness from you”

As promised, I went with her all the way to Lord Luca’s bedchambers, it was past ten but the light under the door told us he was still awake. I gave Lisa a slight push of encouragement and hid around the corner. She took a few deep breaths before knocking with her small fist.

Lord Luca opened the door and stumbled against the frame. A smirk creeping up my face. Lisa looked gorgeous with a lose messy braid, a few strands framing her delicate face with no hint of makeup. The white dress was sheer and loose, almost like a nightgown. Before he could say anything, I heard Lissa expressing her feelings for him; the big smile on his face was my cue to leave.

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