The maid's truth

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Chapter six: Cushions and portraits.

It had been a couple weeks since my awakening and I was going crazy. It all started three days after our arrival to the manor when I was comforting a young girl who worked in the kitchen; apparently, she was dumped by her boyfriend because she refused to sleep with him before they got engaged. The poor thing was crying her eyes out in my arms when I caught a glimpse of a dark blue fog surrounding her body, but it disappeared when I blinked and brushed it of as a light illusion.

Since then, I’ve seen colored fog surrounding people more often every day. At first it was only a light fog gone in a flash and only appeared when I touched someone. But with time the fog lingered around the person and I didn’t need to touch them any more to see it. I also noticed the color changed, dismissing my theory that to each person corresponded a color, and it gave me a different sensation when I saw the colors. Like a sixth sense telling me the mood of the person.

I spoke with Hellen about it and after a few minutes of consideration she argued it was probably the development of my ability and that I’d have to wait until it was fully awakened to find out what it was about. So, instead of trying to block whatever my power was, I embraced it; Ilse was of great help, letting me “read” her as much as I wanted and I managed to identify some primary colors with their emotions.

However, it was when I didn’t put that much of an effort when I could understand it better. It was almost like an instinct.

I’d much liked to spend all my free time in the library searching for something about my newfound ability, my father or the crest I’d seen in my visions but with Damian back in the manor after five years, we were incredibly busy organizing tea parties, sports gatherings, diners, and hunt parties. Most of my days began at four in the morning and ended well past midnight, leaving me with no energy to inquire about my past.

My relationship with Damian wasn’t much better than when we came back after my birthday; I’d even say it was worsening, and Lady Martha noticed almost immediately. She cornered me once in her chambers and interrogated me about our demeanor but I was just as clueless as she; the reason why Damian was so cold and rude towards me was unknown.

To top it all, Lady Martha seemed determined to find me an appropriate suitor to court me. Therefore, other than help with planning and preparing I had to be present in almost every gathering planned in Lancaster Manor and once in a while I joined her to visit other nobles’ event.

We were in our fourth escapade of the week, as lady Martha called them, and I was beyond tired of politely rejecting the advances of lord Neil. He was the second son of count and countess Whiteclay, had a pleasant face and a nice frame; his only but unforgivable disadvantage was his passionate affinity for gambling.

“Countess, I heard your grandchildren’s birthday is around the corner” I spoke, trying to divert the attention.

“That’s right, dear, my lovely grandson will be two next month. But I’m worried his mother isn’t taking the matter with adequate importance” the countess pouted as if she were missing all the fun of preparing a kid’s party. The high nobility obsession to show their wealth and power in every possible opportunity was a real headache to people like me; I was fortunate Lady Martha preferred to spend her money in expensive dresses and flamboyant jewelry to visit her neighbors.

“Is that so? I hope your daughter-in-law is adapting well to our traditions. Where is she from, again?” I inquired with authentic curiosity. The count-to-be had been one of the King’s ambassadors sent to the foreign countries and surprisingly came back with a fiancé and no mistress, unlike many of his fellows that had the audacity to bring up to three mistresses with round bellies.

“A neighboring kingdom past the mountain region named Sion” the countess answered tapping her lips with a finger, as if trying to remember a boring fact “I believe she’s a baroness, but I’m quite pleased with her education. Tina, bring some cushions and portraits from my daughter, she’s a real talent with her hands”

A couple maids left the garden to comply to their master’s command and the conversation returned to couples’ gossip. It was the matching season and scandals were in abundance. I took advantage of the topic to express my distaste for gentleman with the habit of gambling and lord Neil seemed to take the hint because almost immediately he moved on to the next single lady on his list.

Lady Martha reprimanded me with her gaze for my own list of appropriate suitors was shortening. I shrugged dismissively, I still had a few lords and sires left in the empire to meet; but even if any of them was adequate, the search for my family would be an opportunity to meet new people. I wasn’t stupid, the necklace of my mother indicated my real family was of noble linage or filthy rich, so my marriage would be as well. Was it so wrong to be greedy and want love in my life as well?

I was lost in thought when a small patrol of maids came out of the mansion carrying all kinds of hand-made objects. I could see cushions, tea services, portraits, embroidered handkerchiefs and ceramic vases. Countess Whiteclay really wanted to show off her daughter-in-law, not precisely for her affections towards her but for the prestige it would bring to her family.

Everyone got up to admire the foreign artistic style and the combination with our traditional materials. The baroness of Sion was indeed talented; the quality and number of artifacts made in a little over two-year spawn was impressive, even more considering she’d been pregnant most of the time.

I was admiring an embroidered cushion when a portrait caught my attention from the corner of my eye. It was an oil painting of a luxury cottage in the woods, but the symbol in the entrance seemed familiar. I stepped closer to distinguish the details, an incomplete circle with a pair of wings in the outside and the silhouette of a deer inside with stars hanging between the horns, and stood frozen when I realized it was awfully similar to the crest in my visions.

“W-where is this?” I stuttered in my stupor, asking to no one in particular.

“That’s the baron’s family house” The duchess answered behind me. “Our summer cottage is much prettier if you ask me, but she made it look nice in the painting”.

I nodded and managed to give her a polite smile, but my mind was already somewhere else. I tried to recall the Seven Lands crests and they were all alike, rectangles framed with leaves and flowers. If the same applied to Sion, then my family crest ought to be of a family from that kingdom. But I couldn’t bet everything in a supposition, I needed to gather more information and the library would be my next stop.

“Is this really it?” I asked to myself dejectedly while looking at the couple of books and my half-written scroll in the table. Sir Buttercup was sprawled on the table among the many paper rolls, inkpots and maps. The furry animal purring while I scratched his belly absentmindedly.

It took my only a couple of hours to gather all the information about the neighboring empires, kingdoms and countries of the Seven Lands. All those nights spent in the library last year really paid off, I could tell where everything was and a single look to a book or a scroll told me the content. Still, I spent some extra hours checking everything one by one to not miss anything important.

Sion was a vast empire, not a kingdom as lady Whiteclay stated at her house. But unluckily to me, there was very little information about the lands past our borders and even less of Sion; their exact location, the date of the peace treaty signed between our rulers over three centuries ago, and their main activity as merchants of spices and fabric. That was it. Not even a single map, drawing or royal crest.

I was tapping my head against the board feeling defeated when an idea shook me as a ray. I didn’t need to go to the capital to investigate or launch myself blindly to Sion in hopes my hunch was right. I could just ask the baroness, if she was as educated as the countess of Whiteclay boasted, she will know the empire’s crests by heart and even tell me exactly where to look.

The first sunrays of dawn slipped through the window announcing the beginning of the day, which meant no sleep for me, but I was a woman on a mission and I wouldn’t let the lack of a night’s sleep slow me down. Now, I only had to find a way to meet the baroness of Whiteclay Manor.

“What do you think, sir Buttercup, would a tea party be too obvious?” I stretched my tired back and rubbed my eyes to scare away sleep. The cat, being as helpful as always, meowed with all the wisdom a cat can transmit and dismissed my idea. “I know, I can do better; but I need a cup of coffee first.”


Who else can't start the day without a good cup of coffee?

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