Chapter eight: The baroness of Sion.
Lord Henry was a very talkative person, but he had the ability to make you feel included, even if we were just woman and many men didn’t consider our opinion to be important. While they were talking about the possibilities when Damian and Lord Henry assumed their positions as head of their families, I noticed the way lady Krishna looked at her husband. Her eyes spilled unconditional love and adoration, once in a while he would look back at her and mirror that same look with a loving smile. I felt a little pang of jealousy, hoping one day I’d find someone who looked at me the same way; from the corner of my eye, I could tell Lady Lisa felt the same as me but much worse.
After lunch, the men were called to take a ride through the woods and get familiar with the scenery before the real hunt began. Meanwhile, we would be taken inside to get a tour of the property and get to know each other a little better. I rolled my eyes internally at the clear division of activities. I’m not a great hunter myself but for the looks of it some men and women would be much happier if they swapped groups.
“Lady Enid, I promise I’ll return Lord Damian in a single piece.” Lord Henry said with a playful grin. “So, please, take good care of my wife while I’m away.” he finished stroking her hair softly.
“Don’t worry, my lord, I’d do so even if you didn’t ask.” I bowed slightly and then smiled mischievously. “But I wouldn’t mind if Lord Lancaster’s adventure roughed him up a little.”
“You sure got yourself a very feisty partner, Damian.” Lord Henry laughed.
“Don’t be ridiculous. She’s like an annoying little sister” Damian frowned. “I’ll be happy when she finally leaves the manor.”
I tried to dissimulate how hurt I felt by his words biting on my lower lip, the sting stopping the tears that were accumulating in my eyes. “Your life would be so boring without me in it; but I guess we can change that by getting you a wife. Please look out for a good prospect for me too.” I said trying to sound playful, then bowed deeply to hide my face and hurried back to the mansion.
Once inside I ran to the nearest door and locked myself in.
“I’m so stupid…” I punched the wall, the physical pain relieving the emotional one. “I’m obviously a burden to him, what was I expecting?” I had never felt that way about him before he left five years ago; but here I was in an empty room feeling down and caring for the opinion of the man I considered to be insufferable not that long ago. “I’m definitely stupid” I mumbled.
I took a few minutes to compose myself and then headed towards the main entrance to reunite with the group and begin the tour. To my relief, Lady Lisa was with Baroness Krishna; they had a concerned look on their faces but weren’t talking to each other. At least they didn’t seem to be uncomfortable; they were just too shy to engage in conversation.
“Focus, Enid, don’t forget your main goal. Find your family, the rest will come naturally” I whispered to myself and put on my best smile as I reached them.
“Where were you, Enid? We got worried after you left off in such a hurry. Are you feeling well?” Lisa asked me, the light around her a turmoil of deep purple with pale green. It was the first time a saw two colors shining at the same time from a person; I was so intrigued that I forgot she asked me something for a second and took too long to answer.
“I’m sorry, Lisa. I had one too many glasses of juice with lunch” I smiled and rubbed her arm reassuringly, the purple visibly lightening until it became a light lilac. “I’m perfectly fine. I apologize to you, too, baroness. I promised to look after you and left without a word.”
“Don’t worry yourself, Lady Enid.” She smiled politely. “Contrary to my husband’s beliefs, I can take good care of myself. Besides, Lady Lisa was with me all the time.”
“I’m glad to hear that. But please, call me Enid. I have no title to deserve such a formal treating.” Lady Krishna looked surprised but couldn’t ask any further because Marquise Roquefort called for our attention to explain the rules and begin the tour.
The rules were very simple and little restrictive, set to promote the creations of new alliances and avoid conflict as much as possible, for a big disagreement during this event could lead to decades of hostile relationships between powerful families.
First, siblings couldn’t pair unless there were another three non-related members in their group; second, during the next three days we had to find as many objects while collecting and deciphering the clues to find the hidden treasure, the more clues we had, the easier it would be to find in the fourth day of search; third, alliances were not permanent, a person of the group could decide to leave at any moment, but it was forbidden to banish a member for any reason; fourth, we could seek for advice in the men; fifth, to divulge fake rumors about the clues for the treasure would disqualify a group.
Marquise Roquefort then lead us through a tour across all the rooms, hallways and gardens that would be subject of the search. We spent a lot of time in each, looking at every detail and asking questions about interesting objects. The Marquise would give us an interesting fact or two about a specific room or object, some of them were personal experiences with her family and some others were history facts. I tried to memorize as much as possible thinking it would come in handy while solving the riddles.
“How do you think we should make our group?” Lisa asked me in our way to the dining room, baroness Krishna following us with an attentive gaze. I’d learned that she didn’t talk much, perhaps the language was still difficult for her, but I felt more inclined to believe she had a quiet nature.
“That depends on what you want to achieve” I answered shrugging my shoulders. “The treasure sure is tempting but finding it doesn’t necessarily mean wining.”
She nodded in understanding and spent a moment in deep thought. I turned to look at the baroness in a silent questioning, she being married didn’t exclude her for wanting to gain something from this.
“I’d like to prove I’m more than just an exotic wife from a foreign country.” Lady Krishna answered hesitantly. “Most people think we are just an ornament; but we are capable of a lot if they just let us”
“Oh, that’s so deep” Lady Lisa pouted. “I just want to get the attention of a good suitor and maybe do some contacts to trade for the sake of my family”
I nodded and tapped mi lips with my index finger, something I did when I was trying to be creative. Their goals were different but didn’t contradict each other, we didn’t need to win the treasure but we did need to make a good participation by finding many of the objects during the next three days.
“Very well, I have an idea.” I finally said, noticing just then we were already seating in the dining room with Damian, Lord Henry and some other men, who looked amused by my lack of attention. I blushed at my distraction and bowed slightly. “I apologize, I was too deep in thought and didn’t notice we were with more people.”
Damian chuckled darkly at my statement and I sent him a poisonous glare; I was still mad at him for this morning.
“How was your day, my lords? I can’t imagine what you must do to prepare for a hunt.” I turned to the group who hadn’t been introduced to us yet, that I could recall. I scolded myself for being so careless.
During the next forty-five minutes we heard the men talking about their impression of the land, the traces of interesting animals for the hunt, the traps they were planning to set and an occasional boasting of hunting experience. I’d have complained but it was actually quite interesting and we spent a nice time dining all together, even Damian’s sour expression lessened and joined in the conversation.
I also learned that the remaining three members of their group we didn’t know before were all single, that piece of information got Lisa’s attention back in the blink of an eye. Lord Luca was the second son of a count from the coast region, he was 25 years old, had light brown hair with caramel eyes, he wasn’t that tall, maybe 5’7’’, with a muscular body and a bright smile.
The conceited looking man was lord Julian, the third son of a duke from the Capital. He was taller than me but he didn’t seem to be in very good shape, he wasn’t fat but lacked the muscles his other group members had. With that height and complexion, you could describe him as lanky. He was the youngest having reached 21st last month. I figured his carefree demeanor was a defense mechanism to compensate his lack of experience and tried not to judge him just yet.
The older of the group with 28th years was lord Tiberius; he was the heir of a count from the Mountain Region. He had long bright red hair and a long beard, he had sharp electric blue eyes and his voice was deep like thunder matching his tall frame of almost 7 feet and bulky build muscles. He had a rugged appearance, proof of the hardships lived up in the mountains, and didn’t talk much but followed the conversation attentively.
I was talking with the girls about candidates to join our alliance. We needed at least another foreign wife and a high-ranked member of the nobility. Lady Lisa was looking around saying names and ranks as an expert, proof of her three-year experience in this event and we were narrowing our options.
“You should invite my twin sister; she didn’t want to come because she already is engaged but his fiancé will inherit the title of count from the desertic region next spring.” Lord Julian intervened, using the opportunity to boast about his family once more, but his suggestion seemed sincere. “I’ll tell her tonight if you’d like”
“That would be nice, thank you, my lord” Lady Lisa answered, surprising me for taking the lead. I caught the way her eyes darted to lord Luca to quickly avert her gaze, missing his eyes for a split second. A little red swirl with her light pink shine near her chest, the rest of her aura was a nice and warm yellowish glow. It was still hard for me to understand the swirling colors, but I was getting the hang of it and, if I was right, that meant she had taken a like for lord Luca.
After agreeing with baroness Krishna that she would talk with the other three foreign representatives in the event before dinner finished, I excused myself arguing the long trip and lack of sleep. I bowed deeply, showing respect to those of higher rank, and quietly left to my room leaving Lisa behind in the hopes she would bond with lord Luca.
------------------------For those of you wondering I imagine baroness Krishna to be of hindi ancestors. Go to my wall to see a picture of what my imagination tried to transmit you all.