Chapter nine: It would be easier if I hated you.
Next morning, I entered the dining hall to find our table filled to the brim with women, many of which I’d barely seen during yesterday’s tour. Apparently, after my early leave last night, Baroness Krishna and lady Lisa used their social skills to gather a group that fitted our parameters. Saying I was surprised was an understatement.
Somehow, they had managed to add to our group one of the foreign ladies, the daughter of a count from the coast region, the wife of a viscount-to-be from the swamp region and one of the Roquefort triplets. Our little group of three had grown to a respectable seven counting the sister of lord Julian, Juliette, the lucky number of the empire.
As we were finishing our introductions, Marquese Roquefort entered the dining room and cleared her throat with a very feminine and delicate noise. “Good morning, ladies. I hope you are ready to begin with our treasure hunt” she smiled waving her hands for emphasis. “I see some of you have already made alliances, but remember, you can make as many changes as you wisht over the week. Let’s hear the first riddle, shall we?”
Then a young maid moved forward and recited a verse with a steady and monotonous voice:
“I’m a being of water, but avoid the streams; I’m near enough to see the lake but I touch the water only when it rains.”
The verse was bad, as if the author had forced the clues, but as long as we could decipher it, I wouldn’t complain. The maid recited it a couple more times and I heard everyone around me mumbling it in order to memorize it.
“Very well, ladies, go find your object. Remember, the firsts to arrive will have more clues to the next and to the real treasure. Enjoy your breakfast!”
As soon as she left, I took out my notebook and wrote down the riddle. Some of the girls in our group were already discussing some possibilities, but many of the other ladies in the hall continued to enjoy their food and chat banalities, clearly unamused with the ordeal of the day.
Lisa was whispering hurriedly with the lady from the coast and startled us when they suddenly got up. “I’m so full. Let’s go for a walk and enjoy the sunshine, shall we?” said the lady from the coast region, who just then I remembered was named Daphne. I eyed them suspiciously, noticing their half full plate, but agreed to their proposal. We needed to find a place who touched the rain and moving outdoors was as good as anything.
I looked up at Lissa and her usual cheerful yellow colored light was laced with deep red and navy-blue swirls, which confused me. I wondered why I could see her with so much detail, with a single glance I already knew those colors meant she was determined and being calculative, but couldn’t see anyone else’s lights.
Lady Roquefort tripped with the grass as we were entering the gardens and I hold her upper arm to stop her fall, but I almost let go of her as an explosion of white laced with a mate yellow mustard color appeared around her.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see it”. She mumbled in a barely audible voice filled with anxiousness. I smiled reassuringly and let go of her, the light dimming to a small shine around her.
“This is a first for me, too. Do you have any suitor in mind?” I tried to get her to relax. She shook her head with disappointment and I pursued my lips, and waited for her to elaborate.
“With all these beautiful ladies I don’t stand a chance and we entered the season too late. We’ll be lucky if one of us marries this year, but I’m sure it won’t be me. My sisters are more outspoken, funny and skillful than me.” I felt bad for her as a light blue tinted her shine, she was honestly mortified. She had caramel blond curls, gray bluish eyes a golden fair skin with freckles covering her little nose and dainty pink lips. She wasn’t a beauty but she was really cute; but I guess having two identical sisters as competence didn’t help to her self-esteem.
“I think you and your sisters are very pretty. If it makes you feel better, marrying fast isn’t everything. I think you should marry someone you love and loves you back” I continued walking and motioned for her to follow me, the rest of our group was several yards ahead of us and I didn’t want to miss them. “What do you like to do, my lady?”
“I like to play the piano and ride my horse, my mother disagrees in the later, saying it’s not very lady-like to have disheveled hair and a sweaty face.” She groaned internally, probably remembering a recent scolding.
“I love to ride, too. We should go for a ride tomorrow early, before breakfast.” I winked, an orange light shining from her. We reached the others and she nodded in agreement, making a seven with her hands to indicate the hour we should meet at the stables.
“We found it!” I heard a familiar cheerful voice yell at us. I had almost forgotten about the riddle. I stood on my tip-toes and saw Lissa waving a piece of paper with a golden number one, she was kneeling behind a duck statue and a chuckled. A duck that only touches the water when it rains.
By the end of the day everyone was exhausted for walking around so much, everyone but me; this was a walk in a meadow compared with my daily routine as a maid. And we had managed to find three objects first and another in fourth place, we were seconds in the board right behind the other group with the two Roquefort sisters.
Almost everyone in our group was elated, baroness Krishna was excitedly telling our day to her husband who looked amused by her enthusiasm but drank every single word that left her mouth like it was the most interesting thing he´d ever heard.
Lisa was talking with lord Luca, following my advice to ask him about the riddles for the treasure, and I noticed how her proximity flustered him. I was very pleased until I noticed lady Daphne glaring at them, but it disappeared after I blinked and she was smiling at me instead. I smiled back, but I couldn’t help but feel a little worried. It was common knowledge that not only alliances were formed during this event.
Damian was seated a few rows from me and I remembered I didn’t have a horse of my own to go for a ride with lady Roquefort, who was polite enough to tell me a couple times her name was Nuria. You may think it’s easy to remember but it was a riddle of its own next to her identical sisters Nidia and Naya.
I got up and approached him reluctantly. He was talking with lord Tiberius about some trail they’d found and wanted to follow the next day. I cleared my throat and then touched his shoulder when he didn’t acknowledge me.
“Yes, Enid?” Damian turned to face me with a bored expression. He was so annoying and I still didn’t understand the reasoning behind his evident displeasure towards me.
“I’d like to speak to you in private if possible.” I nodded at lord Tiberius, not wanting for him to feel disregarded. “It’s a personal matter.”
Damian shrugged his shoulders and got up, heading to exit the dining room without looking back to make sure if I was right behind. I just sighed and gave lord Tiberius an apologetic smile. Lady Daphne raised her hand to fix some lose hair strands and I took the opportunity to discretely brush my arm with her while passing by. An ugly green and yellow flashed me before demining and changing to gray. I apologized and hurried to reach Damian. I needed to keep an eye on her, but first things first.
I entered the hallway just in time to see Damian stepping into the library. I chuckled to myself remembering our first encounter after he came back several months ago and how things had drastically changed since then. Or maybe things were the same and his offer to help me that time had been an oddity product of his boredom.
“What did you want to say?” Damian was leaning against a shelve flipping the pages of a book without really looking at something. The only light of the room was the moonshine seeping through the high windows. I took a deep breath and decided to be the bigger person, risking not getting a horse for tomorrow morning, and address the awkward situation between us.
“What’s got into you?” I blurted before I had time to back off. “Ever since we came back to the manor after my birthday you’ve been acting strange. I thought it was lack of sleep or something but it’s just gotten worse and I want to know what’s so wrong that has you all riled up against me.”
He blinked dumbfounded by my words and I took the chance to keep going. I’d mustered up the courage to speak up my mind and he wouldn’t leave without listening to everything I had to say.
“I’m sorry I fell asleep on the horse and that you had to carry me. I’m sorry you had to cope with the cold and the uncomfortable bed of that shabby inn because of my dumb-self. But those aren’t reason enough for you to act that way towards me in private and much less in public. At least tell me if I did something wrong so that I can try and fix it.”
Without realizing I’d stepped closer to him over my rambling and he was now at arm’s length. A deep scowl crossed his face, darkening his green eyes, and his breathing was erratic, as if something deep inside was troubling him. We stood there for several minutes, me waiting and him scanning my face with that crazed look.
After a while I averted my gaze dropping my shoulders, defeated. If he didn’t want to give me an answer after pleading him, I wouldn’t get any even if I begged on my knees. “I guess you really hate me.” I turned around to leave. I had taken a couple steps when a pair of strong arms wrapped around my shoulders, stopping me abruptly and making my back crash against his chest.
“It would be easier if I hated you, little mouse.” He had his face buried in my hair, his voice a bit shaky. I couldn’t think straight, much less move. Damian was hugging me, more like holding onto me. But I couldn’t understand what he meant. If he didn’t hate me, then why was he acting like that?
Before I could voice my thoughts, he let go of me, making me stumble for the lack of support, and stepped to leave.
“Wait!” I almost yelled, making him stop at the door frame but he didn’t turn around. “I need a horse tomorrow before breakfast.” I mumbled, not knowing what else to say.
He turned his head slightly so I could see his profile. His jaw was clenched tight enhancing his sharp features, his shoulders filled with tension and I noticed he had his fists clenched, as if wanting to stop himself. I thought he would scream at me or something, maybe I had ignited his fury and that was the last strand keeping me unharmed, or alive; at this point I wasn´t sure of anything anymore. I was about to step back in case things got ugly, but he just gave an almost imperceptible nod and left.
“What the hell just happened?” I mumbled to myself. When he held me, his hands touched my skin and I thought I saw something; a shine around him. I shook my head to get rid of those thoughts, it was probably just the moon light tricking me. The other option was simply impossible. Things were already weird without adding my own crazy speculations.
Happy monday, everyone. Sorry for the single update last week. Things have been hectic with college and work; but as promised, here is a bit more of Enid and Damian.
I just can´t understand him. His hot and cold like Katy Perry´s song.
Anyway... what do you think? I love to read your comments.
Have a nice day and stay safe!