Dishonor (Book 1 of the In Search of Honor series)

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Chapter 6: Plans and Plotting

Lisa and Donna, outside workers, were also already waiting in the lineup. Then other people started coming out. Children ran to their groups.

Children were often either used in houses or in groups made for working small places where children were needed. Sometimes children escaped, and some were never found again, or families took them in, but for the most part they grew up to work in this place and die young in this place.

Scar-Face, Kyle, walked up and our group changed from a mob into a straight line. He scowled at us, but I wondered what was past that scowl. I suddenly remembered him shooting that girl. I’d ask Bryan to explain that one tonight.

Jordan approached me and I glared at him. “Hello, Liv, how was your night?” I just turned away. I didn’t plan on talking to him again if I could help it.

“Your mother said to tell you that she loves you." I refused to respond. I would not talk to an informant.

***

After Mistress Lianne told us our jobs for the day, I touched Reese on the shoulder. “Come by Kevin’s room after finish in Felise’s room.”

She simply nodded. Rachel gave me a worried look, but I ignored it. Reese was like me. She probably hated the King just as much as I did. I wanted to get out of the prison, and I would do anything to get free. Anything at all. She probably felt the same.

I met Kevin in his room. “Reese is coming up.”

“Are you sure you trust her?” He looked worried. Did I trust her? No. Did I know her that well? No. Did I think she would be useful? Yes.

“Of course I trust her. I wouldn’t bring her in if I didn’t,” I lied.

“I don’t want my family to be dishonored. Is there some way we could do this without incriminating my family?” Ha! When you were involved in something like our plan there was no going back. There was no making sure your family wouldn’t be dishonored if you were discovered.

“I don’t think so. It's all or nothing.”

Reese opened the door and peeked in. She saw Kevin and ducked her head. "Master Konjack, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to barge in. I…”

“It's okay, Reese, come on in. I actually wanted to talk to you.”

She came in, her head bowed. “Liv said you wanted to see me, master.”

“What do you think about the current system? Tell me truthfully.” I could see him analyzing her and watching her for any sign of insubordination, however slight.

She looked at me. I nodded. “It's okay, Reese, he’s not an informant. You can say whatever you want to say.”

“I hate it! I hate how they killed my father and dishonored me. I wish the king…” She shook her head. There were tears in her eyes. “My father… I watched him die. I loved him and they killed him.” She was broken up. Upset. No one could fake that.

I looked over at Kevin, and he nodded.

“Kevin is going to get us transferred to the royal group that works in the king’s house. You only get onto that group by royal decree. The goal…” Should I tell her the final goal? Could she work with us without knowing the final goal? No. She had to know. “…is to blow up the castle.” Maybe I should have left out the part about the castle, but I trusted her. She wasn’t an informant. She wasn’t oily and searching for answers the way informants were.

“I would be honored to be involved in your scheme. It makes me so glad to know that someone is doing something…” She sounded grateful. Kevin walked up and gently wrapped her in a hug, and I felt a pang of jealousy. I didn’t like seeing Kevin’s arms around other people.

But that was life. I couldn’t stop Kevin from hugging anyone he wanted to hug. He gently stroked her hair until she calmed down. She stepped away once she was better and wiped her face with her shirt sleeve. “I think I’m better now. Thank you, Kevin.”

She used his name and the way she said it - I think she might also like him. For a second I wished I hadn’t introduced her, but that was silly. Kevin wasn’t mine and I couldn’t control who he was kind to. It was part of why I like him.

“Come on, Reese. We have chores to do.” I walked toward the door, remembering seeing my own father’s head and banishing the memory from my mind again.

“Elizabeth…” Kevin’s voice was full of dismay. “Can I talk to you, alone?”

Reese looked between the two of us before walking out of the door.

“Elizabeth, you look, well, I don’t know. Upset? Is everything okay?”

“I… I don’t really know.” I couldn’t tell him that I was jealous. When he used to comfort Annie I never felt jealous. Then again, Annie was my best friend and I knew she didn’t have feelings for Kevin. To her, he was just an older brother. Annie assured me of this when I asked her once. She said she loved someone else, but she would never tell me who.

“It feels weird bringing someone in who isn’t Annie. I saw you comforting Reese and I just couldn’t help but remember." It was half true because now that I said it I could see Annie standing there, staring at me. Her eyes were accusing me. Why are you still alive? Why haven’t you come to join me?

“Elizabeth!” Kevin waved his hand in front of my face. “I thought you had gotten better? That the grief had lightened.”

“It has. I just got lost in memory.” I couldn’t say the rest. I couldn’t say how she wanted me to join her death, because I had promised Kevin I wouldn’t. It was strange how a half-truth I had come up with to hide my jealousy had turned into reality.

“I need to go do my chores.” I rushed for the door even as Kevin reached out to stop me.

“Elizabeth!” His hand just missed my shoulder as I slipped out the door. I had to clean his room up, and Mistress Lianne would expect that to only take half the day.

I avoided looking at Kevin as I entered. He was sure to be mad about the way I had left him earlier when he still had questions.

But he said nothing as I neatened up his closet and put the clothing he had thrown around into clean or dirty laundry. I put the clean stuff away in drawers and piled the dirty stuff to take down to the wash. Still he sat on his bed, reading.

“Kevin, I need the bed covers.” He looked up slowly from his book.

“Do you want me to move so you can take my bed covers away?” He gave me a cheeky smile.

“Yes, unless you like dirty smelly sheets and clothing.”

“Oh, fine. You’re no fun.” He stood up with this infuriating smirk.

I yanked the sheets from his bed. “I’ll bring you new ones after I deliver the laundry.” I picked up the pile of dirty clothing and carried it to the door.

“As long as you bring me more blankets.”

“Of course, master,” I called out to him as I left the room, carrying the pile down to the women who worked the laundry room. Sometimes he could be so frustrating. One moment he was kind and caring and the next he was ordering me about like I was just some servant there to clean up his messes.

I sorted the darks, lights, and whites into their own separate piles to make it easy for the laundry ladies, and none of them said a word to me. I went to where the clean linens were stored and I grabbed a new set of blankets and sheets. These ones had a dark red color with gold colored embroidery thread telling stories in rich stitches.

I figured Kevin would like this set of covers since his favorite color was red. I brought it upstairs and he was sitting on the mattress of his bed still reading.

“You like this set?” He looked up at the cover I was holding in my arms.

“Yup,” he said as he got up off the bed.

“You want to help?” I asked as he just stood there.

“Nope. I think you have this all handled perfectly fine.” He held his book up in front of his face.

He was angry at me for slipping out. I had a job to do!

“Well, while I make your bed maybe you can tell me what the fascinating book you are reading is.” I worked as I talked, unfolding the sheets and laying the first one out on the bed.

“It’s a book Linda likes, and if I am to win her hand I must win her heart.” He blushed.

“So, what’s it about then?” I teased him, trying my best to put on a smile. Maybe if I tried to be nice he would stop treating me like this.

He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a romance novel.”

“She’s got you reading a romance?” I couldn't help it; I laughed. I never saw Kevin as the type to studiously read a romance. He was like me. He liked action and adventure.

He grabbed a pillow and threw it at me. I glared at him and picked up the pillow and carefully put it back on the bed. “I never pegged you as the romance reader.”

“Well, maybe you don’t know everything about me. I exist outside of my helping you with this plan, and it better work.”

Why did he have to become serious? I turned my attention to fluffing up the pillows. “I know.”

But I didn’t know anymore. What was the truth and what was the lie now? I went to the bucket of water and grabbed a rag as I started to clean the walls.

I remembered when Annie and I were assigned his house at the same time after being dishonored on the same day. I had been whipped three times that morning for being disrespectful. I was crying and unsure of the world. Kevin had seen me driven in as he stood next to his father.

As I worked mucking out the stalls of the horse I had once ridden, the same horses that were given to the Konjacks on the day of my father’s execution, Kevin came in. He looked fierce. I could still hear him saying, “Elizabeth, why are you in that sack with your back bloody and cleaning out Rampant’s stall”

“Don’t you know, Kevin? They killed him. I saw them, they cut off his head. My dad, they cut off his head. I’m Dishonored.” I collapsed there in the stall in a puddle of tears and shock. The world was starting to catch up with me, and I realized the full truth of my situation.

“I’m Dishonored, Kevin. I’m Dishonored.” Kevin dropped to his knees and held me close for the first time. The pain inside me was so great, far greater than the pain my back was in.

“We will get revenge for you one day, Elizabeth. I will do everything in my power to get you revenge. Anyone who would do this to you is terrible, and I swear I will make you honored again one day, no matter what the cost.” His words built a fire inside me.

The tears dried up as I realized he was right. Revenge was what I needed. “I swear, I will get revenge, Kevin, I will.”

In that moment, strength filled me. I had a new purpose. I would hide my fight so that I could strike back at their very heart. I saw a glimpse of fear in Kevin’s eyes as he saw what he had awoken, but I knew he would become stronger. He would have to become stronger like I had. Maybe he hadn’t seen his father’s head taken off by a brutal king’s orders, but I would need him, and he would need to rise to meet that challenge.

I let myself bask in the memory of the strength that filled me. It was the first time I had felt that strength, and since then it was what kept me going. Was I being too hard on Kevin? The idea was his. He came up with it to give Annie and I hope, but it was a solid plan. It would work. Reese and I would finish the work of revenge that was started all those years ago in a stall.

I finished the walls and moved to the floor. The way Kevin lounged on his bed reminded me of a when I moved from cleaning stalls to cleaning his room. A spot had opened in the house. The maid that served him had gotten an infection and died. He demanded that only I could clean his room.

I came in after changing in front of the old, grisly guard that watched our group. I was scared, unsure of what I was supposed to do and scared I would mess up and be sent back to the stable. But there was Kevin smiling at me as I walked in. “I did it, Elizabeth. I got you a job where we could have time alone. It’s not much, but we can start planning now.”

I had almost forgotten about his promise. I had given in to the despair of dishonor, but he gave me hope again that day. Soon after, Rachel took me under her wing. I had been so close to giving up before she came along. The next day I had asked Kevin if Annie, my friend I’d made amongst the Dishonored, could be a house slave as well, and he had smiled widely. “Well, let me ask my Father, but I bet he’ll agree that Felise could use his own maid.”

Every morning we were as thick as thieves until Annie was murdered by the guards. Why hadn’t she opted for exile? Tears leaked out my eyes.

I grabbed the feather duster and got back to work. Last thing to do in Kevin’s room. I looked over at him quietly reading. At one point he would have helped me clean or at least talked to me the entire time and kept me company, but now… Now he didn’t seem to care that I was still in the room.

Sometimes I wondered if my own need for revenge had tired him, and if he had lost his own flame to help me. Maybe now he just did this out of some sense of the need to fulfill his long ago promise. I wouldn’t hold him to it.

“Kevin.” He looked up from his book as I spoke to him quietly. “If you don’t want to help me with my revenge, you don’t have to. I won’t hold you to your promise.”

He smiled fondly at me, “Don’t worry Elizabeth, I’ll do my part. It’s not very hard. Don’t worry Elizabeth. Everything will go according to plan.”

One moment he is scowling and saying everything had better go to plan, and then the next he is saying everything is fine. As if that was what I was worried about. I feel more like he’s afraid everything won’t work.

I finished dusting and prepared to leave. He didn’t even look up from the book he was so carefully reading. I took all my supplies out of the room with me. I put everything away and headed back to the kitchen to find my next chore since it was only a little after midday.

Mistress Lianne glanced up as I entered. She talked as she mixed something in a bowl. “Ahh, you finished before the others. I want the kitchen scrubbed down. It’s getting dirty in here. Make sure you scrub the icebox and dump any food that’s gone bad. Also, since we aren’t using the wood stove currently I want you to clean the inside. You got all that, girl?”

“Yes ma’am.”

I headed toward the door but she stopped me. “And use the water from the sink. I don’t want you to waste time walking in and out of here to cart water from the well.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She seemed unusually kind, but maybe it was just because she wanted the work done quickly. Maybe she wanted to see how quickly I worked when under constant supervision.

I filled up a kitchen bucket with water from the faucet, and quickly went to work scrubbing down the icebox.

I found it kind of funny, but mistress Lianne was clearly getting annoyed. I think she was glad when the daylight started to dim and it was time for me to leave her domain.

She shooed me out of the kitchen.

Rachel and Reese came out just as I was finishing up. We walked to the well where Scar-Face, no, Kyle was waiting for us.

The door clattered, and mistress Liane ran outside. Was she mad? “They finished more than the work assigned. The house girls earned a little extra tonight.” She held out a basket to him, “One for each of them and I included one for you.”

I almost laughed in surprise. I gulped to keep myself from saying anything stupid.

What was the treat? What would we get tonight? Kyle smiled. “Thanks, Lianne. I appreciate you thinking about me.” Suddenly I could see a nice person in that smile I had never seen before on him, but it suited him.

The moment passed and he scowled again. “But just because Lianne has a big soft heart and made you three a treat don’t think you can slack tomorrow.”


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