This chapter is, so far, the longest one, so I’ve ended up splitting it into 6 parts, which will take us into next Tuesday. Since next week will be my last week before I take my next blogging break, this will also be the last chapter I post until I return on September 13. It’ll also give me some much needed time to get some writing done since, after this, I only have the next 2 written!
My sister said most people called her the Keeper, but her name, long ago, had been Ilsa. She was a sad woman, one who had lost everything. Her late husband had made a number of terrible deals with the fae, and had paid with his life. They’d had two children, an angelic girl and a strapping boy, but they had been sent to serve the giants. Ilsa had been cursed to remain on the ground, the Keeper to the Clouds of Giants, to stare longingly up the stalk that she could never climb but led to her children who could never descend because they no longer remembered her. My sister, of course, offered to go up the stalk and retrieve the girl and boy.
The blood boiled in Camille’s veins even as she let Abigail help her into a gown with violet skirts and a cream bodice. Seed pearls lined the neckline and sheer sleeves encased her arms. Her short hair had already been slicked back and covered with netting to help hide the short strands from their father.
Lawrence had sent word early that morning that he would be arriving shortly. It had sent the household into a flurry of activity. While Muriel had commandeered the serving girls to help her and her daughter prepare for the Count’s return, Camille and Abigail had hastily retreated to their rooms to help each other into gowns they hadn’t worn since the day he had returned to the sea.
“Madeline threatened you?” Camille demanded, wanting to make sure she’d heard her sister correctly, even as a list of everything Muriel had subjected them to ran through her head.
“I didn’t say that,” Abigail said as she worked at doing up the tiny buttons at the back of Camille’s gown. “She seems to think there’s a competition between her and me for Adrian. Honestly, I didn’t really understand what she was saying.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Camille said, pulling herself upright as Abigail finished. She tilted her head and peered at herself with her best ladylike gaze. “Father will be back and Muriel will pay.”
Abigail sighed and planted her hands on her hips. “That’s assuming he’s interested in hearing how you were treated.”
Camille looked at her sister in the mirror before her. “I’ll make him listen. Eventually, he’ll have to. For now, with the engagement ball tomorrow night and the wedding not far off, he’ll be in residence. He’ll need to talk to us eventually.”
Abigail frowned. “Don’t you think the engagement ball is coming a little too quickly? It’s still winter, the princess has only just arrived, and now we all have to prepare for a ball in one day.”
Camille shrugged and smoothed down her dark skirt. “It’s been years in the making, Abigail. Even we have gowns prepared, and I imagine Clarice and her team are rapidly making their rounds.” She turned from the mirror and looked her sister up and down. “Don’t slouch, Abigail. You know Father hates it. Come. He’ll be arriving soon.”
“I think you’re taking this a little too far,” Abigail said as she followed Camille out into the hall.
“Not at all,” Camille responded breezily. “Just like Mother, we are born ladies, cousins to the king himself.” Her lips twisted with distaste, and she admitted to herself there was more than just a little anger in her heart. “Muriel is not.”
She heard her sister sigh behind her. “But Father has never been particularly interested in us. We’re healthy, clothed, warm. Muriel hasn’t hurt us.”
Camille whirled around, the skin around her eyes tightening. “Muriel has mistreated members of the royal family. There is no excuse for that. It may take some time to speak with Father, but I will and he will set his new wife straight.” She straightened and tilted her chin up as she shook out her skirts and whirled back around. “Muriel will not get away with how she treated us. I will see to it.”
She heard Abigail sigh again, but ignored it. She hated to be so severe, but Abigail wasn’t one for confrontation, wouldn’t bring up a problem unless it was dire. Of course her sister preferred to smooth things over as much as she could, of course she would rather live with it than have to discuss it with someone. So, of course, it was Camille’s job. She didn’t mind, really. It was her duty to protect her sister.
Catch up on Sisters of String and Glass
Check out Queen of the Garden of Girls