Note: I’m splitting this chapter into 3 even though it’s shorter because I like the 1 chapter per week. Splitting this one into 3 will get me back to that.
My sister thought to head for the Pearl Kingdom now that the war is years in the past, but I thought to mention James, our cousin lost to the linked world. It had, after all, been many years, and I wondered. My sister’s new course was determined. She headed for The Spindle, that splendid place of color and vibrancy. It gave me a great deal of pleasure to hear her gasp with awe. I no longer recalled the way to Roderick Manor, but Clarice was on her way so took my sister with her.
Camille prowled the manor, restless as the day dawned with gray skies again. Rain fell in spurts, or perhaps it was smaller waves sent by the sea witch. The streets were periodically flooded and nearly the entire city had been evacuated. Her father had forbidden her from leaving the manor, forbidden Muriel and Madeline from leaving as well.
She growled to herself, pacing into the parlor to stare out the windows. She had no idea what the city was like, but the servants who ventured out brought back rumors of looting and chaos, of injured people limping around and orphaned children crying in the streets. Castle servants swept the city now and then for those they could save and bring into the castle, but the castle was also filling up.
It was easy to tell when the worst battles were raging. The skies were darker and the waves towered over the city. The yelling and screaming in the streets were the loudest. They were the days Camille’s heart twisted, the days her hands itched to go out and help, do something. But her father had given strict orders she and Muriel and Madeline were not to go out, and Geoffrey, Helene, and Violet kept them close to their hearts.
“I should be out there,” Camille said softly as she heard soft footsteps approach.
“My dear,” Violet said softly.
Camille held up a hand and shook her head. “I know, Violet. But Abigail is in the castle. She’s helping in the kitchens and sitting with the injured. And me? I’m sitting here, doing absolutely nothing.” She jerked her head upwards. “And those two do little more than hide in their rooms and dress up for when Father is home.”
“We all have our duties at this time.”
“Well, what’s mine? It can’t be sitting here where it’s dry and warm.”
Violet didn’t answer, so Camille turned to her. She blinked, seeing the matronly woman chew on her lip.
“Violet?” she whispered, stalking closer to the woman.
The housekeeper bent her head closer. “You tell no one,” she whispered fiercely. “Geoffrey, Helene, and I know how difficult it is for you. With them making no movements, we can sneak you into the castle.”
Camille’s face lit up. “You can?”
Violet offered a single nod, small and jerky. “But only when it is safe,” she said, nodding to the gray skies. “And you must return when we tell you to. We will keep an eye out for you.”
Camille reached out and grasped one of Violet’s hands. “Do you believe in the sea glass?” she asked, hope pounding in her chest.
Violet offered a soft, apologetic smile. ”I know you and your sister use it and it works for you, but I do not.”
“Oh,” Camille said, her shoulder slumping. After a moment, though, resolve slid back into her body and she squeezed Violet’s hand. “Can you get me there now?”
“Yes. Come, we’ll go through the kitchens.”
Camille followed Violet through the manor and into the kitchens. There, Helene and the rest of the staff turned a blind eye, going about their own duties without even a glance. Violet quickly swathed Camille in a gray winter cloak, one that was available to any one of the servants before hurrying her out the door.
It was almost thrilling, being snuck out of her own home. All she had to do was follow closely on Violet’s heels, which wasn’t an easy task. As matronly as the woman was, she was fast and Camille often caught herself running to keep up.
They wound their way through a side passage off of the Olidan Manor grounds, one Camille hadn’t even known about. But Violet was rushing too quickly for her to ask. Instead, she just wound herself through the undergrowth of a light wood that slowly slanted uphill and gave way to a well-ordered forest that could only lie on the castle grounds.
Before she knew it, they were at a servant entrance to the castle. Camille pausd to catch her breath while Violet hardly looked winded.
“Here you are, my Lady,” Violet said softly. “I’ll be back in about two hours. Wait for me out here. Do not be late. We are expecting your father for the midday meal. If you wait and I do not appear, we have received a message he will be dining at the castle and I will come to meet you before the light fades.”
“How do you know about that side passage?” Camille asked.
Violet only smiled and winked before she turned and made her way back into the royal woods. Camille stood shaking her head for another moment before turning and entering through the servant entrance. Just how many entrances this castle had, she no longer had a clue.
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