Finally into the last 3rd of the story! It’s going to be a bit of a faster ride than I had intended as I’m trying to finish this as quickly as I can, but I hope you enjoy.
Rose and Harrison Roderick guided my sister through to the linked world with little ceremony. Neither were particularly talkative but instead appeared withdrawn. Her description of them was curiously, and vastly, different from my memory of the couple and I’d had no idea a son had been born to them, but I was delighted my sister made it through, and the sea glass still worked its magic.
Lawrence’s leavetaking from Olidan Manor was a somber affair. For Camille, at least. She was both prepared to see and never see her father again. He, for once, looked her in the eye, studying not her physical body but her soul. A small smile creased one side of his mouth, apparently pleased by what he saw.
Muriel and Madeline fluttered around them, both squawking tone deaf goodbyes that threatened to set Camille’s teeth on edge if she weren’t enjoying a rare father-daughter moment. It had been many years since her father had looked at her with his piercing gaze, not since well before Genevieve had died. She hadn’t known how much she had missed being seen by her father.
Gently, Lawrence pressed a kiss to her forehead, and tears sprang into her eyes. Unlike Abigail, she’d had a couple of years with their father, years of memories of him playing with her and chasing her through the woods. He’d been a happy man, though still dignified and duty bound. But marriage to Genevieve had seemed to soften him, because all that life and light had drained from him the moment she had died.
“Take care, Camille,” he said softly. “Look after your sister.” He hesitated, his eyes flickering over her face. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Papa,” she whispered. “I’ll miss you. Come back to us.”
He only offered a smile before squeezing her shoulder and, seemingly on a sigh, turning to his second wife. Camille stepped aside, avoiding Madeline’s calculating gaze as Muriel and Lawrence exchanged murmured words and perfunctory kisses. Lawrence’s goodbye to Madeline wasn’t much more than the exchange of a bow and curtsy; his goodbyes to the staff standing in an arc a couple of feet from the family warmer.
Finished, Lawrence turned, his eyes seeking Geoffrey, who sprang to the door. With a nod, Lawrence walked towards him, his steps measured and somber as though he, too, was prepared to both return and never come back.
Geoffrey bowed as his lord approached. “All will be well here, my Lord. You have our word.”
“I know I do,” Lawrence said with fondness. “With you and Violet leading the household and my eldest daughter being nearly as capable as her mother, I have no doubt all will remain in order.”
With no more ceremony left, Lawrence left, his black cloak swirling behind him as a gale swept over the city and blew in through the open door. As soon as the hem of his cloak cleared the doorway, Camille leapt forward to help Geoffrey slam the door closed.
“Goodness,” Muriel said, one hand quickly smoothing back wayward strands of hair. “Everyone out there must be utterly mad.”
“It’s war, Muriel,” Camille said tightly from where she stood beside Geoffrey, who nodded a dismissal to the staff.
“And of course you would know,” Muriel said with a sniff, turning her nose up slightly, “sneaking out into the castle and associating with the wounded and dying.”
“You say that like it’s a terrible thing,” Camille said, arching a brow as her arms slowly crossed over her chest.
“It’s unladylike,” Muriel said with a shudder.
“And how would you know? You’ve been the Countess Olidan for less than half a year. Before that, you were nothing more than a merchant’s wife.” She cut her eyes over to Madeline, who stood bristling beside her mother. “Besides, it’s better than trying to steal another woman’s man. Your sister’s, no less, Madeline. It’s absolutely abominable and completely unheard of. Don’t you know the laws, Lady Olidan? Once a couple formally submits an intention to court to the King and Queen, no man or woman may interfere.”
There was a flare of triumph in her chest when Madeline’s lips pressed together so tightly they turned white. She could tell her stepsister was angry, but what was she to do when Geoffrey was standing beside her, when she knew Camille was to be the next Countess Olidan and would have the authority to throw her and her mother out should Lawrence die?
“What nerve you have, child,” Muriel said softly.
“No more than you, Stepmother.”
“So,” Muriel said, her eyes burning even as her voice was velvet soft, “it is to be a cold war here, is it?”
Camille couldn’t help her response; she frowned, but was gratified by the look of confusion on Madeline’s face, no matter how fleeting. She had no idea what Muriel was speaking of, but pulled herself up anyways.
“With my father gone, but still alive, you are the Countess Olidan, Muriel,” she said through gritted teeth. “But I remind you to be careful. When my father returns, he will know everything you have done. Should my father not return, I will become the Countess Olidan.” Her eyes turned fierce and her voice went soft. “Should anything happen to me, remember that my sister will be Queen one day.”
Neither woman said anything. Instead, Madeline, white lipped, grabbed her mother’s arm and forcibly turned her back to the stairs. Her head held high, Madeline guided Muriel up the stairs in as stately a manner as she could.
“That was a very dangerous thing to do,” Geoffrey said quietly from behind her. “That woman has had it out for you from the beginning.”
Camille shrugged one shoulder. “At least Abigail is safe. That is all that matters.”
Catch up on Sisters of String and Glass
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