Chapter Thirty – continued
Note: Rapunzel was supposed to be the last fairy tale making an entrance in this story, courtesy of a tall tower, but another young lady decided to barge in. Apparently, there’s one more fairy tale passing through. Can you catch it?
“What was that about?” the woman whispered.
“I have no idea,” Abigail replied, her brow drawing together as her hands returned to the dough before her.
“Perhaps he’s just a dotty old man.”
Abigail sighed. “I thought they had all fled the city already.”
The woman giggled, covering her mouth with a floured hand and leaving streaks of white along her cheeks. In spite of herself, Abigail had to bite back a grin, breaking the wall between them as she did so.
“I’m terribly sorry I haven’t been particularly friendly,” Abigail said.
The young woman quickly shook her head and waved her hands in the air. “Oh, I have no complaints. It’s just such an honor to be kneading bread with the future Queen.”
“Word certainly travels everywhere, doesn’t it?” Abigail said with a sigh.
The woman’s cheeks reddened as she cast her gaze down to the table. “His Highness hasn’t been shy about speaking on it.”
It was unladlylike to roll one’s eyes, and Abigail had to try dearly to not do so. Of course Adrian would be announcing it everywhere and to everyone. As the new heir, there would certainly be women throwing themselves at him, and perhaps a few men, so, no matter how much it embarrassed her, she knew he was doing it to protect himself as well as their budding romance.
“No, I suppose he hasn’t,” she said, settling for dry words. “Tell me, what is your name and how did you come to be here?”
“Rosa, my Lady,” the young woman said with a curtsey, dusting her gown with more flour. “I am from The Groves and came to the Glass Kingdom looking for my sister, Nevis. I did not mean to be caught up in this war, but had nowhere else to go, so came to lend a hand here.”
“I suppose you haven’t found your sister?”
“No, my Lady,” Rosa said, shaking her head as a young girl came by to give both of them more dough to knead.
“Perhaps she was never here.”
“That is always possible.” Rosa hesitated. “My sister married the prince of The Groves a few seasons ago and I am betrothed to his brother, but my wedding has been halted ever since Nev went missing.”
“Missing?” Abigail asked, looking up sharply. “A prince’s wife?”
Rosa nodded, her eyes on the dough she was working on. “Kidnapped, my Lady. The prince has, of course, sent out soldiers and mercenaries, but, after three seasons of not finding her, I decided to leave on my own.”
Abigail frowned, kneading for a few moments before speaking. “I certainly haven’t heard anything of that. But, if I do catch wind of anything at all, I’ll pass on the information. I’m afraid, though, that it could be some time as the war is waging.”
Rosa nodded, quickly blinking back tears. “Of course, I understand. I’m stuck here at the moment, anyways. It’s far too dangerous out there. I could just as easily be swept out to sea, and then how would I find my sister?”
“Well,” Abigail said slowly as the dough before her was replaced, “she could have paid the Pearl Kingdom a visit.”
“I suppose,” Rosa said dubiously, “but she never learned to swim.”
“Have you tried The Wilds, then? Or The Spindle and the linked world?”
“The Spindle and linked world, yes,” Rosa said, taking a moment to stretch her fingers as her dough was whisked away from her. “Goodness, how much bread does this castle consume?”
Abigail laughed softly at that. They had been kneading almost non-stop for much of the day and the dough never seemed to end. “Quite a bit, I suppose. I understand a good portion of the city’s residents are currently being housed here. There must be quite a few of them.”
Rosa nodded to where half a dozen men and women were doing nothing more than chopping vegetables. “It could be worse. I would have cut off all my fingers by now.”
Abigail glanced over to where her new friend was looking. “I take it your knife skills are subpar.”
“More like non-existent,” Rosa said wryly. “My mother raised my sister and me on her own, in a little hut in the woods. We were the caretakers. My mother took her caretaking duties seriously, expanding them to include my sister and me. We were not allowed to touch a knife for fear we would hurt ourselves.”
“But how would you be able to protect yourself if attacked? Aren’t there beasts like bears and snakes in the woods?”
“Yes,” Rosa said, dipping her head in agreement. “But, as caretakers, we were magically protected. No beast would dare harm us.”
Before Abigail could respond, a soft hiss came through the glass hanging around her neck. It was her sister’s voice calling her name. Her breath suddenly caught and her fingers stilled, drawing a curious look from Rosa.
Quickly, Abigail wiped her hands on her apron and made a gesture to the girl who had been swapping out the dough all day. Then she turned to her new friend and offered a small nod of her head.
“Please excuse me, Rosa, but I have something I need to attend to.”
“Of course,” Rosa said, her voice puzzled as she dipped her head.
With a smile that felt strained, Abigail turned and quickly left the kitchens. She hissed a soft response to her sister, asking her to wait a few minutes.
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