Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter Fifty-Nine



After a few moments I quietly tried to escape but Chell, by accident or design - probably by design if my instincts are correct - chose that moment to notice me.

"You are leaving?  So soon?  Oh dear, perhaps I should have paid more attention to you?  How am I to get to know you now?"  Having experienced the treatment before and not caring for it very much I sighed and prepared for political battle.

Shaking my head I told her, "You do it well - you're obviously practiced - but not quite as well as my sister wives did it.  I had wondered where I had heard your husband's name before as Corvot is not common and just this morning realized he was a frequent visitor here at Linderhall.  I assume he has risen in status beyond the Great Council errand boy.  And I suppose Ceena and Tonya filled his ears with their cries of distress.  I mean obviously a fourteen year old child was just a terror to two experienced and statused women over twice her age.  Which story did they tell the most often?  When I irritated them by nearly getting killed in the shifting sands of Paduck?  That was while I was on an errand Ceena sent me on because she'd left her favorite fan on the beach.  Or, perhaps it was that I embarrassed them by preferring the company of the Below Stairs staff?  Yes, that was a hideous crime to those two despite the fact that they all but drove me to it simply to survive since they could never be bothered to offer me any guidance despite my youth and origins.  Did you know that our husband had to hire a comportment teacher for me because those two couldn't be bothered to lift a hand to guide me?  And then screamed like a couple of harpies claiming I was getting more attention than was my due?"

Her mouth fell open at the fact that I'd attacked so quickly and directly.  I finished by saying, "Be careful Mrs. Corvot, the stories you hear may be more fiction than fact.  I would have thought that having as many years of practice in the Great Council circles would have taught you that."

I prepared to sail from the room only was interrupted by April and Nancee's gales of laughter.  I sighed and asked, "Exactly what hilarity is this?"

Nancee continued to laugh until she sat upon a pin holding a ruffle on the dress where it was being basted.  April finally brought herself under control without the use of pain induction.  "Oh Chellie ... you have to admit she fired a bull’s-eye."

"Humph."

"Aw, poor baby, get your feelings hurt?  Daren did warn you."

I crossed my arms and glared.  "And exactly what did he warn her of?"

April started laughing again and a giggle was once again surprised out of Mrs. Linder.  "Gonna roast him for interference?"

"If not for that likely something else," I replied honestly.  "He is forever underfoot whether he is actually around or not."

April looked at Chell and winked.  "Told you she could keep him in line.  I've never seen him so interested before."

I rolled my eyes.  "None of that.  The Sheriff isn't even here to defend himself."  I turned to Mrs. Linder and said, "Thank you kindly.  I know I'm not much to work with but I will do my best not to be an embarrassment but please ... no matchmaking."  I shuddered and felt a little ill.  "And now I must be off.  I have several meetings to be sure that all your wishes are followed.  And please do consider what I suggested as far as speaking with Guard Nealy and placement of a few extras around about the place.  There was always one or two guests that seemed to get lost during Ceena and Tonya's festivals."

This time I did leave the room and quickly descended to the lower levels.  I was not certain that I cared for the other Linder sister.  I certainly was not ready to trust her or her husband, especially not after finally remembering where I'd heard of the man.  He was a particular friend of Ceena's; she seemed to draw the younger men intentionally.  I didn't want to consider the potential for mischief those memories had - especially the one where I accidentally saw him leaving Ceena's sitting room during a time of night he had no business being there - and needed to keep some space between myself and Chell lest I give my thoughts away.  It could have been something political between Ceena and Chell Corvot's husband but I was in no mood to ruminate on it and guess.

I spent the remainder of the day going over supplies with Mrs. Cooksey, sending a note to Ronald Nealy to expect a call from someone look for extra Guards, meeting with Marta though more to socialize than to get assistance on the planning as it was a bad day for her memory-wise, and several other senior staff to make sure that security and access was even tighter than it had been during my husband's tenure as Guardian.

I was ticking off all that I had completed from my list when a courier handed me a note from the Chancellor asking me to come to his office.  Luckily I was between meetings and hurried off to see what he wanted.

I didn't even have to knock as he was just showing someone else out.  He said, "Well, that was fast."

"Am I intruding?"

"Not at all," he said.  "I was the one that asked you to stop by.  Do you have a moment?"

"Yes.  I'm between appointments."

"Good, good.  Look," he said after drawing me into the office and shutting the door.  "I've heard from Daren and he says he won't make it back for the Gala."

"And?"

"I thought you might be upset."

Shaking my head I said, "Chancellor, I am not a child and the Sheriff is a busy man with a great many responsibilities.  I have no idea why everyone suddenly is expecting him to wait upon me."

"Well, Daren gave the impression that ..."

I arched a look at him as he petered to silence.  "You're fishing.  And doing a poor job at it I might add.  Stop picking at the man.  He's perfectly capable of running his own life.  As am I."

He tried to look cut up and stiff but it only lasted a few seconds before he smiled.  "Oh very well.  But you cannot fault me for trying.  Why all the secrecy?"

"There is no secrecy Chancellor.  I am a widow of less than a year."  Frowning I added, "And frankly I'm ... I'm not saying never but ... but it isn't the most appropriate or sensible course for me to take to suddenly throw caution to the wind and act like a giddy school girl.  Those days never were and never will be ... not for me.  I'm more than surprised that your family would even support ..."  I stopped, shaking my head.  "This is ridiculous.  I'm a widow ... The Widow ... much like you are The Chancellor and your brothers are The Linder and The Sheriff.  We each have our roles to play and that should be more than enough to deal with during the day.  Was there anything else?"

"Actually yes.  Tomas mentioned that you were concerned about guests roaming where they shouldn't.  Care to elaborate or give specific names?"

"No, I don't.  For all I know the ones that did it previously aren't the ones that will do it this time.  It is simply my experience that some young men - and young women for that matter - will use any excuse to test the boundaries placed upon them.  There are a few of the adults in the area that have been known to do the same. Being in Linderhall is a bit like a carnival for some people and for others it is like being in a court room.  Some play to get attention and some pray to be ignored.  Rather than singling anyone out I would make sure that all due precautions were taken so that anyone with sense will think twice before taking ill-advised actions."

He nodded.  "We will be locking ..."

I put up a hand.  "No.  Don't tell me.  Why you seem to think ..."

"You already know all the hidey spots anyway."

"Who says that I do?  Perhaps I don't.  Either way you are granting me more status than you should.  Let us keep this simple Chancellor.  I am The Widow.  While I know some things that doesn't mean that I any longer have the right to exercise that knowledge.  And in fact it is my duty - and honor - to keep my mouth shut."

He gave a twisted smile.  "Is that a nice way of telling me to shut up about private matters?"

"I would not go that far but it is strange that you would so freely share such information with anyone, least of all me.  So that means either I've misjudged you or you are playing a deeper game than I'm interested in investing time in.  Either way ... I'm backing off the playing board as the stakes are too rich for me."

There was clapping from an adjoining room and the Linder came through the door.  "Very good.  Very, very good.  Not only refuse to take the bait, throw the bait back at the fisherman."

There was a man with him that I recognized as Mr. Corvot.  Not certain what was going on I simply stood there and gave them blank face.

Mr. Corvot flared his nostrils and said peevishly.  "You're improved since I was here last."

I shrugged, unwilling to be drawn in.

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