Fireheart: Part Five
Episode Five- No More Mr. Nice Guard
“What about the head seamstress, Jen?” asked Gwen, looking down at our list of possible suspects so far. There was not much to look at, as we had rejected each person one way or another.
“That’s a definite possibility,” Pippa said, not even bothering to defend her boss. We sat in a circle on the floor with Kedmiel napping on my bed and Po on the window sill, basking in the sun.
“At the Midsummer’s feast, Aroma was told by a duchess who was sitting next to her about the fabric. It was Duchess Ketill, so she’s a possibility. She mentioned some names...,” I said, trailing off in thought.
“It can’t be the Duchess Ketill; I treated her. Why would she make herself sick?” Pippa asked.
“Good point, scratch her name.” I nodded at Gwen, who blotted her name out with ink. “What about Lady Violet and the Duchess Bonita? Ketill mentioned them,” I asked, looking at the others.
“Not Bonita or Violet. I treated them,” Gwen said, biting her lip. “Looks like our only suspect is Jen.” Both Pippa and I agreed with her. We needed to get moving, though, if we were going to talk to her before evening chores.
Pippa lead the way out my room with Po seated happily on her shoulder, Gwen followed, with me trailing behind, locking the door as Kedmiel just trotted out. We caught up to the others just as we entered the main hall.
The contrast between the usual quiet laziness of the hall and its current condition was stunning. There were knights, soldiers, and Palace guards running about the hall. In the center of it all were Sir Jeran and King Skarl, standing and observing the chaos.
“What the-?” Kedmiel said before diving behind my skirt as a swarm of guards passed, not even paying us the slightest attention.
“The best thing about being a servant is that it comes with a free invisibility cloak!” Gwen said as if she was one of those fruity salespersons hawking their wares at the east clearing where the daily market was held. That made us all laugh, which we quickly stifled after receiving glares from a group of knights nearby.
“Just act like you know what you’re doing, and you’ll be fine,” I whispered to an anxious looking Pippa.
“You guys go ahead. I want to know what’s going on,” Gwen told us as she scanned the room.
“Okay, we’ll meet you at the seamstress’,” I replied, before looping arms with Pippa, who seemed to be rooted to the spot. “Come on, Pippa,” I said between clenched teeth.
It was a bit of a challenge, walking through the hall towing Pippa along, Kedmiel practically walking on my heels, and looking inconspicuous while doing it. Thankfully, a couple of servant girls strolling through the main hall looking as if they expected someone to stop them at any second was completely normal.
We had reached the entrance doors when a gruff voice behind me commanded, “Halt!” I was really beginning to detest that word. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I felt my stomach drop. I turned slowly, feeling my hands begin to sweat as I went. Pippa turned with me, but she didn’t seem too happy about it.
“Where is your demon, country girl?” asked the guard narrowing his eyes at me. It was one of the guards who was at the gate when I arrived, and he seemed to want revenge for my making him and his comrades wet their pants.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, sir,” I said calmly, feeling his hot breath hit my face full force as he leaned forward to glare at me. I wished I could blast some Wizard’s Fire at him because, it seemed, he had had onions for lunch.
“Don’t play dumb, girl. You’re coming with me to see the King.” The guard scowled down at me, probably weighing the risk of dragging me if I didn’t come quietly.
“If we must, I’ll come. But let my friend go; she has a sick aunt, you see, and needs to go see her,” I said glancing over at Pippa, who looked wide-eyed at me. Fortunately, she seemed to catch on to my act, and pretended to look eager to get going. Later, I would have to tell Pippa what a good actress she was.
The guard studied Pippa’s charade before nodding, believing her. I turned to her. “Go on, I’ll meet you there,” I told her before hugging her, pushing Kedmiel with my foot from behind me to next to Pippa.
Pippa nodded and shot me a worried look before rushing out the door. I turned back to the guard. “Alright, let’s go. But I still have no idea what you are talking about,” I said in an innocent voice which sounded very convincing to me.
He lead me over to where the King stood next to Sir Jeran, the Meridell Champion--at least that is what I assumed he was. I saw Gwen making her way across the hall. She made a move to come over, but I slightly shook my head, and then quickly changed my movement as if swatting a fly. Hopefully, she would understand what I was trying to tell her.
Luckily, Gwen caught the message and continued walking her original course as if she had never taken a step towards the center of the room, I breathed out a silent sigh of relief and focused back on the guard who was waiting to speak.
As we waited for the King to finish speaking with another guard, I took a side long glance at Jeran, who seemed to be doing the same. The King finally finished and I wish he had kept talking a little longer so I would have had more time to think of a better story.
King Skarl turned to us, glanced at me in my maid’s uniform and looked over at the guard who stood at attention. He scowled at the guard, but cleared his throat anyway, “Speak, sir guard.”
“This, King Skarl, is the girl with the demon that was following her. I told you about her, didn’t I, Sir Jeran?” the guard said, looking to the blue knight for support. He only frowned at him as if he wished that the guard wouldn’t say anything else.
“She looks harmless enough. You, what is your name?” the King asked me.
“My name is Enna,” I replied, I dropped into a deep curtsy that I had practiced on Aroma, who rather liked displays of honor directed to her. My knees screamed at me as I came up with grace and control.
They all looked at me with raised eyebrows. I gulped nervously; I hoped that wasn’t the wrong thing to do. “As I was saying, harmless,” the king said after clearing his throat uncomfortably.
“Your Majesty, this girl has a demon following her around. I swear!” the guard persisted.
“Derek, if you would please notice there’s no demon around her now,” Sir Jeran said, looking at me; I felt my cheeks begin to blush. I ducked my head in embarrassment. The guard, Derek apparently, glared at me with enough hatred to fuel a fire. I grinned back at him with a sly smile.
“You’ve got to believe me, sirs!” I had to give it to him, once this guard latched onto an idea, he didn’t let go.
The King sighed in annoyance, “If it will make you feel better we’ll take her to the dungeon and question her.” The guard nodded happily and I stared dumbstruck at King Skarl.
Just then a yellow Lupe stepped into the little circle. I recognized him immediately; it was the Lupe who had been in the plaza in the combat ring, boasting of his skill. Thinking about it, I had seen him quite a lot lately; he seemed to be popping up everywhere, but I had never really paid attention to him until now. “Excuse me sirs, if I may, I was there when she came that day and I saw this girl. The demon was a Turtum passing by; it was a trick of the light, because I thought it was a demon, too.”
I stared at him, astonished. I had never even talked to this squire and now he was defending me. “Well, that clears things up. Thank you, Squire Alexandre,” said Sir Jeran who seemed to have decided this discussion was over. He looked over at me, but quickly diverted his eyes. The King studied Derek, mumbling about delusional guards. King Skarl seemed to agree with his most trusted knight, and he said I could go.
I curtsied to the King, and then turned to go. “I’m watching you,” Derek growled at me. I gulped nervously. I believed him.
I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and as I was crossing the bridge, a voice called from behind me. “Hey, country girl, wait!” The person said ‘country girl’ lightly, unlike most town folk who said it like a foul insult.
I turned to see the yellow Lupe trotting up to me. He looked very pleased with himself, and cleared his throat, “I know what you are, a sorceress. I want to help catch the person behind all these strange events happening around here, and I figure you’re the one to assist.”
I looked at him with a stunned glare and knew he wasn’t lying. Wistfully sighing, I said glumly, “First Gwen, then Pippa—well, I actually told her, but still--now you? Is it that obvious?”
“No, not that obvious,” the Lupe said, not very assuring at all, “So I’m coming with you. You are going to look for clues, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am,” I replied, studying his face. I rolled my eyes, the last thing I needed was some prissy noble boy tailing me everywhere I went, but I didn’t have time to deal with him. “Fine, but we’re already late as it is, so let’s go,” I said, after sighing again and setting off to the seamstress.
“My name’s Alexandre, by the way, but my friends call me Alex, so I guess you can, too,” he told me, as if that was a great honor.
“Enna,” I replied glancing over my shoulder at him, with a glower fixed on my face.
I barreled into the seamstress’ shop, making the bell above the door go haywire. Alex sauntered in after me, although he stopped short when he saw Gwen in the shop. I rolled my eyes at the expression on his face, which was stunned.
Gwen and Pippa were already inside sitting around a table with Jen. After a quick introduction of everyone to Alex and Alex to everyone, I sat down at one of the empty chairs.
“Let’s get this over with already,” said Kedmiel, who had instantly decided he liked Alex and had made himself comfortable in his lap.
“So, Jen,” I said after clearing my throat, “were you involved with the Ladies’ Bane in the fabric of the court ladies’ dresses?” I asked her while studying her face closely.
“Yes, I was,” the stoned face Bori replied. I frowned at her. ‘I would hate to play Cheat with this woman,’ I thought.
“Were you the only one involved? Are you working for someone?” Alex interjected. He received a glare from Pippa and me, but Gwen didn’t seem to mind.
The seamstress answered anyway, “No, I’m the only one involved. Lady Verona, the first one to order the dress, didn’t know either. She had a special appointment that day, I came to her rooms with the fabric and persuaded her to order a dress with it, and once one lady ordered, the rest of the court wanted one, it was so easy.” An evil smile crept onto her lips. “Yes, there is a mastermind behind all of this, but it isn’t me.”
“Are you working for The Mistress?” asked Gwen, whose comment was greeted with curiosity from Alex.
“Yes,” Jen said, returning to short answers. I clenched my paws into a fist, my claws digging into my palm. It was so annoying to me! But Pippa noticed and placed her paw over mine, looking at me as if to say ‘calm yourself, at least she’s answering.’
“What’s The Mistress’ motivation? Who is she?” I asked leaning forward; I could sense this was the opportune moment to get some real answers.
“She wants revenge. She’s...,” the seamstress said trailing off, a blank look on her eyes and her eyes glazing over.
“Not again!” Kedmiel and I howled, springing to our feet.
Jen shook her head and looked at all of us. “Where am I? Who are you?” she asked, looking around the table.
“Mind wipe,” Kedmiel said in irritation. I nodded and performed the charm, a lower degree of it again, before I said what I wanted to delete from her mind, her involvement with ‘The Mistress.’
As we left the store, I heard Jen begin to mutter about fabric and needles. Alex fell back to talk to me as we walked to the Palace. “Remind me never to cross you. I like my memories as they are.” That made me laugh, while Pippa and Gwen smiled happily.
Kedmiel trotted and jumped up to ride on my shoulder, “Now we have a motivation for the mysterious murderess,” he said.
Gwen and Pippa fell back next to me and Alex, “Yeah, but no leads as to who she might be,” Pippa said looking unhappily down at the ground.
“Who is this ‘Mistress?’” inquired Alex, looking out of the loop.
“‘The Mistress’ is a mysterious murderess behind the two attempts to kill the court ladies and Sir Jeran lately,” Gwen said, looking happy about walking next to Alex. I rolled my eyes at her.
I launched into the events so far, and how we had prevented the disasters. “So, we either have to wait for her to try more assassination attempts or...,” Alex said, looking like he was thinking hard as we came to a stop in the Great Hall, which was now clear.
“Or what?” I asked, looking at all their faces. “We don’t have another choice. We have to watch and wait.”
They all nodded. We didn’t know when she would strike next, but we had to look everywhere, because we might not be so lucky to have remembered the smell of the herb next time. Next time, someone might die.
To be continued...