Issue #3 – Anastasia’s Revenge
Night had fallen on the countryside. A few guards were roaming between the forest and the estate to the north. I had the feeling they weren’t expecting anyone due to the bottles of drink they carried with them. In fact, one wasn’t even carrying a sword.
The sounds of the night covered me as I slipped by them. It was almost as if the crickets and the owls knew of my plan and were determined to help me. Maybe my deceased lord was not as crazy as I assumed. This plan felt doomed from the moment he told me about it, but it seemed I had more allies than I gave myself credit for.
With the guards behind me, the next obstacle was the wall surrounding the house. The gate was closed for the evening, so the only way to breach it would be to scale it. It was of decent height, but made of stone. If I could find a spot where the stones could act as hand and foot holds, I’d be okay.
Not too far heading east did I find my spot. Working with the horses had given my excellent upper body strength and this climb turned out to be easier than I anticipated. As soon as I reached the top, I jumped down to avoid any one spotting me. I landed in a secluded part of the gardens. I sighed as no one, as expected, would be here.
No matter how much I wanted to run, I headed my lord’s advice and took my time. Running, he told me, would make more noise than what the elements could cover. I noticed just how much quieter it was inside the wall than it had been on the outside.
Had I been lost in thought? My ears suddenly picked up the sound of heels clicking on the stone path. There were limited places to hide, so I jumped into the bush to my left. Thorns and branches dug into my skin, yet I made no sound. I was hopeful that the sparse leaf coverage would be enough to hide me from whoever approached.
I was taken back that it was a young girl with black hair. Why did she look so familiar? Her snow white skin and bright green eyes were dazzling in the moonlight. She was wearing a rather plain green dress and an overcoat to protect from the cold. She continued to walk as I held my breath. Then, just as I thought I was safe, she stopped and looked towards the bush. “Are you not cold hiding in there?”
There was no way to play this off. “No, the bush provides warmth thank you very much.”
“I highly doubt it.” The tone of her voice was a bit firm, but it seemed almost forced. “So, which one did you upset? Mother or Anastasia?”
I gasped and there was no way to hide that. This was Tremaine’s daughter Drisella. Without the ridiculous wig, dress, and make up on, she looked nothing like the jester we all claimed she was. “Probably both lady if we’re being honest.”
She walked up and reached a hand out. “Well get on out of there. I do not want a servant getting killed in my presence.”
I took her hand and slowly exited the bush. The thorns and branches kept my old shirt as payment for using their bush as a hiding place. Like I said, working with the horses had built my upper body muscles up and it was her turn to gasp a little at the sight of me. From what I gathered, she was seventeen just like her step-sister. I bowed deeply towards her. “Thank you ma’am.”
Drisella hadn’t let go of my hand yet. “I recognize your face – what is your name and where do you tend to?”
Should I lie? This was the enemy John, knock it off! Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to lie to those green eyes. “My name is John and I work in the stables.”
There was no reaction at first. She just kept looking at me, letting me stew in my own doom. “Cruxley’s steward, right?”
“Aye, that I was.”
“A shame what mother did to him, all because Anastasia thought he was leering at her.” This time there was no mistake the disgust in her words.
Hatred worked its way into my heart. “What do you mean? Your sister had my master killed?”
She turned as to not look at me. “I do not know if the murder was part of the plan, but his sacking and humiliation were.”
My hatred was quickly turning into rage. No! I needed to stay in control. “Why are you telling me this?”
Quietly, “I do not know. However, our time here has come to an end. Do what you must, I never saw you.” With that declaration, she walked off deeper into the garden, leaving me to continue on. It was time to free Ella…
*Come back next week for Issue #4 – From the Ash
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