See Part 1 here
Dinner went as I expected. I was too nervous to eat and I had no idea how to tell these aristocrats that I was a slave. I did my best to keep my comments to how nice they looked. We had nothing else in common.
After dinner, the ladies retired to a drawing room where a young woman played soft tunes on a harp while the men assembled in the library. There was more awkward conversation to go through as each lady made the time to come over to my chair and ask me questions about my life in the caravan. Many were amazed that I kept the books. One dowager was utterly aghast. “You read, write and do math?” She gave a nervous giggle as she raised her eyebrows to her friends. “Very unseemly for a woman to be educated. Very.” Then she walked over to a group of women and whispered something that had them all turn and stare at me. I heartily wished I could be back in my wagon.
That’s when a servant arrived and went to the Lady Traford. She came over to me, a puzzled look on her face. “Lord Traford asks for you to join him and Master Corpet in the study.” She pointed to the servant. “He’ll escort you.”
All the ladies within earshot turned to stare. This was apparently something very unusual. I rose and bowed my head. “Please excuse me, Lady Traford. I’ve had a lovely evening.”
She nodded in return and I went to the servant, holding the door open. I followed him through the house to a room upstairs and over the drawing room. Here I found Lord Traford, his son, and Master Corpet in armchairs around a low table. They each had a tumbler in front of them or in hand. Sam was not in sight.
Lord Traford stood. “Delia. Thank you for joining us. Please,” he waved to an empty armchair, “join us.”
Alexis rose also and bowed. Corpet raised his glass in salute. I took the proffered chair and sat on the edge of the seat. “Sherry?” Alexis asked. “Or would you prefer to share our whiskey with us?”
“The sherry, please.” I nodded. My mind was in complete confusion. What could I be doing here?
Alexis went to the small bar and poured a glass of sherry and returned, handing it to me with a bow and a smile. I had all I could do to keep my hands from trembling. After he returned to his seat, his father began.
“This must all seem confusing to you, Delia.” He looked at Corpet and his son. They both nodded. “We have a matter of some consequence to discuss with you.”
I placed the glass of sherry on the table and folded my hands in my lap to keep them from shaking. Lord Traford was scaring me.
“Master Corpet reminds me that you’ve been with him over sixty years now. A whole lifetime.”
My mouth went dry. Fear washed through me. And dread. What was coming?
“We believe it’s time to let you in on our secret.”
I nodded. I couldn’t trust my voice not to quaver.
He sipped his whiskey and replaced it on the table. “My father is the one who put you into Master Corpet’s care.”
Care? How was making me a slave, care?
What I was thinking must have shown on my face. Traford raised his hand. “Please, I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. Your parents gave you to my father for a reason.”
My hands twisted in my lap as a roaring filled my ears. My parents gave me up? What?
“I’m sorry. I’m making a bungle of this. What I mean is, they gave you to us to hide you.”
I stared at Corpet. He nodded. “It’s true, Delia. You were in great danger if you had stayed with your parents. I’ve done my best for you, I have.”
I thought back to Emil, who had made my life a misery since he joined the caravan. It was not uncommon for him to ride up beside my wagon and strike me on the thigh with his quirt then dash off, laughing, as I nursed the pain. That was the best Corpet could do? I clenched my teeth together and gave a brief nod. I turned back to Lord Traford. “What danger, my Lord?”
“What do you know about the Elves?”
I thought it an evasive question. “Not much. I haven’t been allowed to talk to them. I’ve had no instruction and have read no histories about them.” I’m afraid I let my voice reveal how angry I was.
The Lord merely nodded. “Were you aware the Elves, like us humans, have a King?”
“King Ucheni is his name. The queen is Ralae. They have been fighting for the last sixty-five years against his uncle, Iyuno, who started a civil war to claim the throne. It has been a struggle but the king’s advisors have been waiting for a prophesy to come to fruition.” Lord Traford sipped his whiskey and resettled himself in his chair.
I waited for the rest of the story. Alexis had draped his right leg over his left and seemed bored. Corpet was studying me, sitting forward, eager, almost.
The Lord continued. “The prophecy is that a savior will come to them. More powerful than any elf in a thousand years, the savior will settle all arguments and bring peace to the land.”
“How do they know the prophecy is true?”
“They had a sign, sixty-five years ago.”
I noticed that all three men were watching me. Waiting for something. “What was the sign?”
“A black-haired elf child.”
My mind spun. I blinked at him. “You mean…”
He nodded. “Yes, Delia. It’s you.”
Thank You! Come back next week for Part 5.