Fireheart: Part Three
Episode Three- No Place for Magic
After a week of being Aroma’s maid, I knew my prediction came true; I did hate her high bell-like voice. She was a spoiled Pinklet, as far as I could tell from the stories my new friends in the kitchen told me.
She once bathed in a tub filled with dew from rose petals, thinking that the water would make her skin angel soft. Then, when it was her Angelpuss’ birthday, she had the kitchen make a cake five times taller than the Angelpuss in an exact replica of the petpet. More than one kitchen staff member lost sleep over that one. The worst story of all was when her last maid took a minute too long to get the lady’s dinner; she was flogged and then kicked out of the Castle. But Lady Aroma was the King’s favorite and she got whatever she wanted.
Though none of those stories scared me more than the one of the last Court Magician. He was a scheming and conniving man, but no one found out until it was too late. He had placed a magic curse on the King in some strange revenge. The knights killed the man when they discovered he was the cause, and they had to ask Illusen to cure the King. Since then, magic was outlawed in Meridell.
I used charms to do my lady’s chores, but I had to be very careful about it. At night I would lay out all the clothes that needed washing and charm the wash board and soap to scrub the garments after locking the doors, window, and sound proofing the walls in my tiny room.
Kedmiel asked why I didn’t just do all the work manually, but he soon had the answer to his question. If I did do all the work myself, I would faint from fatigue before midday from all the work Aroma made me do.
On Saturday night there was to be a big feast celebrating Midsummer, and Aroma expected me to dress her in finery and to twist up her hair in something extremely fancy. I had found a book in the castle library that talked about ways to do a lady’s hair. The book was tremendously outdated, but with some creative thinking I could come up with a fabulous style, and the new style I imagined in my mind was perfect. Now it was just a matter of pulling it off.
Saturday found me running around the castle in my best maid uniform, seeing as I would have no time to change into it between then and the feast, and doing Aroma’s every command. On more than one occasion, I ran full force into people in the hallways. After a mumbled apology I would run off, my cheeks reddening in embarrassment. The kitchen staff was equally as busy and barely had time to talk when I came to visit or get Aroma something to eat.
Kedmiel posted himself in the entry hall and reported back to me once in a while to tell me what was going on, but come four o’clock I forgot about regal lords and ladies entering the halls below my feet, and focused on the task at paw: getting the picky and impossible--not in the good sense of impossible, but the bad sense--Lady Aroma ready.
She was just wrapping herself in a cashmere towel, which seemed odd to me to use such fabric as a towel, but I didn’t say anything about it, when I entered. I carried her recently finished dress. The seamstress, Pippa, had just finished the last stitch when I came into the sewing shop. The lady glared at me in her usual way, and gestured for me to come and dress her.
It was humiliating to do, but I found after the first few times it was a joy to pull her corset strings really tight so she gasped for breath. Sweet revenge. I worked quick buttoning and tucking, and occasionally sewing with the needle and thread I learned to have on my person at all times.
When the dress was properly on, I still marvel at how Lady Aroma could breathe at all, but she managed not to faint. It came time to try my hair idea. Curling, twisting, pinning, and generally working like a snail, I finally finished and looked at my handiwork in the mirror. The lady’s jaw was open in amazement while studying her reflection. She didn’t say anything; she just got up from her stool, and exited.
Soon afterwards, Kedmiel slipped through the still closing door. Aroma didn’t know he existed, and he wanted to keep it that way. He looked like he had some interesting news. “What is it, Kedmiel?”
“Okay, so I was in the feast hall, or whatever they call it, and saw something odd. There was a rather nervous looking Nimmo on a ladder doing something to the screws in the chandelier. It was pretty fishy,” the Seti reported dramatically.
“That is really weird. Are you sure?” I said, narrowing my eyes at him. He wasn’t easily fooled, but Kedmiel did have quite the imagination.
“I know what I saw,” the Seti said in firm and serious tone, which might have been the first time he talked like that.
“Well. I-,” I began to say before Aroma’s voice carried into the bathroom, calling me to get going; she must have come back to get me. I bit my lip. “There’s nothing I can do about it now, Kedmiel, but I’ll watch for it,” I said, after a sigh. The Seti knew I didn’t like the plan, as he did, but there was nothing else we could do.
The feast served some of the most delicious food I’ve ever smelled, and it took all my will power for me not to shove Aroma out of her chair and stuff my face. I marveled at how she could take such little bites with such great intervals in between.
I had to stand behind her, ready if she needed anything, but more than once she shoved back her chair and squashed my toes. My eyes watering and biting my lip, I would silently hop on one foot, holding my injured toes. I think she did it on purpose.
Gwen, a green Gelert from the kitchen and a friend of mine, brought me ice for my foot. “How’s the feast going for you?” I asked her when she handed over the ice pack.
“We haven’t run out of anything, and nobody’s had food poisoning, so the feast has been going marvelously.” I smothered a laugh as she turned and left, returning her cheerful wave. Then something blue in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see what it was.
Across the hall, sitting at the knights table to King Skarl’s right, was a handsome blue Lupe in gleaming silver armor looking over my way. I ducked my head behind the high back of Aroma’s chair. I stared at the ground, and saw Kedmiel appear. “If you’re wondering who the heart throb looking this way is, it’s Sir Jeran,” he told me, then he peered up at me, and with a sly look, he asked, “Do you like him?”
“Shut it, Kedmiel! I do not like him!” I whispered furiously back to him, remembering we were behind the chair of my mistress who didn’t know Kedmiel existed. He looked at me unconvinced, before shrugging and sauntering off, while I glared after him.
“Lady Aroma,” said the Duchess Ketill in a low alto voice, who sat next to my lady.
“Yes?” she replied, looking from her meager serving of potatoes, which was purely her choice to have, and over at the grand duchess next to her. Aroma’s face had a familiar look on it, the one that said ‘I hate you because you’re prettier than me,’ that she threw in every woman’s direction at court, and once even at me, which scared me half to death.
“Well, Lady Aroma, I was told by Lady Violet, who was told by the Duchess Bonita, who told her, about a new fabric at the seamstress. It’s the next big thing!” the duchess said excitedly.
Aroma narrowed her eyes. She never trusted anyone who was even the slightest bit nice to her. “Why are you telling that to me?”
“Well, because, dear, you are the one with the best fashion sense around here, and I thought you should know,” Duchess Ketill said hurriedly, flattering Aroma in the process. I smiled. The best way into my lady’s heart was flattery, and it seemed the duchess knew that, too.
The dessert had been served by then, and most everyone was done. Then the great (size wise) king raised his hands and clapped, declaring that the dancing should begin. Plates and chairs where abandoned for the floor. Lords and ladies, knights and maidens, met each other, and the orchestra in their loft began to play. Aroma made a beeline for the famous knight, Jeran, who hesitantly asked her to dance.
Gwen appeared next to me, “I love dancing,” she commented, swaying to the music, a dreamy look in her eye.
“Someone better ask you before you dance off by yourself,” I said elbowing her with a smile.
“Ha ha, very funny,” she said sarcastically, smiling anyway. “You know, I’ve heard many people comment about Lady Aroma’s hair. Your handiwork?” she asked, and I nodded happily.
The dancers began to move away from Aroma and Sir Jeran, who danced under the crystal chandelier. It swayed hazardously, but no one seemed to notice, then it lurched and the screw fell out, and the chandelier began to plummet.
I knew Kedmiel would be gloating later, but for now I had to save the hero of Meridell and my mistress, no matter how much I disliked her. “Although the chandelier may be falling fast, make my feet faster,” I recited a charm that made me lightning fast.
“Wha-?” Gwen began to say, but I was off, already vaulting over the table and onto the dance floor. I wove and dodged around the dancers. The chandelier was half way to the floor, and people just began to scream as I barreled into Sir Jeran and Aroma, knocking them out of the chandelier’s path of destruction. As we hit the floor, I mumbled the counter charm.
“Now that the ones in danger are out of harm, make this the end of my charm,” I whispered, praying neither Aroma nor Jeran heard.
“What are you doing, Anna?” Aroma demanded, just as the chandelier crashed onto the floor, sending crystal everywhere, thankfully not hurting anyone. I sprang from the floor, and hitched up my skirts before dashing full throttle out of the room, wishing I hadn’t undone my charm.
Kedmiel was standing outside the door when I came running out. I stopped and pressed myself against the wall next to him, catching my breath. “Why did you leave? You’re a hero!” said the Seti, peering into the hall.
“They would want to know how I got over there so fast, and if I told them the truth I’d be hanged, and you know I’m not a very good liar,” I told him, in between gasps. The charm made me feel like I’d run a mile in a millisecond. “But, for now we have to find the Nimmo you saw earlier; do you think you can find him again?”
“What do I look like? A scent Warf?” he asked me in an offended voice, still watching the inside of the hall, “But yes, I can find him. Follow,” he commanded, dashing off. I trailed behind him, wishing that tonight didn’t involve so much running.
We ran up the left stairway and to the second landing. Kedmiel led me down the hall at the top and all the way down. There at the end was a maid’s closet, where they kept all the cleaning supplies. I flung open the door, and found a green Nimmo cowering inside.
I glared down at him. “I won’t hurt you if you don’t struggle,” I told him, and he whimpered in reply, I grabbed his arm and hauled him up. “Kedmiel, we need an empty room.” He nodded and lead to us to a door three down on the left, with me towing the Nimmo behind.
We went into the room, Kedmiel guarding the inside of the door. I sat the Nimmo down on a dusty chair, and sat on the coffee table across from him, “Now talk. What did you do to the chandelier and who are you working for?”
He gulped nervously. “I only did what The Mistress wanted! The Mistress gave me a screw to replace with the chandelier in the feast hall. She told me it would fall out when the victim was under the chandelier. She told me to run after I did my job. But--but I didn’t, I was too--too scared to get past the guards.” He paused and looked up at me. “Are you going to punish me because I didn’t go back to The Mistress?”
“No, no. Just tell us who this Mistress is,” I told him, trying to sound soothing.
“I... don’t remember,” the Nimmo said, and I believed him; my magical gift told me when someone was lying to me, and he wasn’t. “There’s like a fog in my head...” Then the Nimmo’s eyes glazed over, and a blank look spread over his face.
A few seconds later, after Kedmiel and I exchanged disbelieving looks, the Nimmo shook his head. “Where am I? Who are you?” he asked, looking around.
“You’re in Meridell Castle and I’m Enna,” I explained, looking over at the Seti. “What should we do with him?”
“Mind wipe,” he answered simply, I nodded and said the charm, using a less powerful spell that only erased parts of his memory that I wanted to get rid of. I leaned forward and said I wanted to erase his memories of ‘The Mistress,’ although he seemed to have forgotten that already; better to make sure. We sent him on his merry way after the spell was completed.
We exited the room a few minutes later. “You know you’re pretty good at making up those stories, but it was nice that we didn’t have to completely erase his memories,” Kedmiel said. I shrugged and smiled modestly. Just then a shape appeared at the end of the hallway.
“Enna!” it called. Kedmiel and I froze in terror, and the figure ran to us. It was Gwen. I sighed in relief. “I figured it out, Enna, you’re a sorceress!”
I stood stock still. “What are you talking about, Gwen?” I asked her in my best confused voice.
“Don’t act like you don’t know. I saw you use that spell or charm or whatever it was. I won’t tell, I promise,” she said reassuringly. she wasn’t lying, and I was relieved. I was always worrying about being caught, but now I had someone to talk to, other than the ever snappish Kedmiel.
“Alright, Gwen, you’re right. But can we talk about this somewhere else?” I asked. She nodded and I led the way to my room in the servants’ quarters. After locking the door, window, putting up the sound proof wall charm, settling on my tiny bed across from Gwen with Kedmiel on my lap, and introducing him, I began my story.
I told her about my childhood and my early travels. I told her about the assassins and all the places and people I met. She gasped and cheered in the appropriate parts, but she never interrupted me with a question.
I finished with telling about the night’s events, the Nimmo, and what we learned from him. “The Mistress? Who’s that?” she asked after I concluded.
“I don’t know, Gwen, I just don’t know. But we’re going to find out,” I answered, and just then Kedmiel woke up from his nap and reminded us that we still had jobs to do, so we both went our separate ways, promising to find out what we could, Gwen to the kitchens and me to Lady Aroma.
Aroma glared at me, but seemed to have decided I wasn’t the one that saved her, which I was grateful for. I was just getting used to her meanness; I didn’t want her to get all nice on me. But what Aroma did say was that all the other ladies adored her hair, and she said it like she was the one who did her hair that evening. Good old Aroma.
But if one thing was for certain from all this, it’s that Meridell was no place for magic, that’s for sure.
To be continued...