Thursday, March 24. 2011
Yllen wandered the estate alone. The chill of the servants’ corridors were a stark contrast to the warmth of the great halls. They were two worlds, intertwined but never one. Yllen had gotten lost many times moving between the two. Today she travelled the main passage from the servants’ quarters to the central manse. Other servants passed her constantly. Rarely was she acknowledged. No one talked to a sweeper’s apprentice.
Gundrea had disappeared earlier. In a subdued tone he’d told her to put an ear to the ground while he arranged transport. Yllen was happy enough to be alone. The quiet murmur of conversation drifted through doors in the corridor occasionally. Yllen stopped at one and strained her ears. She gathered a few snatches before continuing on. Coming to a junction she turned off abruptly and with a furtive glance quickened her pace.
A metal door creaked. Light filtered into the dark corridor briefly. Yllen slipped outside and shut it behind her. Her outfit was different and she carried a rake instead of a broom. Dawn had happened but the morning fog had yet to burn away. The gardens were damp beneath her sandals. Yllen crossed the lawns and worked her way down the estate’s drive. A fountain tinkled in the distance. Murky shapes suggested the distant town. Eventually Yllen reached a spot that satisfied her and began to rake.
She did not have long to wait. Something thundered up the drive. Yllen kept her head down as the carriage passed, only spying when sure it was past. The livery was unfamiliar, a blur of white ribbons. She did not leave immediately instead working the patch for several minutes. Satisfied she had maintained her cover she fled back toward the estate.
Guards patrolled the hall. Their armour was bedecked in azure gilt. Most fine of all were their masks, bird beaks with golden filigree. But Yllen knew better than to trust appearances. They swept the room thoroughly, covering each other well. One nudged aside a bulging tapestry, a hand on his blade. The servants oft told stories of the peacock’s guard. The peacock himself, as the servants called their lord, had yet to arrive.
Yllen clustered with other servants in a nook of the hall. Clad in a maid’s outfit she had slipped into the house staff. A guard’s gaze swept over her. She could not tell his expression, and tried to look nonchalant. Eventually he moved on. Only when the guards were satisfied did they permit the guests to enter.
The great doors thudded open. A small party marched up the carpet. There were guards in cream armour, one looked oddly familiar. Yllen frowned but focused on the three in the centre. There was a fussy man in a white hat, a portly fellow in a plain white mask and a woman in a red and white dress. She seemed to be the leader, the other two attending her as she approached the dais. Upon the dais was an empty chair. All waited upon the peacock’s pleasure.
A nudge from a fellow maid jolted her from musing.
“Who’re they then?” whispered the maid.
“Couldn’t say,” said Yllen, trying to ignore her.
“Probably relatives,” said a male voice.
“She looks a right prude,” There was a stifled giggle.
Yllen regretted joining the peanut gallery. But hiding amongst the servants was the best way to spy on visitors. Best of all were screens that hid them from sight. Yllen wondered if the sight of commoners so offended nobles.
The party halted before the dais. There was a certain stand-offishness between the guards in white and the peacock’s men. Yllen wondered if the two groups were enemies. The way things went they could have fought just last week.
The whispering continued unabated.
“Peacock don't think much of this one,”
“He was having another round of crumpets when I left,”
“Probably more worried about the court later, burgher appealed for arbitration,”
Metal creaked. The servants quieted. From a door near the dais appeared a man in purple. His satin robes were understated, almost faded with his greying hair. He looked unconcerned by the attentions of the room and took a seat, the only seat. A herald stepped from the shadows.
“Lord Jackobinley, I present to you the Lady Delon,”
The Lady bowed. “Lord Jackobinley, I hope you are well,”
“Lady Delon. My house is your house,” Every word felt tightly rehearsed.
“As my blade is yours, Lord Jackobinley,”
There was a pause.
“You have had a long journey, lady. Perhaps you would care to freshen up,”
“I am humbled by your hospitality, my lord,” And then the play went off script. “However I am eager to begin negotiations,” she said.
The gasp was audible.
Lord Jackobinley alone was unruffled. “My servants will tend to your needs,”
There was a moment of hesitation before the lady Delon fell back into place. “When will we be meeting?”
Lord Jackobinley rose from the chair. His smile never moved. “When we are ready to begin,”
And he was gone.
Yllen slipped out with the other servants. She mused as she retrieved her robes, discarding the ridiculous dress. She was sure she’d recognised one of Delon’s guards. And why had the lady breached protocol so blatantly? Bored of eavesdropping she checked the schedule and returned to cleaning.
Gundrea reappeared near noon.
Yllen did not look up. “Master,”
“Fixed us up. You hear anything?”
“Nothing interesting that I saw. I swept the north corridor instead,”
Gundrea leaned against the wall, nodding with approval at her brushwork. “Really?
“Was there something I was supposed to find?”
Gundrea tapped his chin. “Hmm? No. Really nothing?”
“Nothing,” Yllen repeated.
“Alright. Better get packing then. Tomorrow we fly!”
“Master you said that yesterday,”
“Yeah but that was before I wrangled us a sweet ride. Seriously you’ll love it,”
Gundrea wagged his finger. “It’s a surprise,”
Yllen sighed. “And in the meanwhile?”
Gundrea unslung his broom. “Let’s get sweeping,”
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I'm not trying to get all in your face about nitpicky things, but I did find some things interrupted my flow, as it were. I know you consider me the most base reader of low breeding and intelligence. So who better to test it on? Yet I'm going to give feedback, and here it is:
" as the servants called their lord," - unnecessary. We know what you're intimating, and it breaks up the sentence weirdly.
“Probably more worried about the court later, burgher appealed for arbitration,” - high degree of knowledge for a Scullerey Maid...?
In the :"The Lady bowed. “Lord Jackobinley, I hope you are well,” paragraph, you use the words "Lord Jackobinley" quite a bit. Since his name is a bit hard to say easily in my head, I noticed I had to say it quite frequently there. TOO frequently.
You mention metal creaking twice. Alot of creaky metal in that place. Creak creak creak! Peacock better beat his servants for not OILING the place more.
Where is Yllen getting all these outfits? Where is she storing them? Is she like Superman?
I quite like the twist ending. Builds tension and keeps the characters intriguing.
Lovely addition to the continuing saaagaaaa.
Feel free to throw my opinions in the dustbin. It's your funeral.