Restoration (Title Not Final)

Bonds of Freedom Pt. 2

The streets of Kerenth bristled with uncharacteristic activity for an overcast morning. Aveline scanned the crowd from above, hidden from view in an aging tower that loomed above the centre of the country. The colorful booths set up inside the business district stood out flamboyantly from the neglected buildings behind them. Their attraction not only drew out the citizens who lived nearby, but also the reclusive upper class. It wasn’t hard to see why.

Droves of people pushed each other to catch a better glimpse of the performers and unique items for sale. The items imported from the trend-setting country of Rondev were extravagant, but also expensive. The average citizen in Kerenth could only dream about owning such luxuries. Despite being unobtainable, the populace seemed content admiring the rich pieces—something that had always baffled her.

Within an instance, the bustle of the crowd faded. Her right hand went straight to her side. Soft fingers gripped the rough leather hilt, drawing the weapon in a blur. Aveline spun to the space behind her, her dark brown eyes narrowed and focused. The years of her training showed as she pinpointed the length of the blade against the throat of a man with dark black hair. He loomed above her by seven inches, but that was not what she noted about him first. The toned body was steady and had not flinched at her drawing a weapon suddenly. His cold black eyes seemed to penetrate every barrier around her. A thin scar above his eyebrow drew recognition as to who this person was.

“Your senses are impeccable as always,” the man drawled in a dark tone of voice, “Aveline.”

She relaxed her stance, pulling the weapon away from the man’s throat. The assassin, though she knew the newcomer, did not put her weapon away. Aveline watched as he took a spot next to her, watching the district as she had done before, but with less interest.

“You never come to watch initiations.”

The man smirked. Her eyes focused on a man clad in brown linens, like most of those who crowded the district. However, the sandy-haired man below was on a mission. The commonly dressed person passed by someone dressed in fine silk—dyed a rich blue and accessorized with golden jewelry—pricking them with a small needle laced with poison. However, the person made two mistakes in the exchange.

It was disappointing to witness as the man looked back at his victim and carelessly left the needle on the now-dead council member.

“He’ll have to be killed,” the man next to her said. “That was embarrassing.”

Her eyes followed the doomed trainee as he disappeared in an alleyway. The man hadn’t even made it to the meeting place when his body fell to the ground, void of life.

“You knew,” she remarked, not fazed by the quick, but gruesome exchange she had witnessed. She turned toward the taller man next to her.

“Of course, I would never let a fool destroy my work.”

“However, to ensure his death is not the only reason why you’re here, Kier.”

The man faced her, looking her in the eyes. His face was expressionless to everyone but her.

“Your missions have gone well; I am pleased with the quickness upon which you eliminated your top target.” He paused. While praise from Kier was rare, she knew that there was more to come. “However, I am uncertain if you will be able to execute the next part of what I have planned.”

“You know that among all you have trained, there is no one better than I,” she said, insulted that he would even suggest that her skills were sub-par.

“I know. In terms of execution, there is none to rival you aside from me. That is not the issue.”

She frowned. “What is the issue then?”

“I need you to scope a potential target at the masquerade at the King’s ball tomorrow night.”

She scoffed. “That is hardly a challenge.”

“I want you to do it from inside the palace. You must secure an invitation as a guest. I will have the clothes and further instructions delivered to your place tonight.”

Before the full effect of his words could sink in, the man had disappeared from her sight. Aveline stared at the empty space where the taller man had once stood. In order to obtain an invitation, she would have to go as a guest to a nobleman. She had seen the way that the noblemen picked their women before. It was a disgusting process. The more one shared of their skin and batted their eyes, the likelihood of them going increased.

“But I’m not charming,” she uttered.

Aveline moved from her position and began to climb down the winding stairs. Most of her life had revolved around being an assassin. She never learnt how to be a proper woman, much less a charming one—a flaw that had never been a problem before. However, part of being excelling in the field included adapting to the current situation. That was what she had to accomplish here. Even if she was clueless as to how she would accomplish that.

A deep gong rang through the city, indicating the start of a new hour. With it, Aveline shifted into her role as an assistant baker. She pushed past the droves of people in the streets, making her way to the outskirts of the business district, and to the edge of where the upper class lived. A well-kept, white stoned building rested on the border between the two differing areas. Elegant statues of men and woman alike littered the pathway to the entrance. Many often commented on how the place bore great resemblance to a church as opposed to a bakery—a statement she agreed with.

Aveline walked into the building, already dressed for work in the gray wool dress and white apron required by the owner of the place, Mister Tomas Freynor. The usual monotony of the place was replaced with lively chatter and hoard of giggling young maidens. Her eyes glanced over the workers, curious to find out the reason why they were so eager. However, she could not draw a conclusion based upon their simple actions. Ignoring the irritating laughs of the rest of the group, she found her post and set to work.

Her job included several precise calculations and efficiency if they were to make production for the day. She set to work. It had only been a week since she took this post, and could already let her mind wander as she worked. Memorizing the recipes had hardly been a challenge, but it did require more care in mixing them than she had originally thought. Slowly, her muscles were growing used to the motions, making it easier for her to accomplish more.

A person sat at the bench next to her, also beginning their work. Aveline glanced over and nodded at the newcomer, whom she noted wore an odd amount of jewelry. She frowned. Now that she thought about it, all of the women had worn several pieces of flashy jewels. Odd that anyone would wear it, since the ornaments usually hindered their work.

“Good morning, Miss Frost!” the woman next to her exclaimed cheerfully.

“You are a bit cheerful this morning, Miss Leav,” Aveline commented, returning to her work.

“Of course I am! It’s an exciting day.”

“Do you mean in regards to the booths from Rondev?” she inquired.

The woman, Exandria Leav, giggled. The assassin waited patiently for the other person to provide a satisfying explanation as to why the day was so exciting.

“I keep forgetting that you’re new,” the blonde-haired, green-eyed woman said happily.

Aveline kneaded the dough, taking her frustrations of having to navigate banal chatter before garnering vital information out on the mixture for raisin bread. She bore her knuckles in deeply at each annoying laugh that filled the air.

“On the last night the merchants from Rondev are here, the King throws a masquerade at the palace,” Exandria explained. “Those invited are the merchants and the upper class. Master Freynor gets invited every year for being the King’s baker.”

“What does that have to do with the strange behaviour everyone is exhibiting?” Aveline inquired.

“Oh, it’s not strange.” Aveline raised an eyebrow.

Could have fooled me.

“Master Freynor always brings a guest with him. Instead of choosing women from the upper class, he brings one of us. Everyone would kill for an opportunity to see the inside of the palace.”

“So that’s the reason why they’re acting so ridiculous,” Aveline muttered. Exandria laughed at her statement.

“You’re so funny!”

Aveline did not understand what was so hysterical about her words. The women in the bakery, who were shortening the skirts to their dresses and adjusting their jewelry, reminded her of the upper class. Her stomach churned at the thought of acting that way. It was an appalling idea for her to even consider. Words from her earlier encounter never strayed far from her mind. If she wanted an invitation, then she supposed she would have to act like that.

Just for one day.

She looked down at the bottom of her dress, pulling up the skirt a little, trying to imagine walking around so bare. Aveline played with the length, trying to decide how short she should pin it when the doors burst open. Her attention immediately went to the man who had entered. Brown hair slicked back with oil, in a low ponytail and thick sideburns. He wore a tailored black suit with a dyed red shirt. He walked with a cane though he had no need for one. A preference she didn’t understand.

The man passed everyone by and smiled at them, greeting them. Aveline gladly let her attention wander back to her work, noticing that Exandria had dropped a spoonful of pepper instead of poppy seed into the grain mixture.

“You’ll have to restart,” Aveline commented in a low voice. The young woman let out a squeal in embarrassment before quickly discarding of the ruined batch before their boss noticed. Mister Freynor stopped by each station to inspect their progress and give them positive remarks about their work. However, the women took this as an opportunity to flirt and fling themselves on to the owner of the bakery.

It was sickening to listen to. A shadow loomed behind her and Exandria. The woman next to her giggled endlessly as the man complimented her work. She excitedly chatted about how she grew up dancing in her mother’s kitchen. Aveline did her best to tune out the endless chatter.

“You, Miss Frost, are very good at your work,” Mister Freynor said near her ear. She had resisted every instinct to pull out a knife at the man standing uncomfortably close behind her.

“Thank you, Master Freynor. I only do my best,” she said in the most humble tone she could muster.

“It’s incredible what you have accomplished in a week.”

She could feel his gaze wandering from her hands to her legs. To her relief, her skirt had fallen back to its normal length instead of the ridiculous height she had pondered before he had entered. He chuckled.

“It seems you’re the only one who isn’t trying to get my attention.”

“I don’t feel that I should gussy myself up to get attention,” she stated.

Mister Freynor let out another chuckle. “You’re right. You are already charming enough,” he whispered in her ear.

Aveline suppressed a shudder. The man had stood too close for her comfort.

“Ladies!” their esteemed Master announced in a loud voice. Everyone stopped their production to look at him. Aveline watched as the man surveyed the room with a goofy grin. “As many of you know, I have been invited to attend the King’s masquerade this year. I wish that I could take each of you as a “thank you” for the work that you have done. However, only one of you can attend with me. The person that I have elected to take with me: Miss Frost!”

The assassin froze from shock. Never did it cross her mind that he would choose her out of all of the eligible women present. It seemed no one else did either. Anger burned in several of their eyes, making her feel uncomfortable. Aveline did her best to smile.

“I am honoured, Master Freynor.”

“Thank you for all of your hard work! Please, let us resume production! We have many pastries to make before the ball tomorrow. The King wants nothing but the best!”

His words snapped everyone out of their daze as they resumed their work. Aveline started a new batch of dough after finishing the last. Even though she was not looking directly at the other women in the room, she could feel their eyes glaring at her. She did not care. At least she had secured her invitation as requested.

To her, that was all that mattered.

Restoration Pt. 3

Calm filled the air when she saw several people working to maintain landscape. Her father had obviously spent months planning this and making sure that it would be every bit as breathtaking as it deserved to be. However, she wondered when they left the swamp and entered the beautiful land since the rest of the state had been miserable, at best, to make a way through. Edith looked for glimpses of her father’s latest scheme in terms of a profit, but did not find what she was looking for. The carriage slowed as the approached the manor. Servants lined in front of the house, ready to greet their guests.

She expected to see her father coming from above but did not see him yet. The carriage stopped. She waited for the escorts to get out and unload her things before one helped her out of the confined quarters. As soon as she set one foot on the ground, and popped her head out, the servants bowed.

“Welcome Madam!” they chorused, uniformed in their speech. She did not say anything in return, as it would displease her father if he saw her interacting with the servants in a friendly fashion. She merely walked past them, following her escorts inside. Upon entering, she took in the full detail of her father’s work. A man clad in dress cloths approached them. His head held high and posture impeccable, she waited for him to speak.

“Master Huey is out for the moment, tending to other matters. He says that you should bathe and rest before joining him for dinner later this evening. I will send someone to wake you in a few hours and lead you to the dining hall.”

“Thank you,” she replied. “What is your name?”

“My name is Charles, please do not hesitate to call me when needed. Please follow me to your bedroom in the eastern wing.”

The butler, though similar in many characteristics, was nothing like Weston. No warmth could be found in his eyes and the distance between them was unnerving. She did not say anything while following the gentleman but attempted to memorize the floor plan from sight. From what she could tell, the mansion was larger than the last.

Their journey led her through toward the end of a lengthy hall. Hers was the last on the room in the section. Charles pushed open the door for her. The color scheme for this room was green and deep mahogany. Green drapes laced the outer of her bedroom, obviously to block any sun. Creamy white sheets and blankets covered her bed. A bookshelf stretching from the floor to the ceiling caught her immediate attention. Books packed each shelf, with little room for her old titles. A chair rested near the books along a fireplace. Even if the room was simple compared to others, she enjoyed it all the same.

The butler closed the door behind her, but she didn’t mind. Edith did not explore but simply located the wash room and found a tub filled with hot water. She stripped out of her sweat-drenched clothes and cleaned her skin and hair. The servants had left her with options for sleepwear and she took the lightest item to keep her cool.

The bath left her feeling refreshed but only sated the deep weariness in her bones. Edith climbed into bed and fell into a deep sleep.

 

Evening came far too quickly in Edith’s mind. Her body protested to the thought of getting up since it was still sore from her journey. Three servants hurried into her room. One of them carrying a large dress. The others, an array of items she had never seen before.

“I can change myself.”

The servants gasped. One of them rushed out of the room while the other two tried to push her in a chair placed in front of the floor-length mirror. As the argument continued, the door to her room burst open. The master of the house—Charles, she recalled—stormed in. The third servant close behind. Gone was the feigned pleasantries. His face hard, aging him more.

“Everyone out,” he ordered.

The servants left. The heavy door closed behind them. Charles circled her, almost as if she were prey. Edith took a deep breath to steel her nerves.

“I knew there would be challenges when dealing with northerners,” he sneered. “I had heard tales of their lack of refinement, but I didn’t expect rebellion as well.”

“What you call rebellion is simply a preference. I would prefer to dress myself.”

Charles openly laughed at her. “That may be what life is in the north, but you are in the south. We have expectations. You do not just represent yourself. You represent your father, his reputation, and societal standards. While you are in my house, you will be dressed as I see fit. You will allow the servants to do their jobs as I have tasked them. Am I clear?”

Edith narrowed her eyes. Working in her father’s business had taught her which battles to fight. This was not one of them.

“I understand.”

“I know there will be an adjustment period, but your life will be easier under my house rules.”

She smiled at him. “I’m sure we’ll come to an understanding.” Charles seemed satisfied enough and left her room. Soon, the servants returned. For today, she would concede to the treatment. However, she planned to address the encounter with her father in the morning.

“You are ready, Madam.”

“Thank you,” she replied. Charles opened the door to her room and beckoned for her to follow.

They walked in silence. She attempted to the memorize the way, but the halls all started to look the same. Before long, they were a large room with a table stretching from almost one end to the other. Rich ebony chairs lined against the lengthy piece of hand-carved wood. Two sets were at the table, both next to each other. She looked around to catch sight of the man she desperately wanted to see.

“Edith!” a deep voice cried with joy. She turned around to see a tall, thin man looking at her with a smile stretching across his weathered face. Wiry brown hair draped across his eyes.

“Father,” she said. A smile of her own displayed itself across her face.

“Master Huey, dinner will be served shortly.”

“Thank you, Charles, you’re dismissed.”

The elderly butler left them alone in the room. For now, it seemed like her father was in a good mood, which made her relieved. She started to relax in his presence. Edith walked forward and waited for her father to initiate contact.

“My, you’ve grown more beautiful since the last time I saw you.”

“You haven’t changed a bit,” she replied. “How have you been?”

“Busy, as always. There is never a dull moment when you’re working as hard as I am.”

“I know. I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me, father.”

“Please sit,” he said while beckoning toward the empty table. She obliged. He pulled out her chair and she sat there before he pushed her in. She waited for him to be seated before continuing the conversation.

“How are your studies going, Edith?”

“Very well, father. I am ahead in my work so far. I made sure to study diligently ahead of the trip so I would not be behind.”

“Good, good,” her father said. “I hope you will like it here.”

“While it certainly a different environment, I am quite certain I will get accustomed in no time. Did you set up the fields for your latest project, father?”

“Yes. They expect the fields to be bountiful this year.”

“Are you going to harvest fruit again?”

“No, I decided to do something different.”

“What is that?”

“Since when did you care about my affairs?” her father inquired.

She heard the testiness in his voice. Odd. She had always helped with the family business before.

Reckless Revenge Pt. 4

Jaynes stared at the black and white photos for the millionth time. Each one playing out a vivid story that plagued his dreams every night. While Terrah recovered from her injuries, he sought out any information about the assassination attempt. Every possible lead turned into a dead end. He had people in every part of the world and he couldn’t trace the hit ordered on him and his wife.

He understood why Terrah didn’t want to see the photos. He never intended on showing her them. This was his personal mission. If he couldn’t protect Terrah, then everything else they had set in motion was worthless. Jaynes was so tired of everything.

The red convertible had been replaced with a more sensible car. This one discreet and more fuel efficient to get to his destination three states over. The drive only took a few hours. He pulled into the driveway of a picturesque home in a fall background. Jaynes could hear the sounds of a saw behind the home. He headed that way—finding a workshop with its doors wide open.

An unsuspecting man focused on running wood through carefully. Several cut pieces laid in a neat pile. To anyone else, the person inside the workshop would seem like the perfect neighbor. Clean shaven, family man, blue collar job, and the perfect model of a husband. He looked up to grab a new piece of wood and saw Jaynes. The saw stopped soon after.

“Gavin,” Jaynes said.

“Never thought I’d see you again.”

He shrugged, not bothering to fill in the details. While they hadn’t seen each other in over five years, Gavin always kept up with the news. “Things happened.”

The other man laughed and pulled out two beers from the mini fridge in the shop. “That’s an understatement.” Jaynes took his and popped the lid off the edge of the table. Crisp. Ice cold. “Something tells me what happened yesterday isn’t why you’re here though.”

Jaynes took another large drink from his bottle before pulling out the photos he always kept close to him. He laid them on the table for Gavin to look at but didn’t say a word. Instead, preferring to finish this drink as quickly as possible before grabbing a new one.

He longed for something stronger to take the edge off. Gavin looked through the photos, taking his time with each one. The creases in his forehead getting deeper as he grew closer to the final few. Jaynes had looked at those the least.

Gavin put them down and took a long drink. “You’re in some serious shit.”

“I know.”

“What do you want me to find out, Jaynes?”

“Anything you can. Mainly their identities and who hired them.”

Gavin scoffed. “Oh, is that all?” Jaynes took another drink, peeling at the label of the bottle. “I assume you’ve exhausted all your sources. What makes you so sure I’ll be able to turn up anything?”

Jaynes had a vast network nationally. It would be easy to go through his channels, but… “I haven’t had anyone look into it.”

He could feel Gavin’s eyes on him. Normally, Jaynes wouldn’t look away. This time, he kept his gaze firmly to the ground.

“It’s that important to you?”

He looked up, “It’s Terrah. She’s the most important thing in my life.”

Gavin looked through the photos once again. “Whoever hired them intended for you to die. If you go down this path, you realize there’s a good chance you won’t make it out alive.”

“I know.”

“And what does Terrah think about this?”

He shrugged. “She doesn’t support it.”

“Can’t say I blame her. You two have been separated long enough. A piece of paper doesn’t change the fact that she needs you after going through this.”

“I didn’t come to you for marriage advice,” Jaynes hissed. “I don’t need your help in that department.”

Gavin shrugged, not bothered by his outburst. “I’m just saying, based on the pictures—she’s lucky to be alive. This type of incident doesn’t come without trauma.”

“She’s fine.”

“So she says.”

Jaynes finished the beer and slammed it on the workbench. “Are you going to look into it or not?”

“I will. Just—make sure she’s okay, Jaynes. She’s been through enough.”

Jaynes walked to his car. He sat behind the wheel, body shaking.

The feeling of betrayal gnawed at his mind.

Bonds of Freedom Prologue

Piercing wind swept through the quiet city. Residents of the elegant town took refuge in their homes. The dark sky loomed over the land, veiling the sculpted stone buildings. Lights littered the cobblestone streets, illuminating a safe path. A large clock towered above the rest of the white walled homes, visible to everyone, even those looming in the shadows. The second hand ticked faintly, bringing a constant noise to the otherwise silent area.

Another gust of wind passed by, the chill air penetrating her clothing. The cold nights never made her work pleasant. Despite the turning of the weather, she could not neglect her duties. To live the only life she chose to know. This was the last opportunity to complete them before returning home. Her orders were clear. Eliminate anyone who threatened his empire. If only the suppliers that went against her boss knew what fate was about to befall them.

Too late now.

She gripped the smooth hilt of her blade tighter at the sound of shuffling footsteps approaching. The textured grip wrapped around the base of her weapon rested comfortably against her gloved hand. There would be no second chances. The person walked into her view, but she remained still since he was still easily visible to the main streets. He drew nearer. She stood in the darkness, inwardly laughing at his pathetic state. The man swayed from side to side, occasionally reaching out to the walls for support. She moved from the shadows, falling behind her victim. She matched his clumsy steps, following his movement so not to alarm him.

The stench of alcohol wafted toward her, and she felt bile starting to rise in her throat. This was another reason as to why she hated such missions. They always reminded her how much she disliked drunken stupor.

However, it makes my job easier.

Aveline lifted the blade to his throat. Her free hand covered his mouth. He tried to pull away from her. Her heels dug into the ground to keep her body steady against his attempt to struggle. To regain control of the situation, she pierced his flesh. The man stilled. “You should have known better than to break your contract,” she whispered. “Honestly, did you think that my boss wouldn’t find out that you’ve been stealing his merchandise?”

His elbow swung toward her body. Aveline saw the movement a bit too late in her peripheral. She could not stop the blow now. Moving her entire body to the right, she dodged the blow. However, she had also lost her grip on the victim. There was no avoiding that. Turning her head around, she looked for sight of her target in the dark. A heavy body slammed into her, knocking her back. She bent her knees slightly and pushed against the unfamiliar weight, bringing the two of them to a standstill. He had a height advantage over her, but she had sobriety.

His body shook against hers as, a sign that he was folding against the pressure she was putting on him. Aveline took advantage of that, bringing her free arm to grip his throat. She pushed him against a pile of wooden crates, while squeezing his neck. His fingers clawed at her hand, but she held firm. He tried to gasp for air, but she continued crushing his larynx. The man twitched and tried to fight her off, but each blow continued to weaken. Bringing her blade to his chest, she pressed through his breastbone, relieving the pressure on his throat as she perforated his chest.

He fell forward. Aveline took a step backwards to bear the full weight of the corpse. She bent her legs to begin lowering the body to the ground. The muscles in her arms groaned from the unfamiliar weight.  Once he was on the cobblestone, she pulled the blade from his chest. Red began to spill from the wound.

Aveline pulled a black cloth from the pocket to her coat and cleaned the blade. Once wiped free of the red liquid, she sheathed the small weapon.

Aveline strode far from any of the places she had visited that night and into a house nestled in the darkness. Few dared to venture to the shady area. It was the perfect place for her to stay. She found herself standing in front of the entrance; her hands searched her pockets for the key. Upon finding it, she inserted it to the handle and turned the metal knob.

Finally, I’m out of the miserable rain.

Aveline closed the door behind her and lit a lamp. She took off her scarf, letting her hair lay flat at her side. On the desk, a creamy envelope rested. The red seal caught her attention. It seemed that there was no need for her to write the report after all. She picked up the letter and opened it. Scrawled writing filled a single page.

Congratulations are in order again. You did well in completing your tasks. I require your presence in Kerenth immediately as several branches have broken down. The rapid rate of deterioration is alarming. The King is plotting to destroy all underground operations. This must not take place.

A carriage awaits your arrival that will take you back to Kerenth. Once there, I will inform you of the additional details regarding your new post.

Aveline smirked. She grabbed the lamp that she had lit and moved over to the fireplace. She dangled the letter over an open flame. The fire caught the edge of the paper and began to creep upward. She tossed the blazing parchment into a pit of ash.

Restoration Pt. 2

Bugs swarmed the air around them. Edith frowned in disapproval of the warm weather and infested area. It seemed, that no matter how far they travelled, the insects followed them and invited their friends to play along. The dress she wore that day only added to her discomfort as it laced through to the top and left no room for adjustments. One week had passed. They had changed temperatures from moderate to scorching. Every breath that she took seemed only to last for a brief moment before fluttering away. The heat intensified and often left her unable to breathe well, if at all.

The horses needed to rest more frequently than before because of the sweltering temperatures. Not that Edith complained. Her own body ached from travel and accompanied with the stickiness of perspiration, it made for unpleasant travel time. According to her newest escort, the mansion in which her father had built was still another half day away. Of course, in the given conditions, this seemed like a colossal amount of time. Snapping of twigs echoed in the background, lingering in the air for far too long.

Of all the madness my father has concocted, this is the worse! Whoever thought that he would choose such a dismal place for us to live!

Even if this was not quite the location of their new home, there hardly seemed to be anything else promising in the state they were in. All she could see, and smell, stretched from one end of their journey to the other. Whatever had possessed her father to consider such living condition must have promised a large garner. For now, she could only judge based off what she saw. Edith peeked out of the curtain of the carriage. Through the swarms of black flies, she saw muddled waters resting still, only disturbed when movement broke the tension.

Branches dipped low, draping over ferns and covered in greenery that she had not seen before. Weeds littered the floor, covering every inch save for the small dirt road in which they rode upon. Even still, water saturated the ground, making the horses work twice as hard to pull them across each mile. Staring in the depths of the muddied water, she saw a ripple disturb the water. A dark figure emerged from the depths, growling deeply. Edith knew what sort of animal it was from the outside.

Though she had never expected to see one in her lifetime, now she could count it as one of the things that she knew about. The thought of crocodiles in the same vicinity as her did nothing to make her feel better about moving to a new state. Quickly, she shut the curtains, frowning with displeasure.

“Is there something wrong, Madam?”

“There are crocodiles lurking in the waters. I suggest we take care when passing near the waters. Likely the horses will be their targets,” she replied.

“Don’t worry, there is a city nearby. We’ll stop there for when it comes to rest.”

“Whoever wants to live out here must be mad,” she whispered under her breath, though she knew that her escorts had caught what she had said. Not that she cared, it was not as if she had been quiet about her opinion of the place thus far. Even though they said nothing, she could tell that they agreed.

Edith settled back in her seat and wished for the city to come soon so she could be away from the crocodiles. The thought of their snapping jaws was enough to make her shudder. They had patience beyond any other creature, often stalking their prey for several days, waiting for them to make one wrong move. The dangers involving such reptiles were ones that she was well aware of, but never did she think that her father would move to a place with them lurking about! No, this was simply madness on his part, a cruel joke at best. Though in her heart, she had the feeling that it was no such thing.

Knowing that this could be where she would spend the rest of her life did nothing to bring her comfort or ease. All she wanted to do was return home to Weston, and with her father. With the thought of her father coming to mind, she wondered if he had changed any. It had been several months since seeing him. Would he still look and sound the same? Would he even pay attention to her once she came? Or was the mansion going to feel empty, just as it had before? The answers to her question remained unknown.

Speculating as to what life would be like was an inefficient waste of time, but it did bring her some happiness to think that there could be a better life for her in the other areas. All she needed to do was believe that he would be available if she should need him. He had been once before, but hopefully, this would not be like before his last departure. Her father had not spoken to her for three days and did not even tell her that he was leaving. Although she was sad, it hurt more knowing that he would not trust her with such important information. Did he think that she would hate him?

While she disliked it, she knew that travelling was a part of his job. She knew that she was going to be alone for the majority of her time. Even though she was of age to marry, her father had kept her around, never accepting any offers from potential suitors. He seemed quite content with just their lifestyle. However, many thought he was foolish for keeping her single for so long. Many were disgusted with her. They thought she should be married and raising children, but it was not up to her. Her father forbade boys from her presence, aside from those approved by him. If he so much as heard that one of the servants had fallen for his daughter, they would no longer work there. Of course, she had never heard of such a thing, but that did little to stop the rumors.

That left a desire to know whom thought she was worthy enough to be a life-long companion. Even if she had no desire in them, she wanted to know. Having admirers did not seem like a bad idea. It always baffled her as to why her father had to be the one who made the choices, but for now, she would abide by them. She really had no choice. If she ran away from home, there would be no place for her to go. Not only that, but she would hate to be separated from her father for the rest of her life. Even if he was hardly around now, he was still there.

She could still come to him with any problems and make sure that she was all right. The thought of knowing that she still had one person who cared in the world brought her small comfort. It was one of those moments where she was trying to pretend that things were not as bad as she thought they were. However, she knew that things could always get worse.

You promised yourself that you wouldn’t think like that anymore.

Of course, how short-lived that promise was. It always seemed to come back and haunt her, the pessimism seemed to feed off her insecurities and doubts. It made a home there every time one sliver came to mind. As much at it hurt, she knew that there was some truth as to the words its slimy tongue spoke. Edith sighed. Today, there would be little escape from them. With the discovery of the true conditions of her new state, they lingered longer than she liked. No matter what, she would try.