Chapter 2

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The next month of my life passed in a whirl of activity. I'd written to my brother, but rather than simply waiting for his reply, I began to get ready to travel. The news that I would have the opportunity to experience more of life had energized not only myself, but the servants as well. I had not quite realized the extent of their devotion to me, their long time mistress until they were called upon to make my transition to a new home as quick and painless as possible.

Nancy, the cook, organized her husband and sons to searching the attic for suitable trunks and boxes for my possessions, while Maura took it upon herself to not only repair the worst of the tears in my older dresses, but to walk with me daily to the village we lived a few miles from to select new ribbons and look over the dress design books to see what changes we might manage to make my wardrobe more fashionable. Funds were of course quite limited, but we nevertheless managed quite well. Indeed, soon the whole village was talking of my move to Bath, and I received much good-hearted advice on where I should shop, visit or otherwise entertain myself in that once popular city.

In many ways, Bath was an excellent choice for me. Once a fashionable resort spot, it now catered more to the elderly and those on limited budgets. The sort of people in my father's social circle avoided that town as though it was a poverty struck village, and that was yet another point in it's favor. Another major factor was that it had once been home to the country's largest neighborhood of Eld families, those dark and arcane people who's blood had once been the only thing that defined nobility and power. Though mostly absent, it was not said that many of the older families here carried the old blood, and I had the hope that any slip on my part might be more easily forgiven. Surely the residents were used to such!

The age when the Eld ruled was long passed, almost a thousand years ago, yet people still talked of it when the night was dark and the shadows deep. Our land had been ruled by witch kings, mighty sorcerers who used their power to enslave the less gifted to do their every bidding. It was a dark time in history, ended only with the combination of wide scale rebellion, foreign aid, and the general withdrawal of support by nearly all the other, lesser, families of Eld. It was said only the Tenebrae and Merula had remained true to their wicked mission, while their former comrades and cousins had shown their disgust of the tyranny by actually aiding the commoners.

I rather imagine that the years after were a chaotic and strange time. The Witch Kings were destroyed, almost to the last woman and child, and only those who had sought shelter with their turncoat cousins survived. They had later been turned out of those homes; it is said the remaining Eld, weakened as they were, would not tolerate them any longer, and so they had hidden themselves among the commoners, sometimes so poorly it had lead to another round of executions and deaths.

Still, marriages between commoner and Eld occurred, until those families were no more magical than most others. Some even said that the royal family itself had a hint of Eldish blood to it, though the more loyal insisted it was of a clean Eldish family. As though there were such a thing. Having the blood of Tenebrae or Merula no longer ruined a man, but the taint of Eldish magic could and would.

Men who were proven to have magic at their command, no matter how small, could never hold public office, from Parliament down to Mayor. A woman who was so tainted was unlikely to ever marry, though some were said to have married well beneath themselves just to leave their parental home. Like the Eld themselves, people with a 'gift' were feared and ostracized in most places. Only Bath had acquired a reputation as a haven for such, though that seemed to exist only in rumour.

I myself had not experienced this. Father had, for all of his weaknesses, protected me with the full extent of his name, social status, and moderate influence. Still, he would never take the risk involved in introducing me socially. I am afraid to admit, I could not fully quash the part of me that felt anger at that. It was, in essence, a sign that he did not trust me to control that small portion of my person.

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