Chapter Nine

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Three at Sea
Tears there were none till they were two
Tower of cloud invited them to its peak
Putting balloons of light on their shoe
They would go on trips indeed unique   
~Probir Gupta

For the first time, since I came here, I felt peaceful going into my room.  Aland was a wise soul.  I was beginning to wonder if his mind was ever childlike.  He was a little rascal when he was a young boy, that much I knew.  But his mind was a treasure, so rare, that I couldn’t comprehend the extent of it.  In this short time, in which I saw him and spoke to him but a few times, I have learned about life. 

His mother had a big influence on his life, she must’ve been blessed with wisdom too.  Listening to his memories of her, my summory of her, was that she was a very intriguing person.  Her place in his heart and in this castle has left a huge cleft of absence and loss.

This time it was my turn to send him a note first.  I started writing him a letter which consisted of the biography of a mother.  It was something I copied in my diary a long time ago.  Maybe tonight it could mean something to him. 

Dear Aland
“Your mother is always with you.  She is the whisper of the leaves as you walk in your garden.  She is the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well.  She’s the breath in the air on a cold winter’s day.  She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she is the map you follow with every step you take.  Nothing on earth can separate you, not time, not space….not even death” ~ Unknown

Ethel was approaching with a plate of food.
“Good evening my lady,” she greeted kindly.
“Good evening, Ethel. Do you by chance know where Herbert is?  I haven’t seen him all day.”
“My lady he went home.  Prince Aland send him away and told him to first get better before he returned….the prince was going to have a word with the parents.” I shrugged.
“What would be the matter?” Ethel was just getting ready to tell me her own tale, when Laila came along with the beverages.
“Good evening lady Stephanie, what a day! We’ve nearly had the whole congregation for lunch today and some of the landlords with their wives as well!” 

She looked tired.  I smiled sympathetically and gave her a pat on the shoulders.
“Good evening, thank you for all the food and drink, but why do you continue to carry our food to our rooms?  We can come down and eat downstairs.”
“Since the queen fell away, the formal dinners decreased.  Now that the king had been sick for months, the children didn’t dine together anymore.  It’s such a shame that the tradition had been watered down like this.”
“Laila, can I ask you one last thing?  What did you do with all the clothes  that I brought here?” She looked embarrassed and blushed.
“We threw it away.  They were covered in bloodstains and torn and…well, I thought that maybe you didn’t want to stand out like a sore thumb?”
“You should have asked me first.  It was my property after all.”  I could see that she felt bad.  I was losing everything that was dear to me and it was saddening. “Do you know anything about Herbert?” I asked.
“Sorry lady Stephanie.  Yes, he was sent home.  He’s not well….”
“Poor child, where does he live?” 
“They live in the city.  The father is a blacksmith and the mother is a nanny.  I’ve heard the father is quite a cruel man.  His wife and children regularly end up with battered faces.”
“This is a wild guess, but he’s not by any chance, the son-in-law of Mr Ivanov?”
Both the women uttered amazed, “How did you know that? “
“The prince told me of Mr Ivanov.”

The door to Aland’s room opened.  He came out into the corridor with damp hair and comfortable clothes.  Laila and Ethel both looked guilty and akward.  I knew the family didn’t like gossiping from the servants, especially not in the corridors.  They bowed and dashed inside my room.  I felt bewildered.  He signaled me to follow him, as he treaded softly towards his balcony.  He glanced back at me again and put his forefinger on his mouth.

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