Chapter 12: Uninvited

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Chapter 12: Uninvited

After finding the corridor deserted, I shut the door of my room behind me and proceeded to walk in the direction of what I assumed was the nearest servant passage. The thrill of moving freely in the house would pass soon, but for now I felt as if I could breathe for the first time in days.

The nearly concealed door slid aside, and I found the narrow servants' corridor behind it. In the few journeys I made through the house, I noticed servants also walking about through the main passageways. I only assumed that they did that when they had no alternative.

I wanted to head down, ideally to the laundry room, and it took me some searching to find a staircase. The next floor below had no servant passage. I hurried down a main corridor lit by oil lamps.

"You," said a voice behind me. I didn't hear anyone approaching. My heart clenched in my chest, I entertained the idea of running, but then I turned instead.

It was an older servant, the very same one I had dismissed upon my first morning here.

"It's you," she said. Despite the way I had plaited my hair, and the green mask I wore that matched the green dress, she recognised me.

I didn't know what I was going to do. My mind went straight to Dylana, how one hasty decision had silenced her forever and trapped me in this mess. I hesitated.

"I thought I told you that we need help in the kitchen," she scolded. "We have visitors."

I swallowed, relief replenishing my body. "Apologies, madam," I almost spoke in the fake Desmelas accent I had been using for the past two days, but remembered only at the last moment that I was a servant local to the state of Velamia in the mid-north. It was easy to adopt my usual mannerisms once I managed to convince myself that it was alright to do so. "I was sent on a short errand by the cook... by..."

"Telsa, her name is Telsa, the one who tells you what to do," the servant said impatiently. "Tell her, that she does not have the authority to send you on errands and that it all must pass through me."

"Yes, madam. I will, madam."

"Good, now run along."

I headed off in the direction I thought was the kitchen.

"Abetha," the servant called after me. "It's the other way."

I turned around, and didn't have to fake the bashful smile I directed her way. It truly was embarrassing to get lost when I had precious little time to escape.

So, I was Abetha, was I? In looks, I was pretty enough, but not outstanding. There were many girls in Velamia and the whole of Tal Valley with my dark black hair, sharp features and skin the colour of sierra wood. That worked to my favour. I hoped not to encounter the real Abetha.

After several corridors and a few wrong turns, I finally found the way to the kitchens. I met two other servants on my way, but I was walking purposefully and waved at them as I passed. Evidently, neither thought I looked out of place.

The kitchen was bustling with activity. It looked like preparations for Lord Eloroan of the Fel and whoever was accompanying him were underway. I rolled up my sleeves and found an empty stool among the scullery maids. I knew my way around washing dishes, and took up my rag as if I had done so a thousand times.

"Good," said a girl with deep ebony skin and tightly curled hair sitting next to me. "With an extra set of hands we'll be finished before we turn grey and old."

"Damned ridiculous," complained the girl sitting across from me. She had very pale skin and brown hair tied back into a long braid and was drying every plate we washed. "They want us to wash the clean dishes, all the clean dishes."

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