Chapter 14: The Turner
"Biluria. Biluria wake up! Biluria! Biluria?" I could hear the shouting through the wall. Morning sunlight flooded the bedroom, making everything seem eerily sharp. In an instant, I was out of the bed and opened the door to the adjacent room. Jeranine and Mora were standing over Biluria's bed and trying to shake her awake.
I rushed in, and pressed my fingers to the woman's cold throat. Mora continued to shout, but it was no use.
It was impossible wake the dead.
I turned my head in time to see Jeranine's accusing glare. I was being held accountable, I was given the blame by someone who was horrified to know that she could do nothing to me, and I would never be judged.
Another woman dead, at my hand. There was just so much harm I could inflict, even without trying to.
What would happen if I killed with the intention of killing?
I drew away from the maids, from Jeranine who was shaking with outrage. I had made her a murderer. I transformed her into something she never wanted to be. Even if I successfully sent her home, I would never redeem myself. Not in her eyes.
Not in my own.
But I didn't need redemption. I didn't need my soul to be mended. I could never go back to the person I was.
Afali appeared in my room along with the fourth maid, Megila and the sawbone. Her hair was flat and her face pale. Even though the mask she wore today was magnificent—spun gold filigree that made up the shape of a stag, complete down to a set of branching horns with green beryls and emeralds set in a circular pattern around the eyes—everything about her spoke of exhaustion. While the sawbone rushed to attend to Biluria, she crossed her plump arms and leaned against the wall.
"Lord Waryn Eloroan arrived last night without so much as a warning. He came with Lady Leah Acavia and Lady Nava Somaer. If that isn't bad enough, his guards went missing—we found them drinking with Lady Leah—and then there was the young servant girl who went on a rampage."
"The little cretin was caught sneaking out and then, instead of facing punishment, she ran for it. The whole house was roused, searching for her. They found her sleeping in her bed, and she tried to pretend that nothing happened. We sent her back to her family...disgraced."
A disgraced servant had her hair shaved off, her scalp was washed in horse piss and then she would receive five or fifteen lashes. Abetha didn't deserve any of those things, and yet she was punished in my place.
It could've been worse. At least she was alive.
The sawbone announced that Biluria was a corpse, and I spent the rest of the morning in Afali's suit as priests of the Twin gods of mortality cleansed my room from death. Her maids brushed my hair and prepared me for the day. I was given a mask—a silver one inlaid with jade on the corner of the eyes. It was one that had been sculpted with silver clay and followed a traditional maiden style, shaped to resemble the face of a spectre.
Afali took pride in showing me how she shared in her father's work of running the state. A steady stream of servants and councillors came and went while I was being prepared. I was given to wear a gown of green with a tight bodice embroidered with goldthread in patterns of wolves, and heavy skirts of thick satin that shimmered when I walked.
"This dress belonged to Lady Golia?" I asked when I was finally deemed ready and joined Afali for breakfast in her sitting room. After our trays were laid before us and our tea was poured, she told the servants to leave us.
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WATTYS 2018 SHORTLIST "Every person is a book, Yael. You just need to find the right way to read them." In the land of Vynam, all must wear masquerade masks to ward off the deathly touch of the spectres. Eighteen-year-old Yael was a talented mask-m...