Chapter Thirty-Two (part II)

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Bram was hardly gone two minutes before voices and boots rang in the great hall -- my kith and kin, returned. The clamor grew louder, and then Charles stepped into the library, with Gemyndful Tancsig and all the Earls behind him.

He said, "It should have all you need. Paper, ink..." and then his eyes found me, and he paled and dropped into the deepest of bows.

"And our Queen, as well." Gemyndful Tancsig swept past Charles, her skirts brushing his calves. "Very good."

I gave up my seat to Gemyndful Tancsig. Quickly, almost frantically, she recorded the events of the morning and the signs by which she knew my father to be our King. We all of us signed it as witnesses -- even Charles -- swearing it was a true and honest account. Once this was done, she made two copies, which were signed, as well. One of them was for the Book of Baelham, one was for the Record of Baelham, and the last she gave to me.

"We'll correct the Books from Riverton," she said, and then she dipped her head. "And to that end, if I may say it, my lady, the sooner we may leave, the better."

I glanced at the little clock ticking above the fireplace. Bram had been gone over an hour already. "Mr. Fowler's gone to town on an errand. I expect him back within the hour."

Lord Belrad nodded. "I'll see to it things are readied by then. Shall I send a rider ahead, my lady?"

"If you think it best, sir."

He stiffened and eyed me a moment, his mouth half-open and his head cocked to one side, and then he said, "Belrad, my lady."

"I shall strive to remember it, Belrad."

Lord Belrad dipped his head, then he strode out of the library, calling for bags to be packed and horses to be harnessed. "We leave in an hour's time!"

The others followed him out, some quickly, some less quickly, but all of them eventually, save for Charles, who stood stiffly pressed into one corner, like a very fancy coat rack. I smiled at him.

"Cousin... I'd like to take a few things to Baelham, if you please. They do belong to Ewert, but they are dear to me."

Charles licked his lips and bowed too low. He said, "I'm sure her Highness is only reasonable in her wishes," which was rather clever, really.

"Very good. Then let us go fetch them."

I strode out of the library and on, waving toward the portrait hall on my way to the stair. "I want the paintings of my mother and me. And also one of Grandmother Purity's tapestries. The one with the beavers."

Charles only nodded.

"And I want Grandfather Elgar's toy boat. It's in the nursery."


I raised an eyebrow. "Ah?"

"Well, the nursery is being renovated. But I'm sure the boat is somewhere."

"I see. And what have you done with my rooms?"

"Forgive me, I do not know which were her Highness' rooms."

I grunted and climbed up the long stair, reaching the top just as a man slipped out of my grandfather's study. Charles hissed, "Smallden," beckoning to him rather frantically. I never would have known who he was, otherwise -- the guards had clamped round me before I could even glimpse his face.

I strode on to the end of the hallway and waited at the threshold while Gerard searched the rooms beyond. There was much urgent whispering behind me -- portraits, a boat, beavers -- and then Gerard appeared again, waving me in.

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