Part II

A new part for a new section of the story: the part where everything goes downhill.

In the weeks that have passed since my arrival at court I have become more and more impatient with Jonathan, ignoring him at balls and showering my affections on other knights, particularly Gary and Raoul. It is my wish that Jonathan will grow tired of my flirtations and break off our relationship, but he becomes infuriatingly clingy the more I flirt with other men. My nights are divided between Jonathan's bed and Roger's, so that my own bed has remained unslept in for nearly two months.

I am always careful to rise early when I sleep with Roger in order to creep out of his room before nobles are awake to catch me in the act and spread unwelcome gossip. On this particular October morning, however, I am alarmed to find the sun well on its way to the top of the sky by the time I awake.

Scrambling out of bed, I wrench open the curtains to be sure that it is well past dawn.

It is.

With frantic haste I pick up the articles of clothing that belong to me, throwing aside Roger's discarded shirt, tunic, breeches, and loincloth. Roger himself is nowhere to be found, but this is not uncommon in the mornings, when he is attending meetings with the king or teaching pages to control their gift. As I grasp my whalebone corset, an attached note catches my eye.


You are probably furious with me for letting you oversleep, but you deserved the extra hours of rest. Jonathan is on a hunting expedition with the other knights, so needn't worry about him frantically investigating your whereabouts. You are welcome to stay in my rooms until I return – my aunt is growing ill, so I expect my morning brunch with the king will be cut short.


I smile fondly at the note and set down my clothes on the bed, pulling on Roger's shirt over my nightslip instead of the dreadfully restricting corset. His shirt smells of expensive cologne and yet is still utterly masculine, and I make a silent wish that I could stay like this forever, in Roger's room, wearing Roger's clothes, not worrying about Roger's damned cousin.

Emerging from the bedroom, I take time to observe Roger's quarters thoroughly. Although I frequent his rooms often enough I am rarely focus on my surroundings, only on Roger.

Now I observe. Roger's the sitting room is the main room, and from it I can reach two bedrooms, a lavatory, a small dining room, and another sturdy door whose room is a mystery, as I have never ventured inside. The door has been constantly locked for as long as I can remember, but today it is slightly ajar. A mistake, or did Roger leave it open for me to explore?

I do not consider myself to be an abnormally curious person, but when I am left to my own devices for an indefinite amount of time I like to keep myself occupied. That is what I tell myself as a step towards the door.

Besides, Roger couldn't be hiding anything truly terrible, could he?

A sharp zap of energy runs up my arm like a warning as I press my fingers against the door, and I pause.

I shouldn't be doing this.

Nonetheless, I push it open.

Relief floods through me as I observe my surroundings. There are no secret mistresses hiding away in their undergarments until Roger returns. No prisoners bound and gagged, awaiting torture. No bloody body parts hanging on hooks from the ceiling, dripping thick blood. Cythera and her imagination have been a bad influence on me.

The door hides to Roger's workroom, and it is filled with resources I imagine a powerful sorcerer would need. Herbs hang in bunches from the ceiling, and bookshelves overflow with thick tomes written in foreign script. Different colored crystals are hoarded in a glass case, and lamps of white light shine steadily.

In one corner of the room is a miniature waterfall that pours down mossy rocks, and I stare at it curiously. It doesn't fit with the rest of the room. Surely Roger doesn't mean to decorate his workroom with waterfalls? It is such an un-Roger-like thing to do that I giggle as I approach the cascade of water.

Further inspection of the fountain finds me as baffled as ever, as the fountain appears to be nothing but a fountain. Is the water magic? Is it poisoned? Is it necessary to have running water to complete complicated spells?

As I move away to explore the other corners of the room, I catch a flash of red in my peripheral vision and turn back to face the perplexing waterfall once again.

And then I see it, a tiny doll submerged under the fountain. I recognize the miniature Queen Lianne in wax even before I pull her out from the waterfall, dressed in a red satin gown with real hairs curled and plaited on her head. What on earth?

Roger wouldn't try to harm the queen, I argue to myself. He has nothing to hold against her majesty…what could he possibly gain?

An idea sprouts in the back of my mind, but defensively I do not let it process. Instead, I reach for the next thing that catches my eye – a bundle of lace stashed beside the waterfall. It is with dread more than curiosity that I pull out additional dolls from the bundle: Jonathan. King Roald. Sir Myles. The Provost. Duke Gareth. Finally, a miniature version of myself.

Mine has obviously received the most attention. Every authentic chestnut hair has been arranged into curls that cascade down the back of the figurine. My lips, a seductive scarlet, hang open slightly and my eyes are wide as those of a startled fawn. I am clad in an exact replica of the green gown I debuted at my first ball. The figure has obviously been made carefully and lovingly, and the idea comforts me for a moment.

But then the troubling idea that has been teasing the back of my brain bursts through to my conscious mind.

Roger is killing the royal family…Roger wants the throne…Roger is a traitor...treason!…you are his mistress…will be tried as a conspirator if caught…break off from Roger!

And then I am running out of Roger's quarters and down the hall in my slip and Roger's shirt, pushing passed shocked servants and nobles, clutching the wax replica of myself in my hand, trying to escape from my discovery.

Running away is the only way of escape that I can think of.

As I raise a hand to wipe the wet tears that are trailing unbidden down my cheeks, I crash headlong into someone hastening in the opposite direction.

I should know better than to be surprised to see the shadow of stubble and mischievous glinting eyes that make up the Roger I find so attractive. I should be used to my life working out how I least want it to. Peering up at him from the floor where I have been knocked down, I lose the last shred of my temper.

"You are a bastard, Roger of Conté," I shriek as I rise to my feet without the help of his extended hand, not caring that several nobles have stopped to gawk in the middle of the corridor. "You and your worthless schemes and dolls. You are the biggest mistake of my life."

I keep yelling as he opens his mouth to defend himself. "I can't forgive you Roger. You can keep your figurines. Because I don't want anything to do with them or you. Ever again."

With this last pronouncement, I raise the replica of myself high above my head and throw it with all my might down the hall.

Sickening pain washes over my body as though every bone in my body has been crushed, and I crumple to the ground and blackness.