Fiction Break, part 2
You can read the first part here.
The Jamison estate was decorated gorgeously. A gas-lit chandelier filled the ballroom with a warm glow and elegant torches on the walls.
Eva stared at the swirling steam coming from her cup of tea. She listened patiently for the end of the song. It was the third waltz. She knew she shouldn’t associate with Zephediah and his minions, but the mystery drew her in.
With Adair’s false blackmail and the presence of so many people, Eva felt confident there was little danger in spending a few minutes on a balcony by herself. A quick scream would get the entire ballroom’s attention.
“Everything alright, love?” Tiernan asked. Eva hadn’t told her fiancé of her unfortunate encounter with the thief Adair, but her silence gave away her anxiety.
“The fumes from the gas lights are getting to me,” she told him. It wasn’t just the gas; her head swirled with the scents from the ballroom.
“Why not step out for a moment, then?” he brushed his fingers across her cheek.
“Yes, I think I will,” now to keep Tiernan busy, “Have you seen my dear cousin? I believe she wanted to speak with you.”
Tiernan reluctantly agreed, knowing how much Lacey loved to talk. She could keep him busy for hours. Eva would go rescue him once she had received this message. The waltz neared its end, so Eva made her way through the perfumed masses and stepped onto the balcony.
Eva welcomed the cool, fresh air into her lungs. The balcony overlooked a small portion of the well-kept garden. Eva leaned over the railing and followed the garden path east. Tiernan wasn’t far down, caught in a never-ending conversation with cousin Lacey. Eva caught his eye and smiled. He smiled back.
“Lady Beaumont?” a small female voice said from behind Eva.
Eva turned to see a young girl in a lovely pale pink dress. Her dark blond hair was pulled back in a comb adorned with pearls. Matching clips helped secure the knot.
“Yes, and may I ask for your name?”
“For now, I am Clara,” her soft brown eyes were hardly menacing, “To keep suspicion down, please keep your expression friendly.”
“Of course, Miss Clara.” Eva smiled, hopefully casually.
“Great,” Clara smiled back. She looked like a doll. “Now for business. I’m going to assume you know nothing of what my Master does, so please bear with me while I explain.”
“The Folk are unhappy that we’re here, despite the Ministry’s claims of peace and truce. The Folk have not given up on eradicating us from their world.” Clara’s flamboyant grin and innocent image seemed ridiculously out-of-place. Eva had a hard time taking her seriously, despite the sobering subject matter. “My Master has been doing all he can to keep the Folk from killing us all, but as you can imagine, that is not an easy task. We seem lucky that most Folk couldn’t be bothered. However, the ones that do are becoming more serious, and with our growing population crying for more land…”
“We’re in trouble?” Eva felt goofy with her fake smile.
“Yes,” Clara nodded, “And the Ministry doesn’t seem to care. We worry they have in fact been infiltrated, but we have no way to learn the truth.”
“If that’s what you want me for, the answer is no,” she almost forgot to smile.
“No, that’s not it. That’s just a piece of why we need the help from your Folk.” Clara reached out and grabbed Eva’s hand gently. “You live between the two worlds: ours and theirs. Even if you’re not comfortable speaking with other Folk, you can still help us keep our people safe. The choice is yours, of course, and if you disagree we won’t ask again, but this city is in danger. As things stand, it will fall within a season.” Clara’s smile faltered. Were those tears in her eyes? Eva resisted the urge to hug her.
“We don’t expect an answer now,” Clara regained her façade of happiness, “Mail us a letter with your answer. If we don’t hear from you in two weeks, we will find you again.”
“You’ll have your answer in one,” Eva told her. She got the feeling Clara’s next smile was genuine.
“Now that we’re done with business, how about we work on your alibi?” Clara’s hand left Eva’s. Eva tucked the small piece of paper discretely into the bust of her dress. It no doubt contained the address she would send her response to.
Clara and Eva spent the next several minutes sharing mindless and forced gossip, her alibi as Clara termed it. The entire meeting was well planned, and not even Tiernan suspected anything of Eva’s silence the rest of the night.
Her fiancé walked her to her door and bid her goodnight. Eva watched his carriage disappear down the street before stealing off to the washroom. She never could sleep with all that dirt on her face. Makeup indeed. How anyone found it attractive was beyond her.
Eva’s parents were still at the Jamison estate and the servants had retired to their chambers for the night. The house was, essentially, empty. In the privacy of her bath, Eva could finally indulge in her thoughts without the worry of Tiernan asking questions.
Evalise undressed while the bath filled. She was careful to tuck the slip of paper in one of her shoes for later.
She said one week. One week to answer them. The deadline was more for herself than for them. She wouldn’t let herself dwell on such a topic for two full weeks. She would mail her answer in two days time, as soon as she decided on an answer.
Nobody knew much of Zephediah, but all opinions of him and his minions were negative. What if Clara was right, and Zephediah wasn’t a heartless thief, but a prince fighting to save his kingdom? Surely those negative opinions came from somewhere, but where? The Ministry?
Eva fidgeted. Clara said the Ministry lied. Was that itself a lie? If Clara spoke the truth, the entire city will would victim to the Folk within four moons. Eva, her family, friends, everyone. Gone. Unless Eva helped.
Eva took a deep breath and submerged herself in the bath water.
Of course she wanted to help her people, even if they weren’t exactly her people. She was only half human, after all. Clara said Eva lived between the worlds. Did she know Eva was half, or did she, like Adair, think Eva was a changeling? If Zephediah didn’t know she was a halfling, she wasn’t about to tell him, but if she joined him, he would find out soon enough.
Eva released the breath she held and pull her head out of the water.
As soon as she did, a strong hand came over her mouth.
Eva gasped in surprise and realized the kerchief that was over her mouth was soaked in something foul. She held her breath and thrashed in the tub, trying to break free from her assailant’s grasp.
It was no use. She couldn’t kick, she couldn’t hit, even her scream came out hopelessly muffled. She tried to use her wet body to her advantage by slipping under his grasp, but his other hand came firmly around her shoulders. Eva held her breath as long as she could, but in the end, she succumbed to the potent anesthetic.
Evalise Beaumont stopped thrashing as her lids fell over her eyes. Her body went numb and she saw no more.
That’s all for that story until I finish at least the first draft of Rephaim. I’ll probably return to this idea again in a few months.
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