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When they arrived back at their estate, there was a wagon outside the entrance and the door was open. They stopped and Marielle exited the carriage. “Bindel, follow me while Gillivan puts the carriage and horses away.”

They walked through the open door and a boy Marielle had never seen before came from inside the house and rushed past in a sprint. She was startled, and just stared as the boy disappeared out of view, running into the bushes that were still visible.

When they got to the reception room she found Cressa sitting at a table, staring at a spot on the floor. She must not have noticed Marielle enter because she did not stand as should have.

“Cressa,” said Marielle, demanding her servant’s attention.

She shot up from her chair. “My lady,” Cressa said, giving a bow. “A boy arrived from the manse looking for Master Augustus. He said that Castor had been attacked and gravely wounded.”

“That’s terrible!” Marielle sat down and mimicked the pose Cressa had a moment ago. “It could be a ploy, right? Maybe he’s fine. But if it’s a ploy, then dear Augustus would be in danger.” She shook her head, unsure of how to feel about this news. Unsure of what scenario she should be hoping for.

“When there isn’t much you can do, it’s best to focus on what you can do. I sent the boy to Augustus, and I’m sure he will deal with the news appropriately, he’s competent in that arena.” Cressa rubbed Marielle’s shoulder blade in sympathy. “I’m guessing this is the help you got us?” Cressa said looking at Bindel.

“Yes, this is Bindel. She will help with labours, she is unskilled but with the direction of you and Sara I’m sure she will be useful,” said Marielle without any hint of vigour.

“Bindel, I’m Cressa, an attendant to your master. You will take care to follow my directions, for now, I will have you assist Sara with her duties. If you go through that doorway it will lead to the kitchen where Sara is. Introduce yourself then do what she asks of you.”

“As you wish,” Bindel bowed then left through the doorway as instructed.

“I hope there is no insolence in her that will have to be beaten out. We have enough to worry about other than having a disobedient or lazy slave.” Cressa turned back to address Marielle. “Not that if she were insolent, it would be your fault, my lady. My lady, you may have noticed the wagon outside. When the boy arrived, the mattresses you and Castor ordered were being delivered. I will go see the porters, make sure everything is in order, and then see them out of our home.”

“Very good,” said Marielle. “I’ll be fine on my own.”

Cressa left the room, leaving Marielle alone with her thoughts. She had wanted to tell Castor of how well she had done at the slave market, how she had haggled the salesman down while parrying his arguments. Castor surely would have appreciated how quickly she learned to operate at a market, even having come up with a backstory that would prevent the salesman from trying too hard to extract every last coin out of her. Hopefully, he’s alright, she thought to herself. To take her mind off things, she went to her bedroom and got her apron, she would continue to work in the garden.

The sky was full of clouds, making the work less of a burden. No sun to beat down oppressive heat as she tended the grounds. Instead of a wide-brimmed hat, she let her long hair cover protect her neck as she pulled weeds and turned the soil. Once she began her work, she allowed her mind to get lost in it. The motions were a type of hypnotism that let her worries just melt out of her, and bury itself in the turned earth. The coming and goings that were happening in the house faded into background noise that was easily ignored until Augustus walked out into the courtyard.

He ignored Marielle, walking past her without saying a word and sitting on a bench, staring up into the overcast sky. The chilly wind ruffling his curly brown hair, making it into a mess. He sighed heavily as if hoping he could let a great burden escape from his lungs to be carried away by the wind. His eyes were visibly red, he brought up his sleeve to wipe away the redness but it still remained.

Marielle finished spreading her mulch over a barren unseeded flowerbed and went to where Augustus sat. “Augustus, I can tell you are distraught. What’s happened to Castor?”

Augustus changed his gaze to match Marielle’s and tilted his head. “He’s dead.”

“He’s dead?” Her hand reflexively covered her mouth. Even though she knew it was a possibility, after all that was what gravely wounded meant, it came as a complete surprise.

“Yes.” The wind picked up as if it was ordered by Augustus, to give his statement a dramatic flair, blowing Marielle’s hair to obscure her vision and causing the cracking sound of tree branches smashing into each other. “I didn’t notice you when I came out here, I just wanted to be alone for a bit.”

“Of course,” said Marielle. She turned to leave and headed away, taking a few steps until stopped by Augustus’s voice.

“Before you go, I must let you know, I don’t want anyone leaving our house until the dinner party tomorrow, except for Heratio. I will come inside once I have sorted out my thoughts.”

“As you wish. I will let everyone know.” She then continued back into the house, leaving Augustus to stare out into the tree line, watching as they swayed and danced in response to the wind.

She went from room to room, informing the rest of the staff of their master’s new directive. As she did so, checking out the window to see Augustus still sitting in place. From what she had gathered, it seemed Castor was even more a father figure to Augustus than his real father, Giovanni. Will he drink himself to sleep again tonight?

When she came upon Heratio he was in a side room, his blades strewn on the ground. His sharpening stone out as he honed a blade.

“I talked to Augustus,” said Marielle as she watched Heratio move the blade back and forth over the stone. “He told me Castor died, but he didn’t seem eager to explain further. How did he die?”

“I think it’s best if you hear the details from him.”

“Was it his brother? Did Giovannus have Castor killed?”

“Undoubtedly. Although there is scant evidence of it. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t speak of it further until you speak to Master Augustus further.”

Marielle left Heratio to his task and went back to the slaves to check in on how her purchase was behaving. Bindel was working in the master bedroom. She had a bucket of water and a rag and was going about wiping all the surfaces to remove the dust, then dousing the rag to clean it enough to go and collect more dust. She was now wearing an outfit that Marielle had seen Sara wear on occasion. She would need to buy some cheap clothing for her, Marielle contemplated, and there were surely other ancillary costs she hadn’t considered for getting a new slave. But, what’s done is done, there was no returning a slave, especially not a female slave or else the slave market would turn into a de facto brothel that was free of charge.

Bindel seemed to work diligently enough, and without direct supervision. She didn’t even notice Marielle until she made a point of clearing her throat to announce herself. Bindle stood to attention then bowed respectfully. It did seem she was well trained. She was a good melon, Marielle thought to herself.

She peeked out the window again to check on her husband, this time finding the bench vacant. “Continue to work diligently,” she said and left the bedroom for the reception room where the table was set for dinner.

Augustus was there, sitting down at the table, a smile returned to his face. His eyes were bright and energetic. “We should have dinner. Call everyone together so that we may eat. Make a place even for the new girl,” he said, his arms moving spryly.

Cressa was also there, standing against a wall. She left upon Augustus’ command, surely to gather everyone up for dinner.

Sara brought out the food. And when they were all sitting at the table, before a bite had been taken, Augustus spoke. “My tutor, attendant, and friend Castor is dead. He was a kind man, a wise man, and a loyal man. Let us eat now, not to mourn his death, but to celebrate the man he was.” He forced his smile a bit brighter at the end of his statement.

“Hear, hear!” shouted Heratio. “Let’s drink to his memory, and I will tell you all some hilarious tales about him!”

“I’m afraid we will just be sticking to water tonight,” said Augustus. “I need you and Gillivan able to perform your duties tomorrow.”

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