Marielle spent the morning catching up on her sleep. During the night Augustus woke her up what must have been just after she finally settled to sleep. Gomez, one of the head servants of her mother knocked on the door, informing them of the circumstances of the night. A fire had started at Giovannus' estate. Then he made sure guards were positioned outside their door. Given her conversation with Augustus that night, it didn't come as a surprise. But, she still became restless at the news and it cemented the idea of what was truly transpiring, keeping her up through the night.

Augustus woke to the smell of lunch, and his rustling in the bed woke Marielle. The aroma of a slow-cooked stew filled every corner of the building. Before lunch, though, she would bathe. The smells of last night's dinner still stuck to her skin, making it feel uncomfortable. Normally, it would be proper for her to ring a bell to call Sara over, but they still didn't own one. Unlady-like, she called over to her attendant. “Sara,” she said, loud enough for her voice to carry into the next room.

Augustus stood up, and as he left the room, Sara scurried in, coming to a stop a few arms away from Marielle, then bowed. Bindel followed, carrying a jug of water and bowed as Sara did. "I pray you slept well, my Lady," said Sara, still kneeling.

"I did. I wish to bathe before having lunch."

Sara stood and went to the water room, to begin heating the bathwater that filled the tub. Marielle accepted the cup from Bindel and allowed her to fill the cup with water. "Let the light in, then you may return to your duties."

"Yes my Lady," she said. She opened the window doors, filling the room with midday sunlight. The sudden change in brightness turned Marielle's vision white, for a moment, and she squinted to compensate. Marielle couldn't even see Bindel bow and leave, but she could hear the door shut.

She looked around the room. She hadn't noticed when she entered that morning, but the servant must have spent the last evening unpacking her and her husband's belongings. The bookshelves were half-full, stacked with Augustus' books. What space remained on the shelves was used to display trinkets that they both brought to their new home. Her trinkets being mostly mementos of the life she left; a wooden block carved with the crest of her family, a toy carriage she played with when she was a child, a drawing of her family made by one of her father's slaves, and a patterned quilted cloth that she made with her mother. Augustus’ trinkets were precision tools; a telescope made with brass, a weighing scale lined with silver, an awl with an ornate handle, all in immaculate condition and polished clean.

Sara returned from the water room and bowed, “My Lady, the water is ready for you.”

After undressed and partly submerged in the pleasantly warm, almost hot, water their usual conversation began. Sara did her hair up so it wouldn’t fall in the water as she worked. Sara prepared a soapy rag to scrub Marielle’s skin, and while Sara worked, Marielle thought to relieve herself of her worried mind. “I’m not sure what to make of it all,” said Marielle. “I wish... I wish we could’ve just taken that offer.”

Sara just did her diligent duty, scrubbing Marielle’s leg. She knew better than to talk freely. She would wait to be directly addressed, or ordered to speak.

“Sara, you must miss Jorland too. Right?”

“My place is with you, my Lady. I don’t miss it there.” Sara hunched forward more than usual and bit her lip after her response. She made an effort to just focus on her task, lifting Marielle’s leg and scrubbing.

“Don’t you miss the other maids? The rest of my family?”

“The rest of your family is kind, yes. But, being a low servant in a large household… I prefer it here, with you.” Marielle could tell the smile Sara imitated was forced, and felt the need to say something, but in the end, decided to just leave it.

“How is the new slave? Bindel, wasn’t it?”

“She works diligently. She is happy to serve you. She told me where she was before you purchased her and I’m glad she’s here now.”

Bindel and Sara’s loyalty made Marielle smile. “I’m glad you two are getting along well. I know before we got her, you must have been overworked. You must use her well, as I think it’ll be some time before we hire or purchase more help.”

“Thank you, My Lady, for thinking of me,” said Sara. She moved to Marielle’s back and Marielle leaned forward to aid Sara’s task.

“I wonder if Revenica will still send a letter about that meeting we planned during the dinner,” said Marielle. Part of her wanted to visit a fancy eatery, especially after experiencing the cooking of the last night, it was like a new world of flavours had opened up to her, but another part of her preferred it cancelled, as it would surely be a stressful affair. “I guess I would understand, given the circumstances, for it to slip her mind.”

“My Lady, I apologize, but we decided it wasn’t worth waking you.”

“What is it?”

“A messenger came already, with a message from Revenica. Cressa has the letter now.”

To Marielle that seemed quick. In Jorland messengers would always take days to arrive. Except, she also knew, back there the distances were greater. For this messenger, it was probably a short morning stroll. Still, it demonstrated the priority Revenica placed in this outing. With that news, Marielle stopped the idle chit-chat so that Sara could work efficiently.

She dressed and went out to begin lunch. Augustus sat at the lunch table, pouring over an array of documents laid out before him, sipping on tea. Heratio sat next to him, his feet resting brazenly on the table, arms folded behind his head.

“Good day, My Lady,” said Heratio in a stumble as he rose from his chair.

“Good day,” Marielle responded, then quickly sat down beside Augustus and across from where Heratio had been sitting. Heratio sat back down immediately after she did.

“A letter came.” Augustus began stacking the papers in front of him. “Revenica asked if you would like to meet for lunch tomorrow. I already sent the new slave with your letter of acceptance.”

“I wasn’t expecting a letter to arrive so quickly,” said Marielle while Cressa was already coming into the room with a saucer and teacup. “Especially not with the current circumstances.”

“Quintus sounds like a competent man. Most likely, it was his insistence that expedited the letter. By the end of your lunch tomorrow, you must make concrete plans with Revenica and Quintus to come here for a meal.”

“I’ll be sure to ask them.” Cressa placed the cup in front of Marielle and began pouring the tea.

“Let me be clear, I’m not asking you to ask them. I’m telling you to make sure it happens,” said Augustus in a stern tone. He crossed his fingers with his elbows on the table.

“All I can do is ask them. I know our family must be of higher status, but they can still refuse. In fact, I think they’re likely to refuse.”

“You must ask it in a way they can’t refuse.”

“And how should I do that?” Asked Marielle, after she took a sip of her tea. Despite her calm voice, her nose flared and her brow furrowed.

“I don’t know. There’s no secret technique, just pay attention and use whatever you can. When I tell a servant to perform a task, I don't need to know how to do it, I'm imparting my will so that they can do their best to fulfill it."

"I'm not a servant. We are supposed to be partners in this!" The teacup shook in her hand as she said it, spilling some of the hot liquid.

Augustus’ face turned white, his eyes wild. The palms of his hands shot up in a defensive gesture. From the corner of her eyes, Marielle could see Heratio on the verge of laughing. "You misinterpret my intentions. I didn't mean to imply you're a servant. I just wanted to stress how important it is, right now, for us to gather allies."

"If you thought of us as partners you would explain yourself to me. What is your plan?"

Augustus looked to either side, then to Heratio who chuckled silently. "You're right. But, not now. I'd rather the servants not hear it and I'd like some time to sort this out in my mind, so I can be sure I am explaining it clearly. Are you going to work in the garden today?"

"I didn't have any specific plans to."

"How about we tend the garden together later and we'll discuss it then.” Augustus smiled warmly, his eyes turned soft. He leaned forward and placed his hand on hers. “I’m sorry. I misspoke before.”


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