For an entire day I felt worried enough to stay in the Captain’s quarters, despite being on bread and water rations with books as my only companions and the Captain’s surly attitude as my only human interaction. I was not forgiven, and he made no attempt to hide his disappointment in me. But I was also not allowed to go out and be killed or otherwise used in a plot against the throne. Lest I should feel appreciative, he made it clear that he was more concerned for Kivalya by frequently going to check on her and letting me know that he was doing so.
It was four days to the ball, with no imaginable end to the Captain’s ire, when the cook slipped a note into my morning bun.
She literally baked it in, which would have worried me more had I not been so starved for both better food and better company.
And lucky enough to see it without eating paper.
The Captain was too busy for breakfast and had not stayed, probably off being charmed by Kiva, so he was not there to watch me extract the hidden missive. It looked like a cook’s handwriting—fast, untidy, and presenting only half the story.
~kitchen has a beautiful bun, very fluffy and firm; won’t keep~
What kind of bun was fluffy and firm? I was too curious to not investigate. There was no use in studying about foreign countries or local Families, or even continuing with my law studies. One way or another, my apprenticeship would end in four days. Better to spend my precious freedom outside of the Captain’s suffocating office.
I half expected the Captain to appear as I opened the door, but the hallway was eerily still. With slow caution, I crept down the stairs and headed for the kitchen. Suddenly there were palace workers everywhere, filling the halls with their chatter as they rushed by, too preoccupied with their own problems to notice me trying to be invisible.
Only the cook was in her kitchen, since she was the king’s cook, while the rest of the kitchen staff were in the much larger main kitchen preparing feasts for days.
“Hello, Iris.” I greeted her from the door before entering, as was proper. “How are you today? Have you created a new delicious recipe?”
The cook turned and looked at me with such a mischievous smile that I realized the note might not have referred to food at all.
“There you are, Avery. Would you be a darling and grab some potatoes from the cellar?” As she spoke, she pulled open what I had always assumed was a pantry door. A steep staircase led down into a gloomy cellar.
“We need to teach you the word no, Aevlin.” Avery swiped a finger across the nearest shelf and rubbed imaginary dust off on my nice dress.
“Potatoes, potatoes, pota—oh, thank you, Sebas—Sebastien?!” I stared from the potato he had handed me to him, and back again. The potato did not have the answers. “Sebastien?” I hiss-whispered. “What are you doing here? Are you crazy?” But I was grinning.
“I might be,” he smiled sheepishly. “I came looking for you, and the cook said—”
“’Get in the cellar?’”
“Very almost,” he said seriously. “She told me to wait here she called you. I did not understand her words rest.”
“’Fluffy and firm’?” Avery tucked herself into the stairs, but Sebastian's Sight did not seem to include her.
“Why need I—be unable to be seen?” His wide eyes watched me, waiting for an explanation.
“Hide? She was just being...dramatic. Let’s not be here, it’s dark and smells like…food.” The cellar smelled fresh, and was cleaner than the kitchen.
We climbed up into the light.
The cook smiled beatifically at us and said, “Mirelle and I will do our part. You two go and have a nice time, yes?” She pushed us out a small side door onto a path that wound past chicken coups and a dairy farm. I turned my shocked face away from Sebastien and tried to remember what I had said I was doing in the palace.
“Wait for me!”