Chapter 70: The Treachery of History

Ivy had never felt more like a fraud than she did sitting in Percy’s carriage. It wasn’t just the new, fashionable, surprisingly well-tailored, mint-green dress that Percy had obtained for her to wear. Nor was it the jealous looks the other Hawthorne maids had given her when Percy offered his arm to escort her outside to the carriage.

It was how easily Ivy remembered the lessons of her childhood. How quickly the habits of being a noble returned the moment her fingers touched the luxurious silk skirts, laced bodice, and sleeves.

‘A slave would never be permitted to ride in the same carriage as their master—let alone enter the palace.’

Ivy still remembered her mother’s slave, Mop. Molly was her real name, but Lady Miranda had changed it to Mop because “it suits her hair and will remind her of her place.” Mop had offered no protest, but even now, Ivy’s cheeks burned with the shame the slave woman must have felt.

Mop had worked for nothing and was fed only the scraps from their table. The dress they had bought her in was the only piece of clothing Mop owned. It soon grew tattered and soiled until even Lord Koresh had protested. “We are her owners. It is our responsibility to feed and clothe her.”

Ivy remembered feeling relieved for Mop when Koresh returned the next day with three simple but pretty dresses. Mop had been given the day off to eat, rest, and bathe. The next day, Ivy’s father returned to the palace, Ivy returned to her lessons with her etiquette tutor, and Mop received the first of many beatings from Ivy’s mother for the sin of “lust.”

They stopped at the first checkpoint at the outskirts of the capital. Ivy stiffened as knights circled the carriage. She flinched at every sound as she waited for them to throw open the carriage door, drag her out, and arrest her for daring to pass herself off as a noble.

Opposite of her, Percy crossed and uncrossed his legs, his brows furrowed in thought as he played with the signet ring on his left hand. When a knight knocked on the window to check their identity, Percy turned towards him with a polite but cold smile.

“Saints blessing to you, my Lord.” The knights saluted him and waved them through without so much as a glance at Ivy.

By her third checkpoint, Ivy accepted that her presence was of little importance. She fidgeted with the fabric of her white gloves, grateful her calloused skin and worn fingernails were hidden from view, and focused on the object of their visit.

It had been three days since Ivy had last seen her mistress. Three draining, dark days of worrying over Gus and Maura in turn. If it hadn’t been for Percy’s insistence, Ivy might have exhausted herself by Gus’s side right up until the moment of departure. Instead, she had gone to bed just after nightfall and slept so soundly another maid had to shake her awake this morning and help her get dressed.

“You look nervous,” Percy observed, breaking the silence of their journey.

“I’ve—never been to the palace,” Ivy said hesitantly.

“Oh? I suppose you were still quite young when your father worked there,” Percy murmured as he tilted his head. “He was a chronicler, I believe.”

“Yes,” Ivy replied softly, then cleared her throat and lowered her gaze.

Percy studied her for a long moment and then resumed his silent observation out the window.

Ivy turned and stared into the distance where the fortress walls of Lafeara’s Royal Castle became clearer with each passing minute.

As a child, her father had promised to take her to the palace one day. Lord Koresh had just become an official himself then, and a world of promise lay before him as the newest royal chronicler.

“What is a chronicler, Papa?”

“Well, my little bunny. A chronicler is someone who sits in a room with history and writes it all down.”

“How do you do that?”

“Ivy, stop pestering your father,” Lady Miranda said as she set down her prayer book.

“It’s fine, dear,” Lord Koresh interjected. “Ivy has a sharp mind. Maybe one day, she will follow me into the palace.”

“That den of wolves? She’d be far better off entering the nunnery.”

Lord Koresh’s smile tightened as he regarded his wife without comment. Then he turned back to Ivy and scooped her up into his lap. “As a royal chronicler, I observe the House of Lords and the Royal Family and record their every word and action.”

“You have to write it all down?”

“Every single bit of it.”

“Even if they do something bad?”

“I record the truth, no matter how ugly or cruel.”

“But what if they don’t want you to write something down?”

“Well, then they burn what they don’t want history to remember.” Koresh smiled and tapped his forehead. “But they can’t burn what’s in here.”

“They can try,” Miranda commented sourly. “And you should not tell a child such things.”

Ivy stared wide-eyed from her mother to her father and threw her arms around Koresh’s neck. “I don’t want them to burn Papa!”

Koresh stiffened for a moment, but then he hugged her back gently and chuckled. “No need for tears, little bunny. Your Papa will be just fine…”

“Are you worried about Lady Maura?” Percy asked.

Another checkpoint flashed past as Ivy looked up with an apologetic smile and straightened her posture. “Ah, yes—I will feel better when I see her again.”

Years of watching her young mistress battle and prevail against the Turnbells had shown Ivy Maura’s adaptability and tenacity. If anyone was capable of outshining the other noble family daughters, it was her mistress.

‘How little she needs me now.’

Regret and loneliness ached beneath her chest as the fortress walls closed in on them. The royal family seal—embellished on the banners, knight’s shields, capes, and even the stone sculpture that adorned the gate itself—glared down at her. Three wolves tearing into each other as they formed a circle of power.

The fear at the back of Ivy’s throat hardened as she recalled the first time she had seen that seal on her father’s death notice weeks after he had been imprisoned for treason. The carriage wheels rattled as her fingernails dug into her arms, and the jaws of the wolves’ den opened to devour them.

“Congratulations, Baroness!”

Carina flinched as Tiffany squealed into her ear. After receiving an unexpected mission from the Crown Princess, she and the other ladies-in-waiting had been released to retrieve their belongings from the Lily Palace and then settle into their new rooms at the Rose Palace.

“I can’t imagine receiving a title at only sixteen,” Tiffany continued to gush. “Even the Lords of nobility must wait until they are Twenty to inherit their parent’s title. Oh my, but what will your parents think? I expect they’ll just explode with shock and pride!”

Carina smiled weakly even as the image of Josiah and Sophya’s faces, simultaneously exploding with rage, filled her imagination.

Evelynn sat across from them in the Crown Princess’s carriage with her arms folded. Only the sharp tap of her fingernail against the base of her fan gave away her displeasure as Tiffany prattled on and on about Carina’s promotion.

Carina didn’t have much to say herself. If anything, it felt like her mind might explode from the number of surprises she had encountered since breakfast.

First, the Dowager’s move to recruit Carina, a problem she still had to resolve in the future. Then Lord Josiah and Lady Helena’s divorce, which had not happened in Maura’s previous life and had almost sabotaged all of Carina’s future plans.

Eleanora had quickly solved that problem by making Carina a Baroness. The Oath of Loyalty Carina had given in exchanged seemed like mere lip service, until Carina found herself tasked with helping the Crown Princess conceive an heir by drugging Lafeara’s future King—a crime punishable by death.

Carina rubbed her neck and sighed. She had considered such an option before while drafting her plans for the future but quickly ruled it out. For one, she had no intention of dying to save Eleanora’s position as queen. Also, the Crown Prince’s meals were closely monitored by his exclusive royal staff and his bodyguard, Captain Beaumont.

Even if Carina succeeded in administering the drug, the odds of Nicholas not noticing—and the punishment anyone connected with such a deception would face—was not worth the risk.

‘Just because they sleep together once doesn’t mean Eleanora will get pregnant either. The Crown Princess is too reckless; I’ll have to find another way to convince her. The last thing I came here to do was set myself up to die the same way Maura did.’

Carina rolled her neck and tried to ignore the wave of fatigue that washed over her. She hadn’t exactly slept well lately, even with Ghost’s dagger under her pillow. The Selection was finally over with her position beside Eleanora secured, but Carina could not ignore the fact that a priest and witch hunter were still on her trail.

‘I’ll look for Stitcher later and see if he’s heard any news from Ghost.’

“We’re here!” Tiffany sang as the carriage pulled up in front of Lily Palace. She practically glowed with joy and relief as she reached for the door handle.

Evelynn’s fan jabbed into Tiffany’s chest as she rose and shoved the startled girl back into her seat. “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” the older girl snapped as she opened the door and took the footman’s offered hand.

“What—” Tiffany blinked and composed herself. “Of course, I-I should have let her go first. You should go ahead too, Baroness.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Carina replied as she stared after Evelynn’s retreating figure. “We’re all the Crown Princess’s ladies-in-waiting. While we serve the same mistress, we share equal status.”

“I’m—not sure Lady Evelynn would agree with you on that.” Tiffany smiled and shook her head. “But I am so grateful the Crown Princess chose you and not that awful Lady Meredith.”

After one more attempt to get Carina to disembark first, Tiffany gave up and stepped down from the carriage. Sir Malcolm appeared from behind the gate to sweep her up into a hug.

Tiffany squealed and beat him half-heartedly with her fan. “Put me down—you’re embarrassing me!”

“I can’t believe you did it! Father and Mother will be so proud!” Malcolm said as he set Tiffany back down on her feet.

“Could you sound less surprised?” Tiffany sniffed but linked her arms in his as they chatted their way towards the palace doors.

Carina watched them silently. For a moment, she saw not the Clemont sibling’s golden-blonde hair but the scarlet hair of Sophya and Lincoln, arm in arm, supporting each other.

‘So that is what it’s like to have family on your side.’


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