I didn't spend much more time with Eliza, or Olivia as I was now meant to call her, and began making my way around the room, listening to gossip and making connections. A few of the men knew about the secret weapon that was being developed and were happy to tell me about it after a small period of flirting and a dance. As I was beginning to think this was far too easy, I realised I wasn't actually getting any new information. Either the people higher up weren't telling the soldiers any more than they were telling me, or it was worth something far more than flirting.
I didn't stay as late as some people, wanting to be able to get up at a reasonable hour the next morning, so I bid farewell to my hostess, making all the necessary compliments and walking out to my carriage where Imara was waiting for me. She helped me into the carriage before getting in herself and sitting opposite me.
'Thank you for waiting for me Imara. I know it must be boring for you.'
'It's not so bad,' she said cooly. 'The servants in the kitchens were very welcoming and let me sit with them while I was waiting.' It was as though something had clicked inside my head and I leant forward excitedly.
'Did you hear anything? Any information about what might be going on that we need to know about?'
'Not that I could tell,' Imara thought out loud. 'Servants hear a lot but not much on what the generals are planning it seems. They mostly talked about what their masters and mistresses had told them about people at court and when I asked them about the war they didn't have much to say about it.'
'That's a shame,' I muttered, slumping back onto the well padded seat, biting my nails nervously. We travelled for a while, not saying anything, just leaving each other to our own thoughts. I had a lot to think about. How was I going to follow up on what I had discovered? I had already written a draft of the letter I was planning to send to Jon and would show the finished document to Eliza the following day before I sent it. But how was I supposed to get more information? It looked like only the people know needed to know about this new weapon were told any details and it wasn't very likely that they would tell anyone, let alone me.
And then there was the man I had met. He hadn't approached me again, keeping his distance as I'd moved around the room, but I could feel his eyes on me every second. Could I trust him? There was something about him I wasn't sure I could trust. But wasn't that the same for everyone else in this country? It was all far too complicated.
The carriage pulled up at the entrance to the palace and Imara stepped out first to help me down. She offered to walk me inside and prepare me for bed, but I wasn't quite ready to go to sleep yet. I needed some air.
As Imara walked off to the servants quarters I went the other way towards the royal gardens. I knew it was late but everything looked so beautiful in the moonlight, the trees and hedges casting shadows across the grass, almost like they did during the day. I only had a cloak on over my dress and my shoes began to turn damp as I walked across the dewy grass, which sent a shiver up my spine as I realised how cold it was.
The palace wasn't far away so I was inside fairly quickly, but the halls were dark, the torches in their brackets on the wall already extinguished for the night. Suddenly the shadows that crept around corners and up walls didn't seem so beautiful anymore. I quickened my pace, wanting to get back to my chamber.
Then I heard the sound of other footsteps behind me. I turned around to see a figure dressed all in black striding towards me. I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, all I felt was fear.
I knew my room was only a few corners away, if I could get there before the figure caught up with me I would be safe. But if they really wanted to get me then they wouldn't let the door stop them. I kept my head down, trying to resist the urge to look over my shoulder until I reached my room, hurriedly opened the door and shut it firmly behind me, turning the key in the lock.
I waited. The footsteps didn't even slow as they passed my door, continuing on down the corridor. I let out a sigh of relief which was accompanied by a sudden rush of adrenaline. I couldn't understand why I was feeling so good. That person could have wanted to kill me. But maybe that was the lure of it, the idea that your life could be in danger was surprisingly exciting.
I shook my head hard, trying to get fid of the thought from my mind and focused on getting ready for bed.