Sarah’s eyes darted from utensil to utensil, her face developing a light sheen.
“Now,” said her etiquette teacher pacing across the table from her, “It is very important that you learn what each of those is for, lest you embarrass yourself in high society.” Her lip curled as if she couldn’t wait for just that.
I had followed Sarah to her next lesson, desperate for any kind of contact. The lesson had begun with the teacher teaching her how to walk. Now, I sat next to her in the breakfast room, regarding the etiquette teacher with anger. When she had been my teacher she had been a timid thing, unable to stop apologizing and complementing me. I suppose finally having someone she could torment was too much to resist.
A few servants came in and placed several platters in front of Sarah. As all the covers were lifted, Sarah’s brow furrowed deeper and deeper.
“This is the soup course,” the woman said. “What utensil do you think should go first?”
After careful consideration, Sarah picked up the little spoon. The teacher tutted at Sarah’s ignorance.
“That is incorrect. The general rule is to work from the outside in.”
Sarah scowled. “How was I supposed to know that?”
“Ladies do not raise their voices. Now, I hope you at least know what hand to raise it wit-”
The doors to the room opened with a bang. Lawrence swaggered in, two guards at his heels. I saw the teacher begin to shrink immediately.
“Your Majesty, what a pleasant surpri-”
“I am hungry!” He scrambled into a chair.
“Of course, Your Majesty.” She snapped at the servants, and soon my brother had a steamy bowl of soup in front of him. He quickly tucked in, dunking the rolls, slurping his soup, and making a big mess. The teacher winced as he broke every rule in etiquette. I was certain that she could not wait until he was old enough for her to reform into a proper nobleman. But until then, she had to watch as he slopped soup on the tablecloth.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Artemidorus appear in the doorway. He had been as silent as… well, a ghost. I guessed that he was coming in to check on the lesson, the way he used to do with me. Art always liked to know that everything was under control.
So I cannot begin to imagine how mad it made him when the Earl of Wheton, the one that had accused me of being suicidal, barged past him into the room.
“Your Majesty,” he said, holding up a sweet bag.
“Yay!” Lawrence leaped off his chair and ran to the earl.
“Now wait a second!” Art grabbed my brother by the hand, ignoring his subsequent wailing. He glared at the earl. “Why are you here?”
I wondered the same thing. I thought about how he had been lingering at the castle for the past few days. The earl grinned.
“Ah, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. This is as good a time as any.” He walked out of the room. The duke frowned, but followed.
I went as well, but then they walked into a room and the door shut behind them. I stared at it. How would I get in now? Wait, ghosts could go through walls, right? I pushed against the door, but it would not budge.
Frustrated, I placed my back against it. The door lost its solidity and I collapsed in a heap on the ground.
I composed myself just in time to hear the end of the duke’s sarcastic sentence.
“-just for the picnic.”
“Ah, yes,” the earl said, “Quite pleasant, except the part where you almost drowned.”
“So why are you here?”
He handed Lawrence a sweet, who squealed in delight. “Well, I was merely wondering how you came to be the king’s regent.”
The duke’s face hardened. “The title of duke is above that of earl.”
The earl nodded sagely. “Of course, of course. But I am the cousin of the late King William I, whereas you’re not related to the king at all. Everyone is in uproar over it.”
I had never thought of that. The more I investigated, the more it revealed how little I knew.
The duke, however, did not waver. “The title was bestowed on my family years ago by Darren the Conqueror for an act of valor. He said that it was not to be taken away.”
“Yes, but times have changed. The other nobles have half a mind to give the title to me. What do you say?” he asked Lawrence, bending to his level. “Do you want me to be your regent?”
“Yes!” my brother shouted, obviously hoping for another sweet.
Art tugged him away. “That is it! You had better watch your tongue or I will have you put away for treason.”
The earl smiled serenely. “Go ahead. I would love to see what the others think of that.”
The duke marched out of the room, toddler in tow. The earl let out a laugh and popped a sweet into his mouth.
I fumed beside him. I could not believe all this scheming had been going on behind my back! I did not know what made me madder, the nobles or my ignorance. For all I knew one of them had murdered me!
I was so caught up that I had not noticed the chair slowly moving towards the window. It suddenly flew out the window, shattering the glass. I stared at the gaping hole in disbelief. Had I caused that? The earl looked even more surprised. His face had gone slack and he looked pale. He turned and walked out of the room, muttering fearfully to himself. I shook my head. I had to get a grip before something really bad happened.