Eletii looked shocked. “Stefan had a daughter? But I thought he told me that he couldn't have...”
Alieahsha blushed profusely. “Yes, well, he did have one, and she's me.”
“Yes,” Eletii stuttered disbelievingly. “I'll tell him...”
“What? That he has a daughter? He'll probably already know.”
“Of course, I'm sorry, your Ladyship.” Eletii was behaving differently now. One minute she was angry and sarcastic for Alieahsha being in her room, the next she was polite and ever so much like the court ladies.
Alieahsha swiped her hand annoyingly at Eletii. “I hate people calling me names.”
Eletii seemed to have regained her composure by now. “Yes, very true. This way.” Eletii walked towards the door, and gestured for Alieahsha to follow her. “We'll tell your father about it together, shall we?”
That's more like it, thought Alieahsha, following Eletii.
They arrived at Alieahsha's father's study, and sure enough, there was her father, reading up on some book or other.
At the sound of footsteps, the Lord Mayor looked up. “Eletii?”
Eletii nodded. “You have a daughter,” she commented in a dry voice, “and you never sought to tell me?”
“Eletii?” he repeated again. “Is it really you? After all those years?”
“I came into the house banging and shouting,” said Eletii, “and yet you failed to notice me?”
“Good book,” he said apologetically, taking his spectacles off his nose.
Alieahsha rolled her eyes. “Anyway, Father, Eletii said my room was hers!”
The Lord Mayor caressed his temples. “Oh dear,” was all he said.
“What, Father? Why are you so confused?” Alieahsha asked. “What is it?” Eletii asked.
“Oh, just STOP TALKING WOULD YOU!”
Both Alieahsha and Eletii stared at the Lord Mayor. He rarely lost his temper like this.
He shook his head. “Sorry, just thinking.”
They waited in silence for a few minutes, but finally the Lord Mayor talked.
“Eletii, go to one of the guest rooms. You shouldn't fail to find one – there are so many of them.”
Eletii nodded. “But why has this girl got my room?”
“Well, she's my daughter. Come here, Eletii, I want to speak with you personally.”
Stefan walked into a corner of the study, and turned his back on Alieahsha. Eletii followed him.
“For the rest of your stay, stay away from my daughter,” said Stefan.
“But why, what have I done?”
“Nothing, just please, stay away from her.”
For the first time in her life, Eletii thought she saw a look of fear cross the Lord Mayor's face.
Eletii nodded. “If I must.”
“Good.” Stefan, apparently satisfied, let Eletii out of the room. But when Alieahsha tried to follow her, he said; “No, Alieahsha, stay here.”
The door closed behind Eletii. Stefan sat down at the wooden desk.
“Alieahsha, for the rest of Eletii's stay, please, keep away from her. I don't want you to talk to her, understood?”
Alieahsha hesitated. “But Father...”
“And I also want you to stay in the house at all times. Got that? No talking to any strangers at all, no matter what they tell you.”
It was almost as if he knew what would happen at midnight. Alieahsha crossed her fingers and hope that he didn't. Luckily, he didn't, and kept on going with another topic.
“Oh, and Alieahsha?” her father put on a pleading face, “please don't talk about your mother anymore.”
Alieahsha nodded and walked out the room. She nearly wiped her brow in relief. Her father didn't know. Yet. It might be only a matter of time before he finds out, so she better make her time worthwhile.
Alieahsha waited until it was time, and her heart was racing with excitement. She could not risk getting caught.
She opened the door and she hoped that no-one could hear it creaking open. Alieahsha checked the corridors: empty. So were the rest of the rooms on the top floor. When she got to her father's office she would have to be careful: he might still be in there.
Alieahsha stepped out onto the cold wood. A floorboard creaked. Alieahsha hoped with all her heart that no-one could hear her.
A creaking door. Stay outside or go inside? Alieahsha didn't have the chance to decide: a maid stepped out of her father's room. She was holding a feather duster but apart from that her hands seemed to be bare. Nothing that could cause a racket.
But upon her haste, Alieahsha didn't notice that the maid's apron pocket was bulging...
“Lady Alieahsha,” the maid bowed. “I'm so sorry to be in your way.”
“Do not tell Father about this,” Alieahsha whispered. “I must get a drink of water but Father does not permit me going out of my room at night. He can't stand it. Please don't get me in trouble! I must get a drink, my mouth is awfully dry.”
“Very well,” the maid bowed again and left.
Phew, that was a close one. She would have to be more careful in the future. Now, where were the papers? In her father's office. Alieahsha was about to open the office door when she nearly slapped herself. They wouldn't be in her father's office! They would be in her father father's room!
She cursed herself. What if her father was in his office? What if he had heard her?
Alieahsha crept back up the stairs towards the private sector of the house. She opened her father's door and looked around. There was a bed, a rug underneath it, and a few desks scattered about the place strewn with papers, books, and pens. Nothing.
She walked further on. Still nothing. She would have to go into the room. Her feet massaged the rug. How she loved that rug. Then she felt a lump underneath it.
Alieahsha pulled up the rug and saw a folder, full of papers and documents. Yes!
Alieahsha opened up the folder and began rummaging through the contents. Nothing about trade there. In fact, there weren't really that many papers about important things. There was two pages on how important getting beautiful windows for the house was, a few written out stories that Alieahsha had written long ago when she was little, and that was it.
Alieahsha shrugged and went out of the room. If she didn't have the information, it wasn't her fault. She replaced the rug in its normal position, and went out of the room.
Alieahsha checked the wall clock. It was time. She padded down the stairs towards the kitchen, for that window was always the easiest to open: how else was she to get midnight snacks when she was little?
The kitchen window gave a groan when it was opened, but apart from that there was no sound at all.
Alieahsha climbed through the window and landed on the soft, lush, grass of her lawn. She checked that no-one had heard her, then as soon as she was sure, she tore across the grass, making for the tall oak tree at the front of her father's estate.
It was a grand thing, which towered over Alieahsha. She reached it and stole a glance around its large trunk. No-one. One of the windows lit up with light, but that was all. Alieahsha supposed that the light was just a servant waking up early.
Suddenly, and hand cupped over her mouth. Alieahsha kicked and tried to scream, but no sound came out. She tried to take a good look at her captor, but she couldn't.
“Do not resist.”
Alieahsha froze, and as soon as she did she cursed herself, for the captor had taken advantage of her fear to bundle her into the back of some sort of cart.
Then the cart started moving.