Helena had to get dressed eventually, so when lunchtime began to approach, I left her chambers and wandered back towards my room. I felt slightly satisfied when I saw I had been right about the Duchess di Sylsey. When I entered the room she was sitting in one of the chairs by my window, a book open on her lap.
‘My lady,’ she said as I entered, hurriedly closing her book and standing. ‘You were gone a while, I hope nothing is wrong.’
‘Not at all Duchess,’ I said coolly. ‘I decided to pay a visit to my sister while I was in that part of the palace. We haven’t talked very much recently and I felt I had been neglecting my duties as a younger sibling.’ The Duchess looked slightly disappointed at this, probably hoping for something more gossip-worthy. Clearly my mother didn’t tell her everything.
‘That must have been a pleasant surprise for your sister. How is Duchess Helena?’ I could sense a hint of venom in Elisabeth’s voice as she spoke about my sister. It was no secret that Elisabeth and Helena were fighting for supremacy over the court. Usually I would stay out of court politics, but on this occasion I was a firm supporter of my sister.
‘She is very well thank you Duchess. Now if you don’t mind I would like to spend some time alone.’
‘Of course,’ Elisabeth said, miffed by her speedy dismissal. ‘As you wish my lady.’ She curtsied, her head pointing towards the floor before leaving the room silently.
I slipped off my shoes and resumed my favourite spot on the window seat, pulling the curtain across, lifting my feet up in front of me and looking out of the window. The rain was falling against the glass, making it difficult to see anything outside in focus. The trees that stood in the gardens were blurry and the grey-brown colour of the drive mixed with the dark green of the grass. The longer I looked outside, the more blurry things became.
I was ready to climb out of my hiding place and join my family for lunch when I saw something move outside. It was a brown dot moving at quite a pace towards the palace. I squinted, trying to get a better look at the brown blob that was moving closer.
It was only when the blob slowed down as it reached the front door that I saw it was actually a horse and rider, both soaked from the heavy rain, the horse’s mane hanging limply around it’s neck and it’s rider not looking much better.
‘That will be another of my suitors,’ I said to myself. ‘Will they ever stop coming?’
‘If they stop coming then that means there are fewer men to choose from.’ I didn’t need to pull back the curtain to know my brother, Julian, was standing on the other side.
‘Did no one ever tell you it’s polite to knock before entering a lady’s bedchamber?’ I pulled back the curtain, my face fixed in mock anger.
‘I think I vaguely remember someone saying something about that once, but I don’t think I listened to them.’ He chuckled, amused by his own attempt at sarcasm. ‘I do have a reason to be here. Father says it’s time for lunch and you should come down.’
‘You know you could have sent a servant to deliver that message.’
‘Yes but I thought it would be better to deliver it in person. That way, if you kicked up a fuss, I would be able to drag you to lunch by your hair and no one would notice. ‘
‘Always the kind and caring older brother,’ I said, smiling falsely at him.
‘Yes I know, now will you hurry up! You know what father gets like when he’s hungry. He’ll be very grumpy if you keep him waiting much longer.’
‘Yes, that has been noted and I am coming.’ I swung my legs around and began to put my shoes back on.
‘Hurry up,’ Julian moaned, or you’ll get us both into trouble.’
‘Can you still be in trouble for being late at twenty three?’
‘Unfortunately, yes,’ he sighed. ‘Now hurry up, it can’t take that long to fasten a pair of shoes.’
‘I’m ready,’ I said, jumping up and holding out my arm. ‘Would you escort me to the dining hall,’ I said in my clearest accent.
‘I would be delighted, my lady,’ my brother said, catching onto the game and linking our arms together. ‘This way Lady Liliana,’ he said, leading me out of the door.