he day after the incident with Ferka in the West
Wing, Rose refused to leave her room for breakfast in the morning room. When
Fillona noticed that the new Duchess wasn’t summoning her to deliver the
breakfast she had made, she took it up to her room, knocking lightly on the
door. It took a while and a few more knocks until she heard Rose get out of bed
and open the door a crack. Seeing Fillona there, Rose opened the door to let her
in and closed it behind her.
Rose relayed the story of the previous night while she nibbled at her breakfast,
still rather shaken. Her hands shook slightly, and her voice seemed to stutter
at some parts. Her telling of it was roundabout, and Rose felt herself become
flustered just thinking about it - the way Ferka’s eyes had looked in the dark
room, the tone of her voice - and she nearly broke out in tears.
“You shouldn’t let her treat you like that,” commented Fillona, though Rose
thought it easier said than done.
“But how can I, Fillona? She’s so intimidating. Whenever I’m around her she
makes me feel like a silly child pretending to be something she’s not.” Rose
took a bite of her toasted bread and gulped it down, hardly chewing. “Sometimes
I think she may be right.”
“Don’t eat your food like that. You’ll make yourself sick.”
“I can’t help it! I’m nervous just thinking about it! I don’t know how I’ll be
able to show my face in front of her again.”
Fillona took the confused girl by the shoulders and gave her a gentle shake.
“Rose, you’re the Duchess! It doesn’t matter who the Duchess was before - she’s
dead, she’s gone, and no matter what that old hag says, she’s not coming back!
Her charm, her beauty, her intelligence, mean nothing at the bottom of a sea.
You have to pull yourself together, Rose!”
“I know, but--”
“But nothing! Rose, you can’t let
Ferka stand you down. She’s your servant. She’s nothing but a maid. You are a
Duchess, the Duchess Valfort, and you have far more power than she’ll ever have.
This is your castle, not hers and not the last Duchess’s. You have the right to
make a life for yourself here, to feel at home here, and you shouldn’t let
anyone, especially not Ferka, stop you from making this place yours.”
Rose seemed comforted by Fillona’s words, and by that afternoon Rose had gained
enough confidence to leave the confines of her room and journey through the
castle. When she and Ferka met each other in the hall, the two spoke no words to
each other. It was as though the event had never happened. She returned to the
library to find the book she had dropped in the West Wing last night had been
returned to its place on the shelf, and Rose pretended not to see it.
Meanwhile, with the storm now gone, the entrance to the castle and many of the
roads through the duchy were being dug out. By the third day after the incident
in the West Wing, the roads that snaked through the countryside were, for the
most part, cleared. As the clouds from the storm began to clear, the brilliant
sun of winter glinted brightly off the fallen snow and into Rose’s room where
the windows let the rays in.
When the garden paths were cleared, Rose began to journey outside the castle and
tread through the trails that snaked around the trees and barren bushes,
pondering and trying to find within herself the confidence to become a Duchess.
She was not so beautiful as the late Duchess had been, nor as charming or witty,
but she could still be assertive and firm, and somehow defy Ferka in all her
coldness, though she sought an opportunity to do so.
One morning, when the streets were cleared enough, a messenger came to Chyrnna
The storm has kept me from returning to Chrynna Dabney when I said I
would. I have been housed in Duke Gyndor’s castle for the past few
days, but now that the roads are cleared, I plan to return late
tomorrow morning. I hope the storm passed without too much worry for
you, and I look forward to seeing you again.
Rose was delighted to hear from
the Duke - and not only hear from him, but learn that he would soon be there at
the castle. She read the letter several times and admired his handwriting. The
rest of that afternoon she had the maids clean things up and make sure
everything was in order for the Duke’s arrival the following day. The floors
were to be swept, the furniture was to be dusted, and everyone was to be looking
Rose could hardly sleep that night. It felt like ages since she had seen Edmond.
The next morning, she wore one of her best dresses, and put up her hair in an
elegant, sophisticated manner that made her feel much more like a Duchess than
any of her simpler styles had. Rose took her breakfast in the morning room where
the sunlight shone rapturously along the desk, shelves, and walls. She ate
quickly and stepped out into the main room, suddenly realizing how dark it was,
for the curtains were still drawn over all the windows. She saw Ferka walking
out of the West Wing and called to her, “Ferka, it is far too dark in this room.
Please, would you open the curtains?”
Ferka looked at her with a surprise that belied her normally stoic disposition.
“Open the curtains?”
Rose smiled slightly, feeling as though her request were her revenge for their
last encounter. “Yes. Open them up and let the sunlight in.”
Ferka hesitated, meeting Rose’s eyes with a strange sort of fear that Rose had
never seen in the woman before. Then, slowly, Ferka turned and walked to where
the curtains were and pulled them open.
Brilliant rays of sunlight shot across the open floor, spilling into nooks and
crannies that had been trapped in darkness for what seemed like ages. Iridescent
flecks never before noticed were lit in the stone floor. Golden rays cut through
the darkness and Rose felt her spirits rise. It was as though, after a black
atonement, the light had finally returned to Chrynna Dabney.
The first maids who saw that the main hall was freed from darkness spread the
word, and before long, almost every member of the castle came to see if the
rumours were true. Rose heard a deep voice from behind her say, “I have not seen
this room lit in a very long time,” And she turned around to see Durgen, his old
eyes reflecting the sunlight that came through the wall of windows at the top of
the stair. She smiled up at him, and he smiled thoughtfully back.
From outside, Rose heard the sound of horse hooves on cobblestone and knew
instinctively that it was Edmond returning after an absence of nearly a month.
She and Durgen slipped outside to meet the Duke as his carriage rounded the bend
and stopped at the front door. His door opened and he emerged from the carriage.
He looked a little tired, and yet somehow relieved as he stepped out of the
carriage and onto the icy ground, smiling at Rose. “You look well, my Rose! The
storm has not been too hard for your health, I hope? You have not been ill
whilst I have been away?”
Rose smiled, eager to see how Edmond would react to the sunlight that now lit
the main hall. “No. I have been very well. But now, you must come inside, as it
is too chilly out here.”
She followed Edmond to the door, which Durgen opened, and Edmond seemed amazed
when light came streaming out to meet him. It danced across his face, between
the wrinkles in his clothing, inside his eyes. His mouth dropped and he looked
wide-eyed at the room that was no longer in shade, that was now adorned in rays
of sunlight. “Dear Foiros, God of Light…” and his voice trailed off.
“Do you like it?” Rose asked, walking past him, into the hall a little farther
than he. “I have decided that I shall have to take more control around the
castle.” She turned around to face him, smiling like one inspired by Dalireen.
“The sunlight has been shut out of these rooms for far too long, and I am
determined to clean the castle up, to reorganize things a bit, so that I can
make this into a place where I belong, a place that is truly mine.”
“Rose…” Edmond’s voice trailed off again, and he stared at her.
“You don’t have to do anything - I will do it all myself. Just wait, Edmond,
“I…” Edmond looked down, somehow dazed and confused. “I have some things I need
to do.” He looked up at her again, but Rose could see he was noticeably upset
for some reason. “The room looks lovely, Rose. Really.” He walked off to his
study, leaving Rose in utter silence.