CHAPTER IX: EDMOND'S CONFESSION

A SANTHARIAN NARRATION

 
Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. In a walk along the forest, Edmond reveals to Rose not only why he has been so quiet, but the awful truth about the character and murder of the last Duchess. After another incident injures Edmond, Rose reveals to Edmond her own secrets.

 

ose heard a knock at the door and felt her heart beat a little faster, as it had since the incidents. “Who is it?”

“Bethina, Milady.”

Rose sighed with relief to discover that it was only her personal maid. “Come in.”

Bethina opened the door and stepped in. “The Duke requests you go walking with him in the garden this afternoon.”

Rose felt her heart rise a little until the garden was mentioned. “The garden?”

“Yes, the garden.” The maid read her mistress’s expression. “Should I tell him you wish to decline?”

“N-no. Tell him I will meet him, though I should like to go walking somewhere else - perhaps along the nearby wood.” The small wood that grew next to the castle had a path that wound near it, though it was used primarily during shir hunts and other such things. “Would you give him that message for me, Bethina? I am eager to see him.”

Bethina left, and after lunch Rose prepared herself for a walk with a touch of nervousness. She hoped that he would not be angry with her. Perhaps he would chide her about the opened curtains. She left her room so flustered and eager that she almost scurried right past the Duke, who was waiting for her in the main room instead of outside. Rose blushed slightly and the Duke smiled at her. “Hello Rose. I received word that you would like to go for a walk along the forest.”

Rose nodded. “Yes, sir. I would.”

Edmond’s eyes went soft and he smiled at her almost sadly. “Did I not tell you to call me Edmond?”
 

“Yes, I just--”

“I know. I have been so rude to you these last few days.” Edmond gently took Rose’s hands in his. “I hope you will allow me to make it up to you. Come…” he set her hand on his arm, “…let us go for a walk.”

The two of them walked along the path that wandered along the wood, and the bare winter trees had a boniness to them that would have made the scene frightening if not for the presence of good company. Edmond inquired about Rose’s health, and was glad to see that her sickness (or the one she had claimed to have had) was no longer. Rose asked, a little shyly, about his work.

“It is all such a bore,” Edmond replied. “I am on so many committees now, and thus I must make many trips to many places to talk to many people, often of whom aren’t very pleasant to talk to - at least, for me. I suppose I’m not often very social. I am neither witty nor extraordinarily intelligent. I am no orator, no scholar, no entertainer. I should much rather be somewhere else, but these are my obligations. I suppose I am just not cut out for such things.” Edmond smiled in that sad, handsome way, then glanced at Rose. “How were things when I was away?”

“Besides the storm, it wasn’t too difficult to bear.” A pause settled between them a moment. “Edmond?”

“Yes, Rose?”

“I’m sorry for opening the curtains. I - I just thought…”

Edmond stopped and turned to face Rose, who looked like a flower against the backdrop of skeletal trees - a rose that blooms in winter. “Rose, forgive me. I should have told you what I’m telling you now: that room looks beautiful. I had forgotten how lovely it was, how large and fantastic. How dreadful it was to see it covered for so long. I love it.”

Rose smiled, and it was as though a huge burden were lifted off her chest. “Really, Edmond? You like it? Oh, I hoped you would!”

Edmond smiled, and then glanced up and suddenly his expression changed. He pulled Rose to the side and the two of them fell. Rose was filled with complete confusion until, caught in the midst of the fall, she saw an arrow graze Edmond’s shoulder, and the two of them landed on the ground while the arrow flew into the grassy pasture behind them. Rose knew what had happened and why, and began crying. “Edmond! Edmond! Forgive me - I have not been honest with you!”

Edmond, still dazed, looked surprised at Rose. “What?”

“In the garden, there was a hole dug to trip me, to break my ankle. When I went riding with Jaken, someone nearly hit me with a poison dart that almost killed one of your horses. She has come to kill me. She is after me, Oh Edmond, she is after me! It is her! It is the ghost of Chrystine!” Tears streamed down Rose’s face as she sat there on the wet ground.

Edmond looked at her, shocked, then his eyes became watery and he embraced Rose. “We-we must get away from here. We must get back to the castle. Hurry.” Edmond helped her up and the two of them hurried back to the castle where Edmond led her into his study. He closed the door and locked it, then embraced Rose again, who was still in tears.

“Rose, why would the ghost of Chrystine be after you?” he asked anxiously.

“Because I am the new Duchess, because she doesn’t want me to take her place.”

Edmond sighed and walked to his desk, distraught, upset, even a little pale. After a moment he looked back at Rose. “Rose, it is I who has not been honest with you. I should have told you. I should have told you long ago.” Rose looked up at Edmond curiously, her eyes red from crying. “It is true that Chystine was an extraordinary woman. She knew how to do everything and do it well. She had the ability to get power. She was beautiful, charming, sophisticated, and I hated her. I hated her more than anyone.”

Rose was shocked. “What do you mean?”

“She used me like a toy. I did not rule the duchy; she did. I was her pawn, and she was a frightening person. The only reason she allowed me to live is because she needed me in her plot to gain power. She destroyed everyone, Rose - everyone who got in her way she would reduce to nothing or murder. She killed her parents the day after our marriage.”

The girl looked horrified, and Edmond met her eyes with his growing red from tears. He covered his mouth with his hand and glanced down, trying to gain the courage to speak. “She told me. She told me what she had done and assured me that if I told anyone, no one would believe me. She told me I was weak, that I couldn’t get rid of her because I was powerless. And - and I killed her.” Rose backed away, almost stumbling from shock. “I didn’t mean to! I truly didn’t! Rose, you must believe me!”

He started to approach her, then thought better of it and turned around, pacing back to his desk then turned to face her. “We were practicing archery. She was excellent at bow and arrow, and she practiced and made me practice with her. She insulted me, she mocked and tormented me in sadistic and cruel ways, and she told me that I could not kill her, that she would probably kill me first anyway. I couldn’t take it. I pointed my arrow at her, but hadn’t the courage to release it. She grinned and pointed her arrow at me and shot me in the arm. I let the arrow go and it struck her in the heart. I didn’t mean to let it go. It just… it just happened.”

Edmond paused slightly, his breaths growing unsteady as he recounted the tale of horror. “She fell, and I saw her dark, black, shadowy soul leave her body and fly away. I hid her body, and when I returned to the castle I told them she had gone off sailing alone. Everyone worried, because a storm was coming, and I volunteered to go out and check on her by myself. I carried her body through the rain and put it in the boat, into which I made a hole, and I pushed the thing away and watched it go down into the surf as the storm raged around me. When I returned, I told them that I had seen her boat sink. I have never told anyone the truth. This secret, this horrid, Gods’ forsaken secret has been an anchor on my heart these past five years.” He looked off, and his eyes began to fill with tears. He couldn’t look at Rose; he was too ashamed. “I’m so sorry, Rose. I-I…”

Edmond couldn’t go on. He crumpled into his chair, covering his eyes and breathing quickly in unsteady exhalations. Rose was too shocked to speak, but in her heart, looking at Edmond, she could only feel deep remorse and sympathy. She took in a deep breath and rushed to his chair. “Edmond, Edmond, you must be brave. Promise me that you won’t tell anyone of what has happened. We will get through this, I promise you. You and I must be strong.”

Edmond looked up at her and took her hands. “Rose, you are the only person I have told this to. No one else would have believed me - believed anyone capable of the atrocities she had committed. Oh, my Rose, thank you! Thank you!”

Rose and Edmond stayed in Edmond’s office and comforted each other. Rose told him the details of what had happened in the garden and in the pasture, and they agreed to keep things a secret from the rest of the castle. If they thought Chystine’s ghost had come to possess the castle, no one would sleep well. They talked together for hours, coming up with several possible plans, but were, perhaps, still too flustered from the day’s events to decide upon one or make it finite. Rose would need to be careful from now on, and Edmond would be there to watch her always - and if he could not, Rose would make sure she was with someone, like Fillona, Jaken, or Gilmoren.

They spoke into the night, and when the castle was empty and the servants had gone to bed, Edmond walked Rose to her room, and there they parted silently, and Rose locked the door to her room that night.
 


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