Darkling Abroad   
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Introduction. Determined to be assertive as the new Duchess of the castle, Rose demands that the curtains, which had so long been drawn, be opened to welcome Edmond back home. However, Edmond's reaction is not what she anticipates.


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 Dabney:

Dear Rose,

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.

Yours Truly,

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 their best.

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, just wait.”

“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.

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