Once I was alone, I got out of the armchair and went into the bedroom, where I let myself fall face-first onto the bed. I had expected it to still be unmade from that morning, but it was as neat and tidy as a hotel room bed would be. It would take me awhile to get used to the fact that Jean Mark had servants who cleaned the rooms and took care of dozens of other things; I guess it must be a pretty big honor to serve the musicians who help keep the realm going. It can’t be easy to prevent everything from breaking apart, after all.
My mind continued to wander as I laid there on my belly. If I found my palace, would it already have servants in there taking care of it? Or would I have to find some from nearby? Brom said his home had been empty and pretty much overgrown when he’d found it, and he’d gotten his servants from the village nearby. But was there a village near Jean-Marc’s manor? I hadn’t seen any other houses that morning when we’d been out with Sleipnir. Perhaps in the other direction? Then again, the other direction was where the werewolves had come from a few weeks ago– and there had been a tree line near there. I should ask to see a map of this world.
What would my palace be like, anyway? Jean-Marc’s manor house wasn’t a palace in the traditional sense. Brom’s house apparently hadn’t been that big, either. I wondered what Aubré’s home was made of, or Tobias’s. Did Brielle have a castle? Or maybe mine would be a castle. I wondered what kind of environment it would be in. Jean-Marc’s home– which was, as he put it, actually Morrigan’s home– was in a lovely countryside, with grasslands and woodlands nearby. It suited Great-Uncle Morrigan really well, actually. I guess it would make sense if all of the Terrans found homes that suited their interests and personalities. If that were the case, what would I want my palace to look like? Ihere were so many possibilities, so many things that I would love.
“Lady Moss?” I heard a voice call from the main room. It was a small, thin voice; it was Ilphara.
I tried to finish up my train of thought so I could respond to her, but I found myself distracted again, wondering if my palace would be in the forest or the mountains, or somewhere in the fairylands, or maybe somewhere among the elves. There couldn’t be only one palace in the elvan lands, could there? I mean, there were supposed to be eighteen musicians…
“Hello?” I didn’t hear my door open, but I did hear the soft click of it closing. “Lady Moss?” Ilphara’s gentle voice said again.
I turned my face slowly to look at her.
“Good afternoon, Lady Moss.” She stepped up to the edge of the bed. “I’ve brought some tea and cakes for you to have after your bath. Unless you want some now? It may calm your nerves.”
“Nerves?” I groaned. “You think I’m feeling nervous? Stressed out? That’s the understatement of the year.”
“It can’t be easy, having so much relying on you. And you had such a different expectations for how you thought your life would be going.”
“I keep telling myself that it’s all not all that bad,” I replied. “I spent a huge portion of my life playing games and reading books and watching movies that are all about adventures and quests and danger. I have to admit, it serves me right for being so interested in fantasy and dragons and castles.”
“Tobias read me one of your stories,” she told me. “It’s very pretty.”
I sat up so that I could meet her eyes. “Is that so? Which one?”
“I think it was a more recent one,” she told me. “It had newborn unicorns in it.”
“Oh, I guess it makes sense that he would pick that one! It has faeries in it too… Heh, it’s kind of weird to have you reading my stuff. I never expected the subject of my stories to read them. Which makes me wonder, did any of my ancestors write as well?”
“I’m not sure,” Ilphara said. “I was just a small child when Lord Morgan came to visit our realm. I never got to meet him. I’m sure Tobias and the others would know, though. Lady Moss, Jean-Marc and Sir Maël wanted me to make sure you were able to relax in the bath. Shall I get it started? We can continue talking there if you want.”
Before long, she had the bath running, and had added scented oil and other powders that she said would help soften my skin and relax me. I helped adjust the water to just the right temperature.
“Should I get the tea for you, Miss?” she asked.
“It’s not that chamomile stuff again, is it? I swear, there’s something else in there that makes us go to sleep really fast.”
“It’s just chamomile,” she said, “but it’s a lot stronger here than it is on Earth. That’s not what I brought up, though. The tea I brought is very subtle in flavor and effect.”
I agreed to try it, and while she was out of the room, I undressed and slipped into the water. My body was hidden under the bubbles, and I was grateful for the heat that surrounded me. It smelled faintly of flowers and bergamot, and I was relieved that it wasn’t overly Sweet. Ilphara returned with the tea tray and set it on a table beside the tub.
“Ilphara,” I said as I accepted the cup of pale brownish-lavender tea, “I hope it doesn’t seem too much like I’m upset about being here. I know it’s been even harder on the magical people like the faeries and elves. The lives of all your people are at risk if we don’t help you.”
“It’s all right, Miss,” she assured me as she loaded up a sponge with soap. “Nothing lives out at the edges of the world anymore, so even if things did start to go bad, it wouldn’t be like it was last time. most of us would still survive.”
“Only most?” I asked. “But if nobody lives in the far reaches…”
“I’m not entirely sure,” she admitted. “That’s just the way Tobias and the other said it.”
“Yeah,” I sighed after taking a sip of the tea. “I guess there are just too many unknowns… and that makes it really hard to decide what to do first.”
Ilphara sat down on a low stool beside the tub and began to gently rub soap down my arms. “There’s a lot to do,” she agreed, “but we’ll all help you with it, either way. Tobias says that there’s plenty of time to do what must be done. He really does believe in you.”
“That’s sweet of him,” I said. “I’m more worried about what Stefan thinks of all this… and of me going anywhere near vampires.”
“He really treasures you,” Ilphara noted in a tone of admiration, as though she wished she had a friend is close as Stefan was to me.
I smirked. “He’s… He’s great, but he’s a little overprotective.” I tried not to sigh to heavily, then focused back on my tea.
“Tobias said that he can play oboe, just like you.”
“Not just like me,” I chuckled. “He’s a professional musician. I’m just… I guess I’m just a hobbyist, at best.”
“He want to help you, though, right Lady Moss?” she asked as she went on cleaning me.
I nodded. “We have to go back to Earth to get our instruments, though. Do you know when we’ll be able to do that?”
Ilphara shook her head. “Evander might know, Miss. We can ask him at dinner.”
I nodded set the teacup down, having finished it off, and let my mind relax as I leaned forward and let Ilphara wash my back. Once she was done, she poured me another cup and offered me one of the cookies on the platter. I shook my head.
“I think…” I sighed. “I’d like to relax and have some quiet time, if that’s okay. You’ve been so nice, I don’t want to shoo you off, but this day has been non-stop.”
“I understand, Miss,” she replied with a nod. “I’ll set out some clothes for you and wait in the main room for you.”
“You won’t be bored out there, will you?”
“Not at all, Miss,” she said, her voice bright and bubbly. “I have sewing to do, and there are a good many books on your shelves. Jean-Marc says that Morrigan brought so many wonderful stories here over the years.”
“Did he? Well, I guess that makes sense.”
“Please enjoy your bath, Miss,” Ilphara said. “If you need anything, just call out for me.”
I nodded, my mind already longing to drift and process the past twenty-four hours. “Thank you, Ilphara. I really do appreciate your kindness.”