Chapter Twenty-Four

“Better this evening.” Stefan rewrapped her fingers. “I’ve come often because each visit may be my last.”


“Because Lord Konrad is in a snit about something, and you’re part of it. He runs hot and cold. Often with no warning. I fear he may end my meager efforts on your behalf.

“But how can I heal without you?”

“Your body has amazing power to heal itself, given rest, shelter, and nourishment. Cook is seeing you are fed. And shelter is beyond either of our control. So, now you need to rest.”

“It hurts.” She couldn’t help the tear than lined her cheek.

“It will, but pain is a good sign. Your body is still fighting the freeze. To help, I’ve brought you this blanket. It’s lamb’s wool. Loosely and softly knit. If I lay it over you, it’ll warm your feet and hands.”

“Yes, I—” Mary detected a strong smell coming from the blanket. A flowery smell. Familiar. “Where did you get this?”

“The blanket? From the tower stores. Among the older supplies that never get used.”

“Does Lord Konrad know you took it?”

“Of course, not. Why would he care?”

“I don’t know. I just—it smells familiar.”

Stefan sniffed. “Lavender. Haven’t you smelled lavender before?”

“I think I have. Long, long ago.” A memory tugged inside Mary.

“It can’t have been that long. It was in a closed chest which smelled of lavender and cedar. To thwart the moths. They eat wool, you know.”

“I didn’t. Really?”

“Poor thing, you’ve had a wretched life. Pray it gets no worse.”

“Pray? To whom?”

Stefan looked at her. His eyes shined in the dim light. “You wouldn’t know. His power does not extend here.”

“Whose power? The king?”

“I doubt if the king—or Count Godfrey, for that matter, has authority over our Lord Konrad. But, no, I meant someone else. Someone I dare not name.” Stefan stood. Laying his hand on her head, he said, “Rest.”

Mary couldn’t sleep. She held the blanket to her face, trying to absorb every bit of the smell. If she’d smelled that smell before, then she had a before. Why couldn’t she remember it? If the Dragon came five years ago, she’s have been eight or nine. She should remember. She remembered being beaten. But wasn’t she always beaten? 

Then she remembered the old cook. He had hidden her. Why would she need to hide? Hadn’t she always lived in the kitchen? She knew that story about the dead peasant was a lie because she didn’t remember ever being outside Burg Altz. How was that possible?

As she let her mind drift back beyond the recent terror, she remembered the tall, pale woman again. She smelled of lavender. Mary sat on the woman’s lap. She wore clean clothes. Mary wore clean clothes! The lady—yes, she was a lady—was brushing her hair. Tying it with a ribbon. Like the ribbon Mary now kept in her attic hiding hole. And she sang to Mary. Mary couldn’t remember what the song was about. But she was sure the lady had sung to her.

Had she always lived here? Who was she?

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