Recap: Polly, while impersonating the princess, has been kidnapped by an enchanter and his trainee, and taken far, far away from her home… where she meets the very princess she was impersonating. It is revealed they all are being threatened by a malevolent magical being known as a jadess. While learning all about various magic objects in this new land, none of which seem very useful, Polly succeeds in getting herself into a variety of scrapes. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? Chapter 1 is here...
Chapter 8A: A Stormy Night
On my way down to breakfast the next morning I looked at the black flagstone in the middle of the entrance hall again. I wondered how it had got here, and why it was here. And how it kept the enchanters here.
“I heard you had a run-in with Maria DeAballah,” Casper said when he saw me. “If you see her again, refer her to the Rajah.”
I just glared at him. He grinned.
After breakfast we made bread, since we were getting low. All the sleeves of my gowns were trailing, but I was used to trying them up around my elbows by now. For the rest of the day we did nothing much, hanging around and looking out the window. The sky was dark and bleak and looked like rain.
“It could be a thunderstorm tonight,” Stefan remarked, looking out at the clouds.
“I hope not,” said Casper. “I have things to do.”
Paulina and I spent the door going through the trunk of clothes in my room. We pretty much knew what was in there by now (and that both our sets of clothes were pretty much the same), but we had nothing better to do.
“I wonder what that weaving is of,” Paulina said, pointing at the scene of nine men standing around an intricate rod on my wall. “My hanging is just of a bowl of fruit.”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged.
I caught sight of my face in the mirror and sighed. My face, pale as ever, stared back at me. No matter how much I was outside my skin would never get darker, for the Angaria sun wasn’t very strong. And lately I hadn’t been going out as much.
Around my face hung plain blond hair, darker at the roots than at the tips, and my cornflower blue eyes stared out between it. My long nose made my face seem even longer. Did it really mean I possessed magic?
It was just the three of us for dinner that night, since Casper was out again. Paulina had made stew, but she must have forgotten something because it was rather tasteless. Then it started thundering outside, and rained in earnest. Stefan lit a fire and we sat around it.
“Casper usually isn’t this late,” Stefan said, looking up at the time. It was late. “Maybe the rain’s delaying him.”
Paulina and I had found a Chaldean chess set, with pieces in silver and gold, and were trying to play. I felt hot and sweaty in my robes, because every time thunder boomed overhead I would jump. I had never been able to concentrate on chess very well, and I wasn’t doing much better now.
“Blast it,” I muttered as Paulina captured the last one of my gold dukes. Now my pieces were all silver, and silver pieces were mostly useless. I sighed and risked a tricky manoeuvre with a horse. It didn’t work, and Paulina got my silver castle.
“Just a couple more pieces and I’ve won this board,” she said. Her forehead was furrowed in concentration as she leaned across the table.
We played for what seemed like ages, with the rain pattering down outside and the firelight leaping in the grate. Stefan restlessly began lighting the lamps.
Paulina won all the boards. Even when we switched so I had the gold and silver pieces inset with blue stones, and she had the ones inset with green, I lost. I just made stupid moves, and did things at the wrong times. I couldn’t think through all the possibilities like Paulina.
“It isn’t as fun when you win all the time,” she sighed, cleaning up the board after another round. “Do you want to play again?”
“No,” I said. “How often do you play that game, anyway?”
“Only sometimes in the evenings at the palace,” she replied. “But I kind of like it.”
Stefan turned away from where he was staring broodingly out the window to look at us.
“I’m getting worried about Casper,” he said.
“He can take care of himself,” I told him, and Paulina said, “I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”
“I don’t know…” said Stefan, but we stayed up and waited another hour. And Casper didn’t come.
“I wish I knew what to do!” Stefan was saying, pacing around the room. I watched him moving around anxiously. If anything, I knew what to do even less.
“It’s after midnight,” Paulina said. “You’re sure he never stays out this late?”
Stefan just shook his head, looking worried.