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. Can she get along with the arrogant enchanter long enough to figure out how to survive with a jadess after them? And … why does the jadess want Polly? Chapter 1 is here...
Chapter 9A: An Unexpected Apology
In spite of the fact both enchanters had stood in the rain nearly all night neither of them came down sick, to my relief. The next morning Casper came down the stairs, his hair all freshly pompadoured, calling to me.
“Breakfast, oh jewel among women,” he said.
“Breakfast nothing,” I told him. “You finally decide to eat my meals, and suddenly you want it early? Forget it.”
I continued toasting the bread, in spite of the threatening flicks of Casper’s hands. He was just trying to scare me – he wouldn’t really put a spell on me. At least, I hoped not.
Then Paulina and Stefan came in, with Radagast at their heels. Paulina helped me finish making breakfast, and we all ate.
“I’m stopping by the market today,” Stefan said. “Is there anything you need?”
I hesitated, looking around. There wasn’t any cooking ingredients I needed, but I would like…
“I would like some dress material,” I said slowly. “I can’t use – these robes- very easily for cooking and stuff.”
He nodded. “That’s fine. I’ll see what they have.”
“Try to find cotton or something,” I told him. “Not silk.”
“I know,” he replied.
I had made toast and griddlecakes with honey, frying batter in a pan until they were golden and then pouring honey over it like Gretchen had taught me. They disappeared fast. Afterwards Paulina helped me clear off the table, and Stefan zapped the dishes clean.
“Big storm last night, huh?” she said as we began putting the clean dishes away. “And both the enchanters were out in it.”
“Uh-huh,” I replied. I looked across at her over the dish I was putting on the shelf. “Paulina, what do you think of Casper? I mean, really?”
She paused, and put the plate in her hands down.
“Of course I’m grateful to him,” she said, “But he scares me too, at times. Like, he looks so cool and casual, (and that crazy coat!), but he’s really – dangerous underneath. Like – I don’t know, a panther or something. You know, I really can’t see how you dare to needle him all the time. I sure wouldn’t.”
She smiled softly. “Stefan doesn’t intimidate me as much.”
“Well, Stefan’s not really that kind of person, is he?” I replied. “I think I know what you mean.”
Thoughtfully I put the rest of the dishes away.
Stefan did go to the market, and came back with bolts and bolts of fabric. I gasped when I saw them. I hadn’t expected him to get so many, and spools of thread too, but they were exactly what I wanted, study and plain, yet feminine.
“Oh, you needn’t have,” I said, staring at it.
“I told him to,” Casper put in, lazily tossing one of the spools from hand to hand.
Paulina came up beside me and flipped through them with me. Gingham, wools, patterns and cottons flowed through her hands. She stopped when she came to a rose-coloured cloth.
“This is pretty,” she said.
‘Well, I can share these with you, at least,” I told her. “Since there are so many.” My hand rested lightly on a light blue cotton.
“It’s up to you,” said Casper. “They’re yours.”
During the next week I started making up the blue cotton into a light day-dress. I gave the rose-pink to Paulina, and showed her how to sew it up. She knew how to sew quite well, of course, but she had never made herself a dress before. I had to show her how to cut and pin it up.
“What a good, serviceable blue,” I said, tying off a thread. It would be infinitely more comfortable than the Chaldean robes, which were such a trial to keep out of the way and keep clean. I was wearing a vivid yellow one now, with the sleeves tied around my elbows so I wouldn’t sew them to my dress by mistake.
“Plain, though,” Paulina answered. Her rose-pink fabric was much lighter and more gauzy.
We worked on them in the evenings by the fire while Casper and Stefan talked. They talked about the Rajah at times. I wondered why Casper didn’t just refuse to do anything for him.
But most often they would discuss the jadess.
“I’m working on a protection charm for you girls,” Casper said. “That will make the jadess unable to touch you. Then you should be pretty safe to go home.”
That surprised me. It was odd to think of going back to Angaria when I had trapped so long here.
“Really?” said Paulina. From the look on her face I could see she felt sort of like I did.
“It’s almost done now,” he replied.
I finally finished the blue cotton. Then I attacked the other cloths. I made the sturdy white into proper aprons, the lighter white into all the necessary underclothes I’d been missing, and the fine-grey wool into a warmer dress in case it got chilly outside (though did it ever get chilly in Chaldea?) Paulina finished her rose-pink and made lavender-purple one also. Hers were more ribboned and ruffled than mine, and she looked quite pretty in them. Those were the kind of dresses that suited her, not sumptuous ball gowns dripping with diamonds, or foreign-looking silken robes.
I was wearing my new light blue and walking in the front garden when I saw a white and gold coach drive up to the gates. Oh no, not again, I thought. The doors opened and Maria DeAballah came out.
I looked around. Just my luck, I was alone in the front yard again. At least Maria DeAballah didn’t look as furious as before.
“Ah good, you are here,” she said when she saw me. Her eyes, which had been so blazing last time, didn’t quite meet mine. “I – I wanted to apologize for yelling at you. When I loose my temper I just blow up and – and I don’t know what I am doing. And I was angry.”
“Er – it’s all right,” I replied. I studied her. She was decidedly Chaldean-looking, a sheet of flaming curls hanging down her back and brown eyes with very dark, arched eyebrows.
“I shouldn’t have been so mad at the Enchanter either,” she admitted to me. “I was not going out with him because I loved him. I was only mad because he left me to pay with my own money.”
“Oh!” I nodded. “You prefer…”
“The Rajah.” She smiled slowly and widely. “I have designs on the Rajah. Of course, nearly all of Araba is after him, but that does not put me off.”
“You want his money?” I asked. It sounded mercenary to me. “Or his power?”
“No!” she answered. “Why should I? I have both. I like him because he’s been a darling.”
I shot a look at her, wondering at her strange choice of words. Her expression had not changed much, but a faint tinge of pink in her cheeks betrayed her. She really meant it.
‘Well,” she said, and got up. “It’s been nice talking to you. I felt sorry for you, you poor little thing, for frightening you. I do have a temper, you know. But I must be going.”
She got up and swept to her coach, and the garden suddenly felt silent and calm. She really did have a vivid personality. Did all Chaldeans? I wondered, Or only noblewomen like her?
I knew if I had to come to Araba on my own before this I would have been frightened out of my wits. Everything was so bold and loud. But I wasn’t afraid of Chaldea at all now, perhaps because the Magician Peak seemed so solid and safe.
I thought I liked Maria DeAballah, since she’d apologized. I hadn’t thought she was like that.
“That’s never happened before,” Stefan said later that night when I told him. “At least, not to me. They all come here and blow up, and then you don’t see hide nor hair of them again. This Maria must be a rather decent person, for a Chaldean.”