In some ways returning to the palace was like returning home. Dixon had resided there whenever Rowena had been in attendance over the past years. He looked about his familiar room. It sported a blue theme that ran from the rugs scattered on the dark stained oak floor, to the bedspread, to the curtains, to the towels and the pitcher of water and bowl left for cleaning up. An assortment of black and white chalk sketches, in frames of pewter, hung on the walls. A vase with an assortment of white lilies and blue irises sat on the table near the balcony. The orange patches on the flowers’ petals lent a splash of unexpected color to the surroundings. Two chairs flanked the table upon which sat paper, a quill, and an inkwell.
Having awakened with the sun, he listened to the muffled voices of kitchen staff welling up from somewhere below his window. Delivery wagons rattled as they neared the stockrooms. A cock crowed in the distance, and nearby, mourning doves cooed.
A quiet tap came at his door. He ignored it. Palace etiquette held that if he didn’t respond to the first muffled knocking, the visitor would wait a good while before returning.
He splashed water across his face and neck. After glancing in the mirror, noting he needed a shave, he retrieved his tools from his backpack. Once done, he dressed in clean clothing stacked in the armoire.
Again came a knock at the door. It was odd, given that it couldn’t have been more than a quarter hour since the last attempt to rouse him. Again he ignored the beckoning. He didn’t want to see anyone—least of all Lilith if, the Good One forbid, it was she at his door.
He stepped out on the balcony and looked out at the low mist covering the grounds. Droplets of dew sparkled on the lawn. He ran his fingers though his hair, then scowled at the band on his arm. Lilith’s use of it was an extreme measure. She had no reason to suspect him of any wrongdoing. He’d always faithfully protected the Select.
Before she’d banded him, he’d been able to feel Mara’s presence, as part of his attendant magic enabled him to find other Select and Oathtakers whom he sought. He sighed, longing to return to her and the girls.
Once more, came a knock at his door.
It startled him, interrupting his thoughts. With a huff, he surmised that someone must have a particularly pressing need. He answered the door.
“Edmond!” he exclaimed. “Am I ever glad to see you!”
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