The women continued until they came to a wide staircase that rose up to the front door. There they stopped, the surrounding silence startling them. In prior days, flags at the top of the palace flapped in the breeze, but what little of those flags remained, now hung faded and shredded.
They dismounted, tied their reins to a nearby station, and then continued up the steps.
No guards led the way. No torches flanked the pathway. No lights shone through the windows. No servants shuffled through the yards or tended to the gardens or to potted plants that once they kept clipped into topiaries decorating the landing and the front entrance to the palace.
They stopped and leaned against the balustrade that bordered the landing. Stretching out before them, the yards and gardens were overgrown and untended. Aside from the occasional surviving plant intended to have been there, weeds and grass had invaded, grown, and eventually choked out the once beautiful and immaculately tended grounds. They turned back to face the palace.
A fountain in the center of the landing that had invited guests of old with its sprinkling cool water, sat empty, silent, and still. Around its inside edges, a ring of mildew had dried and turned from green to brown.
“It’s like visiting a graveyard,” Therese whispered.
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