The Heart of Sorrow’s Keep
By Brenna Hanson
Date: August 22, 2018
Ch. 77

“Sit,” he said when I found him in the kitchen. ‘I’ll make you eggs.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t know why I thought you would have known… Grandfather.”
He stirred the gloppy mess in the skillet and finally nodded. I wasn’t sure if it was in acceptance of my apology or of the familial title.
“She loved me. They all did,” I said. “We all still love each other. I was sent because everything’s all gone so wrong. Father’s away fighting The People of the Trees. Someone killed queen Mara and all her ladies including Mother. Harold – poor Harold, my near-twin if not for our different mothers– had to send the rest of us to safety as Father had commended if things went wrong. He’s alone now. Alone with a throne he keeps warm in the hope of Father’s return, and without me there to help for the first time in our lives.”
I fiddled with the locket and stared out the little window over the sink while I forced the words out around the tightness in my throat. Marcus… Grandfather turned with the skillet. He paused to look at the locket in my hand. I thought I saw him cringe before he scooped eggs loaded with meat, vegetables, and creamy, white cheese onto my plate.
“Eat, he said when he saw me pull back from a nearly desperate grab at the food. “I’ll get you some bread and butter, too. I take it things are bad off at the castle.”
I nodded. My mouth was too full to speak.
“Those feral folk of the forest have you under siege?” he asked. I nodded again and he went on, “They’ve always been a sneaky lot. Always wanting something that no one else understands and they won’t be bothered to explain.”
I caught him staring at the locket that had rested on the table when I leaned in to eat. I picked it up and slid the chain over my head before holding it out to him. “Harold said my mother left this to me. I can’t get it open but I would think it holds a likeness of her. You are welcome to try. Please don’t break it. It’s all I have left.”
His old hand reached for the golden oval and then pulled back.
“I’ll look when you manage to open it,” he said. “I told you I have no time for a silly girl here. If you stay, you’ll serve as my apprentice and learn the useful magic of this world. Opening a locket seems a good first task. You’ll find books on the subject in the library at the top of the tower. You can read, correct?” He raised an eyebrow at me.
“Yes,” I said. “Latin, Greek, and both the old English and the common tongue.”
“At least you have that going for you,” he said. He glanced again at the locket in my palm and then swept out of the room. In a rush to get back to his day or to get away from me, I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. There was food in front of me and I put forth great effort in eating enough to more than make up for months of hunger. When I finished, I considered the staircase leading to the library and decided it would have to wait until I slept off the heaviness of my over-filled belly.
I awoke from an awkward sleep sprawled across the kitchen bench. There was a blanket laid over me and a note on the table that read: Second room on the 3rd floor. You wash your own linens. ~M
I had no idea how to wash linens but would figure it out when the need arose. In the meantime, a room had to be better than any of the places I had slept since leaving home. It was dark, so I took the little lamp Grandfather had left on the table and climbed the stairs.
The room was small and had the lingering mustiness of disuse. The bed was lumpy. Still, the bedclothes were clean and carried the scent of sunshine when I ran my hand across them.
An open trunk at the foot of the bed held what I assumed had been my mother’s clothes when she was young. Dried lavender, long depleted of its scent, fell out of the folds when I shook out a shift of light linen. It was near enough my size that it could have been made for me. When I slipped it on the thought of her once wearing it came to mind. The reality of all I had lost came with it. I crawled into the strange bed that was now mine, pulled the quilt over my head, and sobbed in broken-hearted anguish until I fell asleep.

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