His uncle’s house sat amongst other two and three-story mansions on the south side of Kingston’s Palisades district. Carriages rattled past, lords and ladies on their way to the Royal Palace at the top of Palisades’ hill. Simon took the long way around, circling the hill and crossing several roads before he reached a small park on its east side. Bushes lined a steep stone staircase, which Simon took, two steps at a time.
He reached the top. He was at the back of the Academy property, a series of stone buildings surrounding an oval drive. Simon headed beyond the furthest building to a series of ramshackle cottages. Tutors and mere instructors shared the space. Professors had apartments in the largest stone lodge.
Simon slowed at the first cottage; the front door was half-open; a tutor stood on the front stoop, straightening his wrinkled robe.
“I need the mathematics chart,” he was saying into the house. “You can pick it up from the classroom after.”
Not all tutors and instructors dealt with potions. The Academy claimed it wanted to diversify. Ever since Michaelis and Studdle failed to create gold out of tin, the Academy had realized the discomfort of placing all one’s nepotism eggs into one magical potions basket.
“Mr. Tokington?” Simon said.
The tutor glanced over his shoulder, then turned all the way around. “Stevenson,” he said. “Marcus Stevenson. You are—”
Simon raised a brow. “Simon Ferrall.”
The tutor turned towards him fully. “You're the Marquess of Anglerey.”
Simon raised both brows. His father had become the marquess after his two oldest brothers died. It was a dead title, belonging now to another kingdom.
“Simon is enough,” he said. “Mr. Tokington?”
“Cottage next door. He’s quite broken up about his sister.”
So she hasn’t returned. Simon didn’t let his consternation show. Watched by Stevenson, he crossed the weedy yard to the next cottage. Its door was closed but opened rapidly at Simon’s knock. He found himself face to face with a male version of the woman he had bespelled.
Almost. That woman had looked furious—ready to argue, to fight. This man looked sad, hangdog. He gazed pathetically at Simon. He motioned Simon morosely indoors. He slumped limply on a worn ottoman.
“Your sister hasn’t returned?”
“No,” the man said dejectedly. “Do you have Hannah?”
His tone wasn’t even accusing. Simon stared at him, brows cocked—what kind of man is this?—then blanked his face carefully when Tokington looked up with watery eyes.
Simon said, “I do not. Why did you keep your sister on Academy grounds?”
“She was a governess for awhile. I persuaded her to stop. It wasn’t right—me having a sister in service. It didn’t look right. So she started working in the laundry here.”
“That was better!?”
“I suppose not.”
“No,” Simon said emphatically. What brother in his right mind would keep a beauty like that in a place like this?
“She cooks for me.”
“How nice for you.”
Tokington rallied. “She disappeared from your house.”
“You should never have let them take her,” Simon barked.
The man sighed heavily. “I didn’t know until later.”
“Then you should have gone and gotten her.” Fought for her if necessary.
“They would have brought her back—” Tokington’s voice broke off as he raised his head. Simon no longer bothered to look civilized. He glared, brows drawn. Tokington quailed.
“The dean was told,” Tokington said on a thin whine.
Simon didn’t bother to ask when the dean had been told—or by whom. He was willing to gamble Tokington hadn’t been the informer. Marcus Stevenson probably.
“They want your formula,” Tokington told him.
Simon scowled down at the bent head and weakly floating hands. Tokington would do nothing about his sister. He had already adopted the role of bereaved, victimized family member. He wouldn’t even quit the Academy. Simon should be pleased, relieved. No fuss. No scandal.
He slammed the door on his way out of the cottage. From the next stoop, Marcus Stevenson watched, thumbs in his trouser belt. Simon ignored him and took the opposite direction out of the Academy grounds.
* * *
Simon lay on a cot in the corner of the solarium. It was a long narrow room with a pitch roof full of glass windows—some of the earliest in Kingston. Despite their grainy cracks and thick bubbles, they let in more light than the gloomy rooms below. Early morning light slid through the clearest portions, illuminating his table of implements, his desk of papers, his cupboard of neatly stacked jars filled with potions.
Hannah was still in the house. He could feel her presence, sometimes in the hall, occasionally on the landing, more and more here in the solarium. He heard whispers at night, felt breath across the cheek nearest the wall. The night before, he had sprinkled a generic cleansing spell across the floor, then sponged it down the walls. All night, he had lain awake, hoping, waiting.
At some point, without wishing to, he had slept; a soft voice woke him.
Silence. Simon sighed, pressing his hands to his eyes.
“I could have stopped them.” The voice was stronger. Irritated.
“Unlikely,” Simon said slowly.
“I have some skill of my own—at potions.”
“Such as?” Simon dampened the exasperation in his own voice. He didn’t move as light from the windows chased shadows away from the table and desk and piles of equipment.
“I always carry a rebuffing spray.”
“That would have stopped the nearest men temporarily—no more.”
“I refined it—”
A thought struck Simon and he sat upright, “Is that why you quit your job as a governess? To pick up information on potions at the Academy?”
No answer. He lay back down, staring blindly through glass ripples as the sky brightened from white-gray to white-blue.
She couldn’t be such a fool.
He waited; the voice didn’t return. He got up finally when the sky was all blue. He ate food from the cupboard, strolled across to the heap of books by his desk. Perhaps a reappearance spell? Bradleyne had written about memory retrieval. Poren discussed using spells to find lost objects. He weighed the top book in his hand.
“I wouldn’t bother with Poren,” the voice said. “He is all about seeing things from another’s eyes. Voyeur.”
It came definitely from the wall. Simon leaned across the desk to press a hand against the splintered wood.
“I have to try something.”
“You think I haven’t? I want to be part of this house? I can’t break free.”
“Do you feel hungry? Tried?”
“No.” The voice seemed to catch before recovering its commonsensical tone. “And Bradelyne was barely a magician—within the meaning of the term. Metaphysical twaddle.”
She was nothing like her mawkish brother.
He said, “You should never have been working at the Academy.”
“I didn’t realize it was a training ground for rapists and idiots” She sighed. “I should have used a disguise like those clever princesses in Anglerey operas.”
Simon felt himself smile, felt the woman—Hannah—chuckle, a wave of motion through the floorboards.
He said, “Can you see me?”
|Jupiter Photo Gallery|
The wall before him stretched. He saw the face of the woman in the hall, a sculpture of wood except for the eyes of blue-green. She looked at him—wry, possibly annoyed. And she was gone, the wood falling back into solidity.
Simon called, “Are you still there?”
No reply. Simon patted the wall and floor. He even climbed onto the table and patted the glass windows above his head. She’d sunk back into the house’s architecture. Yet she was still herself, still alive.
He set to work. She returned when he was half-way through Bradleyne’s chapter on past-lives.
“Ridiculous,” she scoffed.
“Not if I can recreate the potion for memory restoration.”
“And I suddenly remember that I once lived in splendor as a queen?”
Or remembered how to be free.
“Why did you do this to me?” Her voice was curious, not angry.
“You know you were to be the evening’s sideshow—or prize.”
“I suppose I was unduly confident—”
“Of your ability to protect yourself, yes.” But Simon’s frustration at brother and sister had ebbed. Hannah was here. She was herself and could communicate. Restoration was possible.
She half-laughed. “I suppose I’ve missed a day of work.”
Simon stilled. “Three days,” he said. “Three days of work.”
“Oh.” Her voice broke. “I had no idea.”
For the first time, Simon heard fear in the light, lilting voice.
“I will get you out,” he promised. “I will return you to the world.”