This is the beginning of the first of three related stories I'm posting on this site.


Chapter 1

Evangeline ran down the dim stone corridor her dark red hair trailing behind her. If she hurried she could make it to the gallery overlooking the main reception room before the new delegation from neighboring Gabernal arrived.

She was curious. With her habit of searching the odd corners of the castle, she could often hear things she would otherwise be shielded from. Some of the maids had been gossiping as they worked in the room the north passage ended in. Not wanting to give away her presence Evi kept still and thus heard everything they said while in the room. Too bad she only heard the beginning of the conversation.

When things were just starting to get interesting the supervisor called them from the room to get the guest rooms ready for the delegation. She could have followed but she had an embroidery class and her father would have been informed if she missed it. She didn't want to lose her free mornings.

She skidded to a stop by an old tapestry of the battle of Keistra. Reaching behind it she felt for the rough spot about shoulder height. When she felt it she pressed in and to the right. With a faint grinding sound it slid in and a section of the wall opened under her fingers. Looking to see if any of the servants were within sight she ducked behind the tapestry and into the passage beyond.

Holding her velvet skirts close to her she hit the switch to close the door and made her way carefully to the first staircase she came to. Her nose wrinkled at the thick dust in the passageway. It couldn't be helped, this was the quickest way.

Though the passage was windowless, clever use of mirrors produced a dim light during the day. Also there were infrequent skylights along the way. In the past Evi had tried to work out how the system worked. She figured out where the skylights were on the outside. It was nice having a secret that no one else knew. She would be surprised if even her father knew where the network of passages were.

In the east tower above the rooms everyone knew about she had discovered a secret vaulted room with skylights, whatever it had been in the past it was now her secret hideaway. A space she could keep projects she wanted to keep private and a much needed place where she could totally relax. She had gradually snuck cushions and small pieces of furniture to her hideout and now it was a comfortable place to relax. She had even cleaned the windows,walls and floors herself. It was worth it to keep her secret.

Soon she had climbed her way up two turnings of the stairs. Almost there, she thought to herself. Ten paces down the new corridor she found the door she wanted. On this side of it, the secret doors were easy to find. Whoever had made the network of passages had lined the doorways on the inside with a lighter rock than the rest of the passage. Although it was always darker near a door it was easy to tell the difference. She hit the trigger and slipped through the door, confident that no one else would be in the gallery at this time of day. she crept down the aisle to the low railing and sat peering through the gaps down on the reception room below.

She knew she had to be quiet. The gallery was designed to host the musicians during formal dances and gatherings and the slightest sound could be heard clearly in the greater room beyond. She would even have to wait until everyone had left, to leave, so that they wouldn't hear the sound of the door opening and closing.

Just in time she thought to herself. She watched as her Father and his advisers entered and walked the length of the room to the throne and their chairs.

She thought that her father looked just the way a King should look. His hair was darker than hers, a rich brown only beginning to grey at the temples. He wore his heavy state robes well, never showing their weight or the weight of his office. She couldn't see his eyes from where she hid , but knew they were light grey almost silver. She had gotten her green eyes from her late mother, who had died when giving birth to a brother that had died soon after he was born.

Evi didn't remember her mother, she had only been two at the time. Some of the couriers said she was coming to look more like her mother as she grew older. And sometimes before she went to bed Evi would look in the mirror and try to imagine how her mother had looked.

Once in the back of the picture gallery she had seen a painting that looked newer than the others in the stacks. The woman in it looked beautiful, her red gold braid over her shoulder and her green gown matching her eyes. When Evi tried to ask her father about the painting, her Nurse hushed her and soon the painting disappeared from the gallery.

While she waited for the delegation she sat with her chin propped on her folded hands, she hoped it didn't take too long. She grinned as she heard the faint tones of the Herald's horn, They're here she thought to herself.

Shortly she heard the great doors of the room open. The brightly colored procession slowly made it's way down the center of the room. Her eyes widened as she saw the woman. at first it seemed she was the woman in the painting, but then as she looked closer she saw differences.

The woman before her was older and her hair was closer to a true gold. This then must be Lady Mirriamer, the one the maids had been talking about. Funny she didn't look like a witch. She was still beautiful Her deep Blue gown flowed behind her making her hair look brighter. Evangeline wondered if her eyes were green too, but she was too far away to see. She watched as the Lady made her way slowly down the length of the room. She held her breath and hunched lower as the woman paused a moment when she came even with the gallery, but then relaxed as she continued towards the King.

Evi hardly noticed the others in the delegation her eyes only on the the lady. She was eaten alive with curiosity wondering how was she related to the woman in the painting.

From where she watched Evi heard the murmur of voices as the group came to a stop. She wished she could hear better, but as the gallery was designed to let any noise be heard throughout the room; the throne and the councils seats were designed to keep conversations there private. During the parties of the past business could have been conducted with no one the wiser. Her father looked grim as they began their talk. He shook his head.

Evi frowned, I wish I could hear what they are saying, she thought to herself. The woman didn't look happy with what her father was saying. She sighed softly, perhaps she should have gone to the other passage, the one than ran behind the throne. She wouldn't have seen anyone, but she would have been able to hear what was said and she had the strangest feeling it was important. And Evi had learned to listen to those feelings when they came.