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Evangeline’s heart was pounding as she fled the Great Hall. She rushed through several passageways, her footsteps echoing hollowly across the soaring ceilings, before she finally allowed herself to stop and catch her breath. She leaned weakly against a door, not knowing exactly where she was. She did not know why she had reacted so violently to the knight; true, he was neither a comely man nor a fit one… but he was not so much an ogre that he would inspire such a vehement response. Yet here she was, trying to calm her racing heart by force of will, and she was indeed feeling ill – she had not lied. After a few moments, a soft breeze passed over her and she closed her eyes against the cool brush of it. Her breathing began to slow and she felt significantly better. It wasn’t long before she was able to push away from the ornately-carved door and made her way to her room where Silla was waiting, some sewing filling her lap as she sat next to the fire.
I truly am a lucky girl, Evangeline thought as she looked at her old nurse. My life has been blessed, no matter the hardships which come into it. I should be more attentive to that and refrain from self-pity. She smiled as Silla looked up and saw her.
“Oh! My dear, I did not expect you back so soon.” Her voice was as warm as the fire as she started to set aside her work and get up to tend to her young charge. Evangeline was quick to stop her.
“No, no, stay where you are… I need nothing at the moment.” She smiled and went to pour a drink for the both of them. “Indeed, sitting by the fire with you is just what I was hoping for.”
“Did you not enjoy your dinner this evening?” Silla seemed quite content to do as she was bid and continue with her mending. The dress she was stitching was bundled up in her lap and draped over the arm of the chair, flowing to the floor.
“Oh, it was the same as any other night. Nothing particular of note.” Evangeline felt no need to discuss what had happened. “I believe there are more people about, and it was a bit over-warm with the hearths blazing and so many bodies. I simply desired some air and quiet, that is all.”
“I quite understand, my dear. I often have those desires myself. Otherwise I might have been settled down in the kitchens, and there would have been no fire here for you to come to.” A sly smile crinkled the corners of the woman’s face, the good-natured teasing felt like home.
“Then I consider myself wholly fortunate indeed.”
“Mais bien sûr.”
They fell silent, Silla continuing with her sewing and Evangeline staring deep into the fire, her hands wrapped closely about her cup. The distant gaze she held prompted a question from her companion.
“Have you heard from him?” Silla’s voice was soft; she still was somewhat unsure just how far she could safely take the topic of Lord Caerlon.
“Hmmm? Oh, no… not in some time.” Evangeline was pulled gently out of her thoughts, but remained staring into the flames as if seeking answers there to questions she did not know how to voice. “It does not surprise me. He is truly occupied with more important matters. There is little opportunity, I am sure, to write, and what chance he has must needs be spent sending information to the King.”
“I think you underestimate his heart.”
“Do you believe a Knight can bend to the wishes of his heart, when on campaign for his King?” The young woman sounded resolute and yet hopeful at the same time. “He made plain where his first loyalty is and must be when he left.”
“He did not treat you harshly, Evangeline.” Silla continued, knowing she had some freedom to speak her mind. “As I recall, though he had no choice but to leave, his leave-taking was quite consumed with thoughts of you.” She paused. “Or have you forgotten?”
Evangeline reached up one hand to lightly brush her lips with her fingers. She took a soft breath in before answering.
“No… I have not forgotten.”