A New Regime, Part Two.
Rising, her Grace crossed the stone floor. Her shadow crawled onto Elise’s skin. “Shall I send you to the front as well? I’m sure the men would love some female…companionship.”
Elise cradled Brenna’s head with sweaty palms, willing her mistress to come to. The vile retort Elise wanted to say lodged in her throat. “If, if it is your wish, Your Grace.”
A fire burned bright and hot in the duchess’s eyes. Elise could almost taste brimstone in the stale air. “You’ve been a thorn in my side, Elise, since before your whore mother birthed you Know this now, I will be rid of you soon enough, and you will kiss my feet if I allow you to live.”
Elise felt the shudder though Brenna's shoulders as she stirred. “Mother, please. Please, may I retire?”
A long moment passed between them. “Of course, my sweet thing. But you will need to develop a stronger stomach in the coming days. Your skin is far too thin for the royal politic.”
It felt like escaping a dungeon. Elise and Brenna tripped down the hall to the east wing, clutching each other for support. They did not risk speaking until the door to Brenna’s bedchamber was securely fastened, and even then the words were slow in coming. “It’s a bad dream,” Brenna paced, a caged animal waiting for slaughter. “I’ll wake up tomorrow and Papa will still be alive and…and…” She wiped tears away with a trembling hand. “What do we do?”
“We take a deep breath, and we think.”
“I don’t know what to do. Papa always, always knew how to handle Mother.” Her tremor worsened.
“We can’t panic,” Elise grabbed her lady’s shoulders. “We keep our heads. We figure this out.”
Brenna’s sobs subsided, but her voice still quivered. “I wish I could see Pierre one last time. To tell him, I don’t know…”
Elise felt a jolt pass through her soul. “You can.”
“What? But my mother-“
“No. Ignore her.” Elise tore open the doors on her Lady’s armoire. She pulled traveling garments from the side shelf. “We’re running, Brenna.”
“But, where would we go?”
Elise spun Brenna about to unbutton her corset-cover. “We go to Fernwood.”
“It’s too far…”
“Well I can’t stay here, Brenna. When Fa- when His Grace died, my life became forfeit. My family’s lives are in danger. Your mother could have sent her soldiers already.” Her lungs failed her and she struggled to breathe, bringing a shaky hand to her abdomen in feeble attempt to steady her nerves.
“Why is she so against you?” Brenna eased the corset cover off in delicate fashion and grabbed her simple woolen travel cote-hardie. “I’ve never understood.”
“I tell you,” Elise gripped her mistress’s shoulders, locking eyes with severity. “But you cannot breathe it to a single soul. Swear it Brenna!”
Fear tinted her features. “I’d cut my own tongue out first, I swear it on Papa’s grave.”
“I am your half-sister. I was conceived under the law of Prima Noctem. First Night rights, Bren. Have you never wondered why we look so similar?”
“No, Papa, he wouldn’t…” But understanding flamed in her eyes. She ran to her chamber pot and vomited.