The Year that Followed
The discovered traces of the failed magician’s death were…apparently in the vein of ‘it could possibly be.’
There were clothes that were full of sand. Nearby by someone had found a burnt corpse that’s shape was barely human.
However, as it had been left there for days before being found, the sand which may have been the failed magician’s body, had poured out and mixed with the surrounding dirt after it had rained. They couldn’t even tell if the clothes had actually been worn when he changed.
And so I was ordered to stay in the castle for an additional month.
Margrave Vain had increased his security within the castle for the last three months, and within the extended period, there had been no sightings of any suspicious persons.
Due to this, most had concluded that the discovered corpse was indeed the failed magician.
After that, it was announced that I could finally come out of hiding.
Even so, my job was to be Madame Beatrice’s handmaid. I could not use a sword, nor could I ride a horse. So I would not even be able to follow Madame Beatrice as she went out to inspect the lands or the borders. On top of this, it was also the middle of winter, and so I had just assumed that my life would continue to be the same…
“Now, Kiara. Let us go outside!”
As soon as the snow melted, Madame Beatrice attempted to take me on patrol outside of the castle.
“But, Madame. What if I am with you and something were to happen…”
If luck was against us and we were attacked again, I would surely be forced to leave Margrave Everal’s lands, all the while shouting for forgiveness.
I knew for a fact that I did have the right qualities to become a magician, and this made me worried that I would be targeted again by Count Patorishiel.
But Madame Beatrice gave me an open-hearted look and said:
“Don’t worry. If anything, being with a former queen will make it harder for any to touch you. And besides, you are my handmaiden. I may have to send you on errands one day. It would be good for you to get to know the servants, guards, and others that work here.”
And so it was decided that I would accompany Madame Beatrice, her handmaids Maia and Clara, and also two attending knights.
Maia allowed me to sit with her on her horse.
She had been with Madame Beatrice since before her marriage. And in spite of being the daughter of a merchant, she was tall and had tremendous strength. Apparently, she had caught Madame Beatrice’s eye as she was helping her father unload goods in the castle.
…That was Madame Beatrice. Even back then, she chose her handmaids based on whether they looked like they could swing a sword.
Maia seemed like a dignified and exemplary older sister but was, in fact, a very gentle person. She would always answer my questions in a calm voice.
It soon became a daily routine for us to make round trips like this, from the castle to the border walls.
And after a month had passed I was made to take riding lessons. A further three months later, I was given a horse of my own and could now accompany Madame Beatrice.
…Mmmm, I had to train quite a lot to get there. I would say that there was not a day that my legs, back, and muscles did not cry out in pain.
But as I made myself more visible in this way, the people of the castle started to get used to seeing me. Madame would even hunt vermin while on patrol, and we would often receive gifts of gratitude from the nearby residents. In such times, it was much easier to talk to me, as I was small and not carrying a sword.
“Young lady not holding a sword, please give this offering to Madame. We are indebted to her for taking care of the rats last time.”
Grandmothers or children who had been sent by their parents would come to me with bundles of fruits.
At first, the knights who accompanied us had looked on with a little trepidation, but things seem to be fine now.
Such patrols began to become rarer as the winter approached.
The Margrave’s lands were located in a region with more than moderate snowfall, and so it was unlikely that Ruain’s troops would move. And now Madame Beatrice’s patrols were only done once every two days if the weather was good.
Even as the peaceful days continued, I had not once forgotten about magic.
I needed a trump card. And yet I could not peruse the library books alone, and I was forced to wait and watch.
As I waited, the Margrave couple and Alan left for the royal palace.
It was to attend the new year’s celebration.
Alan must have been very excited to meet Reggie, for there was apparent happiness written all over his face that he could not hide.
As I was left here, I spent my time occasionally talking with older servant women about what happened in and out of the castle or talking with the cook’s apprentice, Harris, who would always ask me if I ‘had enough to eat?” after I had eaten.
When Alan finally returned, he delivered to me a letter that Reggie had entrusted to him.
In the letter, Reggie explained that as he tried to research magic, but then the palace magician had vanished without warning. And so he had used a servant to get in contact with the Thorn Princess.
“Oh…no. He went that far!”
I said in shock as I read the letter. I wondered who he had used to do this. But Reggie had heard that the Thorn Princess preferred boys that were under twelve years old, and so he had used a child from a village near the forest to get in contact with her.
…He lured her. The Thorn Princess.
The call of ‘My Princess of Thorns’ by a fragile boy must have drawn out the willing Princess with ease.
Through this, Reggie had asked:
‘How to become a magician. Do magicians also turn into sand when they die. Could you make a magician through a drink such as the ones that Count Patorishiel has used.’
The Thorn Princess’ answer was this: ‘Why do you think I gave you the stone? Tell that to Kiara. Also, do not use any other stone but that one.’
I’m sorry. I do not understand at all.
Even Reggie seemed to lack confidence as he wrote: ‘Do you understand?’
In any case, I supposed that it meant that as long as I kept the stone that the Thorn Princess had given me close by, everything else would somehow work out. It did not seem likely that the princess would lie after being blessed with the opportunity to see a young boy.
After all, the Thorn Princess had made a gift of expensive herbs to him, which had shocked Reggie’s knight as he saw the boy happily come out of the forest carrying them. So she must had been very pleased.
And it seemed that it was unlikely that we would gain any more information about magic.
The Thorn Princess said that I just needed to hold onto this stone. And so it must mean that it will somehow become useful in a time of need. Perhaps when the time came, when there was an actual need for a magician.
After that, Reggie came to stay at Margrave Everal’s castle for one week during the spring. And he too, had landed on the same conclusion as me.