‘Pardon me,’ a voice from behind them says. This startles them, the second time in less than half an hour, feeling somewhat defenseless. They turn around to see an older woman, probably in her 50s, also tall and lean, wearing a simple plain collared black dress. ‘Apologies for the interruption but I can tell you who is in the painting. That’s Mistress Georgina. She was quite the wild child of her day but she is quite responsible when it comes to her duties. Visitors often comment on this painting. It’s like she smiles differently every time you look at her.’
‘I remember you…I think.’ Alex say, trying to put a name on the lady, somehow not really paying attention to the history of the painting.
‘Yes, Miss Alex. It’s me, Martha. The one who was quite chubby and gave you sweets when you cried? My word, how you’ve grown into a beautiful young woman! Mistress Hera would have been so happy to see you.’
‘My goodness, Martha! You still remember me!’ Alex gasps. ‘Oh pardon me; these are my friends Boon and Teg. Guys, this is Martha.’
‘I’m glad to finally meet the fairy warrior, Teg and Boon, the Libra,’ she bows to them. ‘I didn’t think I would see them in my lifetime. I am indeed lucky,’ she smiles. ‘Please, this way to the dining hall. Perhaps we can make something hot to make you comfortable.’
‘Fairy warrior?’ Alex whispers to Teg as they follow Martha.
‘It’s a long story, Domina. Warden, remember? Perhaps I will tell you after this little adventure of ours,’ he winks at her.
‘Martha, how many of you are in this house?’ Alex asks.
‘There are plenty of us, Miss Alex. Fortesque and I are basically running the house together but we have other servants to tend to other needs.’
‘Do they know anything about…our history?’ Alex wonders.
Martha smiles at this question. ‘We all served Domina Stēlla’s family from generation to generation. We are told to expect different things if you know what I mean. We have been exposed to creatures and beings of the magical sort. Alas, none of us are any magical, except organizing and cleaning things spotless!’ she muses. ‘We have kept everything in order as instructed by Mistress Hera. Fortesque is Mistress Hera’s most trusted ally and he works along with us, by choice.’
‘I must thank you for taking care and putting up with my family, especially Aunt Hera.’
‘It is our honour and duty, Miss Alex,’ Martha assures her. ‘Now come. Fortesque might be cross with me if I don’t serve you well,’ she teases. She leads them towards large double doors to their left. She pulls the doors open to reveal a large wooden table lit by numerous candles. Alex couldn’t stop admiring everything that she sees in the manor. It was like a castle that she used to read about in fairytales.
A few of the servants were waiting for them and stood at the corner of the large room.
‘Please,’ she says as she gestures to the nearest chairs. Two young men helps Alex & Boon move her chair closer to the table.
Soon after, the maids were carrying trays of hot drinks.
Alex eyes the drink and look at Boon.
‘Oh my god, I hope this doesn’t turn out like Tylwyth Teg,’ giving Boon a sarcastic look.
Boon replies by chuckling quietly.
Alex goes wide-eyed, staring at Boon. ‘Are we really speaking? Hey! I can talk to you like this!’ her facial expression change to excitement.
‘Yes, Domina. Sometimes, it’s useful to talk like this,’ Boon tells her, nodding his head, smiling.
Teg looks at both of them suspiciously, and then proceeds to give them weird facial expressions. Both Alex and Boon are wondering if he’s having some sort of seizure. Teg stops making faces and shakes his head. They didn’t notice Fortesque is standing in front of them.
‘Miss Alexandria, Sir Boon and Sir Teg, your rooms are ready. I hope you enjoy your hot drinks. It gets quite cold in these parts but the manor stays warm. Please get some rest and we’ll continue on in the morning. You will need all your strength.’
‘I won’t argue with that,’ Alex agrees. ‘I was falling asleep earlier while waiting for my parents to fall asleep!’
Fortesque excuses himself. He and Martha went out of the rooms, probably speaking about some other arrangements, Alex thought. As soon as she and Teg finish their drinks, Fortesque returns to the dining hall and waits for them.
‘Please lead the way, Fortesque.’ Alex thanks everyone in the dining hall for the hot drinks and gives a nod to Martha who smiles at her. They exit the dining room and proceed towards the grand staircase. Fortesque leads them to the first floor and opens the door of the first room. ‘I hope the room is to your liking, Miss Alexandria. Sir Boon, I know you cannot go too far from the Miss so you will have to share the room. Sir Teg, I have a room ready for you but will you be more comfortable being in the same room as the Miss?
‘I’d like to stay with my friends,’ Teg tells him honestly.
‘Very well sir, the room is large enough to accommodate at least five people and it’s very comfortable. There’s an adjacent bathroom.’ Fortesque enters the room with Alex, Boon and Teg. Alex could not believe her eyes and she feels like she’s been transported back in time. The bed is a king size four poster bed, complete with a seating area and a fireplace. There’s a day bed by the large windows to the right. ‘I shall leave you for tonight. Please ring me when you are ready.’ Fortesque tells them. He bids them a good night and he closes the door behind him.
‘I still don’t know why they need that many rooms.’ Alex says as she runs towards the bed like a child.
‘I guess we’ll find out later.’ Teg says as he flies towards the sun bed.
‘I shall stay here,’ Boon says, sitting down at one of the armchairs.
‘Don’t you sleep, Boon?’ Alex asks, curious. She gets off the bed and starts fishing into her bag.
‘No, my kind doesn’t really need sleep, Domina. Please do get some rest. We have a long day ahead of us.’
Alex pulls out the cabinet box and places it in front of her. ‘SCRINIUM!’* she whispers. The cabinet box is back to its original shape. She opens it and starts searching for clothes. ‘I am SO happy that I can change to sleeping clothes. And you! I’m going to the bathroom, okay! Don’t get too near!’ pointing at a terrified and embarrassed Boon. Alex walks into the bathroom and closes the door. Boon automatically moves in front of the door, pressed onto the door.
‘Dommmiinnnaaa, not too far…please.’ Boon begs Alex. Alex opens the door with a confused look on her face.
‘How the heck did you get in the bathroom the last time then?’
‘I just…how to do say the word… ported in, Domina. I don’t really know what I can do or can’t do yet. I am remembering many things though.’
Alex gave scowls at him and closes the door again. ‘Well, just wait there, I’ll be quick.’
*scrinium – cabinet