“That's a more appropriate look for you.” Marcus said snidely as he looked at my dirty work clothes.
“Marcus, so help me god, if you don't stop with the attitude...” Helena started to say.
“You'll what? Smack me? Tell father on me?” Marcus said with a fake laugh. “I didn't do anything at all at the stonemason's.”
Helena's fist slammed into his cheek and Marcus spun around comically before he tumbled to the floor. “Yes, Marcus. I'll do both.” She said as he looked up at her with hatred in his eyes.
“How dare you strike me without proof!” Marcus exclaimed as he rubbed his face. There hadn't been any magic used, so whatever spell he had ready to counter Helena, it apparently didn't work on a purely physical attack. That was good to know.
“We didn't tell you we had trouble with the stone delivery, you arrogant asshole!” Helena spat at him.
Marcus' face looked surprised and then it changed to a blank face.
“I'll have father contact ALL of the other suppliers tomorrow. He's paying for it and you cost him a lot of money and a lot of reputation today.” Helena said and Marcus' face looked worried. “Oh? You didn't specifically tell the stonemason to ignore me and I quote, '...if you have a problem with how things are handled, bring your brother or your husband back and they can deal with it'.”
Marcus didn't respond and Helena huffed at him.
“If even one more thing is out of place in our lives because of your machinations, I'll have your hands removed. Both of them.” Helena said, her voice full of venom and deadly promise. “I mean it. My David has been missing the old ones he's taken from others that have stolen from him. He'll make a nice necklace out of them and wear them proudly, while you will need a maid to take care of everything for you.”
Marcus stood up and glared at her. “Father would never let...”
“I took the entire arm of the first princess without repercussions, not even from her father, King Rivers.” I said. “Do you think your father will object if I only take your hands?”
“That's right.” Helena said, her voice filled with satisfaction at the look of fear on her brother's face. “Father only cares if you're alive to carry on the family name. It shouldn't matter if you're crippled, since marriages are arranged for first born sons.”
Marcus stayed quiet and didn't say anything.
“Of course, your future wife might not be too pleased by your altered appearance.” Helena said with fake concern. “I should probably apologize to her the next time I see her.” She glared at her brother and then turned to me. “We need to clean up and get changed for supper.”
I nodded and she took my arm to let me escort her back to our rooms.
“I'm serious, Marcus. Interfere one more time and you won't be able to feed yourself for the rest of your life.” Helena said and we left his room.
When we were far enough away, Helena's eyes spouted tears.
“How can he be so stupid?” Helena asked and she wiped at her eyes. “He's been warned so many times now and he still can't get it through his head to stop.”
“I can take just the small fingers for now. He might learn the lesson you're trying to teach him.” I offered. “It worked for me.”
Helena let out a bark of laughter and kept crying. “He's not as smart as you, dearest. He'll only hate that we've maimed him and won't learn a thing.”
“You're worried that we have to actually take his hands and he'll only get worse?” I asked and she nodded. “We'll relay everything to your father. If he doesn't stop his son like he promised, then removing Marcus' hands won't mean anything anyway.”
Helena took a deep breath and nodded. “My room.” She pointed at the door that we approached. “I'm wearing a new dress and Jill wants it to be a surprise for you.”
“Jill does?” I asked and she smiled as we stopped walking.
“Yes, she's taken a liking to you for some reason.” Helena said.
I took out a piece of cloth from my pocket and I cleaned off the tear streaks on her cheeks.
“Thank you.” Helena gave me a kiss and went into her room.
I dropped my pack off in the vault room and walked down the hallway to the guest room.
“You're filthy!” Sara exclaimed when she saw me step into the room. “After all the setup work Hope and I did in the main bathroom over there, you didn't use any of it?”
“I didn't know I was supposed to.” I said, truthfully.
Sara laughed a little and shook her head as she looked at Hope. “It looks like we've got a lot of work to do.”
Hope nodded and I was quickly stripped, the dirty clothes set aside to be washed, and I was led into the bathroom and set into the waiting tub with my knife sheath tied to my wrist. I was scrubbed twice as hard as I had been previously, by both maids, and I was soon cleaned all over. When it came to the last spot, Hope politely turned away to gather the needed towels and Sara did the same rubbing and cleaning trick on my crotch.
I stood when told to and Hope dried off my upper body as Sara performed her bath ritual. It was over quickly, which made both Sara and Hope happy, then I was fully dried and led back into the bedroom to get changed. I was dressed in the fancy dinner suit and then I was released from their tender care. I had to wait in the hallway for several minutes for Helena to finish getting dressed, then the door opened.
A vision of loveliness stood there, with her hair done up in a complicated hairdo that highlighted her face and made her eyes stand out. Her cleavage was well hidden from prying eyes, unless she stood next to you and hugged your arm, then you would get a deep down view of her breasts. I knew this because she did exactly that to show off what her maid called the 'main feature' of the dress.
With the both of us wearing proper attire, we walked through the house and stopped briefly at the kitchen. After they professed that no more jokes would ever be played, they promised to send two meals to the guards at the Longshore Estate after supper was served to the Henrietta Family. I thanked them and I led Helena to the formal dining room.
Once again, we were the last to arrive, even though we had intentionally showed up early. I suspected that they knew we were going to try to be early, with the things we needed to discuss about the Longshore Estate and the interference that Marcus had caused to delay a good portion of the work. If I hadn't introduced the men to the number ten potion and taught them how to use it safely and efficiently, the work on the house would have been delayed by more than a day.
I sat Helena in her traditional spot beside her brother and went around the table to sit beside her sister, which was my spot. “Grand Mage, we have things to discuss about the Longshore Estate.”
“I've had several messages delivered today about that.” Grand Mage Henrietta said, his voice a bit lower than normal. “Is it true you scolded able-bodied workmen and sent them away from the worksite?”
“No, Grand Mage.” I said and he looked surprised, because I hadn't lied. “They had been requesting to leave since they arrived that morning and refused to do any work. When I arrived, they were verbally abusing Administrator Lannin and yelling for someone to send them away. I assumed command authority and granted their request.”
The Grand Mage gave me a pointed look. “Did you try to send an unfavorable report to the shipwright that condemned their work ethic?”
“What do you mean try? It should have been delivered with the request to send competent workers.” I said and Mona caught her breath. “We need men that want to work to get the estate done, not whiners and complainers that wouldn't move a single brick or thought that building the grand staircase in the main hall was a task that was beneath them.”
“They did not say that.” Marcus added and his father held a hand up to stop him from saying anything else.
“So, not only did you interfere with the stonemason's, you also sabotaged the work crews mother had reassigned from the shipyard?” Helena asked, her anger clear in her voice. It didn't show on her face, however. “Do you realize how much you've damaged our family's public image with your vendetta against my David?”
“Helena, that's enough.” Grand Mage Henrietta said.
“Did he tell you what I threatened him with if he was caught interfering again, father?” Helena asked. “He did, didn't he?”
“Yes.” Grand Mage Henrietta said and looked at me. “I will not allow you to harm my son.”
“I threatened him father, not David.” Helena said. “Are you going to stop me from punishing him if he interferes again?”
“What will his punishment be for smearing mother's name and undermining her authority?” Helena asked and Mona took in a sharp breath. “The shipyard is under her command and her son intentionally had the men act disrespectfully to your daughter and her fiance and delayed work on the house by half a day.”
The Grand Mage didn't respond.
“You do realize you broke your word, don't you father?” Helena asked and his eyes flashed anger. “Twice, actually. You said you would control your son and stop him from antagonizing David and you also said you would punish him for insulting the family and embarrassing us.”
I waited while Helena paused and I looked at her mother and her sister to see their unhappy faces.
“Do you know what it was like for Selena to go to the stonemason's and have the man there laugh at her, because Marcus told him that she didn't have the authority to command him without him or David there?” Helena asked, her voice deadly. “Do you know how embarrassing it was to suffer like that?”
The Grand Mage closed his eyes for a second and let out a sigh. “Helena, he's my son.”
“He's also an ignorant fool!” Helena spat and then she took a deep breath to calm down. “He's pissed me off for what he's done and he's angered Selena and the work crews at the job site for making them wait for hours for the load of stone bricks they should have had early this afternoon.”
The Grand Mage saw the protest on Marcus' face and held a hand up to stop him from speaking.
“That's right, father. He's admitted that he knew, because when David and I went to him earlier, he claimed that he didn't have anything to do with the stonemason...”
“I told you.” Marcus said with satisfaction.
“...and we hadn't told him why we were there yet.” Helena finished.
“Yes, you did.” Marcus tried to defend himself.
“I believe lies are not as powerful as the truth, right mother and father? How many lies does Marcus have to tell before you believe he's the cause of nearly all the problems this family has been having the last few years?” Helena asked. “Our name doesn't command the respect it used to, and it's all because of him.”
“That's enough.” Grand Mage Henrietta said. “Marcus is my son and the sole heir to the family name.”
Helena gave me a pleading look, which I knew was a clear bid for help, because she was losing the argument.
You have a critical choice to make. This will change how the rest of the story plays out. This will affect your relationship with the Henrietta Family to a significant degree.
A) Stay quiet. B) Support her. C) Speak out. D) Break your word. E) Take his hand. F) Choose two.
I'm not really sure why taking his hand is a choice. I thought. Maybe because Helena said her father broke his word? I read the options again. I need to smooth things out and not make things worse with her father, so taking his hand won't work. I also can't stay quiet. All right. There's only two things I need to do, so I'll choose them. B and C.
“You're wrong, Grand Mage.” I said and everyone looked to me. “You know my origins and how I came to be.”
The Grand Mage nodded and made a motion to continue.
“I didn't have a name of my own until I was older. I also didn't have a last name until I became a man and it was chosen for me.” I said, which made both Mona and Selena look sad. “Lady Henrietta said at breakfast that when I marry into the family, I'll become family, so that's what I'm going to do.”
Everyone looked a little confused at my statement, so I had to clarify it for them.
“When I marry Helena, I'll become David Henrietta and our children will be heirs to the family.”
Helena let out a little shriek of surprise and covered her mouth, Selena was left speechless and seemed to faint, her mother Mona gasped and waved a hand in front of her face, and Marcus sputtered and mumbled something that sounded like curses with a look of horror on his face.
The best reaction of all was by Grand Mage Henrietta, who look like I had shot him with a kracken tube. Pure shock was not something that anyone else had ever seen on his face. I felt quite proud, because I hadn't realized that a person's name could have that much power.