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Aria

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  1. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    Lord Langdon's expression was priceless and Sam's laughter joined his. She wished they could share more moments like this, just two friends laughing together. Playfully, she appraised him. “You have a point. You don't look anything like a woman.” No, you are definitely all man, she added silently. “I've seen woman run after their children before and they seem to manage it. Trijntje does it too, when one of the kitchen maids catches her stealing a treat.” She listened intently as he outlined his new plan. “I think that would work quite well. But how will you stop the servants from telling their master that they were questioned by a high-ranking officer in the King's Life Guard? If he finds out that you have been asking about him and he does have something to hide, he might either flee or come after you.” Sam took the dagger, her fingers accidentally brushing against his as the exchange was made. Holding it up to the light, she examined it carefully. “Maybe it's the only one of its kind? I've never seen anything like it before.”
  2. Aria

    The Haunted Trail April 6 Morning

    “I'm just teasing,” Susan laughed. “I've only been waiting about ten minutes, but that was enough to get my notes in order.” She was an early riser, though, for she never knew when the Queen would need her. Now that her mistress was nearing her confinement, there was nothing much for her unmarried ladies to do except welcome guests to the presence chamber. The needlework project she was working on with the Duchess of Somerset and Mistress Wellsley had kept her from boredom. Her research had been suspended during recess because she had gone to the country with her family. She had perused her notes a few times but had found no other clues. Charles had correctly guessed the reason she had not waited for him in the archives. She had not known if he would have knocked as she would have locked the door from the inside to keep anybody else out. There were other people in the library. Some of them might have noticed where she had gone. It had been better to await him in the library proper, where they wouldn't accidentally miss each other. She preceded him into the room and placed her notes on the table before taking a seat. After he had sat as well, she pulled the first page from the stack, glanced down at it, and then over at Charles . “I've solved part of the mystery. I know the names of both the Lion and the Swan. There was only one recipient of that kind of dagger with the initials T.H. and his was presented to him after the first forging in 1564. His name was Thomas Hilton and he was a Baron. “I then looked at the records of Queen-Elisabeth's ladies-in-waiting. Though there were several ladies listed with the initials A.E, most of them were either too old or two young to have been the Swan. There were two who were around the right age. One of them had never married so she was out. That left Alasia Emerson. She was born in 1549, which made her fifteen at the time of the first forging.” Susan leaned toward Charles, her eyes wide. “I found out something else too, something I think you will find more interesting than the names of the Lion and the Swan.”
  3. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    “Oh but I would be the man,” Sam's smile was mischievous. “You would be the woman.” Her desire for Charles to see her as a woman had momentarily eclipsed her good sense. It was unlikely that any of the men would think she was really a woman even if she wore a gown. People usually saw what they expected to see and they believed she was male. And she didn't have to fake the awkward way she walked in women's clothing. Yet what if some perceptive individual saw her in a dress and put two and two together? After all, she never undressed in front of the other soldiers, went off alone to relieve herself, and had no facial hair. If one or more of those things had been noticed, and then she wore a gown and a wig (for her hair was kept short), her secret could be blown and that would be the end of the military career she had worked so hard for. Her plan wouldn't work anyway, as Charles pointed out. If the owners of the house had something to hide, they would not let strangers snoop around. But their unwillingness to alert the authorities about robbers roaming the streets could prove that they were concealing something, though it might not be what they were hoping for. It could just be an illicit affair. At least he no longer wished to storm into the house and arrest everyone in it. His aggressive methods worked well in most situations, but in this one, it was best to be subtle. “You should be the one to question them, since you know more about this mystery than anyone else. The servants won't have any idea who you are or what you look like if you dress as a commoner and give a fake name. You will need to pick a day when you know the owner will not be there so there is no chance of you being recognized.” If he asked her to do it for him, Sam wouldn't protest. She would just need to know the entire story in order to ask the right questions. She watched with interest as Charles removed the dagger from his jacket. Did he keep it with him all the time to be sure that nobody stole it? It was beautiful and quite well-preserved. “May I hold it?” she asked. “Any collector of historical weapons would like to get his hands on it. Maybe the owner knows its value and wants to sell it. But attempting to kill you for it seems a bit extreme."
  4. Aria

    The Haunted Trail April 6 Morning

    It would take a bit of searching to find her, but Susan was there, sitting close to the door of the archives. A large stack of papers lay on the table in front of her and she was studying one of them, her golden brows furrowed. As Charles approached, she looked up and an engaging smile wiped the serious expression from her pretty features. “I've been wondering when you'd show up,” she said in a teasing tone of voice. Standing up, she placed the page she had been perusing on top of the others. “I've been waiting for hours.” Actually, she had entered the library merely ten minutes ago, but she liked to jest with him. Reaching into one of her petticoat pockets, she pulled out a key and handed it to him before gathering the papers in her arms. “Mr. Potts gave me the key to the archives again. We'll have more privacy there. You'll have to open the door since my hands are full.”
  5. ~arrives 7th April Working on her part of the tapestry had kept Lucy busy during recess and had kept her mind off of worrying about the baby growing inside her. She remembered what Lisa had gone through … twice … and that only one of her four babies had survived. The young Duchess fervently hoped that she was not carrying twins, even though a part of her wished for just that. Wouldn't it be wonderful to give birth to two healthy children? Her husband would be so proud and all the ladies of court would be jealous. She had planned on speaking to Davina and Susan about finishing their needlework before now, but she had been preoccupied with having a new wardrobe made that would fit her soon-to-be swelling belly. They did need to complete the tapestry soon before the Queen went into confinement. The garden scene was meant to hang on the wall to remind her of happy things while she awaited the arrival of her child. Since they would have to embroider the three pieces together into a whole, they needed to start soon. Lucy had too much to do to reply right away, but on the morning of the seventh, she sat down at her desk and dipped her quill into the inkwell.
  6. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    She listened as Charles proposed a few methods of surprising the owner of the house, shaking her head when he suggested getting a lady to assist them. “If there's danger, we shouldn't involve civilians. We know how to defend ourselves, but they would be vulnerable and we would have to divide our time protecting them and interrogating the residents.” Sam took another sip of wine. “Perhaps we can pose as a couple who has been set upon by thieves and needs a place to hide until they're gone. See how they react, if they want to alert the authorities for us or try to talk us out of it. We can conceal our pistols beneath cloaks in case we need them. Maybe we can say we'd like to freshen up and snoop around his house for anything suspicious.” She was just throwing out ideas. Ultimately, the decision would be up to him. Her eyes widened at Charles' revelation. “One hundred years? Whoever killed your skeleton is long dead by now. Since he got away with it, why was the incident not forgotten? All I can think of is that the murderer confessed to somebody, perhaps a brother or a son, and the story continued to be passed on. Whoever holds the secret now might want the murder weapon back so that the truth will never be discovered. But I have no idea why it should matter after all this time.”
  7. Aria

    Away & Here Notices

    Thanks! I'm finally feeling a bit better. Some of my friends have been sick or are sick now, so I think something is going around, maybe because it's rapidly getting colder here. I'm going to try to resume posting in the next couple of days, hopefully today.
  8. Aria

    Away & Here Notices

    Still sick a week later. Hopefully, I will feel better soon because this really sucks.
  9. Aria

    Away & Here Notices

    I came down with a cold or something. It's getting worse rather than better. I will resume posting as soon as I'm feeling better. It could be a week from now, or it could be either sooner or later.
  10. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    A pleasant sensation permeated through Sam's mind and body when he said he trusted her completely. It wasn't all that she wanted from him, but it was a start. She felt privileged that Charles chose to share his story with her … however improbable it sounded. Whether or not there was any truth to it, he believed it, and there was no reason to doubt that there had been an attack on an innocent woman and thugs roaming the passageways trying to kill him. Somebody had murdered the skeleton in the secret room and if Charles had the dagger that had done the deed, then the murderer would want it back. The only part of his tale that she didn't believe was that he had communicated with a ghost. Surely he was protecting whomever had given him the information. “One day that propensity is going to get you in trouble,” she jested back. Sam knew he only arrested those whom he had good reason to suspect. But in this situation, with his life in danger, he might become reckless. She did agree that if somebody other than the soldiers knew about the passageways, they could use them to harm the King and Queen. The Queen was particularly vulnerable now that she was pregnant. His Majesty's enemies would do whatever they could to make certain he never had an heir. “If we're walking into a trap, then he will be expecting us if we just barge in. We're quite conspicuous in our uniforms and there are other houses in the neighborhood. As soon as we enter the area, it won't take long for the word to spread, particularly if there are children around. We need to be stealthy in order to incriminate him.” An idea occurred to her. “How long ago the man in the secret room was killed? Maybe you can find out his identity by checking if anyone has gone missing lately.” Sitting across from him, she couldn't see the letters in the chest and didn't know how old they looked.
  11. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    Sam was surprised that Lord Langdon agreed to show her the skeleton in the hidden room. So that part, at least, must be true. “Of course I'll keep your secret,” she said. “You know you can trust me.” Just as she could always trust him. At any moment, she knew that he could tell his superiors that she was a woman and she would be dismissed. But he wouldn't. She was one of his best soldiers and he respected her. As for her feelings for him ... those were best ignored. His tale became even more bizarre but did explain why he had been so adamant about finding that house. He had a dagger that had been responsible for death of the man whose bones he had found and someone was trying to kill him for it. How had all this happened without her notice? Still, he couldn't be making it all up. Lord Langdon believed that the person who lived in that house wanted the dagger. Maybe he or she had been the one who had tried to kill him? “Isn't that a bit rash?' Sam asked. “Perhaps you should question them first. What if they have important connections? Arresting them could land you in deep trouble.” A short pause and then she added: “Do you keep the dagger here? I would very much like to see it too.”
  12. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    Sam had been down in those tunnels herself but had not gone very far. It was too easy to become lost. All of the walls had looked the same to her. Though it was difficult to believe Lord Langdon's story, she supposed there could be a room hidden somewhere in the labyrinthine corridors. But what had provoked him to explore them in the first place? It didn't seem like he kind of thing he would do for fun and she doubted he was pursuing anybody. To her knowledge, those passageways were a well-kept secret known only those whose were tasked with protecting the King. And there had been a skeleton in the secret room? Was it still there? As for the New Year's Eve incident, Charles was probably as drunk as everyone else and he might have imagined that the flicker of a lantern was the ghost communicating with him. If he had imagined it, then how had it told him that there was a chest hidden in the walls of a certain house? Sam knew how he liked to tease ladies and she didn't think that he had told anyone else about the ghost. Maybe he was jesting and somebody who actually drew breath had given him the location of the chest. “Is the skeleton still there?” she asked. “I would like to see it.” Most likely, she thought, he will tell me that he no longer remembers the location of the secret room. The next letter was rolled up and tied with a faded golden ribbon. It was a love letter from the Lion to the Swan going into explicit detail about how they would celebrate after they ran away together. It looked a bit older than the rest of the letters and as if it had been read quite often.
  13. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    Sam pulled the papers back toward her and stacked them neatly on a corner of the desk, too intrigued by what he was telling her to just walk away. Any moment of time he was willing to spend with her was precious, even if his story seemed a bit preposterous. “It never crossed my mind,” she said when he asked if she thought he was crazy. Actually it had, and still was, though she would never admit it. He was taking this ghost business very seriously. “Where did you meet the ghost?” she asked. “And how did it tell you where the chest was?” The second letter Charles pulled out was also written in the Swan's hand and she was once again addressing the Lion. She wrote about the growth of their son Seth, who was three years old and she seemed dismayed that he called her 'Auntie.' The missive ended with: “If you were here, we could raise him together and there would be no need for all this pretense. Where are you, my love? Why don't you come back to me?” There was no drawing on the back of the piece of yellowed paper.
  14. Francis and Susan parting “Yes, you do. But I like your voice, you know. I always have. And you sing so well.” Her cousin seemed to think well of Lord Langdon. “He has too many admirers already. And if I did want to get his attention, the best way is to not become one of them. Every gentleman wants the lady who doesn't fall over him.” Susan's voice lowered. “And you know why I can't show interest in any particular man.” Her brother's temper and unpredictability was well-known. She grinned. “However, if he wishes to court me, I will certainly not complain.” She did like Charles, but these days, her thoughts often strayed to Lord Chichester. He had made quite an impression on her at the bachelor auction and she looked forward to seeing him again. The doors to the chamber and the gallery opened and Susan knew that they must part. “Then I will probably see you quite often, since I spend a lot of my time there as well.” Impulsively, she reached for his hand and squeezed it. “Good luck, Cousin.” Not wanting to delay him, she didn't offer him her hand, She watched him enter the chamber and then joined the crowd heading toward the gallery. When she arrived, she saw Henriette waving at her. Her sister-in-law had managed to secure two excellent seats and she gladly joined her.
  15. Aria

    Ghostling Goading

    Sam was surprised that Lord Langdon invited her to join him for a glass of wine. Was this the overture she had been waiting for, or did he only think of her as a friend? Her feelings for him were so complicated. Sometimes she was happy with the way things were between them and at others, she wanted more. She had chosen to live as a man when she joined the military, but inside she was a woman with needs and desires that she had tried to deny. Maybe she was mistaking admiration for affection, or perhaps she really did have romantic feelings for him. He often haunted her dreams, but could that be because he was the only man she had allowed close to her? She couldn't become too friendly with the other soldiers or they might discover her secret. Sam endured their goodnatured teasing about how she never discussed her conquests with them or made any comments about pretty women. She also went off alone to relieve herself so that they wouldn't notice that she didn't pee standing up, and never undressed in their presence. She had to remain detached so they just thought she was a bit shy. Deep down inside, Sam knew that she didn't have a chance with Lord Langdon. He was an Earl and her only status came from her promotions. She knew how popular he was with pretty young noblewomen. Why would he be remotely interested in a woman who could so easily pass as a man? Yet a girl could always hope. Shaking those thoughts from her mind, she sat down and lay some papers before him. “This needs your attention,” she said formally. Sam took the glass of wine he poured for her and glanced at the chest. “So there really was a chest of letters in the house and you didn't have knock down any walls to get to it. So you now really think that you saw a ghost? And what kind of puzzle are you trying to solve?”
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