The carriage swung under a grand entry where servants stood waiting beneath gas lamps. We were greeted—or rather Jett and Skrlock were—by a head butler. I felt out of place here, no better than the mud upon their shoes. I was wondering if I shouldn't wait in the carriage. Maybe I should be looking for my way home. I listened for the baying of wolves—a sure sign to cut and run in most creepy old movies and books. My eyes went automatically to the full moon. It hung in a black void over the palace. Wolfsbane indeed.
I heard no howling in the surrounding hills. It was quiet, in fact. Almost too silent. No bat wings beating the air. Where were all my omens?
I followed the men inside. The interior was no less lavish than I would expect for a palace. Rich tapestries hung on stone walls, some with golden dragons worked on purple cloth. The rugs on the floors were thick, colorful and lavish. A huge main entry hall boasted double doors along this passage. The spiraling stairway to one side would have tempted Scarlet O'hara to descend. A large stone fireplace burned merrily at the foot of it.
“You're just in time for the evening meal, if you wish to join them now, Master Jett,” the majordomo said.
“I would not dream of keeping them waiting.” He glanced my way. “There'll be food,” he said, doing his best to put me at ease. I was actually hungry. Especially after what I'd gone through.
“His highness is in his withdrawing room, Master Skrlock, if you would follow me, please?” the butler said with a slight bow and directive hand toward a closed double-doorway beneath the grand staircase.
“Thank you Rumbel, I must see if Vlad is up to a game of chess tonight.” Skrlock strode away from us.
I stood wavering with indecision. There were many people in the dining hall. They all seemed human enough. I would have to block them the best I could, or risk replacing my glove on my right hand, covering up the mystic ring.
Jett paused in the hallway, then turned to gaze at me. “Are you coming?” He gestured toward the door, where the butler held it open for us.
“I can't turn down food.” I moved forward, and caught up with him. I was so out of my comfort zone it was ridiculous. Among royalty. To them I was—to be bitterly honest—a peasant. A country bumpkin. I had no refined manners to speak of, and it truly worried me. I mean what is with the dozen forks, knives, and spoons for the table settings? Couldn't I just use the same spoon or fork over? I'd have to mimic the others in order to get by.
We entered a large room where a long table with a white linen cloth, set in cut crystal and bone white china, and gold cutlery took up most of the space. An elaborate centerpiece with lovely pink and white flowers cascading over their bowls brought color and a mild bouquet to the room. Several people seated turned expectantly toward us. ©2012 Lorelei Bell