“I’m so sorry I’ve been away,” Amaleia sobbed into the creatures neck. “Everything just gets so different when you grow up.”
The horse snorted in comfort and began to lead her away from the pool. She followed with her hand on his back walking silently through the caves. The lantern she brought cast a warm light on the walls and made the shadows sway as it dangled by her side.
At first she merely enjoyed the presence of her friend as they walked in silence. But soon she found that they were in an unfamiliar part of the cave. Amaleia had thought that they had explored every nook and cranny of the expansive tunnels together. She slowed with caution, but the red horse continued its steadfast pace. Was he leading her somewhere? With a brief jog Amaleia rejoined her friends side.
Moments later they yellow lamplight shone on the flat wall of a dead end. But there was something different here. It was not a wall of rock, but a perfectly smooth bare wall of plaster. She stepped forward and brought her lamp closer. More than a wall, it was a wall with a door. There was a little brass handle on her right, and a peep hole at just about eye level.
Unable to resist Amaleia peered through the hole. Instantly she jumped back, there were people on the other side of that door! Overcoming her initial surprise she looked again and found that she could not only see them, but hear them as well.
Why there was Uncle Talbot! Her care taker and adoptive father, was hunched over a table shuffling and signing papers. Oh wait, that was the library, HER library in her own home! How could there be a secret passage in her own home that she had never known about? All the childhood fantasies of adventure and intrigue rushed over her and she forgot for one moment that she was a duchess betrothed to be wed on that very day.
“It’s all in order you see,” Uncle Talbot was saying, “just a few more signatures and the estate will be yours. Well, after the wedding of course.”
“Of course,” replied a familiar voice from out of sight. Amaleia’s heart leapt, could it be!
“I’m sure you will find the property to be quite amenable, as you can see we’ve maintained the mansion in her fathers absence. Even made a few improvements, if I do say..”
“Thank you, Mr. Talbot, but we won’t be staying here,” her jaw dropped.
“I beg your pardon?” Uncle Talbot seemed as surprised as she did.
“The estate has already been sold, it was never a part of the plan.”
“No offense, Mr. Talbot, but I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’m sure you will understand.”
Before she knew what was happening Amaleia’s hand had pushed the door handle and she stood wild-eyed in the library.
Uncle Talbot’s monocle dropped from his face, across from him stood a tall man, with dark hair, strong features and piercing blue eyes. Amaleia flushed briefly at the sight of him before being distracted by what appeared to be a guard standing by his side. The blue garbed guard was armed with a large rifle and wore a mask that covered his face. His finger moved toward the trigger.
But nothing could dissuade her fury.
“Sell the property! How dare you! Who do you think you are!”