They knew. They’d been told during their first magic lesson. Amy remembered their tutor’s scowl as he caught her looking away toward the stables. “Now Amelia, you may not think this applies to you, but it applies to even the most modest practitioner, and not just to the Bloodmaiden. When we work with blood, we work with a being’s essence. The challenge is to separate out that portion of the essence we need. The last Bloodmaiden of the original lineage failed to do so, forever mingling her essence with that of her subject’s–thus your line’s ascension to power.”
Amy banished the memory. Their father looked from one to the other of them before meeting Amy’s eyes. “Amy, understand that we will bring you back as soon as it’s politically possible. That may be years. Some of the lords remember the Bloodmaiden Hildagar all too well, and especially how she hunted down the royal family.”
“Years…” Amy could feel the scowl on her face.
“Father,” Amanda began.
He shook his head. “There’s nothing that can be done about it. Your mother, the Empress, is even now calming down certain members of the Council. A few of them were advocating that Amy would be executed immediately.”
“No!” Amanda balled up her fists and drew herself to her full height. With Amy’s newly increased sensitivity to magic, she could feel Amanda drawing it in to her. In the next moment, Amy realized that it wasn’t her senstivity as much as the amount of magic Amanda was drawing in. Everyone with the slightest sensitivity in the house must be feeling it, and sensitive people hundreds of miles away would recognize who it must be.
Amy started as she realized that every member of the Northlands Council would already know. Certainly the previous Bloodmaidens did. Some were shouting that she should change. Others that she should be ready to change, that even in her family’s house she should be ready for assassination.
Ignoring them, she said, “Amanda,” at almost the same time as her father, but her father continued talking.
He put his hand on Amanda’s shoulder, “They won’t kill her. We’ve calmed them down at least that much. She’s going to be sent out of their reach. First she’ll go to the Summerlands, and then to someplace well hidden.”
Even as he said it, guards in red coats and black pants came through the door, some with their hands on the pommel of their swords, others ready to draw their pistols.
“It’s nothing,” her father said. “Go back to your station.”
All the guards did so, but one. He gave a short bow, and said, “Sir, the dirigible will be fully loaded shortly, and can depart as soon as you give the word.”
Her father nodded, “Excellent. We’ll be there shortly. Please let them know.”
The guard bowed and hurried off. Amy’s father said, “Well, it appears that our time is growing short. If there’s anything of yours that you planned to carry, please take it and we’ll walk out toward the airship.”
Amy nodded and walked back to the window, picking up a brown, leather bag. Then she walked toward the door. Following her father and sister out, she took one last look at the room. She hadn’t stayed in this palace as much as the palace in the city, but this had been her room. Now it still held her furniture, but none of her things. Her old dolls, books, clothes and other possessions had been put into storage or packed up.
As of now, the room was empty of anything that made it hers.
She gave it one last look before shutting the door, closed it, and followed her family toward the dirigible.
Moments later she was walking across the grass, and walking up a stairway to stand on a metal platform next to the airship’s gondola. They weren’t alone. Along with the guards, a couple stood talking with her father. Amy recognized them. Both were on the far side of middle age. The man had thin, blond hair and a matching moustache. His brown suit covered a powerful physique as well as the beginnings of a potbelly. The woman’s black hair was streaked with gray, and she smiled at Amy as she caught her looking.
Amy recognized them. They were William and Agnus Harcourt. She’d heard Mr. Harcourt jokingly referred to as the “court assassin.”
Her stomach sank, and for an awful moment she wondered if that was why they’d come. She stepped forward anyway, the platform ringing with each step.
Her father smiled at her and said, “You’ve met the Harcourts before. They’ll be accompanying you on your journey.”
Amanda’s jaw dropped and she caught Amy’s eye. She’d obviously heard rumors about Mr. Harcourt’s profession as well.
Amy stuffed down her anxiety and said as calmly as she could, “Accompanying me?”
He nodded. “The Harcourts served the Crown for several centuries, gathering information and solving problems. They’re retiring.”
Mr. Harcourt inclined his head toward her. “A number of people are surprisingly ungrateful about all the problems we solved, so we’re hoping to retire someplace hard to find.”