An Introduction to the Cage

The chamber is styish; tastefully appointed.

Tall windows stream summer sunlight to the pretty couches lounging in peaceful arrangement throughout the carpeted confines of the room, and a frail figure rests in one of them, a few short paces from the cold dark hearth.

“None of it?” A pock-faced maid stands beside a sturdier body out of earshot, staring forward with a look of disgust.

Her companion shrugs a set of armored shoulders. “May jes’ as well be none. Those two nibbles she swallowed back ain’t gon’ be worth a whole lot of nothing.”

They both scowl: hers a scornfully irritable face, his a gentle brow-deepened frown.

The girl clops forth with crossly narrowed eyes, shaking a finger while approaching the fireplace.

“Tsk! Tsk at you for not eating,” she openly chides, stopping short of that destination to pick up with calloused hands a meal-tray laid out on one of the end tables. It’s brought over and shoved in front of the seated woman.

“Look. Look at it! Barely touched.”

A vacant-eyed blink glances up, then back to the hearth stones.

“Mindy, Mindy,” mutters from the door, where the guardsman stands, shaking his head.

“Ain’t you ever heard that honey catches more flies than vinegar ever did?” He rubs his stubbly jawline, squinting at the pair.

Mindy hasn’t, apparently. She sidesteps, dropping the tray back down and snatching at its bowl and spoon. Back in front of the invalid again, she snaps fingers in a bid for attention.

“Baroness. Arely!”

Arely shuts her gaze to pass a half-closed hand up over the wasted lines of a pale brow, then turns to award her antagonist a tenuous glance.

“Eat.” The bowl is dropped onto blanket-warmed knees, a commanding finger pointed at its grainy porridge.

“Ugh,” the maid complains, dashing a sour-faced complaint over one shoulder.

“I -hate- Baroness duty. Me and Wilhelmina drew straws this week, but I swear she cheats. Three in a row? Fishy, I say. I’ll -insist- tomorrow that we go back to turns.”

She looks down, but doesn’t seem particularly bothered by that fact that her charge is tacitly ignoring orders and drifting focus to the window instead.

Prattling on to the doorman, hands are snugged into a firm hold at either side of shapely hips, and Mindy’s nasal voice turns gleeful. “I saw her yesterday with Lyle, you know; necking in the pantry. Now isn’t -that- juicy! Nice to see he’s over Hetty though, poor -dear- little thing. Lord rest her soul.”

A harsh jab of eyes strikes the baroness while an extended pause is taken for breath.

“…She doesn’t EVEN know.”

A twitch of lips.

“What a -priceless- ass.”

“Mindy.” The guard stiffens a disapproving glare.

Mindy takes the bowl, picks up the tray, and heads for the exit. “SHE should have burnt to death, Leon,” hisses a loud whisper as she waits for the man to fit a key into the heavy lock.

“You know it– I know it– the whole Arien PALACE knows it.” The maid dabs at her eyes while the door is pulled ajar, a hysterical tear coloring her parting speech.

“Poor, -poor- Hetty. …And poor, poor Count Casterlay!”

After the wake of silence following that impassioned cry and the hot steps subsequently fading in the outer corridor, a dim voice murmurs up from the couch; quiet, delicate, and exceedingly genteel.

“Desmond. Desmond, dear. Will you warm the tea?”

Leon stares.

“M’lady,” eventually sighs, and heavy steps plod forth to oblige the request.

Snippets From the Life and Times of a Mad Baroness

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