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   Chapter 17 Everything is topsy-turvy

The Curse of Kalaan By Linda Saint Jalmes Characters: 21866

Updated: 2018-05-18 10:23

"I know it's wrong, " Amélie said to Isabelle, Catherine and Virginie, as they were walking along the low stone walls at the edge of the park, "But I could almost thank the heavens that Her Grace is feeling so off-color, for it gives us a little freedom."

"But it is not in the least wrong, Auntie, " replied Catherine, who was a few paces ahead of the group, kicking stones as she walked along. "No one forced her to stuff her face with all that crab meat and mayonnaise! She didn't leave any for the rest of us. That woman is a walking stomach!"

"Kal… Catherine!" Amélie acted scandalized, again almost forgetting herself when calling her son. "She has horrible pains in her abdomen and the doctor said she was also suffering from gout! It's not polite to make fun of her that way."

"'Tis you who began, Auntie, " Catherine slyly said, speaking over her shoulder. She glanced at Amélie, and then looked further behind, at Isabelle who was lagging behind with Virginie in her magnificent blue dress.

It was a glorious day for an end of January. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to be spring. It was this beautiful weather which incited the ladies to go out in the afternoon for a walk around the island and get a breath of fresh air.

But it wasn't only the clement weather that motivated their little outing. It was also because they could no longer stand the Duchess Delatour's screams of agony. The ancient aristocrat took to her bed shortly after the dinner and ever since, her screams traveled through the walls, echoing from room to room and floor to floor.

At first Amélie was distraught by the patient's condition, but the village doctor assured her it was all just an act.

"I wanted to give her some relief from the pain, " he said stiffly, "but Her Grace did not wish to be treated by me. She asked for Monsieur Borgas!"

"But he's at sea since this morning, with her grandson. They've gone fishing for the day!" Amélie exclaimed, raising her voice to cover yet another scream.

"In that case, we will have to await their return to see the end of the horrible shrieking. I did succeed in giving her a sedative. It was colorless and tasteless, so I dissolved it in water. But I could do nothing more, short of, knocking her senseless. I wish you strength Madame, " he added before leaving as quickly as he could.

"Did he really suggest knocking her senseless?" Isabelle asked before breaking into laughter.

"Yes! Those were his exact words!"

"Would you like me to take care of that for you, Auntie?" Catherine offered. Her eyes sparkling with humor turned back to Virginie who seemed miles away, lost in her thoughts.

However, when Isabelle suddenly started shouting and waving her arm in another direction, the young woman was shaken from her reverie.

"Yoo-hoo! Monsieur Salaamm!"

"Isabelle!"Amélie tried to hush her daughter. "That is not acceptable behavior for a young lady! Please, show some dignity!"

In response, Isabelle simply pinched her lips and shrugged her shoulders, without turning away from the Tuareg and Jaouen who were some distance away, in the broken circle. Salam must have heard her shout. Who on the isle was deaf enough not to have heard her calling Salam? And yet, he did not show any reaction.

"But..." Isabelle grumbled, perplexed. "Why is he snubbing me?"

"Because he's a gentleman and he has proper manners." Catherine replied.

"Hmph…" Isabelle sounded irritated. "Did he have proper manners when he left the breakfast table before we'd finished eating, without even excusing himself to ma… I mean to my mother?"

"Perhaps he was ill as well?" Virginie's soft voice joined in the conversation for the first time since they'd left the castle. She was petting the husky who'd come over to greet her before running up to Catherine.

"He seems to be well enough right now!" Isabelle riposted indignantly before turning back to her walk next to Virginie. Amélie and Catherine were several feet ahead, speaking in hushed voices.

"Look at the two of them acting like conspirators." Isabelle observed to her friend. Virginie looked up for a moment as if to confirm what her friend said, then went back to looking at her feet.

"You seem preoccupied Ginny, my dear. Do you wish to discuss whatever is worrying you?"

"No!" Virginie exclaimed, somewhat too energetically. Then she smiled and continued in a softer tone, "Anyway, 'tis your fault Salam left the table early this morning."

She preferred to change the subject than to try to explain the whirlwind of thoughts in her mind. Isabelle raised her chin in mock surprise and sniffed.

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Izzy!" Virginie said exclaimed, caught up in her friend's good mood, and pinching her teasingly on the arm. "You know he's interested in you."

"Who? Salam?"

"He can't keep his eyes off of you. He follows your every gesture and always tries to sit next to you."

"That's what you say; but whenever I turn my attention to him, his is always somewhere else."

Virginie giggled.

"That's so you won't notice him!"

"I know that, Ginny, I do." Isabelle confessed blushing. "That's why I blandished1 the young priest to be."

"I thought as much. But you must admit you went a little too far. You didn't have lean over so far, right under his nose. The poor man had no choice but to look at your low neckline. I thought Salam was going to skin him alive!"

"Really?" Isabelle's eyes opened wide in surprise. She was so thrilled she could hardly keep still.

"Oh, yes!" Virginie assured her, laughing. Then, as Amélie and Catherine looked back at them intrigued, she put her finger to her lips. "Shh, Charles-Louis was really quite shaken; the poor man. He didn't want to go fishing with Darius after that."

"Let's not speak of that man, Ginny, my dear. I do not care much for him and I'm very grateful that Kalaan could organize a fishing expedition for the seminarian and him. We're rid of them until this evening."

On hearing Kalaan's name, Virginie withdrew to her silence, while Isabelle continued to turn her head in the direction where she'd seen Salam and the druid, whose silhouettes were slowly disappearing behind the standing stones of the broken circle.

Virginie was worried about the man she loved spending time with her father's assassin. She knew that Kalaan was surrounded by his crew, and had nothing to fear from Darius, but what worried her was that he might actually do what he threatened and put Darius in a case to se

id having to watch Kalaan simper.

"How did you find out, by the way? Did my crew tell you? Did one of them spill the beans after emptying the barrels of chouchenn3 at Rachel's Inn?"

"No, I have eyes in my head ears to hear and my mind is as sharp as ever, my lord!" Clovis answered indignantly. "Maden never had a cousin, so there was never a Catherine either to visit the isle. Diogenes was the name of your first dog, you know all the servants' names and you slap me on the shoulder just as you always have. You are just as arrogant and rude as ever; and I would like to add you were not nice with Madame Amélie that first meal, eating with your hands and…"

"Clovis, " growled Kalaan, stamping his foot with impatience.

"Please, let me finish Monsieur! Oh yes, and there was the statue of the Holy Virgin. Only the Croz family knows it holds brandy, one of your father's jokes. It often made you laugh when you were a child. Then, your gloves at night and the mark on your hand during the day and the husky that you subdued as only Kalaan can do. He follows you everywhere, be you Catherine or the count. Your appearance is of no importance to him. He recognizes you either way. The other evening I was in the entrance hall, but you didn't notice me. And watching you go out into the night fog with the dog at your heels, I knew you were Kalaan."

"You would make an excellent policeman, Clovis." Kalaan congratulated him admiringly.

"My lord, I am lucky to have been born into a family of druids. I know quite a bit about magic. That's what this is, isn't it? You are under a spell, right? An evil spell?"

"I beg your pardon?"Kalaan couldn't believe his ears!

Clovis was savoring the moment and even dared to laugh at his master's bewilderment."I may have been in your family's service since my childhood, but one thing not many people know is that I am Jaouen's brother."

"I need a drink!"

"I should never have turned my back on the druid religion. I could have understood what happened and been able to help you sooner. I have lost the gift of seeing auras. But I still sense things and know when something is not as it should be."

"Very well Clovis. So, please help me find the Marchioness of Macy. She is in great danger. We must also keep an eye on Darius, for he is a nefarious being!"

"Yes Monsieur! I thought as much Monsieur!"

Kalaan turned away shaking his head in surprise, but happy to have a new ally at his side. He continued on his way to the longhouse but, before he got too far, asked over his shoulder, "You wouldn't by any chance have a remedy for curses, would you? Because your brother is proving to be quite useless when it comes to finding a potion that will free me from this one."

"No, my lord. I only know how to make good herbal teas." Clovis replied chuckling. As soon as Catherine-Kalaan was out of sight he continued in a kind voice, "You may come out from your hiding place now, Mademoiselle Virginie."

In response he heard a little squeak and a sniffle. Then, from behind the well, the young and lovely marchioness appeared, in a sorry state. Her clothing was wrinkled and mud-stained, her long disheveled copper hair was flowing free around her shoulders, her nose was red from being rubbed and her eyes were stained with tears.

"Clovis, you knew I was there?" When she finally spoke it was a relief for the old man who feared she suffered an emotional shock. "Am I insane?"

"Yes, mademoiselle, I knew and I felt it would be good to learn the truth together. And no, neither of us is crazy, " he added smiling with some familiarity as he handed her a handkerchief, which she used to wipe her face and blow her nose loudly.

"That scallywag had no need of a curse to alienate people. 'Tis innate in him. It is time for you to join him at the longhouse, and if I might suggest, you would do well to make him suffer a little. Give him a good fright, as he did you. Bring the rascal down a notch or two, if you see what I mean."

"You can be sure I will do just that, " Virginie replied, and she started walking in direction of the longhouse, unsteadily at first. Then as she recovered her spirits, little by little her pace increased and she felt anger rise inside her. She clenched her fists and began striding towards the longhouse. Blast that man! She was going to make him pay!

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