CH 8


The morning dawned with the promise of a feast. 

Millicent went out early in the morning to pick mushrooms. In the green forest, she carefully picked beautiful white, wrinkle-free mushrooms and filled the basket full of them.

She wondered for a moment if she should take off her hat, but she thought it best to keep it on.

“Like a weasel running all over the place!”

Millicent entered the kitchen with the basket dangling from her arm, and as soon as she did so, Mrs. Galbraith, the royal maid, exclaimed. 

There was a war in the kitchen. The maids were cutting piles of vegetables with big knives. The old maid, Tracy, demonstrated the art of boiling sweet wine with cinnamon.

“Come quick and fry up some seaweed oil! We have to make the sauce!” 

Mrs. Galbraith, suffering from a nervous breakdown, picked a pot and threw it over.

The women who were overworked in the kitchen were a bit scary. Millicent obediently did as she was told. She put the seaweed in the pot and stirred it.

She secretly boiled the mushrooms she had picked in the forest on one side.

Mrs. Galbraith said she was a nuisance and was ready to hit her over the head with a ladle. 

But bravely someone spoke to her.

“You’re ready without hindrance, aren’t you?” 

It was Rubert, who appeared in a red priest’s uniform.

“Yes, Your Highness the Cardinal.” Mrs. Galbraith, recognizing her opponent, bowed her head.

“ A banquet at which the Queen and I will entertain His Majesty the King. There should be no shortage.”

“Of course not.” 

“And the larks?” said Rubert, glad to have Mrs. Galbraith’s attention. 

In the meantime, Millicent sneakily put away the seaweed oil, which had been charred black, no longer a sauce.

“The head chef is preparing it himself.” (Mrs. Galbraith) 

“Did you have something to eat?”

Rubert came to Millicent’s side, who was slamming the seaweed into a new pot.

“When you’re hungry, your eyes roll and you’ll poison the soup pot.”

He shoved a dried apricot into Millicent’s mouth before she could answer him anything. 

“Don’t ruin it. I’m paying for this banquet. I put all the money I had into it.”


“Because it’s my chance to buy the king’s favor,” Rubert said, giving her a scowling look every time she asked a stupid question. 

“Your hand is hurt.”

Reluctantly, he pointed to Millicent’s pot-fiddling hand. 

“Did you put the bergamot berries on it properly?”

“I ate it.”

“You ate that?” Rubert looked dumbfounded. “Who eats bergamot whole? It tastes too sour, not even a beggar who has been starving for three days would be willing to eat it.”

“I ate it. There is no fruit in the world that I cannot eat,” Millicent said with vain pride. 

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Millicent!” Rubert pulled out the glass jar from his chest pocket. “You need to make oil from the peel and apply it to your hand, not eating it.”

It was his own bergamot oil that he made himself. He opened it and spread it on the back of Millicent’s cracked hand. 

“When I first met you, your hands were nice and smooth.”

“Then what…”

“I will always remember you then, Millicent.” Rubert said firmly. “That’s why I help you, even at the cost of my soul.”

“Do I corrupt your soul?” 

The herb would burn again if not stirred properly, but Millicent lost interest.

She stared at Rubert. He was so tall that she had to raise her head back to make eye contact. 

“Of course,” Rubert said, “and your own soul too.”

Rubert’s green eyes, looking down at her, shone like dewy blades of grass. 

“My soul was originally like this, Rub.” Millicent said. “Since birth.”

“I know. That’s why I’m always sad when I see you, Millie.” Rubert whispered. “You’re still wearing your stiff, white hat…”

He tapped the string of the long hat tied under Millicent’s chin.

“Are you going to start working soon?” he said, nodding his head toward the kettle that was secretly boiling mushrooms in the corner. 

Millicent pulled her hand out of Rubert’s grasp, “Yes, I won’t give too many details for your soul’s sake.” 

“….Your Highness Cardinal!”

Someone else jumped into the already crowded kitchen. With red hair and a youthful face, he was the son of a duke who had been given permission to accompany the Cardinal in his office and to enter the royal court as a socialite. 

“What is it, Clayton?”

“His Majesty is looking for you!”

“If it’s the Queen, I will see her later…”

“No, His Majesty the King is looking for you!” The red-haired man shook his head furiously. “We must hurry.” 

Rubert’s demeanor changed drastically in response. His jaw stiffened as if a little nervous . It seemed what said about him being afraid of the king and creating an alliance with the Queen was no joke. 

“Sauce!” Just as quickly, Mrs. Galbraith also shouted loudly at Millicent. Millicent came back to her senses then.

Fortunately, Mrs. Galbraith seemed to be satisfied with the pot Millicent showed her. She was out of danger of having burned the seaweed.

When she tried to pick up the ladle and pot again, her oiled hands slipped and it was troublesome. Millicent rubbed and wiped off the oil on her apron.

“What is your relationship with the Cardinal?” Tracy poked Millicent in the side as she sighed. “You two seem pretty close.”

“Once upon a time, when I was an orphan begging on the street, he took pity on me, gave me bread and soup, and found me a job. He also introduced me to the Queen, who said she was looking for a maid.”

Millicent roughly mumbled the touching story.

“Did you work at the butcher’s shop?” Suddenly a condescending look flashed across Tracy’s face. “The Cardinal. He looks classy, but I hear he’s actually the son of a butcher?”

Knowing what kind of jokes would be exchanged at court over Rubert’s origin, Millicent refrained from speaking. Unexpectedly, Mrs. Galbraith came to her rescue. 

“Millicent!” She shouted her name once more. 

“I’m making another pot of sauce!”

Millicent replied with a gasp. 

“No, not the sauce! I heard you know a lot about herbs?” (Mrs. Galbraith)

“What’s the matter all of a sudden?” (Millicent)

“I have a message from Her Majesty the Queen. She needs something for a broken leg.” (Mrs. Galbraith)

“Whose leg is broken?” (Millicent)

Mrs. Galbraith’s eyes widened like an angry hawk. She meant to move quickly without asking any more questions. Millicent took the medicine chest and ran quickly  to the queen’s parlor. 

The queen and her attendants were all gathered there, as they had been last night. 

“Take a look at Lady Adriana,” Queen Jadalin said. Her legs were fine. “She must have fallen down the stairs and is in terrible pain.”

The doctor had already attended to her injury and all the necessary measures had been taken. Still, the pain was so severe that Adriana’s face was dusted with traces of tears. 

“Drink this. It will help reduce the pain.” Millicent gave her a potion of woodpecker branches and stems.

While Adriana hurriedly gulped it down, Millicent removed the tightly wrapped bandage. She rubbed a salve on the broken spot.

“What is that?” Adriana asked suspiciously. 

“The less you know, the better.” 

No lady would be pleased to know that it was a power made from grinding insect carcasses.

“How did you get hurt?” 

“She tripped on the stairs.”

It was Charlotte who quickly answered Millicent’s question. 

“Obviously someone pushed me from behind,” Adriana insisted through clenched teeth. “I felt a hand on my back. It’s true, Your Majesty!”

“Did you see her face?”

“Oh, no.” 

“Then did you see the clothes she wore?”

“I didn’t see that either…”

“Did anyone else witness the scene besides you?” 

“No, I don’t think so.” Adriana’s voice crawled and Charlotte quickly interrupted again.

“She must have accidentally stepped on her long dress and fell. It was just bad luck.”

“Shouldn’t we see it as rather fortunate?” Elizabeth, another royal maid with eyes as black and gentle as black stone, spoke up. “How high are the stairs in the hall? She could have broken her neck.”

“She’s too tall to even wear shoes with such high heels.” Charlotte said hatefully. “But…Lady Adriana won’t be able to dance tonight.”

The ripple effect she added like a viper was enormous.

“Lady Charlotte is right. She can’t even stand up by herself.”

“I’m fine, Your Majesty!” Adriana tried to get up. But at last she collapsed, unable to raise half her body. 

“This will be no face for me to see your father, Count Arlan.” Jadalin clicked her tongue.

“My father will be even more disappointed if I lose the honor of dancing with His Majesty the King!” 


Adriana bit her lip at the queen’s command, who dared not contradict her. 

“The banquet is tonight, it cannot be postponed. Another lady must take over the role of the god of beauty.” 

“I will do it, Your Majesty!” 

Charlotte stepped up before Jadalin could finish her words. 

“I can drop the role of the god of fire. It’s not very important.”

Charlotte quickly nailed it, as Jane Grant was about to object with a wry smile. 

“The banquet has been painstakingly prepared by the queen and Cardinal Mulally. Though it will not satisfy His Majesty the King if it is scratched.” 

Jadalin was caught off guard, though she would never admit it. She hated Charlotte and deliberately gave her a small role, but instead it turned out to be a game that Charlotte won against the queen’s will. This was all due to Adriana Beasley’s broken leg. 

“Lady Adriana’s misfortune turned out to be Lady Charlotte’s good luck.” Jadalin smiled coldly.

It was clear at this moment that they all had the same suspicion. The hand that Adriana claimed touched her back, it was Charlotte’s hand in everyone’s mind. But there was no proof. And no one in the court would half-heartedly voice their suspicions. 

“The banquet is tonight. It cannot be postponed,” Jadalin quickly declared again with an unenthusiastic look on her face. “Lady Charlotte will be the god of beauty.”

A satisfied smile appeared on Charlotte’s full face as she bent her knees. 

“There isn’t much time left, so everyone hurry up and get ready.”

The maids retreated, exchanging glances with each other.

“Millicent, you will support Lady Adriana when Count Arlan’s carriage arrives…”

“I wish to attend the banquet, Your Majesty!” Adriana cut off the queen’s words with impatience.

“You have been particularly arrogant today, my maid.”

The cold one-liner was particularly marked by a foreign accent. They could sense stomach cancer. 

“Do you really want to attract the king’s attention that badly?” Jadalin’s scolding cracked Adriana like a whip. “If you want to attend the banquet dressed like that, be my guest.”

Her tone was as if to ask why these promising ladies were willing to become prostitutes themselves. 

“Anyway,” she said, tugging at the hem of her golden gown, “You’re all stupid.” 

“The Queen doesn’t understand.”

Adriana murmured. “You’re royalty.  At one time you even had the right to become emperor in your country, and you lived your whole life with the best of the best.”

“Isn’t the lady also a daughter of a venerable family?” Millicent asked. 

“My father only has a title.” Adriana snapped. “And the kingdom is different from the old days. The king has become more powerful. He can take away that  title and fiefdom at any time with a suitable excuse and have us beheaded. It’s the most uncertain world I’ve ever lived in.”

She added. “That’s why everyone is trying to shove their daughters into the king’s bed. I’m trying to create one certainty.”

Millicent said nothing. 

“Hmm! You’re the maid named Millicent?” Adriana, belatedly, seemed to realize that she had given out too much of her heart. She regained her original form.

“The Queen told me that you can tell fortunes with cards. You know a lot about medicinal herbs, too. I feel much better than before.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

“But…Where have we met from?” 

Suddenly, Adriana’s eyes narrowed. “You look kind of familiar.”

Millicent answered monotonously, “I was nearby when you were practicing dancing in the masquerade with the other ladies.” 

“And I’m common-looking.” Millicent added.

“—I’m not so sure. You have quite a pretty face. If it weren’t for that awful hat that not even the abbess of heaven, armed with celibacy, would wear.”

Millicent couldn’t distinguish whether it was a compliment or an insult. In any case, Adriana quickly lost interest in Millicent because of the pain.

“…Damn Charlotte Brennan!” Adriana gritted her teeth.

It seemed that there was one more person who wished Charlotte would fall over dead. Thanks to this, Millicent was happy to accept this as support.


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