The next thing I knew I was Cornelia's "lady in waiting". I don't know exactly when it happened, but looking back it was obvious it had been coming for a long time. I didn't mind at all, was just surprised when I realized it. My duties shifted some: I no longer helped the cooks nor made runs into town for supplies. Instead I was almost always a step behind Cornelia: taking notes on things she said she wanted, helping her dress, sitting in on her lessons, discussing her suitors, working on sewing while she embroidered,.... Pretty much the only time I wasn't with her was when I was off fetching something for her or tending to her room while she was practicing running the household. It was almost like when we were children, except we were friends now. That and soon her room became Our room... our bed. It was very awkward for me at first, for many reasons. Most of which I was able to adjust to quickly. The only thing that was a continuous bother from the first night until our last together was that Cornelia kicked in her sleep.
First not being able to visit Doctor Limir regularly had been hard. But sharing a bed with Cornelia put an end to Jason and my fighting practices and alone time for a while. After noting my sadness and restlessness, as called it, Cornelia asked what was wrong. I told her I missed my friend Doctor Limir. She didn't ask me much about it, why, how, or when I had forged a friendship with such a man. She remembered the night he had helped Jason, and so told me whenever I got the urge to see him to let her know and she'd try to find time to let me go for a few hours. I didn't dare tell her about my sword lessons or secret rendezvous with Jason. He and I did manage to sneak moments together, but not more than ten minutes at most as we were really worried about getting caught.
Eventually Cornelia's fancies were caught. But by two suitors. For weeks she would go around one minute swooning over just how wonderful each one was in their own way, and the next minute lamenting how hard it was that she had to make a choice. She talked a lot with me about both of them, but it was clear she only ever wanted me to agree with her about all their great qualities. Finally she actually asked me for my genuine opinion. I told her that while Henery was from the more powerful and better thought of family, he had an edge to him that struck me in a bad way, and that Arthur always treated her like a Princess and was honest and genuine in his affections. It seemed to me that Henery was only interested in her for the status it would verify for him: being England's best catch he should be able to get England's most eligible. And most likely many people thought the two were supposed to marry for political reasons I had no knowledge of. But to me Arthur was the better choice, Cornelia would never have to doubt him or worry on matters beyond her own, or rather his own lands. Cornelia smiled in an oddly sad way, and told me Elizabeth said pretty much the same thing but Cornelia wasn't sure herself if she wanted to pass on everything Henery could give her. A few days later Elizabeth called me to a private meeting and asked me to help her drive off a bad match for Cornelia like we had done for Jason so many times. She meant Henery. I agreed.
He was harder to get rid of then either of us anticipated. We pulled in Jason to help us, and eventually were successful, but not because of anything we had intentionally done. Even after the fight he wouldn't be driven off by anyone, though that was the incident that convinced me he could not be allowed to marry Cornelia, and I would find a way to make him leave.
I had been attending to a few miscellaneous tasks around Luke, so we could spend some time together, while Henery and Cornelia were spending some alone time together. I knew she had set aside specific private time for each of her suitors to see if she could get a sense of how life would be with them, in an attempt to help her make up her mind. Henery was first, and when I saw him march into the chambers extremely angry I assumed things had gone bad, and didn't mind one bit. Hopefully that meant Cornelia had sent him away. Things had gone badly, but as I listened to Henery rant at Luke about how impossible his sister was I realized it hadn't been a relationship ending fight. I started to sent down what I was doing as it was becoming clear Cornelia would be calling for me soon. Likely to complain about Henery as he was doing with Luke. Then I heard Henery say "which is when I left." I had him clarify that he indeed had suddenly walked out on Cornelia without even saying a word, and as soon as he confirmed such I was off running.
Nothing like that had happened since we were young, so I didn't know if Cornelia would still react the same. But I wasn't going to take any chances. Sure enough, when I arrived at her room she was pale white and frozen in fear. I went right to her, but she didn't seem to recognize who I was, or rather that anyone was there with her. She didn't respond to her name. Her eyes were wide with fear. I found I could move her, though she didn't react to my touch at first. I pulled her to our bed and wrapped her with a blanket as she felt cold to me. I wrapped my arms around her and kept trying to get her to look into my eyes as I said over and over "It's okay Cornelia, I'm here, you're not alone." Finally she noticed I was there, and whispered my name with such desperation that I found myself glaring Henery down with a look that froze him in his steps when he entered. It turned out my reaction to his words had been so sudden that he and Luke followed me once they recovered from the shock of how I had reacted. Cornelia was holding me tightly, silent tears were steaming down her checks, when the two arrived. Henery immediately felt bad, thought it was clear he didn't know for what. He wanted to take Cornelia from me, comfort her himself, but I refused. Not that I had to, there was no way Cornelia's grip on me could have been removed without a lot of force. He did look like he was sorry, and felt helpless, so I told him once she was settled I would most definitely call for him and he could take over then. That appeased him, and he and Luke left me to care for Cornelia.
After it all was over, and Henery had apologized and promised never to do such to her again, Cornelia was back in normal spirits. I tried to make her see based on that incident that Henery was not right for her, but she would retort with that he hadn't known that was how she'd react, and now that he did and promised it wouldn't happen again there wasn't any reason for her to hold the incident against him.
During the time of her deciding between Henery and Arthur another bold suitor arrived to vie for Cornelia's hand. No one else had since Cornelia had made it clear he choice was going to be between Henery and Arthur, but this young man, William, was both a catch and a gentleman. On his first meeting her - which was after meeting the rest of the family and somehow quickly earning their approval - he was charming, respectful, and very surprisingly treated me as if I were a lady of note as well as she, while also staying aware that I was her servant.. (In fact he treated all the servants notably better than most anyone else.)
Shortly after William had arrived Cornelia had basically dismissed him. Knowing she would marry one of the two wonderful suitors she already had, she and her Mother started moving wedding plans forward. After all, since both men had agreed to the wedding being held at the Carver castle, the husband could be the last the detail settled on and it would not affect the wedding all that much. The castle staff started into full preparations, and having had relatively recent experience things moved more quickly this time. None of us felt over burdened either.
I spent a lot of time listening to Cornelia and Elizabeth planning the wedding, and writing down exactly what was decided upon. Much of what Cornelia and I had decided together after Elizabeth's wedding still held in Cornelia's desires and Elizabeth didn't challenge. But when it came to things the two could just not agree upon, they could argue for hours on and off over days at a time. It didn't take long before I realized I was able to end the arguments by the next day by simply changing what I wrote down, since they referred to the previous day's notes to remember what subject they were in the middle of and how each felt. I started to write down instead that in the end something else had been agreed upon as the resolution, usually it was what I thought would be the best. Only once did the two read my opinion and not agree that they liked it.
Then came the day Cornelia met with both Elizabeth and her Mother to discuss what of the castle staff she would be talking with her. Both men were first born of their family and so would be inheriting full staffs of their own. But Cornelia voiced that she was worried about being lonely. Unlike Elizabeth, she hadn't been spent time getting to know what would be her new household and family. She didn't want to get married, go home, and have no one other than her husband. Lady Carver didn't seem to particularly want to give Cornelia any bodies, but quickly agreed to let her choose one to take with her. Her eyes drifted to me as she spoke, and I knew why she made the statement. Much to my dismay and Lady Carver's preference, Cornelia named me as the servant she would take with her. As hard as it was at that moment, I held my tongue. When I saw Elizabeth's look as she agreed with the choice as a natural one, I had to work hard to hold back tears from forming in my eyes. No one wanted me here, it was clear.
Of course not No one. As soon as the meeting was over I sent word to Jason that Cornelia had permission to take me with her as part of her plans for her new life and home. Sure enough, Jason came to see Cornelia straight away. Luke was with him too. Jason informed Cornelia that she could NOT take me. He turned to Luke to back him up, since as the next Lord Carver his word would make it true. So started the argument over "who gets to keep Faith". Cornelia was sure their father would take her side and trump any decision Luke made against her on this. Jason wouldn't hear it. Luke didn't say anything definite other than he didn't really want me to be taken away either. Jason started to get desperate, and finally Cornelia turned out with "but WHY must she stay? She's as much my sister as she is yours!" I was shocked, we all were. She had never made any sort of statement like that before. Obviously Jason was surprised because he didn't think before he replied, blurting out "because I love her!".
All I could do was exclaimed "Jason!" in surprise and horror. The room was quiet for several seconds afterwards. Luke was the first to gather his thoughts, and the first to speak. All he did was comment that this would make me truly their sister. Jason took that as support, and turned to Cornelia and spilled everything. He told them about our engagement and begged Cornelia several times to not take me away from him. She didn't know how to react, looking from him to me and back. He came to me and took me in his arms. I smiled at him despite the situation, for there never seemed to be anything wrong in my world when he held me. "Oh," was all Cornelia said at last, with a definitive tone that meant she wouldn't take me. Luke was confused. He questioned Cornelia, and her reply was simple. She gestured to Jason and told Luke that's how he looks at Elizabeth. It's love, and she wouldn't do anything to ruin it.
A few moments later came our next victory. I wasn't paying attention to Cornelia anymore, only to Jason, so I missed her transformation. Cornelia stood resolutely and informed us all that she chose Arthur. She looked at Jason and I and said that was what she wanted. Real love. She suddenly realized what she truly wanted was what Luke and Elizabeth had, and what Jason and I had, she wanted true happiness and love, and that meant Arthur.
Arthur was overjoyed when Cornelia told him. Henery was annoyed and left that day. Then the new couple went straight to tell the Carvers. Lady Carver was ecstatic at the news. Lord Carver was just pleased his daughter had finally chosen before he was forced to make her choose. The whole castle was buzzing with the news by morning.
And then William came to me, seemingly heartbroken. I was very taken back by the whole encounter. He genuinely seemed to love Cornelia and asked me if I thought he was worthy enough of her. After talking with him, feeling him out as best I knew how, I agreed to speak to Cornelia on his behalf. I warned him that it would likely be fruitless as Cornelia apparently loved Arthur. But as William pointed out, just because Cornelia had known Arthur longer didn't mean he shouldn't be given a chance at all. Would it be fair to either of them if he was the one for her and because of bad timing they didn't end up together?
Everything that happened the next few weeks doesn't matter. It turned out William was manipulating me. Not just me either, all the Carvers too, especially Cornelia, but mostly me. I found out the day one of my maid friends suddenly appeared and pulled me around the corner into the guest wing. She was really upset, and told me I had to listen to what she had started to hear. Quickly we were through the servants entrance and hiding behind the curtains of the window right next to the door. I heard William talking to someone else, who turned out to be his brother. He was talking about how well his plan was working out, but we missed hearing what exactly that was and what the point of it was. When we arrived he was saying Cornelia was the perfect woman: she's beautiful, articulate in speech, elegant in her movements, educated in woman's arts - I looking askance at my friend by this point wondering what the matter was when he added she's can't think for herself and believes whatever she's told. I was not amused by those last statements, especially since I had never heard William speak like that about anyone. It didn't sound like him, and if I hadn't heard it myself I probably wouldn't have believed it. His brother then said he was confused and didn't understand how William had managed to get into Cornelia's good graces in the first place. William told him it was very simple, "the girl's personal servant", meaning me. He told his brother how over the last few years it had become common knowledge in even lands beyond neighboring that mine was the first approval a girl had to earn if they had any intention of Jason being a suitor of hers. That I even had the Carver's family blessing in my actions on helping determine his wife to be. And he said when he arrived and saw me following Cornelia about with pen and paper he realized the same likely held true for Cornelia. It wasn't long before he discovered through his own observation that I was the key to this whole family.
I felt awful, a sick sinking sensation in my stomach, a tight feeling around my heart. I had been played like a lute. And I was very unhappy about it, as well everything I was hearing William tell his brother about Cornelia and his plans for her and the dowry. I had to fix what I had done! I wasn't certain how though. Then I decided if William thought I had that much power over Cornelia, I should be able to use that against him. I stepped out of hiding with a scowl on my face and slammed the door open to get their attention. William looked at me and his eyes widened. He started to stammer, and I think apologize and try to explain away what I had heard, but I cut him off. I told him his words were shallow and his actions insincere so he could just stop right there and leave now. That I would give him exactly as long as it took me to find Cornelia and her brothers and tell them what I heard for him to get out of the castle. I wasn't sure I could actually do that, after all I wouldn't have believed me if I told myself what I had overheard William say, even though I did have my friend as witness also. But I was counting on his belief that I could. And sure enough, he started cursing and packing as I turned with determination and stormed out the door. I did tell Cornelia and the boys what I had heard, and though initially skeptical only because they knew I wouldn't lie about something so serious, they did believe me when William left and pointedly said it was because of me.
Unfortunately that wasn't the last we heard of William. He apparently fell back on his initial plan and challenged Arthur to a duel over Cornelia. Cornelia was so very worried about Arthur, and I with her. William wasn't foolhardy, he wouldn't have challenged Arthur if he didn't believe he could win. I didn't quite understand why Arthur had accepted the duel, especially since Cornelia had chosen him, and he had to have known Lord Carver would uphold her decision because he approved of it. Then again I hadn't been there when the challenge was made so I didn't know what was said or what had happened. Knowing William as I did then, I could definitely believe he had managed to talk Arthur into it some way, manipulate words or circumstances somehow.
The only good thing about the night before the duel was that it cancelled it. I woke to a pillow being pressed over my face. I only struggled long enough to determine I wasn't strong enough to get off me whomever it was. I was barely able to breathe through the down, so I stopped struggling and tried to breathe as slow as possible. Then I heard a male voice say "hurry!", and realized someone was actually trying to suffocate me. So I held my breath for as long as possible. Thankfully the person thought I had passed out before I actually did and left me. I carefully took a long quiet breath and moved the pillow to see what was going on. I saw two men in the room, one had a candle to see by. The other had Cornelia with a cloth over her mouth. I knew there was no way they'd be able to get out with Cornelia like that through the door and the castle beyond, the guards would stop them instantly! Looking to the window I saw their intended escape route. My first thought was to call for guards, but I was certain they wouldn't make it in time and I suddenly thought I probably shouldn't give away that I was alive, at least not just yet. My second set of thoughts were the ones I acted on. I slipped out of the bed and quickly snuck up on the man with the candle. He discovered I was there when I took hold of the hilt of the sword at his side, but I was faster than him and managed to draw it before he could stop me. I swept the sword around to the man carrying Cornelia and told him to let her go. To my surprise, he chuckled. He told the other man to draw his sword. As I was about to square off with the other, the man took the sword from then other and handed Cornelia off to the other. He told me he was sorry he now had to kill me, but he couldn't let it be known who they were. I didn't recognize them, but didn't have time to argue either as he lunged at me. I parried easily, which surprised him. He took a more respectful stock of me then, and I pressed on him to prevent him from having too much of a chance to size me up.
The fight was on, loud enough to be heard outside the room. Minutes later the guards were at the door. Unfortunately for us the kidnappers had thought to bar the door from the inside before their attempt. Cornelia started to wake from whatever drugs they had used on her, but not enough that she could do anything more than open her eyes. The one I was fighting told the other to leave with Cornelia, that he had to finish the job and when it was possible the one I was fighting would catch up with him, but they couldn't risk failure. He wasn't distracted enough while giving the orders to give me an advantage. But Cornelia's terrified look was enough motivation. I stepped back to force the man to come after me, and then tried a technique Jason had taught me long ago, give the man an opening that wasn't real. I feigned fear and concern over Cornelia and took my eyes off him for a moment to make him think I was faltering. It worked. My eyes were back fast enough to see his move and I managed to side step, riposte, and finish all on the correct side.
I didn't have time to think about the man after he fell, I honestly never learned if he lived or died. The other man was sufficiently scared to pull a knife on Cornelia in self-defense as I approached. He threatened her to control me, and it worked. He ordered me to drop the sword, and seeing no other choice, I did. He told me to slide it over to him, I used my foot to comply. He sheathed it and demanded the sword his partner had been using. I retrieved that and passed it to him the same was as the other. He threw that sword out the window. I started to back away slowly towards the door, and soon he assumed I was going to attempt to open it. So he ordered me to move to sit by the other door to the servant's room and if I truly valued Cornelia's life I wouldn't move. I did as I was told. Until he turned his back. I opened the door only a few inches. Enough to see that Mother was indeed awake, and very scared out of her wits. On seeing me she seemed to get better, but I had to motion her to silence before she gave us both away. I looked back at the kidnapper, he was starting to get Cornelia out the window though having a problem of it doing it himself. I looked back at Mother and motioned to her to look under my old bed. Uncertain, she did as I bid when I indicated it was urgent. She found my sword, and probably was shocked by it, but I was too busy pretending I was being the good girl for the kidnapper, sitting very still and watching him. When he looked away again, I turned to Mother and took the sword from her. I then motioned her to open the door out of her room as quietly as possible.
Moving as quietly as I could I snuck up on the kidnapper again, this time grabbing his hand that held the knife with my left and holding point of my sword against his back at an angle so I wasn't reaching too far in any direction. I told him to let her go. He told me to let him go or else. I refused. We argued for only a few seconds before he started to press the knife into Cornelia's throat to emphasize his point. I tried to pull it away, but was not strong enough to even move his hand slightly. I gave him one last warning, he did the same to me. Neither of us let go, so he moved to finish his threat. Instantly I drove my sword up into his back. Being slightly faster than he I able was to pull the knife away from Cornelia as he momentarily lost his strength in surprise. Cornelia grabbed at me and fell back from the window inside the room.
I don't quite remember the next few minutes well. Cornelia was hurt and scared on the floor. Mother followed the guards through her room into ours. There was lots of yelling and gasping and questions, and important people. However all I could concentrate on was the man leaning against me. He had the oddest expression on his face as he looked at me. His color had drained quickly and he couldn't stand on his own. He seemed to be trying to say something, but I couldn't hear. He then looked sad and scared. Finally he took a labored breath and whispered a woman's name. His eyes glazed over and he died.
I fell to my knees as he fell to the floor. I have no idea how much time passed. The next thing I knew Jason was prying my left hand from the man's hand and my right from my sword hilt. I think he was talking to me, Luke too, but I have no idea what he said. As I came back to the current time, I looked at Jason, then back to the man, and my stomach gripped me. I promptly threw up. Then I started to feel and hear and everything again. I leaned back against Jason and cried.
I didn't feel even close to normal for several weeks. For days any time I closed my eyes I saw the man, sad and scared and calling for that woman. I assumed it was his wife. At times I imagined he had children too, children who'd never see their father again. Or perhaps his wife was pregnant, and I had done to some child somewhere the same that was done to my sister and I, forced to grow up with no father. Or maybe the woman wasn't yet his wife. Maybe he had been on the job in order to earn enough to impress her family. Whatever the story, it was obvious he had loved her. And I had killed him. Murdered him. And murder was wrong.
I was very unhappy for a long time. I felt guilty. No matter how much people told me I had done right, had been forced into my actions, had saved Cornelia, and everything else, it didn't alleviate the pain and fear and remorse I felt. The priest I confessed to told me I had not been in the wrong and so had nothing to confess on the incident, but I still felt the opposite. Doctor Limir didn't even have any mysterious words to give me hope or help me figure things out. He did have plenty of concern, enough to match Mother's. Things were so bad for a while that I couldn't even concentrate on my duties long enough to do to them properly. At my worst I finally I broke down while out in a nearby village walking alone, and found myself on the floor of the chapel I saw begging forgiveness from a man who could not give it to me and a God who didn't speak. The caretaker found me. He held me until I was able to speak coherently enough to confess. He smiled at me and told me to dry my eyes. He told me God loved me and I was not gong to Hell, that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good people have to do bad things for a greater good, and in all cases God understands. I looked up at him, and his eyes were as sincere as his voice. He put his hand behind my head and told me, "God forgives you. I forgive you. Now, it's up to you to forgive yourself."
From that moment on I went to that little church every Sunday for services. Afterwards I spent time helping the caretaker clean up and tend the grounds. It took awhile but I did start to understand. Once I started to understand I started to feel better. God had used me to prevent a great wrong, and unfortunately one life had to be taken to save another, but it wasn't my fault.
---This story is continued here.---