The Last Lantern

Chapter 2 - Lord Rosslyn Entertains

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2009

 Molly, despite her hated skirts, pelted down the staircase. She was tempted to try riding the railing down but she figured her skirts were way too bulky to get out of the way enough, so instead she just took the stairs several at a time, to arrive at the bottom in the grand entry breathless and no longer quite as neat and tidy as Miss Throckmorton had arranged for her to be.

Molly took a minute to try to catch her breath then headed for the main drawing room. With guests for dinner grandfather would be entertaining there, and the fires would be lit, and maybe she could sweet talk grandfather into letting her have some spiced wine.

She'd barely had a chance to reach out toward the double door entry to the drawing room when the massive doors opened.  Not by themselves, apparently.  Rupert, one  handle in each hand, stood there staring down at her, one eyebrow annoyingly raised.  Molly often wondered if Rupert was a witch.

He threw the doors open and stepped aside, leaving Molly spotlighted in the massive doorway, one little girl alone. Her eyes went wide.  She was so not into formality.

Every head in the room turned at the sound of the doors opening. Molly, to her great mortification, blushed.  Then she remembered herself and sailed (well she tried to) serenely (well, maybe not exactly) across the carpets to come to a standstill in front of her grandfather. She hadn't tripped and embarrassed herself and her grandfather at least. She did a fair job at a curtesy and said, "Good evening, grandfather."

"Ah Elizabeth." Grandfather didn't have to say she was late. She knew it from the look on his face and his use of her actual name. Even he called her Molly most of the time. But perhaps not in front of strangers.

"Gentlemen, my granddaughter, Lady Elizabeth Anne Rosslyn.  Elizabeth, your cousin Reginald Manners, his son your second cousin Phillip Manners."

Molly courtesyed as best she could, eying her cousin Reginald critically. He was dressed richly in brocade. No sword. His worth nosedived in Molly's estimation.  He had dark hair with gray at the temples, a severe frown much like her grandfather's, and eyes hidden beneath pronounced eyebrows.

Reginald, apparently amused at her assessment of him, bowed.  "Cousin. A bit cleaner than the last time I saw you."

Molly, at a loss, didn't remember ever having met him before this night. She dismissed the comment, judging it to be the sort of comment grownups said to throw children off, and turned her attention to his son Phillip.

Phillip was definitely his father's son. He was leaner though, lankier. He'd be taller when he was full grown. Dark hair fell across his brow and his eyes, a confused sort of grayish-green, were wide and, annoyingly, amused. He couldn't be more than 3 years her senior. And yet he stood there dressed as a grown gentleman, and acted superior. Well, at least he wasn't wearing a sword. That would just have been way too much for her to stand.  "Cousin Phillip," Molly said curtly, with just the barest dip of a bow, and left it at that.

"Lady Elizabeth," Phillip responded more formally, just as if he knew how it irritated her that he was calling her that. He bowed deeply to her as if she were a real lady.

She was flustered by Phillip, so was startled when she caught a hint of movement out of  the corner of her eye. She whirled to face it. The moment she had she wished she hadn't. The other guest in the room was the priest. She was fairly certain he was the same priest as the one she'd seen in the tavern. After all, there weren't that many of them. Not of that calling at any rate, and certainly not this far north. He wore the austere robes and cowl of the Black Order. As he stood to face her she saw the black eye that was the symbol of his order hanging from a leather strap round his neck.  She watched it swing slightly against his chest as he moved or breathed, the firelight dancing in the opal a the eye's heart. 

She was unsure how to greet a priest. She'd been told by Miss Throckmorton that one did not introduce members of his Order. Their names were secret, or something weird like that.  She'd even heard some refer to the Black Order as the Order of Bastards. She'd asked Miss Throckmorton about that. Once the governess had recovered herself at the word coming from Molly's supposed pure lips, she'd replied curtly that ladies didn't speak of such things, so Molly was still unclear as to why the Black Order was called that.

But the priest had stood and was regarding her with a rather frightening intensity, so, when she had to do something to finally acknowledge him. She opted for just nodding to him, and tried to make it seem as polite, and unfrightened as possible.

The priest pushed the cowl off his head and returned her curt greeting with a graceful bow. That, of course, made her even more embarrassed.  But thankfully by then Rupert was sailing into the drawing room to announce that dinner was ready.


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