Sienna stood outside the door of her father’s study. Her hand rested on the wood paneling, trying to trust herself to knock.

The Koskov children were all abed. Sophie took much longer than the boys. She had questions for the older girl. Questions about boys, and clothes, and the finer aspects of arranging an orchestral accompaniment to an address of the court. Sienna had answers to two of those, but the chance to talk was welcome.

Not like this. This was her father.

She steeled herself, and knocked twice.


Sienna opened the door, and walked in three steps. She stopped at the edge of the bear rug, and looked around.

Lord Smyth always fancied himself a noble in the woods. His personal study reflected his desire of a man’s triumphs. The trophies from his hunt dotted the dark wood panels, while two great bookshelves opposite the fireplace were filled with some of the great texts both pre- and post-Folly. There was one window, a stained glass affair that shone green light upon his desk. The desk was a simple affair, with papers neatly stacked and collated into piles for easy reference.

Lord Roland Smyth sat at the desk now. He looked through one of the papers, ignoring his daughter in deference to real work. His sword leaned against the desk, well within reach should the situation call for it.

Sienna remained standing just beyond the rug, waiting for her father to finish. After an eternity, he set the paper down, and looked at her.

“You are late, Sienna.”

Sienna bowed her head.  She thought she actually was right on time.

“You wanted to see me, Lord Smyth?”

Smyth nodded, and stood up, he looked towards his fireplace, and thought better of it. “Are the Koskovs abed?”

“Yes, Lord Smyth.”

“Lord Smyth…” He selected a book from the shelves, looking at it. “It wasn’t too long ago that I was father. Months, even. Though it feels like only days ago that you were calling me dad. Or even this morning, it was daddy, or a soft gurgle trying to form the words.”

Sienna stood still. She didn’t say anything. What could she say? Lord…father was acting unusual.

“You have always been a child.” Smyth handed the book to Sienna. A picture book, fairy tales from before the Folly. A rush of memories flooded into Sienna. A large bed, a roaring fire. Two parents at her side. Struggling through the words, or gaping at the pictures.

“You kept it.”

“Focus, Sienna.” Smyth said.

“Yes, Lord Smyth.”

He nodded. “You are going to need this book for Ivan, and Pietr. Even Sophie may find herself young enough for the book. We all are young enough for fairy tales.”

“Of course.”

Smyth shot a hard look her way. “Acquiescence does not befit a Smyth, Sienna. Remember that.

“We’ve bent far too much for this Valley already.”

copyright 2018 Jack Holder

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