Chapter 64 – The Legend of the Oak Tree (2)
“Madam, the new wall lanterns and brazier have just arrived. Would you like to go through them?” Rodrigo gladly said, carrying a wooden box indoors with other servants. When she nodded, Rodrigo placed the box on the floor of the hall and opened it with a wooden poker. Inside the box were nine glossy wall lanterns.
“There’s a total of fifteen boxes of these, ma’am.”
“O-open all the b-boxes and l-look for f-faulty p-products, and t-then i-install them i-in the b-banquet h-hall and c-corridor.”
“And the brazier, ma’am?”
“T-two in the di-dining room and the re-rest in the knights’ do-dorm and gu-guardhouse.
“Very well, ma’am.”
A train of servants carrying the boxes walked into the corridor. Max turned her steps and left the great hall.
The temperature was dropping, which meant winter was close. She blew her breath into the air to see if she could see it, and headed to the stable, going around the garden and through the trail. She was going to visit the stable, the annex and the blacksmith room to check if anything needed replenishing. When she went through the ledgers from the past, she realized the prior lady of the house went around the castle once every year and kept a record of things in storage.
Reflecting on how she poured all her effort into decorating the great hall, she decided to spend the day taking care of the other facilities. She started by paying a visit to the stable. When she appeared, the horsemen transporting fodder jumped, removed their hat and bowed.
“Madam! What brings you here? You could’ve sent a servant over…”
It was Kunel Osban, one of the first people she was introduced to on her first day at the castle. He ran forward at the sight of her. Max took a deep breath and calmly parted her lips.
“Ev-everyone is qui-quite bu-busy. I-I was ge-getting re-re-ready for wi-winter and was wo-wondering if the sta-stable ne-needed anything. I-I heard there is le-less trade when th-the tem-temperature dro-drops…”
“Oh, thank you for your concern, madam. I was about to inform Rodrigo about those things, so it’s perfect timing.”
Kunel’s face lit up instantly. He opened the door and shone a lamp for her to see inside. Max frowned a little at the stench and stuck only her upper body into the building. Inside, there stood twenty horses chewing on hay in a clean stable that had just finished sweeping. He pointed towards the far end of the room as he continued.
“The partition needs changing, ma’am. The wood is old and there isn’t enough of it, so it has been a problem for some time.”
“The-then shall I or-order more woo-wood?”
“Yes! Ah, and we may need more dry hay for the winter.”
“Su-sure. I-is there an-anything else?”
“That is more than enough ma’am. Thank you for your concern.”
The old man beamed. Max smiled along with him. The people who once shuddered with fear around her were now looking her in the eye and talking to her sincerely.
Her tongue was stiff as usual, but thanks to the frequent conversations she had for the past few days, she felt like she was stuttering less than in the past. Proud at her improvement, she walked out of the stable and into the large field. The shadow from the rampart added an extra chill to the air. She tightened the shawl around her shoulders.
A breeze carrying a scent of grass grazed past her hair. She brushed a few loose strands of hair from her face and soon stopped walking when she remembered how Riftan had said he liked the puffiness of her locks, akin to a cloud. When she raised her head, she saw the mountaintop he would’ve climbed over when he left.
Would Riftan have arrived at Drakium by now?
He had gone to the capital of the kingdom to attend a grand feast held to congratulate him. She imagined Riftan, dressed in silver armor, standing tall as he was showered with the praises from the nobles. He would look marvelous, just like the hero from the legend. She was sure nobody was going to ignore him or mention his background now. Even the noblewomen who’d once looked at him with disdain would be captivated.
When Max finished thinking, she felt blue. As she pictured Riftan in a fancy banquet hall, surrounded by beautiful women dressed in fancy apparel, anxiety crept from the bottom of her stomach. There ought to be younger and prettier women there. Riftan may have realized his mistake by now, upon receiving looks of admiration from the ladies, and started to regret agreeing to carry on with the marriage.
“What are you doing all alone out here?”