Reive chuckled mentally, forking a small eggplant roll. He was surely right. Gerhard’s fiancée wasn’t as simple as she looked. The King of the Dead recognized at once rot and wormholes piercing people’s souls. He felt their black core with his skin. Because once, he himself had been like this.
He was the Dark itself.
“Well, yes, I helped her quite often. Pots, vases, and jugs. Sometimes toys for children...” Angelina went on in the meantime, looking down at her hands, trying to hide them.
Whispering began around the table.
Reive clenched his teeth.
“That means you had no one to give you an education?” the duchess continued, and nobody even thought to stop her.
The girl raised her head quickly and answered, “I studied at the City Academy of Magic named after Josh The White.”
“Oh, well, of course,” the duchess nodded sweetly as if she well understood that this education was worth nothing. “Well, it’s okay. When you become Countess Eridanus, you’ll forget about all that nonsense, and court etiquette won’t be difficult for you anymore.”
Gentle tone, silken voice. As if she had sincerely wanted to support the girl, yet it had turned into public humiliation.
A fox... A fox under the mask of a rabbit... Or a viper...
The woman in pearls covered her mouth with her fan, chuckling indulgently. Another woman sitting on the other side of Angelina was grinning viciously.
The girl lowered her head and smiled weakly.
The King of the Dead felt bursts of anger burn inside him reaching those areas in his chest he thought had been totally insensitive.
He looked at Livia Rendan more attentively, trying to find out her secrets. Could the duchess know her future husband’s illegitimate daughter was sitting in front of her?
The yellow-brown eyes of the future queen were sparkling. In their depths, flashed something sharp and poisonous. Reive didn’t like it any more than Gerhard Ayris’s weak knees.
Then the necromancer decided to take a desperate step and ask a question that could place in doubt his statement about life in the remote part of the kingdom. Reive could have possibly known the answer to it himself, “Your majesty, could you tell me please where is the Duchess Myria Clarian Castro-Arcs now? I thought she would have been present at such an important event as your majesty’s wedding. Will she arrive later?”
Angelina cast a frightened look at him.
He had remembered her mother’s name. This information wasn’t the kind one could forget so easily.
Gerhard cringed. Reive noticed Livia’s upper lip twitched scornfully for a moment then returned to looking sweet.
“My sister’s been residing in the Northern Star monastery for five years already,” the king answered disdainfully.
Angelina turned pale and bit her lip.
With a smile through which poison was trickling, Livia added, “The poor woman’s got mad! They say she has made another suicide attempt recently by eating her own hands. The doctors barely saved her fingers. Poor her!”
“Stop it, Livia,” the king frowned. “Don’t spread rumors. She’s still my sister.”
“I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean any harm,” the woman lowered her eyes and looked at her fiancé. “I hope they’ll be able to help her!”
Angelina dived into her plate, senselessly poking food with her fork and knife. A second later out of awkwardness, she cut her finger with the knife blade. She winced quietly but stifled the desire to stick her finger into her mouth at the last moment. The necromancer saw her hand flinch. She’d already put it in the air, and then, she put it down on the tablecloth again.
She was afraid of becoming a figure of fun again.
Afraid to break this damn etiquette...
Reive was slowly working into a fury. Everything had been much simpler in his time. He used to invite necromancers to his castle. Among them, there were no conventions about the number of forks on the table and appropriate behavior.
However, that had irritated his former wife very much.
A drop of blood was dripping down Angelina’s skin. Reive took a handkerchief from his pocket and held it out over the whole table, not bothering about decency at all.
The girl looked at him with moist eyes and smiled happily.
As if I’d given her a palace, not a stupid handkerchief, upon the Dark! Oh, little one, why’re you like this? there was a nagging thought in his head.
Reive clenched his teeth and sighed deeply.
The conversation continued for some time, but now no one bothered Angelina. The girl looked gloomy and unhappy. The dinner on her plate remained uneaten. She didn’t even touch the wine.
Reive had also lost his appetite, although the cuisine was really good. True, he personally could have given some advice to the chef because there weren’t even a dozen of his favorite dishes on the table.