Darkness Rather Blacker, A Sequel
René caught Julienne with her horrid hand gesture, and frowned accordingly. But there was some other sense about it too. Relief for being rid of her? Or perhaps there was something warmer, as he saw her go to mingle with the other children her age. It was unfair that she had no other peers to play with. The Muzuran daughters were too old for her. Yes, something like relief, but for a different reason that didn't solely revolve around himself.


With this sobering sensation, he finally gave Miss Gillingham and the schoolgirl a bit of attention. What a strange thing for a girl to be wearing. He made a face with the mildest disdain he could manage, before asking, "How old are you?" as he couldn't come up with anything politer than that.
It was a surprise - a pleasant one - that another girl had followed Julienne, especially another girl her own age. She wasn't one of the village children, though. She was a familiar face, or at least one Julienne had seen before when visiting the kitchens. She didn't know her name, though. Or any idea where she was going, but Julienne didn't wish to appear directionless in front of this other girl. Particularly as she was one of the servants. "Just over there," Julienne waved her hand in the general direction of a cluster of rocks. "You are welcome to come with me if you'd like."
Petal followed the other girl’s hand waving towards the cluster of rocks, wondering what was over there but she supposed something must have been there. “I used to hear stories about people wandering from others, walking about in moors, rock foundations, forests, and then getting lost, never heard from again,” said Petal, then turning to the other girl to see what her reaction might be. “Sometimes they find some tracks or something they left behind but where they went to? No one knows.” Petal shrugged and kicked the ground beneath her feet. “Maybe we should explore the surrounding moorland a bit more but together. We’re often safer in twos and I know how to fight. It’s easy, you just do this.” Petal fisted her hand and showed the other girl and then whacked the air.
"I really couldn't say," Claudia replied, glancing over towards René Chastain. This felt discourteous, but honestly, if he wanted to be civil all he had to do was walk over and say hello. It was not a terribly difficult task. Claudia smiled at the man Miss Kempa called Teacher. He certainly didn't look anything like any teacher Claudia had ever had, or like any she had ever imagined. 

She was rather taken aback at the other girl's sudden addition, and caught Miss Kempa's eye and shook her head, as if she could somehow indicate her own confusion when she really had no idea who this other girl was or what her relationship might be to the strange teacher. She would have asked but René had finally made his way to them and Claudia was forced to give him her sternest look. As a husband, René was going to take a lot of training.
Quite apart from being frightened, Julienne was quite excited by the other girl’s tales. It was exactly the sort of thing her Governesses would not want her to hear, which only made it that much better. Of course, if it were night, if they were not still in sight of her brother and the others, it might have been different. Julienne nodded. “Oh yes, I quite agree. Two is the perfect number for exploring. Perhaps we’ll find some of those tracks of people who went missing?” It was a thrilling idea.

As the other girl made a fist and smacked the air, Julienne watched her carefully for a moment, then tried to copy her, feeling silly and giggling slightly. “Have you been out here often? Maman would never let me come if it wasn’t with my brother.”  She wrinkled her nose.
Petal nodded her head frantically. Of course they could look for missing people! Perhaps they would stumble upon a body. “There, that’s how you do it!” said Petal, smiling widely and proud that she had successfully taught someone else how to punch. Now they could fight evil men and women off with their fists. Petal’s brows rose and then she shook her head, sighing. “I was sent here to be a scullery maid against my will and every day I toil without many breaks. Sometimes a little freedom is what’s needed for people like us. I sometimes try to come out here but I haven’t the time, I’ve been here once or twice and on one occasion I met some strange women.” Petal shrugged as she continued to move forwards, the more forwards they went, the more they might chance upon something exciting, maybe a missing person who now lives in a cave, surviving off of eating berries and insects. “Now, I don’t think they were ghosts. I don’t believe in ghosts. Do you?”
Irving had missed the girl’s question as well as Hermina’s insistences. For a moment, he glanced over the children, counting their heads. Two schoolteachers, elder children; it would seem impossible that one would be missing. But they suddenly seemed much less than short one and Irving stood up, without much of a word he began to trail about to see if he could sight them a little farther off.
Hermina prepared some tea for Mr. Irving, fumbling and not quite interacting with the others. While she wasn’t necessarily shy, she felt a little out of place for some reason, perhaps it was because, so she thought, she was ahead of her times, a true artist, one wrapped in their arts and who received visions form the far off future and was astoundingly different. No one could understand artists and maybe that was why, she thought. When done, she rushed to Mr. Irving and couldn’t stop smiling. “Here you are, sir, your tea,” she said quietly, blushing and unaware that she was distracting the man who was in search of a missing child or more. She lifted the tea up to him and standing up close, she could see just how handsome the makings of his face was and all the children, all the nature disappeared from around her. Wouldn’t it have been splendid if it had been just the two of them, together? “I didn’t know how you liked to drink your tea so I left out some sugar…” She sounded so shy and awkward when talking to him, very different from how strongly she felt.
Harriet was momentarily distracted by the blatant pining of Hermina Wickes for Mr. Milton. It was mildly revolting. But her attention returned to the group, as she heard an unknown voice. Mr. Lord Chastain Madswitte Marquess? He looked like a pink pig.

"Who, me, sir? I am sixteen, seventeen in the winter." Trying to curtsy again. "Would you care for some tea? You must be Lord Chastain. I am Miss Kempa." Rattling off formalities with slightly less enthusiasm as she'd done for Miss Gillingham, gathering another cup to pour for him.
He responded to Miss Gillingham's look with a darting of his eyes as if perplexed. He did, in fact, know why she looked so very unattractively sour, but to bend to her will was most unappealing. Beyond a 'thank you' when he received his tea, he did not verbalize more to Miss Kempa, merely nodding in a stiff manner, and focusing on the mysterious and roguish looks of the school teacher.
She felt pretty silly and Julienne was sure she wasn't doing it quite right, but this didn't keep her from being pleased by the other girl's praise. She listened to the maid's story, feeling an odd sort of kinship. She had been brought here against her will, also. "These strange women live out here, in this place?" Julienne glanced around as they moved further away from the group, as if these strange women were lurking, ready to snatch them up like witches out of a story. "And of course I don't believe in ghosts. I am far too old to believe in childish stories like that!" Julienne hoped she sounded more convincing than she felt, because there were times at night when she was not so certain.
“Good, it means you aren’t stupid,” said Petal but then remembered just how she was speaking to. “I mean, it means you are smart, miss.” Or was it m’lady? Petal could never truly remember correctly what was proper and what wasn’t. It wasn’t like she was poor, she was just a girl tossed into hard work because her family were cruel. “But yes, I saw these strange women—some might say they’re witches or ghosts or a dream but I know they’re real, I saw them with my own eyes!” Petal began to skip a little, feeling like they really were on an adventure and it seemed they were getting farther and farther away from the picnic. The further they were, the better. She saw the way that lanky Hermina girl gawked at the teacher, it was nauseating. “Anyways, what do you people do for fun around here? What do you do for fun?” Petal halted and her tongue did as well, she set her hands on her hips and looked left and then right, wondering which direction they should take. Petal then pointed down a rocky slope. “That way looks dangerous, let’s go that way.”
René's continued rudeness was a reminder to Claudia that she herself was neglecting some of the social niceties herself. After taking a demure sip of tea, Claudia held out her free hand to the young lady mooning after the teacher. "Good afternoon, Miss. My name's Claudia Gillingham, the daughter of Baronet Lansbridge."
Julienne was just doing her best to keep up with the other girl, and in such high-spirits to finally have a friend with which she could explore the moors at least, if not the castle, that she was almost willing to let the slight pass by. And the girl corrected herself, so Julienne couldn't fault her for that. "It's just Miss Julienne. Or Julienne Chastain. Or Julienne if no one fussy is listening. My father's not a Marquess. That is just my stepfather." Julienne made a bit of a face and stuck out her tongue. "So far I have been exploring the castle, it's very old you know and there are a lot of places people haven't looked at for a long time. There really isn't much else to do for fun around here, unless you have any other ideas?" 

As the girl suggested they go in the most 'dangerous' direction, Julienne grinned at her and dashed off that way. "Race you!" she shouted, though without a set destination it would not be much of a race.

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