Perilous Artifacts: Carew House
If Harry had stayed, Olive could have jumped right back in the steamer and begged him to take her far, far away into the depths of the undercity to hide. She looked around in indecision. Maybe she could still make a run for it?
As she took stock of the options available to her, she screwed her face up into a rueful look. Run away? Impossible! Not with these boots or in these clothes.
She became aware of Pieter tugging on her arm, waiting to usher her through the open doorway and past the waiting butler.
“Precisely the question we all seem to be asking.” With a sign and a shrug of her shoulders, she took charge of the butterflies fluttering in her stomach. Chin up, shoulders back, she looked the butler in the eye. “Good morning, Diesel.”
“Good morning, Miss Olive and welcome to Carew House. Might I say that you’re looking quite fine?”
Somehow, Diesel always knew what to say to put her at ease. She gave him her best smile, lips apart with just a hint of teeth. “You might.”
The butler bowed and gestured toward the grand staircase that rose three floors through the center of the imposing entryway. “Her ladyship awaits you in the upper parlor.”
“Thank you, Diesel.” Pieter tipped his head. “Shall we?”
As they climbed the stairs at a suitably decorous pace (what a scandal if they had taken the stairs a run!), Olive took a moment to appreciate the ornate beauty of the space. Expensive wood banisters imported all the way from Oldlund offered the safety of a sturdy support on either side of the white marble steps. Beyond the staircase, on the east-facing wall, translucent glass blocks inset with large plate glass windows allowed in natural light that glittered and sparkled as it reached expensive vases and statues situated in niches on marble pedestals set into the white plastered south, west, and north walls. The gilded frames of large paintings shone even more expensively where they hung facing every major turning of the staircase.
And, from the ceiling in the center of the rising staircase, on a heavy gilded chain, hung a chandelier dripping with tiers of slender crystals longer than Olive was tall. The lights in the chandelier were lit despite the daylight eclipsing their glow. Olive knew from previous visits that the chandelier remained lit around the clock.
So many artifacts– “Which perilous artifact did your mother promise to throw if we were late?” She grinned at Pieter. “I want to see it.”
“That isn’t funny,” he hissed. He looked around, but there was no one in sight, so he leaned closer. “That mask–over there–just off the second floor landing.”
Olive grinned. It was hideous. “We could help her out with it.”
They reached the upper floor and a long hall with a gallery of paintings of former governors dating from back to the time just after the destruction of the former city and journey forward to the governor that now ruled Olive’s fate—and Pieter’s too, for that matter: Lady Governor Carew.
Her portrait hung just outside the door of the parlor. Pieter took one look at her stern painted figure, and all the color drained out of his face. “I knew it. We’re late.”
“No, not late.” Olive gestured toward the open window and a view quite empty of arriving airships. “We may not be early—but we might still be fashionably just in time.”
For the next installment (available Tuesdays), read Perilous Artifacts: Locked Out, where Olive is offered one more piece of the puzzle of her past.
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