The Darkest Heart, Part 5

Shala frowned to herself when she heard shouting coming from somewhere in the manor. Her study was on the third floor, and on the far side of the building from the main entryway, but she could have sworn it was coming from there. If so, whoever was doing it was really bellowing. She tapped a button on her tablet to contact the head of security for the manor.

“Captain Verel, is something wrong?” she asked as soon as the call went through.

“Um, my Lady, actually, um, yes, there is,” Verel replied, sounding uncharacteristically hesitant. “You should probably get down to the main entry, actually.”

“What’s going on?” she asked, her frown deepening.

“It’s your husband, my Lady. Lord Hemetal.”

“I’ll be there right away,” Shala said decisively, but as she strode through the corridors, her confusion only deepened. What was Belfamor doing here now? It was still the early afternoon, and he usually worked until late at night. And what was he hollering about? Belfamor certainly had a temper these days, but she had never heard him like this.

What she saw when she walked into the main entryway shocked her. It was utterly trashed. Expensive vases and paintings were smashed all over the hall, while a number of servants and soldiers stood around the walls, looking shocked and helpless. In the middle of it all was Belfamor, screaming incoherently and smashing up the place.

“Belfamor!” Shala barked immediately, doing her best impersonation of her husband’s “soldier voice”. “What is the meaning of this!” Instantly, Belfamor froze, and then he slowly turned toward her. Despite her anger, she swallowed hard and took a step back at the look on his face. She’d never been afraid of her husband before, but at that moment there was something about him that reminded her unpleasantly of her father at his worst.

“I’ll tell you what the meaning of this is,” Belfamor said in a low, menacing voice. “I’ve been FIRED!” he roared, and flung the vase in his hand across the hall, where it shattered a few feet away from Shala’s head. She flinched, but otherwise stood her ground.

“What do you mean you’ve been fired?” Shala said in a calm but firm voice, folding her arms and fixing Belfamor with her best glare.

“I mean, that Emelien Fanas finally convinced Valador to give me the boot!” Belfamor yelled. “I’ve been relieved of duty! Temporarily, he says, but I know the truth. Now that the Senate is getting ready to meet, he doesn’t need me anymore! All he’s ever cared about is my money!”

“That’s ridiculous,” Shala shot back, her voice still calm but firm. “Valador only has your best interests at heart. If he’s relieving you of duty, there must be a good reason for it! The man loves you, Belfamor! He’s been like a father to you!” As soon as that last sentence was out her mouth, she knew she’d made a mistake. Anything that reminded Belfamor of his father was treading dangerously close to the elephant in the room, the huge barrier that had lay between them for the past four years.

Belfamor’s face instantly became closed off, and he turned away from her. Slowly, he trudged past the debris strewn about the hall, and walked up the stairs toward his quarters. As he walked, Shala just stood, frozen, unable to think or speak, helpless to figure out how to solve this problem between them.

After a few minutes, the servants in the hall seemed to get over their shock, and began bustling around, cleaning up the mess that the master of the house had made, but Shala still couldn’t seem to move. Finally, her chamberlain approached her and took her by the arm.

“Perhaps my Lady would prefer to return to her study,” he murmured, guiding her back into the corridor she’d just emerged from.

“Yes, that would perhaps be best,” she murmured faintly. What a frustrating mess this all was. How could she be so helpless to know how to approach Belfamor? Their marriage had been so wonderful once. They had been so madly in love with each other. Now it was like she was married to a stranger. How could this have happened?

The chamberlain, whose name was Vedfar Lonragen, guided her into her study, helped her ease into her seat, and then closed the door. Turning around, he gave her a look that was somehow fatherly and subservient at the same time.
“What is it, Master Lonragen?” Shala asked, still feeling slightly dazed by the scene in the main entryway.

“Forgive me, my Lady, but I felt like you could use someone to talk to,” Lonragen said, bowing as he spoke. Vedfar Lonragen had been in the service of House Votalin longer than Shala could remember. He was short and stout, with a ring of gray hair around his bald head. Shala remembered him being one of the few servants in her father’s household who would dare risk her father’s displeasure by being kind to her. Unsurprisingly, she’d always liked him.

“I should, Master Lonragen,” Shala said with a sigh, “but unfortunately I don’t seem to know what to say.”

“I understand, my Lady,” Lonragen said with another bow. “If you should happen to change your mind, please know that I am always available.”

“Of course, Master Lonragen,” Shala said, nodding her head slightly. Lonragen bowed once again, and turned to leave, but as the door slid open, Shala spoke again. “I do appreciate everything you’ve done for me, you know. Even…even when I was a child, you’ve always cared about me.”

Lonragen turned to look back at her, and a sad smile appeared on his face. “It was a tragedy, what your father did to you, my Lady,” Lonragen said softly. “I wish I could have done more to stop it.”

“You did what you could, Vedfar,” Shala said intently. “You did more than anyone else.”

“That is a tragedy of its own, my Lady,” Lonragen said with a sigh, “but what’s done is done, I suppose.”

To be continued…

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