Excerpt from The Ivy and The Rose

The Ivy and The Rose

By Juliann Rich

Ivy backed out of Lord Ainsworth’s bedchamber, a chipped porcelain pot clutched in her small hands. She turned to find her master standing in the hallway beside a stranger dressed in a shimmering charcoal robe, a bulging money purse hanging from the belt that circled his fiercely thin waist. Ivy stood and waited for her master to speak as the scent of his urine, hours cold, seeped from the chamber pot in her hands and filled the hallway.

“She might be the one you seek.” Lord Ainsworth bobbed his fat head. “She stumbled onto my grounds, spewing some nonsense about standing inside the castle with the cursed Princess Ambrosia one second and outside my gate the next. Claimed she’d been transported here by magic. The nonsense! But never you fear, I showed her what happens to chambermaids who hold with thoughts of magic. She’s tame now.” Lord Ainsworth frowned at the strands of long red curls that always escaped Ivy’s bonnet no matter what she did. “Well, tamer.”

“M’Lords.” Ivy curtsied. In a flash she imagined it, the pot tipping and spilling its stench onto the master’s shoes in front of the stranger he was so keen to impress. She hid her smile under the wide ruffle of her bonnet.

She stole a quick glance at the stranger.

“Inside the castle one minute.” The stranger tapped his bony fingers together and murmured, “And here the next. How clever…and yet how ignorant. To think they could hide the key from me!”

Neither who they were—clever or ignorant—nor what key they had hidden, did the stranger say as he swept down the threadbare rug. The master chased after him. Or, more’s the truth, after his money.

But Ivy didn’t have time to wonder about such things. A whole morning of chores made more complicated by an unexpected guest lay before her. Best not to dawdle with questions that didn’t concern her.

Ivy stepped out the kitchen door and flung the contents of the chamber pot. Three doves—one a babe still covered in fluff, one plump and glistening grey, and one with pure white feathers—watched her from a branch in a nearby tree. “Danger,” the white dove seemed to coo. And then, “beware.”

“Oh, hush with ye!” Ivy left the doves, preening their plumes, and stepped inside the kitchen.

Published by Bold Strokes Books

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