T/N: I changed the spelling from Yulian to Julian 🙂
“About 100 years ago, my great-grandfather, Bayon II, enlisted the dark mages in the war under the condition that he recognizes the rights and authority of the witches. We won the war, but an unexpected problem arose. The power of the witches became too great. Bayon II decided to use the religious order Baredescha as a restraining force against the dark mages. The reason why the dark mages had been hiding and surviving from the witch hunt was because Baredescha had designated black magic as a heretical practice and hunted witches.”
It was a passage she had studied just before being summoned to the prince’s study in the middle of the night. Mariella stared at the diagram on the parchment and pointed out a gap.
“You forgot about the ‘Rest’ in the middle.”
“Oh, did I?”
As he said that, he scribbled “Greta’s Rest” between the diagrams already drawn. Suddenly, Mariella was curious.
“What is a Rest?”
The prince’s answer was overly simple.
“A blessing that can nullify all the powers of dark mages.”
Mariella furrowed her brow slightly and asked.
“So what the hell is that?”
“You’ve never seen magic.”
“I’m from the backwoods, where the only thing that exists is hunting grounds.”
At her mute reply, Josef laughed in a low voice.
“We don’t know the details. My great-grandfather said he was blessed when he was alone with Greta. Nothing has been passed down through spoken language, and there are no written records, but I do know one thing.”
“What is that?”
“Blessings and curses are two sides of the same coin. A blessing can become a curse, and a curse can become a blessing. It doesn’t matter if the person casting the spell has good or bad intentions. Magic doesn’t work for its own sake. It just does what the dark mages designed it to do. Think of something like a sword or an axe. We use them for good, but sometimes they do us in.”
Mariella shook her head slightly at the strange explanation.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“That’s because you don’t know magic.”
The prince waved a hand dismissively, then raised his pen to the parchment again.
“Baredescha had been slowly tightening the leash on dark mages in the capital, and the witches were unhappy, but they couldn’t mess with their religion, so they kept quiet. Then came the Gardamda Affair. In a rural village called Gardamda, a Baredescha priest raped and murdered a young witch. They claimed they were acting out their doctrine of the Inquisition, and the Papacy and Bayon II tried to sweep it under the carpet. Now, here’s the thing. What happened next?”
She answered straight away.
“The dark mages must have gathered their forces and struck down the Order before it could do more damage.”
“Correct. The First Holy War broke out like this: the witches took out their pent-up frustrations on the priests and paladins–it was practically a massacre–and that’s when King Bayon II, blessed with the Blessing of Rest, brought the archmage Greta to mediate between the Order and the dark mages. The witches didn’t want it, but what could they do? The King has the power to nullify black magic, and so the matter was put to rest.”
“The witches must have been gnashing their teeth.”
“They would have. The Second Holy War was fought after Bayon II’s death, and without the Blessing of Rest, they thought it was now the dark mages’ world. The carnage began again, and this time there was no one to intervene. Archmage Greta was in the Cave of Silence, training. Everyone expected the dark mages to win, but then something happened that no one expected: King Bayon III retrieved the White Stone from somewhere.”
“The White Stone…”
Mariella mumbles its name under her breath like a possessed person. Everyone in Verdan knew the legend of the White Stone.
According to the legend, it appeared in the hands of King Bayon III, who was praying fervently for the victory of good over evil witches when the priests and knights were in crisis.
“Yes, the White Stone. The only thing that can compare to the Blessing of Rest.”
“What’s the difference between the White Stone and the Blessing of Rest?”
She asked, and instead of answering, Josef stared into her eyes. Mariella suddenly realised how close he was to her. She pulled away and spoke.
“…Was that a difficult question for you to answer?”
Josef laughed lightly and shook his head. He lurched toward her.
“Kiss me and I’ll tell you the difference.”
“I’ll just, I’ll figure it out myself.”
She glared at him and pushed him away, then they heard a thumping sound from somewhere. They both turned their heads in the direction of the sound.
Julian, standing in the doorway, stared at them, his eyes vicious. It was a look of intolerance for something immoral, something unclean.
Josef was nonchalant, even as his friend looked at him like I was a bug. His face contorted in an instant.
BANG! Julian slammed the door and disappeared. He looked furious, like an adolescent boy.
The prince muttered a nuanced exclamation of indifference and turned back to Mariella, who was still staring at the doorway.
“Is it fine if you don’t go?”
Josef shrugged wordlessly.
* * *
It was a peaceful day. Marianne threw down her pen as she stopped transcribing a law book.
“This is not the life I dream of!”
Mariella stopped dusting and looked at Marianne. She was used to this. Trying to persuade an immature, impatient Marianne to do her job.
She turned her head away, finished her work, and replied with an air of nonchalance.
“Haven’t you noticed? That’s how life is supposed to be. You’ll find your dreams in dreamland, and you’ll finish the homework the Marquis has given you.”
“What a princess life!”
Marianne shouted. All the irritation and resentment that had been building up in her chest for so long came out.
But Mariella didn’t move a single glance in Marianne’s direction, just went about her business.
“So, that’s a princess for you? Picking up ears of corn, mending nets, and hunting?”
“I hate this! There’s no steamy romance, no fancy balls, no exciting adventures!”
Marianne shouted, leaping from her seat. Her voice grew a little louder. It looked like the tantrum was going to last longer.
Mariella sighed heavily. She dropped the duster she was holding to the floor. She walked over to Marianne and gently put her arm around her shoulders, pulling her back into her seat.
“Now is the time to wake up from your dream, Your Royal Highness. Enough of your whining, now pick up your pen and finish the summary of what you will learn tomorrow.”
Marianne silently took up her pen, not intending to finish her homework, but looking for an excuse to whine.
“I’d like to get some rest. Perhaps I can persuade His Highness to take me to the cottage, and we can go for a secluded boat ride on the lake.”
‘At a time when the aristocracy is watching with a light in their eyes, trying to delay the coronation at all costs.’
Mariella smiled wryly. She sometimes had this look on her face when Marianne was being frustratingly immature. Her face was amused, but her tone was anything but. Mariella spoke firmly.
“Take the pen.”
Only then did Marianne take the pen with a grimace. It was a spare pen on her desk. Her mouth was still set in a pout. Mariella sat down beside her and unfolded the pages of the book she was supposed to be transcribing.
“As soon as I finish this, I’m going to the ball, and no one can stop me.”
“Sure, if you can finish this.”
‘And if Mrs. Hortner allows it.’
She thought there was no way in hell Mrs. Hortner would approve of a lavish ball less than a month after King Johannes’ death, but she didn’t dare say it out loud.
Marianne is a woman whose emotions run ahead of her reason. No matter how plausible the reason, she would hate the person who refused her permission with all her heart.
‘There’s no point in going out on a limb and then having to deal with the fallout.’
She shrugged and went back to her work.
* * *
Mariella’s daily routine was surprisingly regular these days. In the morning, she would attend to Princess Marianne, and in the late evening, she would be Josef’s steed. In between, she studied to keep abreast of the kingdom’s affairs. There was no rest, except for sleeping. It was a terrible life for a maid.
BANG, BANG, BANG.
“His Majesty is calling.”
Once again, late at night, Josef called Mariella aside. The only difference was that it was not in his private study, but in his bedroom.
It was clear he hadn’t forgotten her sarcastic remark the last time they’d met. When she’d told they should come to his bedroom if he was going to call on her so unexpectedly.
‘I’ll make sure to keep that to myself.’
Mariella cursed as she followed the servant, her face expressionless.
“Tell me your story, Mariella. So that I may sleep peacefully.”
Josef was dressed in a thin nightgown. Mariella was used to seeing him dressed in his usual finery.
Mariella stared at the prince, who was lying on the bed and staring at her languidly from under the covers, and then asked.
“Can I refuse?”
The prince asked with a smirk.
“I’ll take that as permission to do a background check on my lady Marie.”
‘Oh, my head hurts.’
Mariella felt slighted by the prince’s refusal to budge. We all have things we don’t want others to know about.
For Mariella, it was her past.
Thirteen years ago, after her family had been wiped out, she hadn’t said a word about it.
And now she has to tell it to a man she’s known for less than a year, a man who’s lying to her and trying to control her.
She really didn’t want to, but she had no choice.
“Make yourself comfortable, my dear Master Josef. This maid1she actually said 쇤네 which is a term used by servants and maids to speak condescendingly to their masters. will tell you an interesting story today.”
Because he was definitely a gab2a term used to describe someone who is domineering and aggressive and she was definitely an eul3a term used to describe someone who is more passive and submissive.
Mariella smiled raggedly as she pulled the duvet up to Josef’s chin. Then she sat down on the stool next to the bed and told him a story from her childhood.
From the age of twelve, when she’d suddenly lost her family, to the age of twenty-five, when she’d been stabbed in the nose by a prince. She told him the big stories, the ones that changed her life forever.
Of course, she could have glossed over the story of her family’s hangings if she wanted to, but she decided to be honest. She didn’t want to be shallow and have the prince actually find out about it.
- 1she actually said 쇤네 which is a term used by servants and maids to speak condescendingly to their masters.
- 2a term used to describe someone who is domineering and aggressive
- 3a term used to describe someone who is more passive and submissive