11: For a Father’s Approval
The gate swung open and Astrid stepped through to the other side of the mesh fencing the Aristocracy used to keep trespassers at bay. Judging from its ragged condition and the numerous repairs jobs, however, it looked about as effective at keeping people out as the current crop of peacekeepers.
Elizabeth’s protests continued as they entered the ruins, and it was easy to why: the Scar consumed a good forty acres of land, if not more, and the surrounding streets were a ruin of hollowed husks and skeletal structures overrun with weeds. Astrid picked her way around the wreckage, following what remained of an old road that ran all the way into the Scar’s ashen roots. It appeared to end at some kind of gate, a door as tall as it was wide.
Elizabeth clung to Astrid’s arm. She was a pretty and intelligent young woman, but years of Aristocracy teachings had left her anxious and overly paranoid. “I don’t like it, Princess. Why would somebody build a door into that horrible thing? Let’s go back. Please?”
Astrid shook her head. Maybe it was her desire to learn more of Seelie’s motives, so she could impress her father, or maybe it was her own Sophian curiosity, her longing to learn what, exactly, lay beneath the Scar’s walls, but she couldn’t turn back now. She had too many questions, and so few answers.
Vesperia, ever willing to throw herself into danger to protect her friends, darted ahead to scout out the roots and their shadows. She might have only been a child when the Firenze family adopted her, but she still had that spark of vagrant strength about her, a natural capacity for survival that pampered nobles like Astrid and Elizabeth sorely lacked. And, unlike her friends, whose noble status required them dress well and in the finest of fashions, Vesperia could wear what she chose. Elizabeth often accused her of dressing like a boy, but her simple clothes had their advantages — especially when it came to poking around decrepit ruins.
She returned from her reconnaissance with a frown. “I could find no way to open the doors,” she said.
Astrid glanced toward the wall. The witches had long disappeared from view, but it was clear that they knew of a way in through the Scar’s shell. Astrid opted to follow their lead.
“We should leave them to rot,” said Elizabeth, shying away as Vesperia scouted out their path. “Let the Agnoia claim them, and anyone else stupid enough to go in there. I—I bet that’s what the Father intended all along!”
But Astrid was not convinced that the Founding Father gave the peacekeepers their orders. If he had, her father would have warned her. Unless, of course, Hierodula was plotting behind the Director’s back. It wouldn’t have surprised her — at least half a dozen local nobles wanted rid of the Guirlande family. Elizabeth’s family, the Canterburies, and the Firenzes were among the few who retained their loyalty to the Royal household. By no coincidence, they were also among the few who still valued the words of Hagia Sophia and didn’t entomb her teachings behind layer upon layer of ‘personal contributions’.
Just as someone had once entombed a portion of Torsten beneath a grey dome of interlocking fibres. Up close, Astrid could see how they wove together down to the smallest of levels, threads within threads within threads, all of them hard as stone. It seemed impossible, and the more Astrid saw, the more she wanted to peer inside.
I hope you weren’t expecting Astrid to be the Draco Malfoy of the story just because some people consider her a snob!