Murder Scene Blogfest – Steam Palace
Laurel held her week-old infant to her bosom. Her child’s life would be hard, painful. How easy it would be to dash her baby’s head upon rocks and be done with it, rather than witness the years of suffering she would surely endure. In the upper reaches of the manor, another woman suckled another baby, one destined for a life of ease, of luxury, of comfort and security. A nobleman’s daughter, born into a wealthy, reputable house.
Didn’t her child deserve such a life? Her Lord and Lady had cast her out, ordered her back to her impoverished Native village on the morrow. Her child was an embarrassment to them, a vile reminder of their sins. How would they feel if their precious infant was raised in such a harsh environment, forced to beg, steal, and prostitute herself for her daily bread? Why shouldn’t her child have all the advantages? It hardly seemed fair, not after certain promises had been broken.
An idea hatched. She had tended both infants, and earlier, mistook her master’s for her own. Through some curious vagary of nature, the babies appeared identical. A close examination revealed differences, and surely as they matured they would grow disparate, but right now, they were as indistinguishable as twins.
Her resolve hardened. She wrapped her babe in a blanket and climbed up the spiral stairs towards the nursery. She listened outside the servant’s door, ensuring that the mother was asleep and alone. Laurel pushed the door open and crept towards the bassinet. She placed her baby down and picked up the other as gently as she could. One errant cry and her plan would be foiled. She left the room and descended the stairs, releasing the breath she had been holding. Her heart thundered in her chest. Half-way down, she encountered Nehanti.
“What are you up to, Laurel,” hissed the old crone, a woman far beyond her useful years, and long overdue to succumb to the next wave of the Olding. A scarf covered her half-bald head, and her mottled skin hung from her limbs.
“Just walking,” replied Laurel, her throat constricting. “My baby needs air.”
The crone pointed a bony finger at her. “I know what you have done. It will not stand. Return that child to her mother.”
How could she know? “Please, I beg you, think of it—an Agawam as a nobleman’s daughter. She shall be given the life she deserves, not our life of filth and slavery. My child deserves this, and you know it. They will never know.” She prayed the baby would not wake.
The crone shook her head. “It makes no difference. Your child is cursed either way. Place her back at once or I shall summon our masters.” The crone blocked her way, her sunken eyes reflecting moonlight.
The crone’s meddling knew no bounds. “No! I will not return her!”
The crone drew a deep breath to raise an alarm, but before she could release the words, a dagger plunged into left shoulder. She slid to her knees and then tumbled down the stairs, smacking the stones in sickening thuds. Laurel tiptoed after her as the baby stirred. The crone lay still.
No one investigated. Now to hide the body, to allow time for escape, for the infant could awaken at any moment. She shuffled to her room and placed the stolen child in a bassinet, and then returned to dispose of the body. She gasped—the crone had disappeared. No blood trails, nothing. She searched the servant’s quarters and outbuildings for frantic minutes, but the urgent cries of her baby returned her to her motherly duties. She packed up her meager belongings and departed the manor with the infant, never to return.
And yes, we do find out in a bit that the old crone dies of her wounds, so it is indeed murder! (not to mention kidnapping). Any comments/critiques are welcome!