Inés and Serena made their way back to the garden. From a distance, they spotted Sylvie sitting with Illyana. The two were engrossed in their conversation.
“It seems a pity to interrupt them,” Serena mused. “Sylvie has such a gentle expression when she talks to Illyana.”
“True enough,” Inés agreed. “But it’s about time for us to greet the Kane family and see if Astrid’s offer is still good.” She stepped forward. “Hey, Sylvie, you ready to get going?”
Sylvie looked back towards the two of them, startled.
“Sounds like it’s time for us to get to our accommodations,” she said. “I’ll see you for supper and we’ll talk some more.”
“I’ll look forward to it,” Illyana stated.
Sylvie joined the others. “All right, let’s go,” she said, sounding annoyed.
The trio left the garden and were quickly approaching the Academy entrance.
“Did you tell her you love her?” Inés asked.
“What I do is none of your concern,” Sylvie snapped.
“There’s no need to be mad,” Inés stated. “If you need advice, just ask me. I’ve got a lot more experience with girls than you do.”
“I somehow doubt that your advice would do much good for a girl like her,” Sylvie said.
“You’d be surprised by how versatile I can be,”Inés declared. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Max wants to meet with us tonight to see if we can help with some problem. I told him that we’d listen and decide whether to stick around for it or not.”
“Very well,” Sylvie said. “You and Serena see what Maxi… Max wants. If you both agree to stay or to leave, we’ll consider it settled by a civil majority. If you two disagree, then you can both present your arguments to me and I’ll cast the deciding vote.”
“I’m a bit surprised that you don’t wanna come along,” Inés said. “Could it be that you have a date?”
“That’s none of your business!” Sylvie declared.
They made their way to the Kane estate. The main house was large with three floors with some smaller buildings around it, presumably to house the servants. It was gated with a couple of guards stationed outside.
“Priestesses,” one of the guards greeted them. “What business brings you here?”
“My name is Inés,” Inés greeted. “My companions and I met Miss Astrid Kane on the road here. She offered us her family’s hospitality.” Inés held out the token she’d been given.
The guard reached for it and looked it over. “I see,” he said. “I’ll go inform Lord Astrid. Please wait here.” He hurried off.
His companion stood in front of the gate and watched them. “He’ll be back soon,” she said, tapping her feet nervously.
“You don’t have to be worried,” Inés reassured her. “We won’t bite you. Well, I might if you asked me nicely.” She winked. The guard’s face reddened and she looked away.
The second guard quickly returned. “Please follow me,” he said. The priestesses complied, allowing him to lead them through the gate and into the mansion where a young butler took over.
They were led upstairs to the first floor. They were taken to a sitting room where a chubby man with greying brown hair was waiting.
“Welcome,” he said. “I heard about you from my little Astrid’s letter. Unfortunately, she won’t be home for two days yet. But please, stay as long as you like. I know she’d be thrilled to see you.”
“Thank you, Sir,” Sylvie said. “We’ll take you up on your kind invitation.”
“Yes, quite good,” he said. “Supper will be in two hours. You’re welcome to join us or to go where you will to sup. Joseph, lead them to their rooms if you please.”
The butler bowed. “This way, Ladies.” He took them up to the second floor and showed them to three of the guest rooms.
Sylvie left first and made her way back to the Academy. She could feel her heart beating quickly and had to try and remind herself that this wasn’t an actual date. It was a meal with her friend. Still, would it hurt to think of it as a date?
She swallowed and knocked on Illyana’s door.
“Coming!” Illyana called. Her door opened slightly.
“Thank you for having me over,” Sylvie said.
“Oh, Sylvie,” Illyana said. She opened the door wide. “Thank you for coming. Mama should be here soon.”
“I look forward to seeing her,” Sylvie said.
“Mama has been a bit needy lately,” Illyana said. “Last week she was contacted by my birth parents. I guess they wanted to see me.”
“You didn’t meet with them?” Sylvie asked.
“No,” Illyana said. “I understand why they left me, but I also have no connection to them, you know?”
“I understand perfectly,” Sylvie said.
“Mama!” Illyana greeted. “Come on in.”
“Headmistress,” Sylvie bowed.
“Sylvie, Bastion mentioned having seen you in the garden,” Luc said. “I take it you’re travelling with Inés.”
“I am,” Sylvie said. “She didn’t embarrass herself when she saw you, did she?”
“Not particularly,” Luc answered. “Come, let’s eat together and you can tell us all about your trip so far. I know that Illyana’s anxious to hear it, aren’t you, Dear?”
“Absolutely,” Illyana agreed.
Inés led Serena toward the academy, veering to the left as they approached it, taking them to a stable with a small meadow behind it, patched with trees.
“This is your old hangout?” Serena asked.
“Not quite,” Inés answered. She headed for a large stone and quickly lifted it, revealing a small hole.
“There’s a good sized cavern down there,” Inés said. “We should be able to squeeze through.” The two went inside. The small passage quickly widened. After a couple minutes, they were able to stand. Inés grabbed a torch that was left hanging on the wall and quickly lit it.
“This can’t be a natural cave,” Serena observed. “Did you guys dig it yourselves?”
“We didn’t,” Inés answered. “We just found it. There are actually three entrances. We think it was used for less than legal purposes once upon a time. Come on, the big chamber is this way.”