The aftermath of Kent’s temper tantrum that first night was something to behold. There were splinters of wood everywhere and if Charlotte had ever harbored any hope that any of her belongings had survived the trip to this wretched house, she might have been upset at the prospect of them being gone now. However, thankfully she did not fall for such bouts of optimism and didn’t not allow herself to become emotional about these things. Instead, she found it educational and furthermore, she was more inclined to allow her anger over her loss to fuel her motivation in the end. She did so hate to be wasteful of perfectly good malice. Charlotte also found that her observations about this brute had revealed some rather curious patterns in his more reckless moments. Educational indeed and she couldn’t imagine that they would not prove useful sooner than later. There was more to learn, of course, but what she had found was that she was rather fascinated by the master’s odd behaviors here in his own home. There were the obvious things, naturally. She’d already noticed his shallow attempts to kill his own wife but his lack of ability to outright strangle her as he was so keen to do. There was more to it than this, though. Kent was capable of being moved to rage by denial of what he wanted which she already knew but what was news to her was that he would not linger in this wing for longer than it took to destroy a piece of furniture. Very strange for a man who had a collection of forgotten things. It was true that he no longer valued these things that he’d locked up here but it seemed odd that he might not wish to gaze upon his possessions more. That he might not want to show off his dominance over the things he had taken. He was, after all, a braggart and a boastful oaf. It was what kept him from dissolving into more violent moods in better company. So what might exist here that would chase him away so promptly? Curious indeed.

After the first week, his attempts to find his prey had dulled and he was reduced to the occasional tantrum that produced less spectacular results. In response, Vivian was rendered as gleeful as a woman in her state might be, gloating over his loss and taunting him at any opportunity. Their fights flared often enough but the pall that fell over the household was a dangerously quiet one. The house staff had not told her anything but she quickly recognized that same demeanor that she’d known so well as a child. It was when the threat of punishment was imminent and it wasn’t a question of if so much as who. Charlotte had no fear of these punishments now because she knew that either of her adversaries would understand they needed to kill her in one go or she would retaliate and would not allow them the same charity that she was granted. She did so hate when people did not pick up their own messes and would not tolerate one of her own. She was also aware, however, that she had been brought here and left in this wing to be broken. Kent wanted to own her as he sought to own Vivian before her. The brute had failed at the previous but he was determined not to fail this time. It wasn’t good enough to own the corpse of the butterfly though. Its wings had to be pinned while she was still achingly alive, submitting to it either willingly or not. It mattered little to him if she wished him in return but he could not force a dead woman into a marriage so his hands there were tied. As for Vivian, Charlotte did not anticipate that she would see much in terms of assistance there. But it was providing her nemesis with some grand amusement and likely some ammunition for when she had time to strike the brute herself. Charlotte was not aware of why she’d been spared but she knew already that Vivian would have made her life far more miserable if she so desired. She could have cast her out of the house but having her here was clearly fulfilling something. For how long, Charlotte couldn’t say but she knew that the war between the Master and the Lady was far from over and there would be casualties if she wasn’t careful. Still, for the moment, she was safe from the line of fire.

The same could not be said for everyone in the house. This terrible place was a prison waiting to be set fire with the rage of the family that was stitched together with tenuous but volatile bonds and all of the house staff knew it. The longer the silence drew on into the wretched cheerless festivities of Christmas and then continued into the dawning of the new year, the more she knew that the danger was getting worse and the threat of violence would become more insidious. She knew that she would survive but there were others in this house who would not. Others who were younger, more vulnerable and more trusting. She knew that this was the fate of any girl who worked in this horrible house. It was obvious that Master Kent would use them until they became uncooperative or a nuisance to him. If their potential had been used up, they would be sent down to work themselves to death in some menial task that they would not know any reprieve from until they dropped. She’d found out quickly that in this house, it was a dreaded fate that anyone who should be sent to the laundry in the basement would be dead within the year. In her own house, it had been the fate of the kitchen maids, though the man she’d been forced to call Father had never really bothered with the elaborate lie that this house enjoyed telling. A scullery maid was there to be used up. She would be forced to clean until her body was broken and the only break in her miserable life of scrubbing would be when the master of the house saw fit to use her as his own personal slave. The only one to escape that fate was Victor’s poor witless love bird who had practically thrown herself at his feet at the first sign that he would be kind to her. Oh and he did so adore that young girl, it must have been quite the shock to the system to have him doting on her. Poor dove. It was plain to see that she did not love him but at least he cared about her enough to try to ease her suffering and perhaps that was the best she could do in her position. If she hadn’t gone and died, he probably would have gone through with his threat to marry the poor wretch. Wouldn’t that have been something to see. Might have put their father figure in an early grave and made life better for her, and them both.

There was no Victor here to give away such lovely promises and even if there was, only her foolish sibling had any regard to try to fulfill such fanciful wishes for the lowly servants. Charlotte did so hate to see people such a low state. Not that it filled her with pity, however. Oh no, she was much more given to offense. What these girls needed to understand was that this was a problem with a very clear solution. It was true that it was a painful lesson to learn and on this point alone, she supposed she could afford some compassion. She did, after all, have such a lovely teacher in her own beloved mother and why, what tragic state of affairs was this that these girls who toiled under this oaf had none. And if the lessons were all that was missing, well, that might easily be remedied. She had no time for pity when there was work to do. Any one of these young girls could be the one to start to notice the potential to get out of this hell hole. There was a brute to face down, yes, but he was a fool and he had money. Both these things told her that with enough effort, that problem could be solved and there were enough wits among them all that it could be done without anyone needing to worry about the rope finding their necks. She also knew that with enough training, they could be taught to escape this fate. With enough will, they would be able to overthrow this whole forsaken home and everyone who had ever laid a hand on them in torment. She knew this could be done. She also knew that even if it spelled her dying breath, she would see to it that someone in these walls had the means to end this name with the master that they all loathed so much.

“Miss?” a small voice interrupted her train of thought.

Charlotte turned to see the girl who had been so helpful that first night standing before her sheepishly. She held a tray with a cup of tea and some biscuits. The tea was in a cup that did not match the saucer and the biscuits were hurriedly cut corner pieces that were neither dainty enough for good company nor were they going to be missed. Charlotte smiled at the first attempt at thievery from this bold little fledging.

“Master is in a black mood,” she said, her voice getting softer. “He is angry but he will not notice small pieces.”

“Such a clever thing you are,” Charlotte cooed at the girl taking the tray from her and beckoning for her to sit. “Now, where is the dear Master now? Finding some new piece of furniture to exact his rage on, yes?”

“He is in his private quarters,” she said, her voice quivering.

“Well then, he is otherwise occupied and we might have some privacy,” Charlotte said with a bright smile. She pulled up a chair and offered one of the biscuits to the girl. “I do so hate to have tea alone.”

“He may call upon me,” she objected to which Charlotte just shook her head.

“Well, darling, then it is clear that you were only assisting me in cleaning up a dastardly mess here in the forgotten wing, were you not?” Charlotte tutted, as the girl sat awkwardly. “I assume that you already knew of such minor, petty tricks but there are more. Let me show you the means to disappear more fully than you might have had a chance to in the past. I promise, you’ll find that this works quite well and in time, you’ll never have to worry about that bastard Master or his long shadows ever again.”

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