When they left the master suite – Erramun had redecorated the bedroom into shades black and blue that made it feel much more like a space Senga lived in and had somehow made it smell fresh and aired-out and not at all musty – they found Chitter and Ezer arguing over the other wing of the upstairs.
“Senga!” Ezer called. “Tell Chitter that I need this space to coordinate the three of you on your ridiculous death-defying missions!”
“Senga,” Chitter whined, “tell Ezer that I need all this space for my computers!”
“Guys…” Senga looked between them. “There’s literally two wings of residential space, not counting the servants’ quarters in the back. There is literally room for each of you to have a floor of a wing to yourself. Why do you need this space?”
“The view” they answered as one. Then Ezer added, a little sulkily, “Allayne got the wing below yours. And that’s the next nicest.”
Senga rolled her eyes. “Okay. Reasonable solution: you each take half of this floor and half of the floor below. And stop acting like five-year-olds, or I will relegate each of you to a closet.”
“Wait, but then how will I-” Chitter stopped.
“To be fair,” Erramun rumbled, “the closets here are bigger than the rooms you had back in that other place. So she’s not offering to punish you too badly.”
“Come with me,” Senga demanded. She had no patience right now for her team, her partners, to be acting like children. “Okay. Chitter, you’re going to take this room and the one next to it… here.” She swung open a closet door. “And here’s the stairway down to the suite below it…” She tapped four times on the right parts of the door and then a final time. “See?”
The panel in the back of the closet moved away seamlessly to reveal a stairway leading down. “What… what?” Chitter glared at the stairway. “How is this even – how does this -” She stepped out of the closet, walked to the other room, and walked back. “Does this exist in real space?”
“As… as far as I know.” Senga frowned. “I mean, it’s a manor. There are hidden passages everywhere. Nobody ever wanted to go out in the main stairways. So there’s back routes everywhere.”
Erramun cleared his throat. “I think it’s more important to say it’s Monmartin Manor. Not all manors are like this… mistress.”
“And Great-Aunt Mirabella’s manor?” she asked, ignoring, for a minute, the mistress. The way his hand was on his neck, he was thinking about the collar – the lack of it – too.
“Manors in your family, then. I did once visit one of your distant cousins in a suburban home, and they had three secret passages and a bug-out room.” He smiled, possibly fondly, before turning a more professional gaze on Chitter and Ezer. “The other thing about the Monmartin family and their homes is the traps – so I’d listen to all of Miss Senga’s warnings twice, and then, if you’re prone to doing things without thinking them through, listen to the warnings again. If I have to fish you out of more than one trap, I will make fun of you.”
“If she lets you,” Chitter pointed out. Senga winced. The man had called her mistress and Miss Senga in the span of less than a minute. He was probably not in any danger of forgetting that he belonged to her.
But he just grinned down at Chitter. “Bet you she will. Also bet you I’m going to have to fish you out of at least three traps.”
“You’re on, tall man. What do you want to bet?”
“I bet you one turn doing the dishes for each time from three on that I have to fish you out of a trap. Either that, one hour explaining e-mail to me.”
“And if I win and you don’t have to fish me out of any traps?”
“One time doing the dishes for each time under three that I don’t have to fish you out of a trap, or I hit someone over the head for you.”
“You’re on.” Chitter held out a hand and Erramun grabbed it and shook it, only then seeming to remember that he was a bound servant, that he was making deals that, in theory, were Senga’s to make.
She didn’t care. She was grinning at the exchange too much.
“Okay, now that that’s done. This set is yours, Chitter, down here. Ezer, the trick to these rooms and the view is that if you don’t close your curtains, anyone in one quadrant of the hedge maze can see you. It’s the way the light and the angles are set. That’s only the upstairs rooms; the downstairs ones have the same problem but just from the stable.”
“So what you’re saying is close my curtains.”
“Absolutely. On the up side, the windows are all bullet-proof and they used to be spell-proof, although I wouldn’t rest too much on that, these days.”
“Your family,” Ezer said slowly, “they must have really been something.”