It took them another fifteen minutes to calm Chitter down that time, during which the tea and coffee – and Chitter’s soda – arrived. The maid bringing the drinks made things either better or much worse by looking Chitter in the eye and apologizing for being late. “I had to feed the moat creature, you see.”
“Moat creature! Moat Creature! Wait…”
Five minutes later, Senga had managed to convince Chitter that there was no invisible moat and no moat creature. Five minutes after that, with Candavish’s amused help, they’d managed to calm her down.
“Honestly. You could have just told me that you were kidding,” she huffed.
“I believe I did. Twelve minutes ago. Although-”
“Nope. Don’t want to know it. Don’t want to hear it. There aren’t monsters here, that’s the important part.” Chitter drank half her soda in one gulp.
“So.” Candavish cleared his throat. “Mirabella is dead. That is – I admit, I did not believe the announcement. But if you two tell me it is so, then I will be forced to accept its possibility.” He huffed. “I’m going to have to put some other plans in motion then, some things that were-”
“Excuse me.” Erramun’s voice cut across the butler’s monologue. “Who do you work for?”
Candavish coughed. “For the house and for the family, of course.” He eyed Erramun with obvious distaste. “I don’t need to as who you work for – do I?”
“The family would be sa’Mountain of Death now, wouldn’t it? I’m pretty sure there aren’t any other family members left alive.”
“That was a little bit harsh, wouldn’t you say?” Candavish was uncomfortable. Why was he uncomfortable? Senga leaned forward.
“It’s important. Are there any other heirs to the Monmartin family left alive?”
“Not unless Miss Senga has had children, no.”
“No children.” That was not a topic Senga wanted to entertain. Not now. She looked between the two men, then back to her crew, who were watching this like a tennis match.
“Then Miss Senga is the sole heir to the Monmartin family. And she is also, as it seems, via Mirabella, the sole heir to the house, yes.” Candavish raised his eyebrows, clearly asking so? without saying a word.
“Do you think-” Ezer started.
Erramun cut him off, not even seeming to notice that he’d spoken. “Then you work for Senga. Correct?” His eyes were drilling holes into Candavish.
The butler was actually seeming a little rattled. “Well, I have several behests and instructions from Mr. Monmartin, from Mrs. Monmartin, from-”
Erramun cleared his throat. “Do you work for Senga Monmartin? The woman who owns this house, who holds the Monmartin name, and who is the sole inheritor of everything to do with the family?”
Candavish looked notably uncomfortable. “I do my job as it has been assigned to me, of course, as you do.”
“Is this really-”
Erramun cut over Allayne the way he had over Ezer, except that he nodded at her politely. “As I do?” His glare turned back to Candavish. “Then who holds your leash?”
“I’m afraid I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Senga, can’t you rein him in?”
“The question,” Senga answered Allayne, before Erramnu or Candavish could answer, “is who can rein Candavish in.”
“You said you knew him,” Chitter complained. “You hugged him!”
“I did. I do know him. I knew him when I was a child and my family was murdered. But I’m not the same person I was back then, and Erramun has a very good question.” She looked at the butler. “Who controls you?”
She was not actually expecting the man to kneel. She was definitely not expecting the way his face had paled or the way he touched his nec as if there was a collar underneath his crisp white shirt. As far as she knew, the man was human. Just human. There shouldn’t be any – any of this.
“House Monmartin controls me.” Something in his voice was resentful, angry. It was more startling to hear that much emotion in his tone than it was to see him on his knees. “You control me, Lady Senga.”
“Well, shit,” Chitter muttered. “Now that just seems mean.”
“Rise, Maron Candavish,” Senga murmured. “You serve my house.”
She had no idea why she knew those words, no idea what ritual she was playing at, but the meaning itself was clear enough. And when he rose, he looked tired, aching, and older than she could imagine him being.
“Nobody has done that in quite some time.” He glared at Erramun. “And nobody would have, either.”
Erramun looked completely unrepentant. “No. Nobody would have But it is important for you to remember certain things. And if Lady Senga is not going to remind you, than I am.”
“She’s not – Are you? Senga.” Allayne had the tone of voice usually reserved for Senga’s worst fashion choices. “Are you a *lady* and didn’t tell us? Why wouldn’t you tell us? Why – how? All of it?” She threw up her hands.
“No. No, Americans still don’t have Ladies and Lords, or if we do, nobody’s told me.” Senga looked between Erramun and Candavish, between Allayne, Chitter, and Ezer, and then because at least she understood it, her coffee.
Erramun, when it became clear that she wasn’t going to say anything else, cleared his throat. “In past times, sometimes we would use ‘lady’ or ‘lord’ where otherwise we would’ve been using ‘sa’. It’s just being respectful to the woman who runs this household.”
“I’m not gonna start calling her Lady Senga,” Chitter complained. “Look, I know what she looks like when shit-faced and puking and I know what she looks like killing someone. I don’t call her sa’ and I’m not going o call her Lady.”
“And,” Senga put in, before Erramun started baiting Chitter even *more*, “I don’t want you to.”
“So what was all that, then? Come on, Senga, you don’t – you don’t do any of this having-servants shit. Now you have a Bond Servant and you have a staff and a manor and come *on*. I don’t like it. why can’t we just-”
“Come on.” Allayne patted her back. “Why don’t you and I go talk, okay?” The look she shot Senga was surprisingly sharp. “We can let Senga work out whatever’s going on with the family butler, why don’t we, and I can help you move around those towers and things.”
“To-oh you got it right. I just don’t understand,” Chitter muttered, but she let herself be led out, leaving Ezer, Senga, Erramun, Candavish, and the very quiet and very worried-looking Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Collier.