For some time Mrs Fitz was seized by bewilderment.
She eventually regained her composure.
A messy bed, Pyjamas all over the floor, wine glasses with dregs left in them and a disappearing Grand Duchess.
Mrs Fitz saw the hem of the bed covers stuck in the bathroom door.

   “Every go back and wait.” Mrs Fitz said to the maids snooping around the bedroom door.
“Hurry, go on, get away.”

   Even though Mrs Fritz did not use stern words to shoo the maids away, the dispersed in good order.
Even Lisa, who couldn’t help but feel like she should linger, had to turn away back down the hall.

   After confirming no one was sneaking about, Mrs Fitz closed the bedroom door and approached the bathroom.

   “Your Highness, we are alone now, you can come out.”

   There was a short pause.

   “…Yes, I’m sorry Mrs Fitz.” A thin, trembling voice came from the other side of the door.

   “That’s fine, how are you feeling?”

   “I’m okay, its just…”

   Erna was speechless, but Mrs Fitz was patient and waited for Erna to come out in her own time.
She busied herself cleaning up the mess of the bedroom.

   For Bjorn, he woke up in the morning and went about his ablutions as if nothing had happened.
He washed, dressed and had breakfast, all without once mentioning his wife.
It was as if he’d completely forgot she existed.

   Mrs Fitz had a bad feeling, an ominous feeling.
She didn’t dare guess what was going on between the couple, but she knew that this was not a normal scene for a new bride.
The same was true of the groom, who only seemed faithful to his usual way of life on his first day of being married.

   “If you are uncomfortable bathing, I will tell the maid not to come.” Mrs Fitz called out toward the bathroom.
“But I am going to need that sheet.”

   It wasn’t that Mrs Fitz couldn’t guess what the pair had been up to in the middle of the night., but it was polite not to mention it directly, either way, the sheet would have to be thrown out, it couldn’t be left as it was.

   The door slowly opened and Mrs Fritz backed up a little, allowing Erna all the space she needed.
There was a moments silence and Mrs Fritz swallowed when she finally saw Erna on the threshold.

   The Grand Duchess sloppily covered her naked form with the bed sheet, stood there staring at the ground by her feet.
She looked so haggard that it was hard to believe she was nobility.
Blood shot and puffy eyes, tousled hair and red marks about her neck and chest.

   “Thank you, your highness.” Mrs Fitz said and reached to take the bedsheet.

   She backed away the moment she had it and did not look directly at Erna. Prince, if only, I would The angry thought sent heat through the old nanny.
If Bjorn stood in front of her right now, she would have given him more than an ear full.

   If Bjorn had married this woman out of love, then why was he not here? If he did love Erna, he would have stayed by her side, been with her all night and not up until his own ends were satisfied.

   With a sigh, Mrs Fitz took the laundry away.
The bed sheet was carefully wrapped so that no traces of blood could be seen.
What a morning for the first day of being Grand Duchess.
She was more than worried for her future.

“Thank you, Mrs Fitz.” Erna repeated an unknown number of times.

   “You’re welcome.” Mrs Fits replied.
“This is a drug that will help calm your nerves, eat and get some rest.”

   At first, it seemed like Mrs Fitz was being stern, like a school matron, but her expression was soft and warming.

   “But you were to give me a tour of the mansion.” Erna protested.

   “Its fine, we can postpone for one day.
The Prince has requested that.” Mrs Fitz lied.

   Erna was lost in thought for a moment.
She really wasn’t up for walking around the grand palace any way, not with her body aching the way it did.
She appreciated Bjorn’s concern and took the medicine bottle obediently.

   Erna laid back down in the bed and Mrs Fitz, satisfied, left, leaving Erna alone in the bedroom.
It was kind of cosy, with the curtains drawn and the fireplace glow.

   Erna started at the fire blankly and absently pulled at the feathers of the duvet.
She felt very lonely all of a sudden.
She had spent the first days of her marriage, alone, on her bed, with her body aching still.

   Her Grandmother had been so excited to hear that Erna was going to be the Grand Duchess of the entire kingdom, if she could see Erna now, would she have been disappointed?

   “Grandmother.” Erna whispered to the fire, her heart ached for her Grandmother.

   It had been at the reception that Erna learned the Baroness had returned to Buford.
Erna was in-bittered when she learned her Grandmother left without saying goodbye, but she knew that everyone in this high society has their place and her Grandmother’s was in Buford.

   Erna’s thoughts made her restless and she tossed and turned in the bed, before staring up at the ceiling with a pensive look on her face.
None of this felt right.
The name Dniester, this palace, Bjorn, none of it felt like hers.

   Her mind drifted to the other night and the energy of the medicine spread fast.
Her tired body stiffened and she couldn’t believe that just thinking about that night got her heat rising and made her breathless.

   Erna got up and checked the door of the bedroom was closed several times.
She then scrambled back under the sheets, and pulled them up and over her head.
She became distinctly aware of the pain that was still there.
It was more of a dull ache now.

   She remembered laying out on the bed in the early morning of that night, before the sun’s first light came over the horizon.
She was curled up on the bed, willing the pain away so that she could sleep.
She was vaguely aware of movement beside her and she turned just in time to see firelight reflect off of Bjorn’s back.
He didn’t look back at her once, as he left, she remembered that much.

   Erna hoped he would be coming back soon, she wanted him to come back, but he never did.
Erna buried her face into her pillows and fell asleep crying.

   Bjorn was friendly and he was heartless.
He was as warm as he was cold.
It was strange to see such disparity in one man.
How could opposite aspects exist at once, there must be some falsity to Bjorn, but Erna could not detect any fabrication or lie.

   The more she looked at Bjorn, the more she realised she didn’t know and because of her cluttered mind, nightmares and bad dreams followed.
She dreamed of being eaten alive by a wolf.




The Grand Dukes carriage returned to Schuber Palace just as the sun settled in the west.
Despite his busy schedule, Bjorn did not look tired, he was the same as usual.
He exchanged brief glances with the servants as they came out to meet him.
Mrs Fitz fell in behind him as he strode toward the entrance hall.

   “Her Highness is asleep, she seems unwell, so I told her to rest.” Mrs Fitz said.


   “You have been busy with getting married, maybe a few days rest for you, is in order?”

   Bjorn sensed a thorn in the question.

   “I’ll enjoy some rest on my honeymoon.” Bjorn said.

   “That’s over two weeks away, my Prince.” Mrs Fitz frowned.

   “Has the Grand Duchess already swayed you to her side?”

   “I beg your pardon?”

   “There’s no way you don’t know the honeymoon isn’t just a honeymoon.” Bjorn said, pausing on the landing and turning to face Mrs Fitz.
He smiled, but it did not go as far as his eyes.

   The honeymoon was just a formality, in reality, it was an overseas diplomatic mission.
It was important to reaffirm alliances and to check the intricate web of political power was intact.
Especially after such a major event as raising up a new Grand Duchess.
It had been Bjorn’s job since the laying down of the crown.

   A visit by the king, or crown prince, is a major political act, but a prince who disbanded from the throne would not cause as big a fuss.
Couple that with the ruse of going on a honeymoon, Bjorn was able to affectively spy on other countries with ease, as well as scout out financial markets.

   “So why do you say such things? There must be a reason, have you so quickly abandoned me?” Bjorn said with a sly smile.

   “Your Highness…”

   “To abandon me in just one day, you don’t even look sad about it.” Bjorn’s intentions were made clear as he over emphasised his wounded pride.

   “Your childish jokes is what pushed me to her, it was not a difficult choice, my prince.” Mrs Fitz said.
Even after all these years, she could not get used to his flirtatious jokes, so far.
Sensing the clearly drawn line, Mrs Fitz stepped back.

   “I’m sorry, Your Highness.”

   “Don’t be like that.” Bjorn said smiling.

   He climbed up the stairs like he was that child again and Mrs Fitz followed, preparing the words for her report.

   “Ah, Mrs Fitz,” Bjorn said.

   She found him sat cross legged in the chair by the window, opening the letter he had just received.

   “Like you said, there are fifteen days until the boat trip, plenty of time to teach my wife.”


   “Since there wasn’t an adult in Erna’s life that could have taught her the bedroom chores, we need someone else to do it now.”

   Mrs Fitz was stunned at the calm and monotonous manner in which Bjorn had given the command.
She obeyed with her own calm demeanour.

   “I will send for the right person for the job, Your Highness, erm, if I may?”

   “Please, speak.”

   “Why her, Your Highness? What was the reason for wanting this young girl as your wife?” She knew she was being presumptuous to ask such a question, but her curiosity was out of control.

   “Erna…” Bjorn started to say, then stopped and stared up at the ceiling, as if pondering the great mysteries of the world.
“Because she’s pretty.”

   “Your Highness?” Mrs Fitz said, breathless.

   “She’s a very pretty woman.” Bjorn turned to the window and opened the letter.
“Isn’t she?”

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