Tea with Mist

The spy known as Mist made a perfectly appropriate entrance, on the arm of Eleanor Haverford’s colleague Tolliver, announced by the butler. Some of Eleanor’s acquaintances had also employed the young woman, and reported that she simply appeared in their rooms, coalescing like the mist she was named for, not there one minute and the next sitting sedately in a chair, ready to ask searching questions.

A most unaccountable young woman, they called her.

She did not play such games with the Duchess of Haverford, but then her history gave her cause to be nervous of the Haverford family. Not that her suspicions were justified, but the duchess could not reassure her without touching on matters that must remain unspoken between them until Mist raised them herself.

Tolliver broke the silence. “Well, Your Grace, we are here, as requested.”

“It is your colleague’s services I require, Tolly,” she told him. “But you may remain if you wish. Please. Be seated. May I offer you both tea?”

Mist accepted, politely. Tolly declined, also politely, but gestured to the brandy decanters Eleanor kept for her sons. “Indeed. Help yourself, my dear. Mist,” her name was Prudence Virtue, but Eleanor would not use it unless Miss Virtue herself invited her to do so, “I wish to commission you for a job. I have grave concerns about the safety and well-being of a godson of mine. He has been a faithful correspondent, and I have not had a reply to any of my letters for several months.”

Mist tipped her head to one side while she considered. “Has anything recently changed in his life to explain the absence of letters? A new school or a new friend? Travel?”

“The Earl of Penworth is twenty, and has been educated at home because he is blind. I write to him each month, and have done for the past twelve years, since he was old enough to read my letters and pen a response. Since his accident, he has dictated his replies, and he always responds promptly. So when I heard nothing, I asked Tolliver here to send to the Penworth estate. The Earl has been gone for months. His half-sister, the Countess of Wyvern, fetched him away and since then the estate steward has been taking his direction from her.”

Mist frowned. “Lady Wyvern has… something of a reputation, Your Grace.”

Eleanor acknowledged the point. “She is a ruthless and selfish woman. She does not like Rupert, and Rupert does not like her. Tolliver brought me some more news. The people at the estate were told that their earl has married, and is taking an extended honeymoon at Wyvern Castle. Which is not completely unlikely, since Lord Wyvern is Lord Penworth’s guardian. But I can find no one who  has heard from, seen, or spoken to Lord Wyvern for at least seven months.”

Mist nodded, then took a sip from her cup while she thought about what she had heard. “You wish me to go to Wyvern Castle and discover what I can.”

“Yes. Will you accept the commission?”

The story of the Earl of Penworth, and his imprisonment with the bride his sister forced him to marry, is told in The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, a novella in my permafree book Hand-Turned Tales. Click on the link for more details and buy links. In The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, you will meet Mist and her friend and colleague Shadow, hero and heroine of Revealed in Mist, the first scene of which takes place in Wyvern Castle between the last chapter of the novella and the epilogue. My stories are all stand-alone, but they link. I cannot deny that they link.

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