Ludmilla and Sophia had not seen their mother for days. Servants would arrive bringing food and the physician dropped in on Sophia once and awhile. No one spoke of Irina and Elizabeth. One of the Streltsy guard entered their chamber for unknown purposes but was quickly discharged by the physician that happened to be there at the time.
Ludmilla grew suspicious and decided to lock the door to the Tea Room. The Tsarina was alarmed by the locked door when she finally arrived but it was quickly opened and the reason was explained by Ludmilla.
“You are perfectly safe as always.” mother assured her.
“Mother, why does no one speak of Irina and Elizabeth?”
“Because Ludmilla, they are traitors and have been dealt with.” Katrina announced as she charged into the room.
“What’s this about an intruder?” the former Tsarina asked Katrina.
“From now on you must address me in a more formal manner.” Katrina demanded.
“You are Regent, not Tsarina, your brother is the Tsar.”
“Not until he claims it with soldiers!” Katrina hissed.
“Katrina, please.” Ludmilla begged. “What about us?”
“You are free to move about.” Katrina announced.
“But we will be seen.” she complained.
Their mother left suddenly along with Katrina. The two remaining sisters stood in shock. However, their mother soon returned with two guards of her own.
“They are for your protection, you may use them as you like, they may change from time to time but I disagree with Katrina you shall not “move about” you are still royalty.
“Mother may we still go to the Verdant Forest on excursions?”
Oxana hesitated, “We will see.” Then left the Tea Room.
“Ludmilla?” Sopnia spoke softly. “What does this all mean?”
Ludmilla helped Sophia get comfortable and they sat by the balcony and stared out at the empty courtyard.
“Just beyond that mountain is where the spirits live.” Ludmilla pointed out to Sophia. Her eyes grew wide and she smiled. That gave Ludmilla the courage to share some of the fantasy life she had created in her mind with her younger sister. Ludmilla had been labeled “dull” but she was far from it.
“What if the guards outside our door were domovoi and would grant us any wish we desired? Mother did say to use them as we like.”
“Sophia, you must beware of wishes you speak of, once they leave your lips they are out in the air and may be heard by the domovoi.” Ludmilla warned.
“Please Ludmilla, let’s ask them for something.” Sophia begged.
“Alright,” Ludmilla thought for a moment.
“I want someone to read to us, about skazka!” Sophia interrupted her thoughts.
“I wish we knew how to read, I think I could sneak down to the second level to the room with all the books. No one seems to care about the passageway now. It’ll be our secret.”
Irina dreamed she had fallen asleep in the back room at the Inn while she was supposed to be waiting tables. Heidi shook her and called her name over and over. Finally she opened her eyes’
“Elizabeth!” she recognized her sister but was so groggy she just stared at her.
“Irena! Where are we?” Elizabeth cried.
Irina sat up understanding why Elizabeth was so frightened. They were in a strange chamber and it was dark, they were alone and everything had changed.
“Remember Elizabeth? We are safe in the Wooden Castle.” she hugged her sister. “I will call for assistance.”
Irina wrapped the blanket around her and opened her chamber door. A Royal Guardsman was posted outside the door.
“Excuse me, is there someone to assist us?”
The guardsman was glad to see the young princess.
“Welcome, I will send someone in to you, I will let them know you are ready for them.”
Irina closed the door and ran back to Elizabeth who watched her with a bright smile. The servants came in with new clothes and helped them get dressed to attend the morning meal with the residents of the Wooden Castle.
Pietro stood and smiled as Irina and Elizabeth arrived and took their seats. Uri Piolotsky and Andrew Fordham were in attendance as well as their wives and families. They all stared at each other never having seen the two princesses before.
Uri addressed them all. “May God bless the Royal Brulinskian Family. We are pleased to welcome Tsar Pietro and the two Royal Princesses and claim this Residence as home and sanctuary to our young Tsar and his sisters. Your mother the former Tsarina is still at the Royal Residence of the self-proclaimed Regent Katrina as are your sisters Ludmilla and Sophia. We have been notified that all are well and the situation there has stabilized.”
It took some time but Irina and Elizabeth picked up the utensils and began to eat in front of the strangers and soon made eye contact with them as well. The guests took to returning glances as well and soon laughter could be heard and the atmosphere in this room changed them forever.