Ivana called for her daughter Lena to come to breakfast, then called again. But still, Lena did not come.
Finally, exasperated, her husband went to fetch the girl himself. “Probably has her nose in a book,” he said to his wife.
Indeed, Ivana had taught her daughter to read as soon as she was able. She did not want any child of hers to suffer from the ignorance she had known herself. And though she still struggled through longer texts with more difficult words, her daughter never did. She had been born to it, as she was born to wealth and importance.
Her daughter had everything that Ivana had never had, and that was as it should be. It was as Ivana wanted it.
She wished sometimes that she had been able to give her husband a son, as well as a daughter, but he had never complained to her. He doted on Lena and bought her books at every chance.
Was the girl spoiled? Perhaps she was.
The Duke came down, his ruined face twisted in fear.
What was it? Ivana opened her mouth but no words came out.
“She is gone,” said the Duke.
“Gone?” Ivana could not understand what it meant.
“Her bed was not slept in last night. Her winter cloak is missing, as well as her boots. And several of her everyday gowns. And her two favorite books. She has not been taken, but has left of her own free will.”
“But why?” asked Ivana.
“How I wish I could ask her that very thing,” said the Duke. He strode out of the room, calling for his horse.
He did not go out often, but he did not keep himself to his own house as much as he once did, when they were first married ten years before. His self-consciousness about his looks seemed to have disappeared.
Ivana was glad of that.
But her Lena, where could she be?
The girl had a mind of her own and was as stubborn as any child she had ever met. But she was also bright and had a mind sharp enough that she had found she could do anything she wished to do.
Even run away from home, simply because she was tired of it and wished for adventure?
Even for that, Ivana thought.
And she hoped that Lena did not get as much adventure as she herself had once had. It was highly overrated.
Those books had put it into her head, made her forget about danger and think only of the pleasure of freedom and fun.
Duke Fensky would find her, though.
He had dozens of men he could send out to search the woods for her.
She could not have gotten that far since the night before, wandering through ground she knew only from carriage rides past.
My husband will have her own by tonight, Ivana told herself.
And if not?
If not, then I will go in search of her myself.
Ivana might look a Duchess in her fine gown and fair skin, but she had not forgotten her childhood when she had lived as a peasant in the forest. She could live there again, if need be. So long as she found her child.
Lena sat by a stream and dipped her aching feet into the cold water. A little colder than she had expected, to be truthful.
“Bracingly cold,” that’s what her books would call it.
Deathly cold was what she was thinking it should be.
She had her cloak on, but she was still chilled. She had hoped the water would ease her feet. It had always done so when she was at home, but now she was not at home, and she was shaking with cold.
It had been a stupid idea, she realized.
Well, one makes mistakes when one is learning. The books always tell about mistakes. This is one of mine. It just means I’ve started on my adventure, well and truly.
She shook the water off her feet. It hurt to shake them, but she didn’t want to use the gowns in her pack to dry them on.
Then she tugged on her stockings to get them back over her feet. How she wished now she had thought to check and make sure the stockings she was wearing had no holes in them. Her mother had pestered her about learning how to darn her own stockings, and she had never cared, had never even noticed. She was the daughter of a Duke. What did she need to learn to darn stockings for?
It turned out it might be very useful, after all.
But they never say anything about darning stockings in the books.
She wondered what else the books might have left out, that would be useful when attempting to enjoy an adventure.
But Lena stuffed her frozen feet into her boots and stood back up.
“Have to keep moving,” she said out loud. “That will keep me warm.”
She began to move away from the stream.
There she saw it, a little cottage, or at least the remains of one. It looked very ancient, and surely had something left in the rubble that would be interesting.
Maybe even adventurous.
She had heard rumors that there were those near here who once practiced magic.
What if she found something magical there, and learned how to use it?
Her father would never speak of it, nor her mother, either, though her father was the one who glowered at her as if she were speaking of killing babies, and not just magic to make her cheeks glow or to make her run faster than that stupid girl Galina who was the daughter of the foreigner next door.
Lena began rummaging through the rubble.
She found nothing at first.
It was difficult in the dim light, but as morning rose, she saw more clearly the vines and stones, the bits of moss and creeping worms and then—a bit of paper.
She tugged at it, and it tore in her hands, then crumbled, so fragile and old was it.
She bent to her knees, then worked her hands around the place where the page had been. Was it a book? It seemed about the size of a book, and she knew books.
Slowly, she pushed away the dirt from the shape, digging, brushing, her hands bleeding with the cut of cold and rocks.
Then it was plain, in front of her eyes.
Lena reached for it.
A book. The title on the front leather was worn away, many of the pages entirely missing, but she read one of the first ones plainly.
“Spell for Traveling Far,” it read.
Lena giggled to herself. “I wonder if it works,” she said.
And then she spoke it out loud, and found out.
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