The Crimson Shard

Free The Crimson Shard by Teresa Flavin

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Authors: Teresa Flavin
Tags: General Fiction
quill in the inkpot and started scratching away on the corner of one of her practice sheets. A huge black blob rolled onto the paper and she groaned. “This pen is terrible.”
    “Have you honed the quill, Miss — er, Sunniver?” grunted Jeremiah. “Instruct him, Toby.”
    The Master sat down heavily in his seat and rubbed his bloodshot eyes. “There is no use in a blunt tool. We must have sharpness at all times.”
    With that, he let his eyes close, and his chin fell to his chest.
    A distant church bell rang two o’clock in the morning. Sunni paused from her work to examine the lump on her middle finger. It was so sore from drawing, she could hardly bear anything to touch it.
    Jeremiah snored in his chair. Toby had already warned them not to wake him.
    She studied the boys’ wan faces. All of them worked without complaint, barely stopping to stretch, except for Blaise. For the first time ever, even he seemed to need a break and couldn’t stop fidgeting and yawning.
    So he’s not a perpetual drawing machine,
she thought, stifling a yawn herself.
    She couldn’t stop glancing at the painted door, half expecting Throgmorton or Livia to step through it at any moment. But she knew they were both downstairs, having waved off their dinner guests an hour and a half before.
    As she drew yet another sketch, holding her pen so it would not press on her raw finger, she thought of Dean, tucked up in bed at home in Braeside with her dad and Rhona. But would they actually be sleeping or awake, worrying about her? Sunni had managed to disappear — again — and no doubt her stepmother would lock her up and throw away the key after this.
    From down below, slow footsteps climbed the stairs. A lantern cut through the gloom, illuminating Throgmorton’s figure at the workshop door.
    “Blaise. Jack Sunniver,” he said. “Come with me.”
    They followed Throgmorton in silence as he led them into a dark-paneled study on the ground floor. The atmosphere was chilly, with no embers glowing in the hearth or candles on the mantelpiece, and was stagnant with spent tobacco.
    Throgmorton gestured for them to sit and locked the door. He set the lantern on a small table littered with half-empty glasses of port wine and a discarded pipe. The gentlemen must have sat here talking and laughing after dinner, but they had taken everything light and jolly away with them when they went home.
    “How is your instruction progressing?” Throgmorton asked softly.
    Play along,
Sunni told herself. She forced her face into a pleasant expression. “I’ve learned about making a quill and drawing with ink.”
    “Me, too” was all Blaise managed before he had to yawn.
    Throgmorton pushed the lantern closer to Sunni and Blaise, lighting their faces and sending his own farther into the darkness. “You are not used to working properly. Life is very easy in your world. And you have great opinions about work, about what is too much or too hard. I am speaking to you, Jack Sunniver.”
    Sunni met Throgmorton’s gaze.
    “You have been especially busy not working this evening. Instead you have been exploring, listening at doors, asking questions, demanding things,” said Throgmorton. “I was not expecting this kind of behavior from my guests.”
    “I’m not your guest — I’m trapped in this house,” she said. “Though it’s more like a sweatshop, isn’t it? With slaves copying artwork that you take away from them.”
    “You have a loose mouth, Jack Sunniver.”
    “That’s not my name.”
    Sunni could sense Blaise tensing and willing her to shut up, but it was too late.
    Throgmorton released a long breath. “It is your name now, Miss Forrest.”
    A sharp shock ran through Sunni at his mention of her surname. She had never told it to him or anyone else there.
    “How do you know my —?”
    “Blackhope Tower,” said Throgmorton, crossing one leg over the other. His shoe buckle glinted sharply in the candlelight. “You know the

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