Hi there! This is my offering for this weeks picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway; Enjoy!
I must have been around ten when Great Aunt Katerina summoned me and my tutor to her private chambers. I only visited that part of the mansion on rare occasions yet this time seemed different, felt different.
I took me while to realise what was the matter. Normally my great aunt’s rooms were a hive of activity. There was always a butler efficiently serving tea to guests or a maid in the background cleaning the mounds of books and ledgers or polishing the piles of silverware. Aunt Katherina was old school and didn’t consider servants to be real people, she considered it fit to do most of her business as if they weren’t there. However; this time there was no one about. They had all been told to be somewhere else.
“Ah! Dimitri!” Aunt Katerina said in her still highly accented English “You are getting bigger each time I see you!” “Yes Great Aunt Katherina. Thank you for noticing” I replied deferentially. For all the words that were spoken, there was no warmth in the exchange. I barely knew the matriarch from Adam. But the forms had to be maintained, form was everything to Aunt Katherina.
With a sour face and wave of her hand Aunt Katerina dismissed my tutor, my closest confidant and only friend in the world from the room. My eyes wanted to follow him but my training and fear of my aunt kept them focused on the wizened woman before me.
The door shut behind me and Aunt Katerina took another cursory look around her, more for dramatic effect I think, and started to speak. “You did not know your father Dimitri did you? But he was a great man.” Once again I thought, I was going to get the story of how great our house once was, about how the great Alexander Markov was in the highest levels of the court, often at the side of Tzar and was one of the most powerful men in the old country.
Aunt Katerina did not go down that well-trodden road though instead she looked out over the London skyline.”Like all great men, he had many enemies. People who were jealous, who thought he was unfair, who had felt his justice. For years they bided their time until they were able to strike until your father could not see it coming.”
I sat up; suddenly riveted, this was new. Since as long as I could remember I had been thought about the power and grandeur of the house of Markov. Yet that had never explained how we were here in London and not in Russia, my apparent home or how my father and mother were not there. Maybe something would be forthcoming.
“Krutsov was a pirate and a thief” Aunt Katherina said, her mouth contorting as if she were saying something considerably worse “Yet the money was enough to buy influence, to catch ears and turn heads, as he plotted and set his plans into motion. Plans against your sainted father and our proud family.”
She turned, in a dramatic gesture that belied her advanced years and pointed at me “But Dimitri! Your father was still well loved even then. He had many friends who were able to send warning when Krutsov sent his thugs. If only it had arrived a little sooner.”
“What happened?” I asked, obeying some unseen prompt. “The thugs where too close for our whole family to escape. We would have been massacred if we had tried to run together. Alexander chose to stay with some men and bide us time.”
I was transfixed; I had never heard any of this before. My great aunt, while visibly tiring, soldiered on as if she was possessed. With another flourish she stood and moved to close the curtains. “When just about to send us off, your father closed the great doors of our home one last time.”she finished with the curtains and turned around again and reached into a pocket in her dress “took out this key” she took a silver key out of her pocket and held it for me to see “and gave it to your pregnant mother, Maria, for safe keeping. He then rode north to delay the bandits while we went south to escape.”
She held the key close to her eyes, examining it “Maria was such a delicate woman Dimitri; we had made it to Germany when we heard Alexander had been killed on the road north. The strain of the news and the journey was too much for her. She took ill and died soon after. It was only by a miracle of God that your survived. A miracle that I am sure has a purpose.” Aunt Katerina handed me the key “This is now yours”
I held the key in my two hands as if it was a delicate relic. It was very ornate, with a silver finish, a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. I looked up again to find Aunt Katerina’s eyes staring at me.
“Keep that key safe Dimitri, it is everything, it is your inheritance that was stolen from you before you were born. Everything that that keys opens is your birthright. Not just the house, but the name, and the influence we once held and God willing, you will hold once again.” She held out a hand and touched my cheek, the most significant act of affection my great aunt had ever given me. She seemed overwhelmed with deep-seated emotion. I too felt that I was ready to cry, it was a lot for a ten year old to hear so quickly. Somehow, we both maintained our composure. “I did not think it proper to tell you until now because you were too young to know. I hoped to wait even longer but I will soon lose my battle with time and you will be all that is left. Grow up Dimitri. Grow up strong and brave like your father and someday you will take back what is yours.”
I left the chambers to find my tutor waiting diligently for me by the staircase. He seemed moved by my distress but knew enough about how things worked to to inquire too deeply. As I walked with him back to my rooms my hand fell occasionally to my pocket and touched the felt-lined box within. My world had changed that day. I was no longer a spoilt aimless child. I had purpose in my life. From then on I knew I had to prepare to get ready. To go where the key would take me. To find my inheritance.