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An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar
The day when the old Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar was sentenced to life imprisonment within her castle was the defining point of my life. Since that day my life has been hell: I’ve been treated as a pawn or as a commodity with no feeling or thinking by other people. But now I, Elisabeth Dunay, have decided I will endure no more suffering and humiliation at the hands of those who brought down the Countess: I too can play games and I will overturn my tormentors. The consequences of my actions may bring me misfortune, even torture and death, but anything is preferable to living a lie.
I was eight years of age when my parents sent me to the Countess, our distant relative, to spend several years learning literature and manners. My family was noble and keen for me to marry well as our fortunes were dwindling despite our lineage. Over the years we had lost lands and wealth due to constant wars against the Turks. I was sent to the widowed Countess who had taken in a number of girls of lesser nobility like me to teach them refinement. I was sad to leave my family and was frightened at what lay ahead of me. As the carriage took me to the lady’s castle, I imagined that I was being delivered to the Hidden Folk who inhabited the dark forests, brooding mountains and steep gorges that made up our homeland. When I arrived at the lady’s castle, the servants took my small possessions and a lady called Darka led me to the Countess. Anna Katarina Baltazar was tall, thin and of austere appearance, dressed in black with no jewels. Her hair was black and her eyes glittered like night jewels in her sharp pale features. I shivered in her presence. Her manner was as severe as her looks. “Welcome,” she said, “you know why you are here?” I nodded and whispered that I was keen to learn to be a lady. “That is good. We shall not disappoint your parents in the trust they have placed in both of us. You have much to learn and do in the years ahead. Your first lesson is to respect me as your teacher and to address me as ‘my lady’. Is that clear?” “Yes, my lady,” I replied. “Good. Come.” She led me through the castle corridors to the room where I would be sleeping. She said that I would be sharing the room with three other girls. Already servants were moving beds about. She took me down to the great hall where girls of varying ages were seated and waiting at a long table. At the sight of us, they rose as one and stood silently as the Countess directed me to a space at one end of the table. She went to the other end and stood by her chair. I peered at the girls around me but their faces were turned toward the Countess.
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor “We have a new arrival, Elisabeth Dunay, with us this evening,” she said, “I am sure you will welcome her and help her as she begins her education here.” She stood in front of her place at the head of the table and spread her hands. “Let us sit and give thanks to God for delivering Elisabeth safely to us. Pray to Him to guide and inspire Elisabeth in her learning. Pray to Him that we will all be guided and inspired to learn and grow in wisdom.” “Yes, my lady,” the girls chorused. I did likewise. It was very easy to follow the girls in their prayer and dining ritual.
For the first few weeks, an older girl took charge of me, guiding me around the castle, introducing me to the other girls and the servants, and showing me the tasks expected of me such as helping to serve the Countess and any guests she had at meal-times, sewing, embroidery and helping to make and bake pies and pastries. The girl’s name was Sophia and she was fourteen years old, close to the age of marriage. She often told me stories about her soldier-brother Lord Andreas who was married to the Countess’s daughter. If Sophia had any other brothers and sisters, I never heard tell of them. On one occasion she repeated a story about him a week after she first told me except this time a Muslim enemy cut a scar into his left cheek instead of his right cheek. As Lord Andreas was able to kill ten men with one thrust of his sword, I wondered at his carelessness in allowing himself to be injured. As we sewed or played music together – I enjoyed playing the harpsichord while she played her lute – Sophia would tell me what she overheard the servants say, including things about the other girls of whom there were twenty. I guessed the girls would not have wished me to know the things Sophia claimed the servants gossiped about and I that guessed much of what Sophia said was exaggerated. She was good, light-hearted company in an otherwise earnest and stern atmosphere in which we did lessons from dawn to dusk and all the girls’ time was spent in learning, studying, doing chores or helping the servants. The Countess hired tutors to teach us to read in Latin, German and Italian as well as in our native language. She herself taught us history. Music teachers came to teach us the lute and harpsichord and singing, and a dancing master came twice a week to teach us the court dances. The pastor taught us how to read the Bible and urged us to read and learn from it every day. The Countess or one of the senior servants, usually the elderly Marusia, supervised us and beat us with sticks if we did not work or study hard enough. We rarely left the castle except to go to church or on festival days when we might travel to town. The Countess did receive visitors who brought news of the wider world and occasionally letters from our families. We lived in our own world, ignorant of what was beyond the castle and the town. Ten months after I arrived at the castle, when the summer was hot and winds were blowing in from the distant plains, the Countess’s daughter and Lord
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor Andreas came with their retinue. All of us, Sophia included, had to wait on the visitors. Our lessons were cut to the mornings only. I was given the honour of serving wine to the couple. One evening when I was filling the lord’s cup at supper, I stole a glance at his face to see if his scar was on his right cheek or his left. The lord noticed that I was looking at him. “Well, my pretty,” he said, turning his face to me. I saw a small scar beneath his right eye. It looked as if it had been caused by the pox. “Is the Countess treating you well?” “Yes, my lord,” I whispered. I nearly over-poured the wine but caught myself in time. The lord did not notice the brimming cup. “Are you sure? You look pale to me. Is she treating you properly? Do you have enough to eat?” “She treats all of us properly and we have enough to eat.” “Really? No fainting spells, no fits, no bleeding?” “No, my lord, nothing that I know of.” “I see.” Lord Andreas brought the cup to his lips and drank deeply. “This wine is from the Countess’s own vineyard, is it not?” “Yes it is, my lord.” He smacked his lips. “Hope it’s not tainted.” “My lord?” “Oh, nothing, nothing at all.” He let me refill his cup and waved me away. I returned the flagon to old Marusia. Fainting? Fits? Bleeding?
The couple and their servants stayed at the castle for a month. We read and studied in the mornings and played music and games and danced the latest dances in the afternoons and evenings. The Countess and her servants were busy ordering food for the visitors and going into town to get things. They had little time to supervise us and we received very few beatings. I continued to serve wine to the visitors during meals but they spoke little to me. Lord Andreas would look at me silently yet intently which made me feel shivers running up and down my back. I was nine years old then and he would have at least twenty years older than I. When the visitors departed, we girls stood by the carriages to farewell them. The day was warm and the trees were blooming in their summer flower finery. The couple came out of the great hall with the Countess. She kissed them both and as the couple made their way to the carriage, she waved to them and
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor we followed her lead. Lord Andreas paused in front of me. “I hope the Countess continues to treat you well and properly,” he muttered. We watched the carriages leave. As the dust billowed behind them, I overheard two girls grumble about how life would be dull and cheerless again. “It’s always the same,” one girl said. I turned to go to the great hall and Sophia, standing beside me, fainted.
The servants carried Sophia to her bed. While Marusia tried to calm the other girls, I followed Darka and helped to carry medicines to Sophia’s bedside. I watched as the Countess, her usually severe face overcome with worry, tried to feed Sophia the medicines while four servant girls held the girl down as she gulped for breath. She let out a yell. “I’m bleeding, I’m dying?!” The Countess noticed me standing near the foot of the bed as the servants tried to soothe Sophia. “Elisabeth, you must leave. It is not right for you to see such distress.” Someone grabbed my arm and dragged me away. “What is happening to Sophia? Why am I not allowed to help?” I protested. “The lady knows best,” the servant said, “she has experience in healing. There is no need to fear. Sophia has always been an excitable girl and we have had much hot weather recently. She should recover in a few days. This time last year she fainted several times. The Countess knows what to do.” But Sophia did not recover in a few days. She grew ghostly white, was unable to rise from bed and complained of bleeding. None could find any wounds from what I overheard the servants say. Darka told me the Countess bathed her, bled her to get rid of impure blood and tried cupping, all to no avail. The tutors continued to come in the mornings and Marusia tried to supervise us all. Some girls ignored her threats and refused to learn. They spent a lot of time amusing themselves with games and telling stories. I continued to study for my parent’s sake. In my spare time I followed Darka about. Darka often advised me of Sophia’s worsening condition. None of the Countess’s treatments or medicines were working. The pastor was sent for and when he saw Sophia refusing food and drink, and vomiting as well, he feared there was a demon in her. He told the Countess to send her back to her family so we girls should not be endangered. The Countess protested and said Sophia might not last the journey back home. The pastor said Sophia should die with her own kin and reminded the Countess that the girl’s family had royal connections and could call on the king if Sophia died in her care. Reluctantly the Countess agreed to let Sophia go and so a carriage was prepared to take her home. We girls farewelled Sophia and watched as the carriage scattered the first autumn leaves and set off into the forests, all glittering red and gold. As we returned to the great hall, I overheard some of the
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor older girls muttering that without Sophia, life in the castle would become unbearable stifling. Later as we were standing at the long table for supper and the Countess was coming towards us, one of the older girls, Griseldis, fainted suddenly.
She was taken up to the room where Sophia had lain. Over the next several weeks, she too grew weak, too weak even to lift her head from the pillow and servants grumbled that she complained of bleeding where there was none and of being bitten on her arms and legs by insects though no bites were found. The Countess exhausted her remedies and treatments on the girl. Griseldis was a serious and quiet student who read the Bible every day and whose example the Countess used to exhort us all to follow. While the Countess and some servants tended Griseldis, Marusia tried to watch over us at our lessons and threatened us constantly. Most girls spend the day talking or playing music. I followed Darka whenever I was bored reading my lessons or listening to the girls’ chatter. Darka showed me how to feed the chickens, tend the herb gardens and boil fruit to make into jams. She would report to me what the other servants told her about Griseldis. “Nothing the Countess does has any effect,” she said, “it’s as if Griseldis is determined to stay unwell. I fear very much the girl is willing herself to worsen and die.” Again the pastor was sent for and again he told the Countess to send Griseldis back to her family. Again the Countess disagreed and said Griseldis was sickening more quickly than Sophia had done. The pastor agreed. Griseldis was too weak to travel and kept on growing weaker by the day. One evening she was gone from the castle. No-one could say what had actually happened. The Countess and the pastor kept any news to themselves. Even Marusia would not say what had become of Griseldis. A few weeks later, Matilda and Isabella, fell sick and not long after, other girls and many of the servant girls were faint and unwell. The Countess and Marusia were kept busy all day every day nursing sick girls who complained of bleeding where there was none, apart from those wounds caused by the Countess’s remedies. As I was the only girl not sick, Marusia moved me to Darka’s room so I would not fall ill. The tutors were sent away and I spent my time helping Darka and the other servants with their tasks which were more enjoyable than the lessons and reading the Bible. In the evening I played the harpsichord, read stories to the servants who would then tell me legends about the Hidden Folk in the mountains, the dark forests and the rivers in the valleys. I learnt some of Darka’s native Wendish tongue. As the girls sickened more, Darka was increasingly called upon to assist with nursing so I often fed the chickens and looked after them myself.
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor Six months had passed since Sophia first fainted. Winter was upon us, bringing heavy snows and chill winds. I imagined we were all cut off from the rest of the world. How wrong that belief was.
Lord Andreas arrived with a group of soldiers at the castle one day. I was wandering in the courtyard when I heard shouts, the clatter of hooves, horses snorting and the creaking of the portcullis as the stable-boy pulled up the gate to allow the soldiers to enter. The lord dismounted and addressed me. “The Countess! Where is the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar? I must see her now! I have orders from the king! Where is she?” “This way, my lord.” I led Lord Andreas and a number of his men into the castle and into one of the rooms where palliasses were spread out on the floor with their patients moaning piteously. The Countess, attending to one girl with cups and hot candle wax, saw us so she put down the items, stood up and came over. “Lord Andreas!” she exclaimed, “I did not expect to see you again so soon! What emergency brings you and your men here?” The lord thrust a document at her. “Lady, you are under arrest on charges of witchcraft, torture and the murder of innocent virgins under your care.” I gasped but none noticed me. Some servants cried out in fear. The Countess stiffened and her sharp face went pale but she looked Lord Andreas calmly in the eye. “Witchcraft? Torture? Murder? I have committed none of what you say. Where and from whom have you and the king heard such rumours?” “It’s enough that the king suspects you and your senior servants of carrying out the crimes mentioned in this document. He has issued this order for your arrest and appointed me to search this castle and its surrounds for evidence,” the lord replied, “so you had better co-operate. The specific charges against you are the whipping, beating and bleeding of girls to death, other tortures leading to death, unnatural sexual intercourse with virgins and rituals dedicated to Satan in which the blood of virgins is offered to him.” The Countess smiled coldly. “Then you are welcome to search this castle and the forests here but I daresay you may be disappointed in what you find.” “I intend to do so fully,” replied he, “and all your servants are required as witnesses. We shall see who will be disappointed.” He turned to his men. “Four of you will escort the Countess to the town an confine her to the farmhouse garrison. Ensure she is under guard at all times. I will take the senior servants to the castle dungeon. The rest of you round up the other servants and confine them to their quarters. The soldiers outside will be searching the castle and
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor digging the grounds and you will join them when you have assembled the servants together.” I followed Darka and the other servants into their quarters. Through the walls, I could hear Marusia and three other servants screaming and weeping as Lord Andreas and some of his men dragged them to the dungeon. I later heard the sounds of hooves clattering through the courtyard. The screechy noise of the portcullis could be heard, there were more hoof-beats going through the courtyard and over the bridge, there was shouting and I guessed the Countess was leaving the castle with her escorts. As the day wore on, I heard more activity: the grinding wheels of wagons, the moans and cries of sick girls, the shifting of heavy objects and shouting which suggested the soldiers were taking the sick girls away and were also moving the Countess’s furniture. I heard the dull thuds of spades hitting soil. I thought of the herb gardens I had helped Darka tend so carefully and I wanted to cry. The soldiers were destroying everything. Nothing would be the same again.
Next day Lord Andreas summoned all the servants into the courtyard. I stayed close to Darka. The lord wanted to show us something. He touched a large object wrapped in a blanket on the ground with his foot. “Here’s evidence indeed of your mistress’s crimes,” he said and he threw open the blanket. The body of a girl with its blue-white skin and purple marks on the arms and legs lay before us. The rags on the body were torn. The girl resembled nobody I had seen before. “This girl must have suffered horribly. It’s likely we’ll find more such bodies in the cellar where this one was found.” The lord ordered a soldier to wrap up the body and take it away. Then he turned to the soldiers standing behind him. “Take all these women and old men to the town and put them in the inn there. The Countess’s trial will be held very soon and we must have all the witnesses ready.” My head was whirling madly as the soldiers herded us into wagons and took us all to the town inn. Had the Countess really tortured and killed the girl in the blanket? The idea of the Countess torturing and killing girls for Satan seemed so strange.
Not long after we arrived in town the trial began. The servants were under heavy guard in the inn and I spent most of my time reading the Bible and waiting for news of the trial’s progress which some of the soldiers and inn patrons would tell us. “The senior servants have already confessed their complicity,” one soldier said, “they said the Countess killed fifty girls with their assistance. The one called Marusia admitted to stripping the girls naked to the Countess could plunge hot irons and burning wax into their female parts. That old woman will die at the stake.”
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor All the servants were called one by one to testify. Some servants didn’t come back for two days. As the trial continued, the number of girls the Countess was said to have tortured and killed rose and rose. One servant said he saw the body of the girl in the blanket in the court-room. Then it was my turn to testify. Two soldiers led me to the court-house and a clerk ushered me into the room. I blinked to see so many people looking at me. The clerk took me to my seat and made me swear an oath on the Bible. I looked around but did not see the Countess. A judge came towards me. (I was to discover many years later that he was a cousin of Lord Andreas.) He questioned me on how long I had been living at the castle and why I was there. People snickered when I said I had come to the castle to learn to be a lady. The judge put up his hand for silence. “A child’s viewpoint can reveal something about the accused we did not know before,” he said. He asked me about my background and enquired about the Countess’s teaching methods. “We studied all day long with no rest save for walks or meals,” I said, “and she or Marusia would beat us if we were lazy or neglected our study.” I looked around the room and saw a forest of bored faces. “Most girls did not like the Countess, she was so strict.” I looked around again and saw no reaction. “Could the reason the girls disliked the Countess be that she was doing something worse than beating them for laziness and being strict?” the judge prompted. “I’m not sure, I don’t know,” I said. The judge exchanged glances with his brother judges and went on questioning me. He asked me about Sophia and Griseldis, what sort of girls they were and how did the Countess treat them when they were well and when they were sick. “The Countess did like Griseldis the most because she was quiet and worked hard,” I said, “and the Countess liked Sophia the least because Sophia talked a lot and did not study hard.” I added that the Countess treated both girls in the same way during their illnesses. Sophia had been allowed to leave the household but Griseldis stayed behind as Griseldis had become sick more rapidly than Sophia had. “And do you know what has happened to Sophia and Griseldis?” the judge asked. “I know nothing of them both,” I replied. The judge questioned me further on the treatments the Countess had been using on Sophia, Griseldis and the other sick girls and seemed pleased when I mentioned the Countess had used blood-letting methods and hot candle wax. Time dragged on and I was feeling drowsy and my feet were sore from so much standing yet the judge continued to press me for answers and I dared not offend him or his audience. Anything that came into my head that I thought
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor would please him and the people watching us I mentioned straight away. The more gruesome the details, the more pleased the judges became. After what seemed a life-time in the room, I had convinced myself that the Countess had indeed tortured and killed many girls. I had seen a body, seen the marks on its limbs, seen the frozen look on its face … I had fairly convinced myself with much prompting from the judge that that body must have been Griseldis. Everything the judge suggested I agreed with. Yes, the Countess must have drained all the blood from poor Griseldis and offered it to Satan. Yes, the Countess must have burned the girl’s arms and legs with candle wax and shards of glass. Yes, the Countess must have consorted with the girl against her protests. Yes, the girl must have been offered to Satan in return for great favours. Yes, yes, ye-e-ess … When I woke up, I was back at the inn and Darka was watching over me. “Is the trial over yet?” I asked, “are we returning to the castle?” Darka shook her head. The judges spent over a month questioning all the servants and the number of the Countess’s victims ballooned from a few to nearly a hundred. Witnesses were called in: the pastor, the tutors, the dancing master, people in the town who supplied food, clothes and other things to the castle and those girls and servants who had recovered enough to be able to testify. The soldiers guarding us kept us informed of the trial’s progress. They were certain that the Countess would be punished with the most severe of punishments once all the bodies were found. Some men insisted that even if all the bodies were found, there would always be many more that would never be recovered. One man opined: “There is a large oven in the castle kitchen in which several girls were roasted or baked in pies so we’ll never know the full extent of the witch’s crimes.” No-one ever saw the Countess go to the court-house or sit in the courtroom. All the soldiers agreed she was still imprisoned in the garrison. “She won’t submit to questioning,” a soldier said, “she is too proud! She won’t deny the accusations but she refuses to confess her crimes. I’ve never seen anyone with such a burden of sin refusing to say anything. She says only God can judge her and punish her.” After all the witnesses had testified and the evidence had been examined, interpreted and argued over, the judge directed the jury to deliberate over all that had been presented and to pronounce a verdict. In due time, the jury found the Countess guilty of witchcraft, devil worship, unnatural lust and the torture and murder of over one hundred innocent girls. I was in the court-room with Darka and several other servants amongst a huge crowd when the judge delivered the sentence. I craned my neck and saw Marusia and several senior servants, their faces bruised and Marusia’s left eye closed up and swollen black. The Countess was nowhere to be seen.
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor “The evidence we have seen and heard and the Countess’s wilful refusal to face the charges against her and admit to the crimes show that she and her accomplices are guilty. Therefore I and my brother judges sentence the servants Marusia, Anushka, Janek and Lenka to death by burning and the Countess to life imprisonment within the castle where the crimes were carried out. The Countess shall remain in her private chamber with the doors and windows walled up with a small opening only to permit the passage of food and drink. On each watchtower of the castle, a gallows shall be erected and a black flag flown so that all who pass by will know the creature within has been condemned and no-one should set foot into the castle. This is the order of the court and the king.” Marusia uttered a strangled cry and fell to the floor senseless. The other three condemned servants wailed and Darka wept. I did not know what to do or say.
As Darka and I walked back to the inn, we heard a carriage hurrying behind us and we turned to look at it. The Countess was sitting inside, her face pale and impassive, her eyes staring straight ahead into her horrible future. The carriage passed us. There was no need for us to wave. I never had much liking for the Countess but I wondered how the Countess and her four servants had managed to kill so many victims without anyone noticing what was happening. “What’s going to happen to us, Darka?” I asked. “You will return to your family,” she said, “and I, I will return to the castle to serve the Countess.” “What?” I was astounded. “But why? Why would you serve someone who is condemned?” “I must. As the Countess has been declared a criminal, her properties and money will pass to her nearest of kin – her daughter and Lord Andreas. Everything including us, her servants. I do not desire to serve that couple, especially that thug Lord Andreas. There is something loathsome about him and he is not to be trusted. Be careful of him, my Eliska.” When it was time for me to return to my family, I hugged Darka, my only friend, and we cried. I knew I would never see her again. In choosing to serve the Countess, Darka could never serve another master or mistress and would have to remain at the Countess’s castle for the rest of her life.
A year after her imprisonment, there was news that the Countess had died. Hers was the only body, apart from that of the girl in the blanket, ever found in the castle and its surrounds. What became of Darka and those servants who elected to follow the Countess, I shall never know. Most likely they joined a
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor band of gypsies and journeyed away from our country. I envy them and wish I had followed Darka. I met Sophia not long after the Countess died. The girl had regained her health and colour with no resort to medicines and treatments after leaving the Countess’s household. She was her light-hearted self again. “They say the Countess never confessed or showed any remorse for the girls she killed,” she blurted, “how I hated her! Such a cold-blooded creature she was! I’m glad Lord Andreas got rid of her!” What did Sophia mean by that remark?
Three years after the Countess’s death, her daughter died in childbirth and the infant quickly followed its mother to the grave. Lord Andreas was without wife and heir. By then, I had come of age and his family and mine agreed we would be a good match. I was forced to break off my engagement to a boy slightly older than I was and marry the man Darka had warned me against.
Lord Andreas and I have been married for ten years now. We have no children. During the time we have been married, there have been many wars and my husband has been away most of the time with his army. I prefer that he be far away from me. When he is home, he beats me. He may be a lion on the battle-field but at home he is a monster. I know my husband really cares nothing for women. One of his soldiers admitted to me that when they go away to war, he procures children, boys and girls as young as seven years of age for Lord Andreas. None of the children is ever seen again after my husband has dealt with them. The soldier looks down and refuses to speak when I ask him what my husband does to the children. He says only that he has seen some of the bodies and all have terrible wounds on them. My husband is unaware that I know of his foul secret. At present he is away on a campaign against the Turks. My servants and I will have a banquet prepared for him on his return. I have invited my family and his family, the king and many other noble people we know. I shall serve Lord Andreas a cup of wine prepared from an old recipe I found in a book in my husband’s library which belonged to the Countess. Her handwriting is next to the recipe itself. I shall use the grapes grown in the vineyard and herbs from our garden to make the wine. Ah, Darka, I am so glad I went into the gardens with you where you taught me the secret properties of the herbs we grew together! The herbs will flavour the wine and befuddle the lord’s brain, loosening his tongue and the deepest parts of
An Account of the Trial and Punishment of the Countess Anna Katarina Baltazar - By Jennifer Hor his memory so he will confess all his secrets. And if none believe him, my servant Pavlek will take them to the cellars to see the bodies the soldier brought there. And Sophia and her family will also drink the wine so that all may learn that they coveted the Countess’s wealth and properties so much that they were not content to allow the lady to live out the natural term of her life before they could seize the riches. If all proceeds according to what I and the servants have planned, there will be no punishment too great for Lord Andreas. I can hardly wait to know what it will be. There is a risk that I could be accused of being his accomplice and of being tried, tortured, forced to make false confessions or even being accused of witchcraft myself, and receiving the corresponding punishment. But I can no longer live the way I have done for the past ten years and more. Lord Andreas is certainly guilty of crimes far greater than those the old Countess was imprisoned for. If there is only one worthy thing I will have ever done in my life, it will be to ruin him and his family. And the old Countess’s lands and money will pass to my family instead. I too can play games.
END Approximately 5,700 words
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