Some background info: Kate is finding India to be rather less adventurous and rather more hot than she had ancitipated; Clara is talking even less than usual, and so Kate is bored. Also, magic exists in this world, but only as illusions.
I hope you like it!
“I don’t suppose you’ve got anything to read lying about, do you?” she asked, turning to face her sister at last.
Clara shook her head, not taking her eyes off the orderly black lines and dots of her sheet music. A conversation, it seemed, was out of the question. Clara had been awfully tense ever since arriving in India, and it was beginning to frustrate Kate. If Clara was more taciturn than usual, then she really had no one at all to talk to during these long afternoons.
But she was not quite cross enough yet to bring it up, and so she wandered out of the library and ventured off through the house, not looking for anything in particular. She wandered through the parlour and the dining room, glancing at each end table she passed for the sign of a book that someone might have left unattended, but all she found were elephant statuettes and table linens and a surprisingly large cadre of Indian servants. Most she passed in hallways or outside the half-hidden passages to the servants’ quarters, and they seemed not to be doing anything at all. Perhaps that was how they dealt with the positively oppressive heat. She interrupted one in the breakfast room, polishing glassware. The man, who wore a blue turban and a very impressive white beard, bowed as soon as she entered the room.
“Forgive me, Kumaari,” he said, making to exit the room.
“Oh, no, please don’t trouble yourself. I’ll be on my way in a moment,” Kate said, flashing him a smile. The old man paused a moment, but then he returned to his work as Kate circled the room once, in search of something interesting. All she found was a dusty painting of a gentleman she didn’t know and a few discarded newspapers left on her father’s chair. She lingered over these for a moment – the articles left on top detailed increasing tensions with Russia, and a strange magical kerfluffle in London. Neither made any immediate logical sense, and so she left them behind, waving to the old servant as she left. He gave her a tentative smile and she saw that he was missing a tooth or two. She wondered if Rajesh might help him work on his English a bit; his accent had been so thick she’d hardly known what he had said.
The ground floor of the house had given her nothing near exciting enough, and so she flounced her way up the stairs. The room she shared with Clara was wildly uninteresting, so she passed it by and continued down the hallway. Unexpectedly, the door to her father’s study was ajar. She did not hesitate a moment before slipping inside.
There were more bookshelves inside the dark room, and she gravitated immediately towards them, but there were fewer books here than downstairs and they were nearly all military histories. She sighed again and turned her attention to her father’s large desk. There were more books and a globe set to one side, and the centre of the desk was strewn with letters – old letters, she realized quickly, from her mother. She scanned the first page for her name or Clara’s, but there was no immediate mention of them and so she turned aside.
She circled the desk again and saw another statuette that had been mostly hidden by the globe a moment ago. It was, for once, not an elephant, but instead a little gilded lion. She suspected it was meant to be a symbol of English heroism, but she thought its face conveyed more gentleness than fierceness. The carving was very detailed, showing every curl of the lion’s mane. She smiled, wondering how she could ask her father about it without revealing that she’d been in his study without permission. She reached out to stroke it, expecting to feel gilt paint over wood.
Instead, the little lion disappeared completely.