~ Dvoday, 7th of Aprilis, 11831 ~
“It looks a bit suspicious that you are so attached to my trunk.”
It was after dinner and camp had been set for the evening. They were three days from Spadille now, this half of the journey going well. They were now down to those that were specifically heading to Piques’ capital— Pierre’s party and the guards and servants that the castle had deemed he need travel with. Among those were several from Eichel as well, for Elizabeth’s sake. Those from Eichel would stay with Lizzy, while the castle guards and servants would return home shortly after arrival.
Wolfram, who was a guest of Pierre’s more than a servant though the boy tried to help as much as possible, sat near the wagons that held the baggage. In particular by the decorated trunk that used to sit in front of Pierre’s bed at the castle.
“I would rather seem odd than have anyone open it and look inside, Your Grace,” the boy replied.
True enough. Inside, underneath some sheets, was the body of a young girl Pierre had killed. It was on behalf of Wolfram and the girl herself, of course, but that made it no less immoral or illegal. That he intended to bring her back to life doubly so.
“Tell me about her,” Pierre asked, sitting down beside Wolfram. “I have come to know some about you, but not her. What is a girl from the swan-folk’s land doing in Father’s court?”
“Cygnati,” Wolfram corrected. “That is their word for their bestia. And she came in search of me.”
The boy smiled. “They have soul-mates. Those born cygnati have always had a past life where the couple swore to love another for all their future rebirths. They sense this person, in a way, but to be certain there are rituals done. She found out through another that her love, I, was on this continent. Her parents did not wish her to leave so young, but she disobeyed and stowed away on a ship heading to Kilenc. She found me months later. We were together for half a year at most, and then she began to fall ill late last summer. I left Bellotas to find a physician to help. I ran into Lord Ophion on my travels and he took me in to teach and help me. I do not know if this is an illness from this land that her body cannot deal with, or something that only affects her people, but everything Ophion and I tried failed. So I, as you know, began to study more desperate measures with him. In the end I was not enough.”
“She will be well,” Pierre said. “I give you my word.”
“Salome. Her name is Salome.”
Pierre nodded and settled back against the trunk which held her body.
“And you and she were wed in a past life?”
“Oui. She says that in her dreams she remembers moments, and perhaps I will too after we wed in this life. We had spoken about engagement already, before her illness, her parents finally accepting her departure as she had found me. They were agreeable to a wedding, no sense in putting it off as we were already wed once upon a time. Then she fell ill. We never told her parents that, saying instead that I wished to finish my education before traveling to her home. Then she asked to die. I could not… I just wished to do as she desired. I did not want her in pain and—”
Pierre placed a hand on his shoulder when the younger boy stopped speaking, gripping the edges of the trunk and holding on until his fingertips were white.
“She will be well,” Pierre repeated. Wolfram only nodded, taking a deep breath to compose himself.
“I do have a question,” he said. At Pierre’s nod he continued. “What if the body has decayed? It may be months by the time I am ready to try and bring her back.”
“She will not decay,” Pierre said. “I have made it so that the microanimalia will not feast on her. But even if a corpse were bones there is a possibility to resurrect the life as long as it is all gathered together. A missing arm or a leg could be regrown, I suppose… I have never tried. It is more likely if one is missing a limb then they will remain without one once they have returned.”
He stood and brushed at his trousers to rid himself of the dirt. “Come, let us test this.”
He whistled sharply for Pluta as they took to the edges of the forest. She came bounding out from under the carriages and over to them.
“My dear,” Pierre said to her, kneeling down to stroke her head and scratch underneath her chin. “Find something small and decayed for us, I have a lesson to show and something to attempt.”
She chirped approval and dashed into the woods.
Pluta returned a few minutes later with a large rat, decrepit and foul, and missing its tail already. She dropped it in front of Pierre and sneezed, shaking her head in disgust.
“Thank you. You shall be rewarded for your trouble.”
The boy crouched beside him and Pierre let Wolfram see his hand as he cut it with his folding knife along the line for Life. He picked up the rat then and positioned his hand until a small stream of blood flowed into the animal’s small muzzle. Pluta moved up beside him and nudged him, then began to lick at his wound. By the time was blood was cleaned off his hand there was not even a mark where the cut had been.
He did not move his fingers much, not needing to for such a small life, and slowly the rat began to change. New muscle and skin grew over a gaping hole, the tail lengthened and thickened, fur returned with a sheen. It was still mostly dirty, but when it opened its eyes and squeaked it looked no different than any other forest rat.
Pierre stroked its head and it calmed down.
“So this is far more than just returning the soul to flesh,” Wolfram whispered, forcing himself to keep his voice down. “We are healing—creating!” He sounded more excited than Pierre had ever heard him.
He set the rat back down on the ground and it ran off into the underbrush, with Pluta right on its heels.
Pierre wiped his hands on his trousers and stood.
“It is why I also began to learn medicine. Knowledge is most important in this cræft. Granted, I do not know much about how a rat’s body works, but in general how muscle and bone and blood all work together is very helpful. The spirits are far more likely to aid you if you push them in a direction that is natural and they are used to.” As natural as forcing life into death can be.
They returned to their seat by the campfire, continuing to talk about more innocent subjects.
A short while later Wolfram observed Pierre flinch harshly.
“Are you alright, Your Grace?”
The duc made sure to note that they were not being listened to before he spoke.
“Pluta caught the rat and killed it. I felt it.” He rubbed at the back of his neck, where a cat would bite to sever the spine.
“Yes. This is not something I have felt often, but if you use the magic on many it will be more frequent. Should they die by anyone else’s hand beside your own, nature’s included, you shall feel their passing. It is different than when you inflict the last blow— that you control. So be careful who, and how many, you share your blood with. The power over them lasts three days and you are connected to everyone you do this with for that time being. If I were to, say, give my blood to a whole battalion of men to try and aid them in their fight, should many become gravely wounded and begin dying faster than I can heal them, I will die as well. Death pulls you to herself. Remember this.”
He wondered if, as a lord of death, this would still be true. Somehow he thought it would only entice death more.
“I will remember.”
They descended upon the camp of the princeling Pierre Salvador and his company, appearing only as flickers and fireflies. Those few of Triumphe that had been awake for the watch, or simply could not sleep, found their eyelids heavy and their beds inviting. Spirits and magic filled the air along with laughter from people unseen.
~ Trisday, 8th of Aprilis, 11831 ~
Shouting woke Lizzy. She sat up in her cot, the cold of the morning not comparing to the chill as she realized something was very wrong. Angry shouts and frightened calls to Sebelas wrang in her ears. Grabbing a robe so as not to be indecent she stepped out of her tent.
This was not where they had stopped the night before. True, forests looked different in the gloom of evening than the light of day, but they did not vanish. Instead of the wood they were in a field with a pond, a smattering of trees in the distance.
“We were moved!”
“We were taken!”
Had they offended any fairies? Had they not liked the gifts Pierre and she had left? She did not recognize the area so it was not someplace they had already traveled. And if they had not merely been taken back several days travel then they could be anyplace. She grabbed onto the flap of the tent as her head swam.
A sharp whistle cut through the noise (or was it silence?, Elizabeth felt deaf).
“Where is His Grace? I need to speak with him!” Was Pierre missing!?
“Here I am.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. Pierre was here. Good. One moment at a time. It was no use beginning to panic.
One of the carriage-drivers, the senior on this trip that lead the way, walked past her and over to Pierre (who had not even bothered to grab a robe and was standing in his sleepwear). She followed so that she would be able to hear, and most of those she could see did similar. Now it was quiet, enough that anything those two said would be heard all throughout the camp.
“Your Grace, as you can see, there’s been a bit of change this morning. But I recognize it, I know the routes of the land. If we continue down that road we will be in Spadille by early this afternoon.”
They had been taken.. Forward? The fée had not tricked them but had given them aid! The several days they had lost because of her illness were no longer lost and they would be in the capital on time.
“That is a relief to know, thank you, sir. Well then let us have breakfast and continue on as usual, no need to seem ungrateful after all. I will send a pigeon to Spadille so that the steward will know that despite our earlier unplanned stop we will be there on time.”
At the notion of what could happen should they be ungrateful most held their tongues, but not all had the fortitude. Pierre paid them no heed.
“Oh, Lizzy, my dear! Come have breakfast with me.”
“Of course, Your Grace!”
Elizabeth ignored the naysayers as well and tightened her robe before going over to His Grace’s tent for breakfast.