~ Qvattorday, 9th of Aprilis, 11831 ~
He woke in a room that brought back memories in the morning light. Pierre had chosen to sleep in his childhood room last night and it had been an indulgence granted him. Most of his things were in the larger suite where he would stay from now on, but the first night in a new place, or a familiar place that had not been visited recently, was special.
Pluta was already awake inspecting the room and looking through old toys and books. As he had not met her until he was older and living with Ophion this whole building was new to her. She was no doubt curious about her master’s younger life.
Most of the things in the room were as they had been years ago. It had never been cleared out, though it had been kept clean, perhaps out of respect and then habit.
“What have you found there, Pluta?” he asked, craning his neck to look at his cat. She was hitting something across the room and running to it only to hit it again.
“It smells like you and outside,” she replied, picking it up in her mouth and bringing it over to him. “My favorite things. I like it.”
It was a ball, just the right size to fit in a small child’s hands, made of leaves, feathers, and string. When Pierre touched it he felt a jolt go through his palms. So that is how it had not decayed, it was wrapped in magic just as much as the physical material. His père must have made it for him. A memory surfaced of Félicien in a meeting, not paying the least bit of attention, but instead playing catch with him. Pierre had hidden under the table and its thick tablecloth, tossing the ball towards him who caught it every time with one hand in his lap, sight unseen. It was also the first time the young boy had found himself interested in politics.
“Please don’t destroy it,” he asked Pluta, tossing it out into the room.
“I do not think I could if I wanted to, there is much magic in it. But I will be careful.” She returned to batting it across the room.
He watched for a while, lost in memories as much as his pet’s game, but finally got up to dress.
He would meet with his council today—several men chosen by his brother to help with the ruling of Piques. Aimé had had the same men at his disposal for advisory and it was not a smudge on Pierre to inherit them but an honor.
He knew Charlot some, as well as Vivien now, but the rest were unknown.
Most of his clothes were in the guest quarters he should have been sleeping in, but a few things were laid out for the day here. He had to trust the servants knew of his schedule and had picked appropriate attire.
“Come along, Pluta,” he said.
He first had breakfast with Elizabeth, still preferring the company of those that he knew well for the time being. A servant entered the room more often than might be usual, no doubt playing a chaperon for the two (the assumption given more weight as they stopped coming in as often after Wolfram joined them near the end of the meal).
“Did I choose the correct clothes, Your Grace?” the boy asked, sitting beside him after greeting them both.
“You picked the clothing?” Lizzy looked over his clothes, now with a more critical eye, and by her smile she approved.
“I said I would be at your desire and aid, Your Grace.”
“You did, Wolfram, thank you.” The boy was proving truly devoted. If he had even been half as involved with Ophion, Pierre felt guilty for having taken him without asking. That Wolfram had no parents and was essentially a ward of the state let him be moved around at the whim of those in power. Pierre outranked his uncle and could take the boy without repercussion, but he did expect a letter soon if there was not already one waiting for him somewhere.
“Good morning, Wolfram,” Lizzy said. “So you have decided to be his close aid?”
“I owe him a debt, and I wish to repay it.”
“Oh, a debt?” She looked between the two. “Pray, what has our dear duc done that you would repay him so?”
“That is a secret among men, my lady,” Pierre interrupted her. “So I must declare this topic forbidden.”
“Oh, my apologies then, keep those thoughts to yourself.”
They chatted among themselves, Wolfram speaking more of his personal life with Elizabeth’s coaxing, though did not reveal very much. They were only two and a half years apart, far less than Pierre and Lizzy. Their stations in life would never make them peers, but there would be an understanding there that Pierre and Elizabeth could not have.
“And what happened to her?” Lizzy asked after Wolfram had spoken of Salome and her illness. The boy stopped, unable to come up with a quick lie.
“It is part of my debt,” Pierre cut in. “It seems you shall find out what I have done after all. I could not find out the reason for her illness so I sent her into Faery. You actually helped, Elizabeth, by reminding me of my connections to the land. I am told she will be returned to us, both healed and not aged a day, though we do not know how long it will take. Wolfram decided to accompany me until her return. Given that Piques is so close to Faery, we hope her return will be swift.”
“Oh, I do hope so. I would love to meet her as well,” she replied. “And forgive me, I did not mean to pry about your secret. I did not know those were related.”
“Forgiven, of course.”
This worked well with the rumor that Pierre had begun to spread about Salome disappearing at Springfinding to explain her absence. The servant that had brought them drinks to finish their meal had seemed very interested in the debt as well, surely the story would be all about the château by dinnertime. Most would not pay much attention to Salome’s disappearance, she was only at the castle as Wolfram’s guest and Ophion’s patient, her presence or lack thereof would not register as important to many, but contingencies and alibis were always helpful.
A second servant then walked in with a message for Pierre. He took it and scanned it quickly after thanking the man. “It seems the council’s meeting shall begin whenever I arrive at my earliest convenience,” he said.
Not wishing to keep them waiting too long he smiled at the companions who had had breakfast with him before folding his napkin and standing. He bowed over Elizabeth and kissed both her hand and then her cheek, and gave Wolfram a nod of thanks.
“Do keep Pluta company. I fear it may be rude for our first meeting to involve my pet. They do not know how close I like to keep her.” They would know soon, but first impressions would be important, and a mostly formal meeting with his pet would be rude.
Upon unspoken understanding when Pierre left with the servant who had brought the note in the first place they began to walk down the hall towards the meeting room, said servant in front with the duc following. Even not knowing where he was going he knew which room it was as they walked up to it, the guarded large double-doors, in deep red, speaking for themselves.
Said doors were opened for him on each side and he entered.
It was more formal than a sitting room, made for important decisions and long discussion. Six men each sat in their own large armchair, a semi-circle before a great desk, already talking amongst themselves. There was a small table in the middle with a full decanter and glasses, none were in use right now, while the walls were lined with books and maps. It seemed the decor had changed since his childhood; he was certain now that the memory from the morning had taken place in this room.
The moment he was noticed they all stood to attention. He passed by them, nodding a welcome before standing in front of his desk and looking at each one in turn. His eyes were first drawn to the wolf. It sat by the chair of the man furthest to the right, apart even from the other five, and it watched him without blinking. The golden color of its fur seemed unnatural with the amount of sparkle the coat had. The man beside the wolf was stroking its head like it was a perfectly normal thing to bring a wolf to a meeting.
“This is Magec,” the man said, noticing that Pierre was looking at him and his pet. “He is a faithful companion and will do you no harm, My Grace. And I am your Margrave, Lord Elwin of Spadille and now Spadé,” he added at the end with a bow.
“Lord Spadé, it is a pleasure to meet you,” Pierre replied. This man had helped raise his père and was in some ways his grandfather more than the old late duc of Piques. He moved from his desk and out to where the first advisor stood to shake hands. Elwin was tall and even Pierre had to look up to meet his eyes. The man’s hair was almost the same color as his wolf’s fur, and his eyes were jade green. He had no facial hair, though a scar ran along the left side of his jaw. His attire was varying shades of green and brown, in an older style that was not suited for this meeting, but he seemed to care as much as Pierre did about colors and dress code, that is- in certain circumstances not at all.
The wolf leaned over and sniffed Pierre’s hand, then nudged him so he could get a greeting and a scratch as well. Pierre smiled and wondered what Pluta would think of the fée beast. As he straightened Pierre noted that the next advisor was at least twice as far away from Elwin as the rest. Were they worried about the wolf or the man?
But he moved to shake Charlot Alexandre’s hand with a smile. The heir to the duchy of Diamonds looked much like his sister, the princess—light blonde hair and a soft smile, though his eyes were a hazel instead of her green. Pierre had met him in passing, they were somewhat family, but did not know him very well. His attire was a proper black and white.
“Your future Grace, I thank you for your wish to stay and help before returning to your own lands,” Pierre said. Charlot’s parents were still living and so, though he was of-age, he need not take up the title or duties just yet.
“We will be working together for the good of the kingdom, it is a delight to be your aid until I am a duc myself.”
The next two men looked very similar in appearance, both with dark brown hair (though one had more of a reddish tint to it than the other), one with eyes of green and the other blue. The duc had never met either.
“The honorable sons of Feuilles,” Vivien introduced from the far left. “They are Jourdain Antonin and Renaud Paul.” Each nodded his welcome at his name— Jourdain was the one next to Charlot with green eyes, and Renaud was further left with the reddish hair and blue eyes. He would ask Pluta to watch them. If their father was planning on over-taking his claim one or both of them were likely to be involved.
Next, Vivien introduced the youngest there, Tibault Rainier, who had at nineteen not yet had his majority. He was here as Lord Bladeren’s heir, to learn as much as to advise, and would stay a year or two before returning home. After that his younger brother might then also come up to learn and study from the duc.
Like Charlot he was the second-born child and heir. Women, unless in dire circumstances, were rarely the heirs themselves even if the eldest. It was only when no other children were born for quite some time that they were given the title, and then their husbands would often take over when they wed.
Vivien was last and Pierre greeted his steward the same as the rest though they had met properly already.
After the duc had finished he walked back behind his desk and sat, motioning for the rest to do so as well.
“Welcome all, and my many thanks once again. I will try and keep this brief for today, but I hope we may meet every fortnight to discuss the land and how things are progressing. More informally we may, of course, discuss matters daily.”
It was agreed, though Lord Elwin could not promise he could attend each one with him often in another plane and not living at the château. This did not sit well with all of the other advisors, but beside some brief looks nothing was said out of turn. Pierre made note of it anyway. He may not know Elwin well yet, but they were kin, and that was enough to wish to defend him.
Not long into the meeting one of Feuilles’s sons, Renaud, spoke up, “Lord Elwin, I do not believe you have told His Grace your full name.”
The man with the wolf smiled. “I did not. My wife cured me of that habit decades ago. You do not truly believe I shall speak it out in the open where just anyone can hear?”
“Are you implying you do not trust His Grace?”
“Not at all, do not presume to interpret my words as more than what I say exactly. I will gladly tell him all of my secrets.” The unspoken implication that the other advisors were the ones untrusted hung in the air.
In Clandestina it was custom to give a child two names, one from their father and one from their mother. The fée did this as well, but often only revealed one of their names. To know the whole name of a person was to be able to control them among the fée. It could also be bought for a price. Most humans felt it impolite not to give their whole name as it implied you did not trust the person.
“It is not needed,” Pierre said, already feeling that those two did not get along. Or more so that Elwin was an outsider among them all. “You were chosen by my père, Lord Elwin, and that I trust above all. As I was saying, the prince and I spoke some about what has been happening, and then my steward informed me of more, but I wish to know everyone’s individual thoughts.”
Renaud did not seem happy to be dismissed but he kept quiet.
They spoke for almost two hours and finally Pierre decided that that was enough for the first meeting. The wolf had already started looking out the window and growling, which made Jourdain pale and Tibault look uncomfortable.
Elwin, furthest from the door and last to leave, stopped by Pierre’s seat when they were the only two in the room,
“My Grace, if I may speak to you more privately now?”
Pierre nodded, waving a hand to the doorman to shut it and leave them be. Elwin returned to his seat. Pierre stood from his desk and then walked over to the large chairs, they seemed far more comfortable anyway. He sat in the one Charlot had been in, pulling it next to Elwin so they faced each other.
“Shall I call you grandpère, then?” he asked, pouring them both some of the brandy that was laid out and handing the margrave’s his glass.
“If you wish,” Elwin replied. He raised his glass and sipped without hesitation. “Your father always called Rhianu ‘maman,’ but I was ‘Elwin’ more often than not. He was older when I met him, you see, in appearance and temperament still a child about twelve, but truly far older. Rhianu raised him by herself for many years before I became involved.”
“Père,” Pierre corrected. “I call Félicien such and the roi Father so as not to confuse the two. I assume you are also far older than you appear?” His earlier comment about decades made no sense unless that was the case for he looked only to be in his thirties.
“Almost sixty-three. It will catch up to me, I suppose, though the longer I stay in Faery the more time acts curiously around me. Do you wish my full name?” he asked suddenly, changing the subject.
“No, that is yours to keep,”
“But I know your name, Your Grace, Pierre Salvador.”
There was a hint of magic in the air, but Pierre only smiled and shrugged. Elwin laughed.
“Of course that is not your true name! Your père did well, I am glad. You took up another name?”
“I did. In fact, I do not even know my real second name. I believe Père said that I would be told it once I turned ten and could keep it to myself. As neither of my parents were around then, I never knew. Mère named me Pierre. I found the name Salvador in a book and quite liked it, so I began to add it to my first name shortly afterward so I would not stand out.”
“Smart lad, well done. Yes, fée children often learn their whole name when they are older and can keep it a secret. But it is a shame that you do not know. It can be used as a blessing on the right tongue.”
“Why did père not return for me?”
Elwin was quiet for a moment at the serious question, swirling the drink in his glass. He reached out to pet Magec. “We discussed it, but he decided you were your mother’s son. You belonged in this plane, with these people. Faery, while in your blood, was not in your soul. He knew you would be taken care of here while Morgaine would not have survived. She had been dying before being taken in by the plane. That said, he regretted leaving you dearly.”
Pierre had not had a bad life. He missed his parents, of course, but Ophion had been a wonderful uncle, and then the roi was another father. He had support. Morgaine had had none and had been dying.
He finished his drink in one swig.
Elwin winced and looked aside. “He also felt he could not,” he said, trying to explain for his adopted son. “Faery takes into consideration its citizens so fée and most fay shall not usually have trouble with going between the planes or making time and space suit their needs. Félicien would usually be allowed to go back and forth, he had done so before, but he walked into Faery with your sister without meaning to that time. He could also not find his way back immediately—the plane wanted him there like it had when he was a child. He felt, magically, that if he had managed to leave Faery he would not be allowed to return. It cost him dearly to leave you, but there was little choice.”
Suddenly Pierre remembered how several weeks ago he and Elizabeth had found an open fée ring around Springfinding. She had suggested he walk through it into the other plane and he had tried, thinking about how it might be amazing to see this new land his father lived in (and that it may impress her if he could). Time lined up around the seasonal sabbats and a fée ring was an open door, if he stayed close he thought he would not be lost. It had not worked, the door had not opened for him, and they had continued to have a lovely evening, but the thought that he could have entered and then been locked out did not enter his mind. Lizzy, he was sure, had not known this either for she would not have suggested it.
“Faery can decide this?” he asked in a whisper. People who disappeared into Faery were said to be taken by fée themselves or just unable to find the way back, but if Faery itself had its own will than nothing was certain.
“Not often, but at times, yes,” Elwin confirmed. “I see you did not know this? Be well aware then if you ever wish to come visit. But, as I said, you are fay, Faery will listen to you unless there is dire need otherwise.
“So Félicien stayed and we became a family again. We helped to raise your sister. I believe she is currently celebrating her honeymoon with her new husband and will be in contact with you as soon as they find the time. My daughter and she consider themselves sisters, they are not very far apart in age. Then not long ago your father started to age rapidly and we lost him two years past, but not before he gave us a reason and means to return to you. Whatever higher power wishes us apart all that time ago no longer desired it and Félicien tried to correct our separation.”
More connections to Faery. More family. Pierre nodded, making note to find Rhianu and the margrave’s daughter as soon as possible. There was far more to his heritage than he had thought before.
Elwin put aside his empty glass and waved off an offer to have it refilled. He stood and stretched, Magec walking over to his side immediately. Pierre stood as well.
“Ah, I wish to say one more thing before we go,” Elwin said as he turned to the door. “As your margrave I am yours to command. Should you need anything done that would stain the ground, Faery gladly accept the offering of blood. Your père, I believe, often did it himself, but you may find the prospect daunting.”
“Thank you, I will keep that in mind.” Was the margrave of every duchy also an executioner or only for Spades? If he found a way to phrase it right he would ask his brother about it. Somehow he doubted that Elwin had made this same offer to Aimé so openly, or that Cœurs’ margrave would be so blunt.
“My wife and daughter should be in the summer room, if you desire to meet them. I wish to find and speak with someone else, and then I will join you there so we may all go have lunch together?”
“That sounds like a wonderful plan.”