~ Iunday, 13th of Aprilis, 11831 ~
It was the day of the Frog Moon and a promise of rain hung in the air. Pierre stood beside his open window, taking in the scent of the day as he dressed for appearances as well as the weather. Today would be his first official venture as duc of the lands and he needed to look the part.
“This one, Your Grace?” Wolfram was still helping him as his valet, refusing to let anyone else do the work. Given that he could not refuse a personal aid without seeming odd, and the boy was one of few who knew of his conditions (though more seemed to learn every day), the duc was begrudgingly accepting.
“Yes. Thank you, Wolfram.” He turned around and let Wolfram dress him in a thick travel cloak, but worked the clasp in the front by himself. Not deterred, the boy took the time to get his top hat and light grey gloves.
“Now,” Pierre said, turning around and looking over the boy. “Return to your room and dress yourself in the same manner.”
“Why, Your Grace?”
“You are coming with me, of course.”
“But, Your Grace—”
“I will not be having it be said that I stole Uncle’s student merely so he could dress me. You are my apprentice in several things, accompanying me to inspect the hospital is your right.”
“Thank you! Merci, Your Grace.” With a genuine smile the boy left quickly so they would not be late.
Pierre took his cane and checked the dagger before he left the room to wait in the hall. His steward was already there with some papers in his arms, though he stood without reading them, instead glaring at Pluta who was at his feet.
“Ah,Vivien, Pluta, good morning,” Pierre said. “I will return in the early afternoon, hopefully. If not, I am certain you know what to do. Is there anything pressing I should know before I leave?”
“No, Your Grace, everything is well.” Vivien looked up to his duc and then back down to the papers. “You have nothing very important here that I cannot sign off on. Information on taxes, an inquiry about when exactly you will become duc, and a reminder about today though I can see you do not need reminding. Lord Elwin and Lady Rhianu send their regrets that they will not be able to be here for the next council meeting as Summerfinding will be here soon. Beside this, if something dire comes up I can send for you.”
“Very well, thank you.”
Pluta ran over to Pierre after Vivien left. “He does not understand what I am saying, but he knows I am speaking to him. It bothers him,” she said smugly, moving to rub herself against Pierre.
“Do not,” the doctor said, stepping back, “Please.” Usually he did not mind the affection, or the fur she left, but today was not an ordinary day. She sneezed in reply and walked over to the other side of the hall, purposely turning away from him and beginning to clean herself.
Pierre sighed. A steward who did not like any reminder of his cræft and now a Familiar that was offended. Perhaps it was for the best that he would be spending most of the day out.
“How do I look, Your Grace?”
Wolfram was back, holding his arms out to show off his best clothes. It was similar to Pierre’s outfit, more grey than the lord’s black, and put on without the help of another. The young man adjusted his collar and frowned, not really liking the restrictive nature of a proper suit that felt too small. The top-hat he wore was not quite the right size either. He had a small surgical bag that he was not sure would be needed, but he would rather have his tools than not.
“You look fine,” Pierre said and tugged at Wolfram’s ascot so it was no longer crooked. “You seem to have grown some from the last time you wore this. On the way back we can stop by a tailor’s and have new measurements taken if you wish.”
“Oh, merci, Your Grace.”
“Now,” Pierre continued as they began to walk out. Pluta finished cleaning herself and bound after them. “I will be on a proper tour with the chief doctor, and you may accompany me or take your own time to look around. You are my student and shall be allowed anywhere I would be. Merely be respectful and polite.”
“Of course. I believe at the beginning I will follow you, though if something catches my eye I may wander.”
“And keep your ears open. I am certain there may be things said near you that would not dare leave lips if it were I.”
“—Oh no, Pluta, I believe you should stay behind.”
Pierre glanced back to see Lizzy grabbing his Familiar and hugging the cat. Pluta did not seem pleased, but did not swipe or even growl at Elizabeth.
“Forgive me,” Lizzy said. “I did not mean to interrupt, I merely thought she should not go out.”
“No, non, you are right. She should stay while I go visit at least this first time.”
He scratched Pluta under her chin and reluctantly she purred.
“And how are you this morn?” he asked Lizzy, before not allowing her a chance to answer by capturing her lips. When they broke their kiss it was only start another. Pluta managed to wriggle her way out of Lizzy’s arms and dashed over to Wolfram in a huff.
“I was going to say well,” Lizzy breathed when Pierre finally stood back up. She reached out to cup his cheek and stood up on her toes to kiss him quickly one last time. “But perhaps I shall change my stance to ‘very.’ You have been busy, though.”
“I have, forgive me, my sweet. I did not fathom there would be so much to do given this was a transitional time. Brother seems to have found himself with a vacation rather than I with one. But Siofra is good company?”
“Oui, yes, she is wonderful. Merely not you.” He raised her hand to kiss her knuckles at this.
“And you?” Lizzy asked, resisting the urge to kiss him yet again. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yes, truly, especially in this moment.” She blushed and he grinned. “But I have more duties. Even now, we are going to the hospital to see how it fairs and it will be several hours. I have been told the doctors are quite skilled and I hope to gain permission to work there on some days.”
“It is again the Ides,” she said. “And a full moon. Take care and I will see you tonight?”
“I shall. You as well, Lizzy, be careful. And we shall soon do something together, just you and I, I promise.”
She could resist no more and it seemed neither could he for they kissed yet again and only broke apart when Pluta meowed her annoyance. Pierre had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing as he had at least understood her admonishing him and reminding him that he was not yet wed.
It had been not even a month since he had met again with Lizzy and yet it felt as if they had spent years together. And would hopefully spend many actual years together.
“Ahem. Forgive me, we shall be late if we dally any longer.”
“If you dally any longer,” Pluta added, jumping up into Lizzy’s arms again. Wolfram coughed and Lizzy was suddenly red, having forgotten there was a witness.
“Go on then. Have a wonderful day, Your Graceful Highness.”
“I shall, my lady Lizzy.”
She curtsied and retreated back down the hall with Pluta.
A carriage took Pierre and Wolfram into town, through the center square, and off a side road to where the hospital stood. It was walled off from the surrounding buildings, gardens built on the grounds to offset the man-made structures. A long walkway to the front door split off halfway there and ran to a lot at the side of the building. Emergency carts stood there waiting to rush to aid anyone in need, and space was left open for their return. A side-door would lead straight into triage.
“Impressive,” Pierre said with a nod to the area. “I know of only one other hospital that can have three carts standby like that.” Most did not even have one cart, but expected one of the city drivers to give up their carriage in times of need.
They met the chief doctor at the front of the building. Pierre introduced Wolfram, explained that he was a personal student, and they began their tour.
Much of it was introduction to the staff, explaining the way the hospital worked, and an offer for Pierre to come receive his credentials as soon as possible. It would be a great boon to have the duc himself registered as a doctor of their hospital. And it was close to his home, and would allow him to continue doing what he had studied for, after all. Wolfram took this as his cue to walk away from the others, heeding Pierre’s request to keep his ears open and away from those trying specifically to impress.
A short while after the chief doctor was called away for an emergency. Another member of staff filled in as guide, unfortunately (Pierre was ready to do as Wolfram and try and wander around by himself. Perhaps he would be less hounded then). At least this person was more afraid of offending him and so the offers, and what could almost be called bribes, tapered off.
They walked by a room and the guide picked up his pace to pass quickly, but Pierre stopped. Weeping was heard through the door. It was open slightly ajar as the handle seemed broken. A bright red rag was tied around it like a beacon.
“What is going on here?” Pierre asked the guide softly, tilting his head to the door. He assumed it was a terminal patient.
“Your Grace, the surgery required for the child is not one the parents can afford. And even with it, there are risks. She has days at most. We have allowed them to stay as moving her would only harm her and they live quite far away.”
“She is not contagious then?” he asked, already moving in that direction. Out of habit he turned the doorknob and it did not feel broken. Why the rag then?
“No, Your Grace. Only terminally—”
“I will pay for the surgery,” the duc said. He walked in before more could be said. The room was larger than he first expected, and unusually empty for the busyness he had seen so far. But they must have been put here to grieve in peace.
“Madame, monsieur,” he greeted the parents that stood beside the bed. “I am Pierre Salvador and it is my pleasure to fund your daughter’s operation for you. It will be scheduled at once.”
The mother looked up to him with wide eyes, so grateful that she could not speak, fresh tears falling down her cheeks. Her husband spoke for them both. “Merci, monsieur, merci!”
The guide then caught up to him and began to whisper in his ear, “The chief surgeon is away. Only he can do this. By the time we reach him—”
“Why in Death’s name is he away when there are those in dire need? And what to you mean he is the only one, has anyone else even looked at her?” Pierre growled. “I know Prince Aimé is not very knowledgeable about medicine, but I somehow do not think he would allow this to pass. I certainly shall not.”
Leaving the guide, he walked over to the girl on the bed. He pressed a hand to her forehead. She opened her eyes, large and wide, and a lovely if unnatural gold in color.
“She is a foundling,” the father said from his other side of her bed. “We could not have our own children, and she was just left in—” he smiled, —the cabbage patch in our yard. She has always been an ill child, but this… We are farmers…”
“I will pay for it,” Pierre repeated, looking up to the worried father. “And if their one blasted surgeon is away from his post when a child is in need I will perform the surgery as well.”
“Oh, your Grace!” The mother had found her voice and now hugged him. He stood still a moment, but returned the hug before she went back to her husband.
“Send for my assistant, he is in this hospital, and have someone bring all of my instruments from the château.” The guide seemed to want to reply, but refrained and instead did as he was instructed.
“Come,” Pierre offered. “There is a room set aside for these procedures. If you could gentle take her into your arms, monsieur, we will start getting ready. I will just get her notes.”
He picked up a leaflet of parchment, far too sparsely written on to be a complete medical history. The most glaring was a large F hastily drawn in the upper right corner. Before he could think too deeply about what it meant (funds, perhaps, as there had been mention of the family being poor), a voice interrupted him.
“Your Grace, you do not have privileges in this hospital!” Pierre looked up to see that the chief doctor had come to involve himself. It seemed he was busy no longer. The man seemed personally insulted that Pierre wished to help, even as he had been begging him to gain privileges an hour ago. True, he was ignoring several rules by not having those privileges yet, but it to was to help a girl! How in God’s name were people arguing with him about this?
“I will pay for the surgery and not take any pay out from the hospital. I must take a room, but I shall be done as quickly as possible. There is no need for this girl to die.”
“This is my hospital,” the man said again, as if that solved everything. “I am sorry, truly, but I cannot allow a breach in protocol even if you are the duc.”
“You receive funds from the kingdom. Roi Edgard Raoul has named me his son in spirit, and so it is I, actually, who own this hospital and set the standards. If that is not good enough for you then I will have your funding removed, and buy the building outright. If this is how the doctors of Spadille have run things with the Piques line away I am ashamed to say I ever left.”
“Be that as it may, you may not perform the surgery in this hospital until that is all sorted.” And she will have died.
“Then I will take her to my home.” It would be faster anyway than waiting for word to get to the château and for someone to come with his things. He walked past the chief doctor, dismissing him without a glance, and headed to the nearby surgery room he had inspected a few minutes ago.
“You are still a child, Your Grace!” The last effort of the doctor was insulting. Pierre stopped his retreat mid-step. The age of adulthood was officially twenty years in Clandestina, and while young adults were treated with more respect than smaller children, legally they often had similar rights. Because Pierre had pushed back his duties he had also decided to legally remain a child until he took his position.
The same was not true of those aligned to Faery.
“My père lived more years of his life in the magical plane than here in this world. My sister still calls that place home,” he said, not turning around to show insult right back. “I am learning that this means more for me than I thought before, and so I shall take it upon myself follow their tradition. As fay I have been an adult for eleven years, and so I again remark that this is my land!” He made his way to the room where the fay girl was without looking back.
Wolfram had already started to set up his tools when Pierre entered. The duc gave them a glance and noted their cleanliness with approval. On occasion he had had a professor who insisted used knives were a sign of social status. One in particular had never cleaned his scalpels or the butcher’s-apron he wore during surgery, insisting the spirits and humors would not spread despite their thick presence.
“Wolfram, thank you for your diligence, but please repack.” To not alarm the parents he continued to them, “We will perform the surgery elsewhere, but it shall be done tonight. We are not allowed in this building any longer, by the chief surgeon who I assure you will not have his job by next morning. Come, a room will be turned into a surgery at my home. The night airs will do her good on the way there.”
“Is it alright to move her? To do this so quickly?” her mother voiced her fears and Pierre offered her a smile.
“Tonight is a full moon,” he said. “She will do best tonight, and I would rather not wait another month.” He did not need to add that she might not last the moon cycle.
He smiled to the child then. “And, my dear, what is your name?”
“Alise Morigan,” she whispered.
“A lovely name. My sister is called Morgaine, little Alise. She is fay too. Do you know what tonight is?”
“La pleine lune.”
“Oui, a full moon. And tonight the moonlight we will make you feel better, so we will go to my home and have your operation done right away. Your parents will carry you and hold you until we are there.”
“Thank you, monsieur,” she said.
Pierre motioned to the father, who picked up his daughter again, adjusting her so she would neither be in pain or uncomfortable. Wolfram had packed the instruments and they left as a group, the duc in front. No one dared comment as they exited, but he made note of those that seemed to be in agreement with his actions and those that were not.