~ (Continued) Dvoday, 14th of Aprilis, 11831 ~
His Grace only asked that she contact her parents, and it may even have been faster to send a written message, but Síofra instead dressed to leave and go in person. She had not been home or in Faery for almost a week, and while overall that was not a long time, it was the longest time she had been away until now. She was rarely in this plane for more than a day or two and previously always with one of her parents. Pierre said it was alright if it took some time, so she took that as permission to at least spend a day at home. This close to the fée’s Summerfinding would have the inhabitants getting ready for a change in rule as the King of the Summer Fae took over from the Queen of the Spring Fae. She would then move her court to this plane and begin its Midspring.
She took off the necklace that Renaud had given her. Despite her uneasiness with him last night she smiled as she saw the flakes of silver that swam in the water. It was a lovely piece and she adored it. Putting the necklace in a drawer for safekeeping she then took the pins out of her hair and ran her hand through her locks. Renaud preferred when she had it pinned up, but she tended to like it loose, or at most in a tail.
Ready now, she bid Elizabeth a farewell and promised to be back soon, and to bring her something. She intended to bring Renaud a gift back as well. Whether she would tell her parents about him was another matter—they were coming on official business, after all, it would not do to bring up personal matters and split their attention. And truly, she felt it thrilling to keep him a secret for a while.
She stopped by his rooms but he did not answer, though the door was unlocked when she tried. He was not in his quarters. She wrote him a quick note instead, not wishing to leave without any contact. As she left his rooms and began to head towards the back gardens someone grabbed her arm.
Their grip was tight, and she twisted around to see who had dared take such a painful hold on her.
“What are you—Renaud!”
He seemed to realize he was hurting her and his grip loosened, but he did not let go.
“Where are you going? You are dressed up in the clothes you came here in. You were in my rooms. And where is your necklace!”
“Home,” she replied, trying to gently remove herself from his grip. He did not let go and she tugged harshly, freeing herself and stepping back. “I left the necklace in my quarters.”
“Why?” he asked. He reached for her, then his arm fell back to his side. His annoyance—anger?—left him and he spoke more softly now, “Síofra, dear, please. What is because of what I said? Do not go.”
“What? No, Renaud. His Grace asked me to summon my parents, I thought I would go to them and then we all return together. I left my necklace because I did not wish for it to get lost.”
“Oh.” He stepped back, looking her over again. “I am sorry, dear. I do not know what came over me.”
He reached out again and this time she let him touch her. He took her hand and raised it, kissing her fingers, and then continuing up her arm until he kissed the spot he had gripped too tightly. There were no marks, but she was not sure if it would stay that way. “I am sorry, Síofra. I thought you were leaving me and I panicked. Did I hurt you?”
“No,” she lied. “I am fine. Just be careful when you grab me.”
“Again?” he asked, his sheepish look turning into a grin.
“Well, I may wish to be grabbed sometime,” she replied. He laughed, and the uneasy feeling she had left her as they fell back into flirting. It had been an accident and a misunderstanding.
“Will you walk me to the forest?”
“By all means,” he replied, holding out his arm. She took it and he held her tight as they walked to the gardens together.
~ Trisday, 15th of Aprilis 11831 ~
Two letters from the castle reached Pierre the next day. By the dates one had been written first, before the incident with Alise, with the other a reply to the letter Pierre sent to the roi yesterday about what was takings place. He opened up the letter from his brother first.
Forgive the late reply, it had been a whirlwind in returning home. Ancel wishes to explore the castle as he has never been here before. He is also quite talkative and has realized his birthday will be soon and that means a party and presents. He is trying to make sure none of these new servants are ignorant of this, and they all indulge him, as if his birthday was not well known. If I do not stop Maman the party he receives will be as elaborate as yours and Ancel may well enjoy it like that! Hélaïse sends her love as well. I hope the advisors are doing their part and keeping you informed.
Do not do too much work if you can help it. Ask for anything you may need from me, Brother.
As far as the sickness I believe they are calling it Sanguiosi here. Father confirms there has been a case already in the capital, but it was kept quiet among the people so as not to cause panic. It was an isolated incident and no one else was reported ill yet. There have been steps implemented to keep it from becoming more than it is, but even so it is being classified as a plague further south already. Those who are symptomatic do not survive, or at least I have not heard of one surviving yet. I heard Elizabeth was taken ill on the journey, I am glad it was not with that.
Lord Ophion is being tasked with learning more, though at the moment he is in Quercus with his grandson. I do believe he continues his research even so, along with his students still about the castle. No doubt you too are looking into it with Wolfram.
I am sure you are doing well.
Prince Aimé Alexandre de Cœurs a Triumphe.
He smiled, though now looked at the other letter with some trepidation. Would they still think him doing well with what had happened? The penmanship was not Aimé’s, it seemed the roi himself had composed most of the letter. Would Edgard ask him to return home? Give up the duchy?
My dear son,
Do not doubt your actions. You are both a prince and a duc. Your word is law. You have been taught politics, and kindness, and justice, and you may use all of these at your disposal. You may not be the duc crowned, yet, but you are the duc by birth. That the girl was refused treatment is abhorrent. I fully support your having the doctor arrested on your pleasure. I could not say that if it were myself I would not choose to reopen the personal dungeons.
I have not heard of this happening in Cœurs but it may merely have never reached our ears. You are correct in that I am the roi and you the duc because we are the leaders of all those who reside in Triumphe, no matter their bestia.
I am proud of you.
Pierre wiped at the tears that stung his eyes, his fears put to rest. Reine Joséphine and Prince Aimé also added their thoughts, and Aimé urged that if Pierre needed any assistance or guidance to just sent a letter and he would himself be there as soon as possible. ‘I will take Shetan from Piers and be there in three days’ he promised. Pierre smiled— Shetan was Piers’ prized horse, a steed gifted to him by his grandfather from distant lands who could cover more than a hundred miles in a day. Piers would not just let anyone ride him, of course, but at the prince’s command he would hand over the reins.
~ Vijfday, 17th of Aprilis, 11831 ~
Síofra returned in three days with her parents. She was smiling brightly, cheeks rosy, and gave Pierre the quickest of barely-acceptable curtsies before running off with Elizabeth.
“They have become fast friends,” Pierre said to her parents, not minding the breech in etiquette. “Lord and Lady Spadé, thank you for coming so quickly.”
“Your Grace, it is our pleasure to see you once more.”
Pierre lead them to the advisor’s meeting room, taking a seat in one of the chairs and not at his desk, motioning for Elwin and Rhianu to choose their seats similarly.
“Will this be a formal meeting with your advisors?” Elwin asked.
“No,” Pierre replied. “I wish for this to be with my margrave and margravine; with family. I will conduct a second meeting later on with the rest, and I do wish for you to be present if at all possible, Lord Spadé. To be truthful I am still somewhat furious with them.”
“Understandable,” Rhianu said. “Though you are aware they likely did not know.”
“The extent? No. But they knew that things like this were happening.” And had neither told him, nor done much to dissuade it.
“Tell us exactly what that is. Síofra said that there was a fay child that was refused care because of her bestia?”
“Oui. I was taking a tour of the hospital and she was sectioned off, left to die. A young child, seven years of age, the initial report not even finished because she was fay and that was enough. The surgeon that would have performed her surgery was sent out of town the day before on purpose by the chief of the hospital.”
“Mora take him,” Elwin swore.
“He is in prison right now, at my pleasure. An investigation is being done. The girl is fine, I brought her to the château and performed the surgery myself.”
“And if he is found innocent?” Rhianu asked.
Pierre looked at his margravine.
“He will not be unless the corruption runs even deeper than I suspect, but it is possible. In that case I believe I will take Lord Spadé up on his offer as my margrave.”
She smiled and nodded. Somehow Pierre suspected that she would be involved even more than her husband.
“Do we know how long this has been happening?”
“Even if it was this doctor alone—too long. Enough that it was willfully ignored if not accepted.”
“Perhaps, my dear,” Elwin said to his wife, “we should buy a home here in the city. As long as this land has been without a duc, it has also been without a margravine. Our presence may be useful.”
“By all means,” Pierre said. “Or stay at the château. As I said, you are family, and this is home.”
“We may spend more time on this side of the border,” Rhianu said. “There are certain things that cannot be done from here, but so close to the forest it would not be much of a challenge. Do you know if the girl has family in Faery?”
“As far as I am aware, no. She was a foundling, taken in by a farmer and his wife. They find pride in her being fay and did not realize what their words would lead to.”
“She is about seven? I will find out why she was left and if any family remains,” Elwin said. “Sometimes it is weak magic that would make life hard for them in Faery. Or she was born on this plane and could not be brought into Faery.” And sometimes there was no good reason at all, just the cruelty or ignorance of others. As much as he now called Faery home it was far from a perfect land and its people could be just as cruel to each other as to outsiders.
“While much of the population is uneasy or unpleasant about fée here I am sure when it gets out that a child was left to die, it will not be good. Perhaps it will be enough of a shock to start change.”
“Next time you will come with me,” Síofra said to Lizzy as she pulled the other girl into their chambers. “For Summerfinding! Your Midspring, of course. We are decorating and the—”
A knock on the open door interrupted her and Síofra turned to see Renaud. He was smiling, holding an orange rose in his hand.
“Forgive the intrusion, but I heard you have returned and—”
And he was cut off as Síofra jumped up from the seat and dashed over to him, embracing him. She kissed him and for a moment he reciprocated, a hand tangling in her loose hair, but he pulled himself away.
“My dear, not that that was not, ahem, but—”
Síofra rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes, yes, monsieur, I know. But Lizzy is here as a chaperon,” she said, gesturing to her lady, “so it is fine!”
Renaud looked at Elizabeth and then away from her. “Yes, well. Can you come with me? I have a present for you.” He handed her the rose and it somehow matched more than clashed with her hair. “I mean, more so than just this.”
She smiled. “Yes, of course. And I have one for you as well! Though, one moment, let me put your necklace back on, I know you were upset that I took it off before. Lizzy, is it alright? I will come back and talk soon. Oh, and to give you your present as well!”
“Of course, go on!”
Síofra hugged Renaud, and then Lizzy, getting the necklace she had taken off a few days ago and putting it around her neck before leaving with Renaud, the man’s arm firmly around her waist.
“What have you for me?” the girl asked as they walked towards Renaud’s rooms, quite a bit away. She adjusted the strap of a large satchel she was still wearing, it held the gifts she had brought for all. There was even one for Pierre, but she would hold off on giving that to him until after his meeting.
“I do not wish to ruin the surprise, my dear.”
“Oh, please? It is already a surprise, whether you tell me or show me in a few moments.”
“Well… I thought you looked so lovely in what you were wearing at dinner a few nights back I had something made for you.”
Síofra smiled and tugged him along, “Come on then, I wish to see!”
“Hold on!” He could not help but laugh as took control. Normally such a thing would bother him, but not in this case. Not with her. Perhaps…
She got to his room first, standing and waiting for him to open the door, though she bounced on her feet with barely suppressed joy. He took the moment to kiss her again before entering. She needed a moment after the kiss, but followed, absentmindedly closing the door behind herself.
Renaud crossed the room to his wardrobe and pulled out a gown. It was a dark green, almost black, with a high collar and long sleeves, cream lace decorating the hems. A hundred silver buttons from the clasp at the throat to the edge of the skirts gleamed in the light.
“Oh, Renaud! That’s so lovely,” Síofra breathed. She reached out to touch the fabric. It seemed to shimmer with every moment.
“There is a crinolette to go along with it,” he continued, “and—” He reached back into the wardrobe and pulled out a golden snood with emeralds at the intersections. “For your hair, my dear.”
“Renaud, merci, thank you!”
“Of course,” he replied. “We can go into town together now.”
“Could we not before?” she asked in reply. She twisted her hair in a loose knot and tried on the hairpiece. The gown she pressed up to herself and looked down. It would fit. When had he had the time to get her measurements?
“Perhaps, but your choices in apparel would have been… out of fashion.”
“Then perhaps soon we can go out in the newest fashions!”
“I would like that.”
She placed the dress gently on his bed and he admired her from behind. The dress she wore now was loose and straight, thin as well, and it wrapped around her precisely. It would not do do go out in such attire, but when it was merely them together.
Siofra also took the satchel at her side off, rummagining through it. She pulled out his gift, an item about a foot in length, and heavy. It was wrapped in a deep purple cloth.
“And this, Renaud, is for you.”
He hesitated, but upon looking into her eager eyes he reached out to pick up the object. It was quite heavy and when he pulled the fabric away he was left looking at a dagger in a sheath.
“Oh, Síofra…” He unsheathed it. The blade was dyed a deep blue-purple, golden etchings of leaves decorating it, the very metal a swirl a color and steel. “Merci,” he whispered.
He smiled to her, looking again into her eyes, and then down to the necklace that he had given her.