~ Vijfday, 31st of Aprilis, 11831 ~
They entered the forest without candles or torches, the stars and a small crescent of waning moon the only light to guide them. Síofra led the way, holding onto Lizzy’s hand and telling her when there was a root or brush in the way so she would not trip.
Tonight was Midspring Night—Floralia. At dawn the next day, in Faery, they would begin celebrating Summerfinding.
Síofra had wished to go home and partake in the celebrations, inviting Elizabeth along with her. The other girl had hesitated at first, worried that she may not be able to return if she entered Faery. Given that they had met Salome the day before, who had just returned from Faery after being taken for weeks, it was not that unusual a worry. But Pierre himself had told her to go, that Síofra was the future margravine and that gave her a certain amount of authority over the difference in the planes.
He also assured her that he would be fine.
Lizzy smiled. The more pressing thought had been that if she disappeared for a time it would hurt Pierre most. And that there was enough going on in Spadille that it might be a betrayal to go have fun. But Pierre had declined the further extended offer to come as well, yet urged her to go.
“How do you know when you will be in Faery?” Lizzy asked. She stepped on a rock and hopped down, though was almost pulled off by the other girl in her haste, “And slow down!”
“Oh, sorry!” Síofra turned and smiled at her friend before starting to walk slower. “And as for knowing we are in Faery—it is a feeling. Like a rush of warm air. And lights! It will be night, but it will be almost as bright as the day for our Summerfinding. Not only bonfires, but fireflies, and the stars will be brighter than here.
“I just need to find the right spot,” she continued. “A place where the planes are almost touching and only need my wish to take that extra step.”
They continued on further into the forest. An unusually warm breeze kept them company. Síofra followed it.
They stood on the edge of a small creek. Frogs chirped and a fish’s scales caught the moonlight. The warm breeze died and was replaced with a chill.
She turned to Lizzy, winking, and held out her hand. “Take it. On three we will jump from one edge to the other and be home.”
Lizzy placed her hands in Síofra’s and the older girl clasped their hands tight. “Do not let go. If you hear someone calling you, ignore them.”
“Un, deux, trois!”
They jumped, and landed on the other side, stumbling but keeping upright, the fairy’s hand never letting go of her dear human friend. Síofra turned around and her face fell.
“We are not in Faery,” she said in a whisper. She looked around—the forest was exactly the same. They had just hopped over the creek and nothing happened. She walked a few paces further into the forest, still not letting go, her free hand out as if wanting to reach into the other world.
“I cannot get through.” Tears filled her eyes. She had never been rejected like this.
Lizzy pulled her into a hug. “Perhaps we are needed at home? Faery has a will of its own, you said. And I am not too certain, so it may be my fault, Síofra, do not fret.”
“I suppose…” She did not sound convinced, biting her lip and looking around. She had, at times, not been able to enter the human’s plane, but never had she been locked out from her home. She had been there only two weeks ago and found the same feeling, the same breeze, walked right into the field by their home.
“Do you want to try again?” Lizzy asked.
“Non. It is not working. I cannot feel it anymore,” she said, reaching up to brush aside her pendant and touch where her heart was, “it is like I am trying to call to someone from under water. Things are muffled.”
“Come now,” Lizzy said, turning her around and now being the one to clasp her hand. “We will celebrate Midspring here! I am sure the Queen’s court will have much to do this night and in the morn, you can help me prepare good gifts and food for them.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea! Maybe that is why I should stay. This city does not seem to like fée much at all, I would not be surprised if such days often brought curses. But, with His Grace and myself, maybe we can earn a Blessing from the Queen!”
They turned around and began to walk back arm in arm.
~ Hexday, 1st of Maius, 11831 ~
Renaud returned the afternoon of Maius 1st alone. He was unkempt, and his horse almost collapsed underneath him after the man himself half-fell out of the saddle. He was lead to the receiving room where the advisors had gathered to speak of the change in seasons, refusing to be lead off before he could report to His Grace.
“My brother is missing!” he said without greeting as soon as he was in the room. Renaud shook off the servant that had been holding onto his arm, stumbling over to Pierre’s desk, falling over it and grabbing the duc. “Please! He’s missing, Your Grace!”
The advisors surrounded him, Charlot gently prying Renaud off of Pierre. Aid was called for, food and water, and the young man was lead to his seat. He was still babbling.
“It was shortly after we entered Trèfles, Jourdain left to retrieve water and when he returned he seemed odd. I did not ask anything of him, but the next day his mood continued while in Quercus. I thought he was sullen from being away from Cordelia, so I tried not to pry. I should have, he is my brother, but I left him be! For days! This morning when we woke another man was there, wearing my brother’s clothes, and he said something about the Summer King before vanishing. I turned back immediately, but realized after an hour that it was too far to go back alone to where he had started being like that, and I came here instead. I rode the horse hard, forgive me, he may die, but please! Please, Your Grace, we need to go look for him! It is still the sabbat, maybe they will return him, or he will not be that far away!”
Renaud grabbed the cup that has been brought for him and drained the water. He caught his breath, but kept looking around frantically. “Please!” It was Jourdain, it was his brother.
Pierre was a fool. He had killed people over the years, yes, but most were nameless, faceless, unimportant to him and the world at large. Jourdain, the heir to a comte, husband, brother, advisor to the prince and duc, would be searched for and missed dearly.
But that had never stopped fée before if they wanted someone. His père had been more important and he had gone missing as well.
“Renaud, go rest,” Pierre found himself saying. “We will plan and head out in several hours to look for him.” There was nothing else to be done; he had to play along. “I am sure you will want to go then and you will need your strength.”
“Th-thank you, Your Grace. Merci.”
Vivien and Tibault helped Renaud up and began to take him out of the room.
Suddenly Renaud jerked in their grasp and yelled behind himself, “Not Elwin! If he is here I do not want him anywhere near this. I refuse to allow him to help. For all we know he was in on it!”
Oh, how right the young man was.
“Fine.” Pierre could not bring himself to scold him for guessing correctly that the margrave was involved.
News spread quickly about Renaud’s abrupt return. He and the advisors had not even gotten to his room when Cordelia found them, out of breath, and without even Perdita at her side.
“What is going on, Renaud! Why is no one telling me what has happened! I heard you had come back, and that you were alone, but when I asked ‘why?’ no one told me—” she was shaking. She suspected. Tibault went to her side and took her arm. She did not notice.
Renaud blinked at his sister-in-law unsure. He looked to Tibault. The youngest advisor took responsibility. “Delia,” he said slowly, “something happened while they were gone.”
She took a step back as if being further away would stop him from speaking. She began to shake her head “Non… Non.”
“Today is Summerfinding,” he said, still softly. Renaud reached out to her and took her hand.
“The fée—” Renaud’s face twisted in anger as he picked up the tale, “—took him. But we will get him back, I’ll get him back!”
With a strangled cry she lost all color in her cheeks, her eyes rolling up into her head. Tibault caught her as she collapsed.
“I will be fine!” Renaud snapped to Vivien. “Go help her!”
“Call His Grace and send for Adam Roland.”
The diagnosis was acute stress and hysteria, brought on by a changing of humors. Cordelia was with child.
Síofra stood before Renaud’s door. He had locked himself in the room after returning from their search. For the third time she raised her hand to knock and faltered before going through with the motion. He obviously did not wish to see anyone, but surely she was an exception? And she wanted to help. She knew she could. Her parents could easily find out where Jourdain is and why he was taken, bring him back once it was all explained.
She took a deep breath and knocked. No reply came and she waited with held breath until she could not longer take it. Once more she knocked, if only to be polite, but when no answer came for the second time she tried the doorknob. It turned for her and she walked into the room.
Renaud sat by his bed, staring out of the window. A piece of paper was in his hands and he was creasing and tearing at it.
She rushed to him and wrapped her arms around him.
“Oh, Renaud, I am so deeply sorry!”
“How can they do this?” he said. He tore his eyes away from whatever held his gaze in the distance and looked at her. He stared into her eyes, reached up to stroke the hair that she had put up in a bun. His eyes drifted to her throat and her necklace. He relaxed a fraction at seeing her wearing it. “They just took him! There was no reason, it was from boredom or for a lark! And now it could be days, or weeks until he returns—if he returns!”
“I will speak to Mother and Father,” she said, trying to soothe. She stroked his cheek. “I can go and look—”
“No! You will do no such thing.” He finally wrapped his arms around her, holding her almost to the point of causing harm.
She tried to move back, but he tightened his grip, and she relented.
“I can help—”
“No. Síofra, please. I do not want to lose you as well. Stay here, stay with me in Piques.”
“Oh, Renaud.” She wrapped her arms around him again. She wanted to explain that Faery would let her through, that the plane was almost as much a person as she was. But the words died in her throat as she remembered being unable to return the night before.
“I will stay,” she said.
“You must stay here. Promise me.” Renaud said into her hair. “Stay in the château. Go into town with Lady Elizabeth if you desire, but stay away from the Duc’s Forest and Spadé. Please?”
“I promise,” she said. He finally loosened his hold and moved her away from him, looking her over, staring into her eyes. He cupped her cheek with a hand and then slid it down to touch the chain which held the necklace he gave her.
“And keep this on, for me. Hold it and think of me.”
He kissed her.
They made quick plans to leave in the evening, not wanting to waste more time, Renaud going with several guards that were also from Feuilles. Notes were sent to the comte about his heir’s disappearance. There was still hope that they would find him.