~ Dvoday, 4th of Maius, 11831 ~
Two days after sending the message that they had not yet found him, the party that had gone to search for Jourdain returned. Pierre asked them to his office. Elwin and Vivien were there with him as margrave and steward at either side of him. Vivien was feeling better after his daughters made sure to nurse him back to health and the amount of necrocræft going on in the manor was stopped for a time. Even teaching it, speaking of it, sometimes brought curious spirits around.
Rhianu was further in the back of the room and would not be noticed unless she brought attention to herself, there was only an odd beam of light that did not quite match with the sun through the window where she stood. Pierre had invited Elizabeth as well, it would not be improper for her to sit in on matters like this, but his love declined. She was trying to help Cordelia, and also stay near Síofra in case someone decided to harm the fay girl as a means of retribution or blame.
Renaud, along with several men who were from Feuilles, came to the office still in dirty riding attire. The young man himself had a bandaged hand and it seemed he injured it on the journey, it stayed at his side unmoving. After a quick summary that did not tell them much, Renaud asked, “Have you informed the prince?”
Pierre tried not to react to the demand. Or lack of respectful address. It was not an unreasonable request, even with the tone. The man was under great stress.
“I have not,” the duc replied with a forced calmness. The men of Feuilles were watching both Renaud and the duc intently.
“This is my duchy—”
“You are not yet the duc. Prince Aimé is the ruling duc. I would truly appreciate if he was informed of this… Your Grace.”
Elwin and Vivien both moved closer to Pierre. Rhianu placed a hand on her sword. Pierre offered a stiff nod and took some parchment out from his desk, pen, and ink. “Of course, honorable Renaud, forgive that I have not done so yet. I had hoped it would be unneeded. Though I do ask that you mind your tone.”
Renaud flushed at the reprimand but said nothing.
Pierre penned the note in front of the retinue, waited for it to dry, and sealed it with the emblem of Piques before handing it to Renaud. “You may send it if it is so important. Or do you wish me to send it directly to him?”
The carrier pigeons often used would be able to go to several places, but certain magical ones could be enticed to bring letters to a specific individual if one added something of their person, commonly hair, to the message. Pierre, being the brother to the prince and the duc, would likely have a lock to use for such a purpose.
“Non, that is not necessary.” Renaud took the letter with his good hand, flipping it over and looking at the seal. “And, if I may ask, has my father been informed, Your Grace?” His tone was soft now.
Guilt made it hard for Pierre to breath. This was a young man who had lost his brother. He was younger than Pierre himself. A hand on his shoulder almost caused him to jump, but it was only Elwin reaching out to him. He had not been able to hold onto the calmness that the priest and Mora gave him. Moments with Elizabeth were similar, and he felt well, but the moment he was reminded of his crimes there was a hand to his throat.
“There was no reply to the original message of Lord Jourdain’s disappearance. I have not contacted him since.”
“I will write the message, if it pleases Your Grace.”
“By all means.”
Pierre sat back in his chair and hid his face in his hands when those of Feuilles had gone. Elwin, on his right, of course knew what had happened to Jourdain. Vivien did not, though perhaps the man was suspicious given what had happened a few days ago. Pierre did not know if his grandepère had told his wife, but he thought it unlikely.
“Cousin?” Vivien asked. The steward looked to the margrave, and Elwin nodded.
“I’ll speak with him. If you would be so kind, Lord Vivien, as to escourt my wife to lunch.”
The margravine too touched Pierre’s shoulder as she passed him, looking to her husband, and then down to her grandson. “Elwin and I will stay the rest of the day, Pierre. I have already searched and found nothing of him near our borders, so he was either taken in further, or by someone outside of my domain.”
Ah, so she did not know.
“Thank you, grandmère,” he said. She offered him a smile and left, speaking with the steward and asking after his family.
“I do not know if it will give you much comfort,” Elwin said when they were alone. “But my friend,” he spoke it with a sneer, “is no more. I told the fool to begin an argument and leave as Jourdain, but he thought it more amusing to provoke Renaud and let him know Jourdain was taken. Things would have been easier, perhaps, if he had continued on with how I planned it. Given you more time.” Renaud would have returned home slower, not realized that Jourdain had been taken. It may have even been through that he had fallen from his horse and the fée not blamed at all.
“You killed your friend for causing me trouble?”
“Of course. You are my grandson and my duc. And Magec was hungry.”
Salome brought food for Lady Cordelia and Lady Perdita. They were rarely seen apart and ever since Jourdain’s disappearance they both remained secluded in their chambers. Elizabeth had suggested the girl find a way to talk to them as she had ‘been in Faery’ herself lately. As she had been somewhat of a servant in the castle as a means to keep her place, it would not be that odd for her to bring something to noble ladies.
“You,” Cordelia said, looking up to her after realizing who the servant was. The woman’s eyes were red from crying, her hair let down without its usual twin tailed curls. She reached out and grabbed onto Salome’s wrist after she laid down the tray. “You were in Faery, taken as well, oui? You returned. How was it? Was it nice, were you treated kindly?”
Cordelia had not let go of her wrist, but it was also not a painful grip, so Salome sat and thought about how to answer. She knew nothing of Faery, even less than most people of Clandestina. But from what Wolfram had told her Jourdain was not truly in Faery either, he was dead. She knew what it was like to be dead. Becoming a Familiar had allowed her to remember the time spent with Mora.
“It was peaceful,” she replied. Cordelia’s grip lessened and Perdita reached over to take her friend’s hand, freeing Salome. “I was treated very well. I only met one woman, but she was kind to me, gave me a place to rest until I could return.”
“And time? I know it’s said that the duc’s father, when he was taken as a child, stayed there over fifty years and only aged ten.”
“Time was different. I cannot explain it well, my lady. I felt I was there for a few hours perhaps? But I seem to have been there for several weeks.”
“And you were taken around Springfinding and returned at Midspring,” Perdita said. Salome nodded. “Then we shall try at Summerfinding! I know it seems quite far away, Delia, but it is six weeks from now. Not long at all! He has taken longer trips away before for matters of state.”
The unknowing widow nodded and for the first time since hearing about her husband’s disappearance smiled. “Yes, six weeks is not long at all. Not even two months. Thank you, Perdy, and Salome- oui? Merci, Salome. I feel much better knowing that it was pleasant for you.”
Salome curtsied and said her goodbyes before leaving the room. She hoped that whatever had been the reason for Jourdain’s death it would be resolved and by Summerfinding he would be able to return as she had.
The reply from the royal house was already there before evening. The prince would be returning to Spadille.
~ Trisday, 5th of Maius, 11831 ~
Lord Frederick Paul, Comte de Feuilles, sent no reply. He arrived with his retinue at the château the next morning, demanding to speak with Duc Pierre Salvador in person.
He was an older man, a widower, and stood before Pierre’s desk straight as a board, his own cane clasped in his hands before him. Renaud was at his father’s right and the only other in the room. Upon Pierre’s entrance the comte nodded to him and stayed standing while Pierre sat. By his posture it could be seen that the cane was not needed for balance, and the duc wondered if the comte also had a sword in his hand. Renaud bowed properly and started to sit, but looked at his father and straightened again.
“Where is my eldest son?” Feuilles said without preamble. “I began my journey here the moment I received your letter, it has been several days, that should have been enough time to find him if you searched.”
It seemed Renaud inherited his father’s rudeness. Pierre remembered Vivien telling him of not liking either the comte or the younger son a few days past.
Renaud’s eyes widened at the tone, perhaps realizing he had said similar things, or was embarrassed on his father’s behalf. There were no other witnesses to this so Pierre did not comment.
“Renaud sent another letter yesterday, it likely passed you heading towards Folia, I am sorry you missed it. We have been searching, my lord, but unfortunately he has not yet been found. Renaud and some of the guards returned just last afternoon. They did not find any sign of him or entrance to Faery.”
“We looked, Father! I swear! Scoured the forests. There were no fairy rings or odd patches. I even bled—” Renaud held out his injured hand. It had been no accident then, it had been deliberate, and with intent to invoke magic. That Renaud had done so, willingly, for Jourdain.
The comte’s grabbed his son’s hand and did not respond to Renaud’s flinch of pain.
“You bled for them?” he asked, eyes narrowing.
“Y-yes. My—Lady Síofra, the margrave’s daughter, has told me that offerings of blood are taken seriously. I wanted to find him and—”
Frederick let go of his son’s hand with a sneer. “You shed your noble blood and even that did nothing?”
“Non. I-I am sorry.”
“Then he is gone,” the comte said. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“We are looking for him,” Pierre assured. He looked from his advisor to the man’s father. Renaud was young. Younger than Pierre. He had come here to aid the prince even before becoming an adult. Had it been to escape his father? “A young woman recently was found after being taken from Faery at Springfinding. The margrave and I—”
“It is better he be assumed dead,” the comte cut Pierre off. Feuilles opened his eyes, surveyed the room, and sat in the chair he had been provided. The cane stayed in his hands. “Even if he does return he may be… tainted.” The fact that the comte was speaking in such a manner to Pierre seemed lost on him. “Renaud is my only child and heir now.”
Torn between respecting his father and worry about his brother, Renaud finally chose, and tried to speak up again, “But Father—”
The young man quelled.
“And what,” Frederick added, turning to his younger son, “is this about the margrave’s daughter? I told you to stay away from her.”
“She—” But Renaud closed his mouth and looked down at his hand. At the wound. He had thought it would be enough. He believed Síofra. Had she lied…
“Out of my sight.”
Renaud stood, unable to look his father in the eyes. He nodded to Pierre and fled the room.
Pierre sat, his own cane clutched so tightly underneath the desk that his hands shook.
“Do not think me cruel,” Frederick said. He looked at the door that Renaud had shut with too much force. “I am merely being practical. My wife died because of an unseelie’s curse, and she herself had been cared for by a fay aunt. The loyalty that most fée hold is temporary at best. I do believe I will be taking my son home with me now.”
“He is my advisor,” Pierre replied. “And I shall continued to search for Jourdain. Renaud shall stay.”
“… very well.”