2.37 ~ Cursed
~ Trisday, 12th of Maius, 11831 ~
She was in Renaud’s rooms. They were empty—he had already gone to breakfast. She knew she had been late to meet with him, staying in bed and not wanting to face the day, pretending to be asleep when Lizzy came in to ask if she was coming to eat. But she had hoped that he would still be here. He did sometimes wait for her.
Síofra did not know if she was relieved or disappointed.
Her hand went up to the necklace she still wore. It had felt heavy all night, making it hard to breathe, but she did not take it off. It was a gift. His first gift to her.
“My dear, what’s wrong?”
She whirled around to the door, heart pounding as if caught doing something she shouldn’t have. He stood there, a concerned tilt to his head, blue eyes lighting up at seeing her face, arms opening to her.
She ran to him. Those arms wrapped around her as she pressed her face into the crook of his neck and inhaled his scent, spiced cloves, and calm washed over her.
“I missed you,” she said, chiding herself for her worry. “And I wished to speak with you before breakfast and the heat of the day, but I slept in instead. May we go walk in the gardens? I hope it is not already too hot.”
“Of course. But aren’t you hungry?”
“I’ll eat when we get back.”
His arm was strong and warm. She leaned against him as they walked to the gardens, not speaking, just enjoying each other’s company.
Normally he would make sure to keep them to the more tame areas, those closer to where the gardens were maintained, but today, once out, he let her lead them further out and onto the edges that would touch the forest.
“How are you feeling?” she asked. “Was His Highness harsh with everyone?”
“The prince was upset. I cannot blame him, the duc is his brother in some ways. But perhaps this will help him see reason.”
“I do not understand. Who will see reason?”
Renaud hesitated. He took a deep breath and stared out into the forest. “Prince Aimé, and maybe even Pierre. What has been happening the last few weeks. It cannot stay like this, the duchy cannot function like this.”
“I agree,” she said. “I am sure we can come to a compromise where the fée and people of Spadille understand each other.” There were laws in place already, and much of the time there was a mutual respect, but a fée’s thoughts were often strange to those not of the land. And at times it was not the fée’s fault, but the fault of Faery itself. Síofra had once wanted someone new to play with. Morgaine and she had had an argument the day before, so she wandered the land wishing for another companion, a new friend. Another girl had appeared, similar in age, a dozen years to Síofra’s eleven, and said she was lost. Her name had been Euphrasie. Síofra asked her to stay and play and then they would find her parents after. The two had taken to making flower crowns and chasing after one another, splashing in a river and eating berries. Time stretched the afternoon into weeks, months, with the sun barely moving, and the need to sleep or do anything important gone. As they played the other girl had gotten older, slowly at first, and then she was no longer a child but a young woman, as if years had passed. Only then had Rhianu found her daughter and her new friend. After sending Síofra to help set up dinner with Morgaine, the argument long forgotten after much play, the margravine had escorted Euphrasie home.
At dinner that night Rhianu had told Síofra that Euphrasie had spent almost three years in Faery, while those in this part of the realm only felt it as a day. She had not said why aloud, but Síofra had known that it was because of her. Her wish, her desire, had given her a friend for the longest afternoon of her life, and the realm had made sure her family were in the same time. Morgaine and she had, the next morning, found a huge ring of toadstools surrounding their home and lands, the markers that separated them from all else for that one, and yet a thousand, days.
“Yes, exactly!” Renaud exclaimed. “Like you are understanding, my dear. And I am starting to as well. I do not dislike the fée like my father, I hope you know this. You have opened my eyes to that. But we are not the same people, and it is far too difficult for the two bestia to be ruled by the same laws. And you are adapting so well.”
“Well, my father is human.” She was not sure what to say about his other remark. “Do you know if all of the dinnerware was iron?”
“I do not, it seemed to all be of the same set from what I noticed. You were not hurt, were you?”
“Non, I am fine.”
“Good… maybe there were some utensils there that had less iron, or were mixed with another metal. I do not know the intricacies of creating cutlery. And I am glad you are wearing the necklace still.” Confused by the change in topic she reached out to touch it.
“I cherish it,” she said. She felt his eyes on her, and she smiled and blushed. “I wear it even to bed at times.”
They continue to walk further into the forest. Renaud hesitated at one point near the edge, where the sunlight began to hide under the branches, and looked over to her. She took a step forward and tugged him along. He followed.
They walked the path that she and Elizabeth had taken several days ago. Síofra felt the same warm wind calling her and coaxing the couple along. She began to walk faster. Without protest Renaud kept pace.
Maybe she could find Jourdain? Maybe Faery would lead them to him, and show Renaud and the people of Clandestina that all could be well. And she would have to speak with her parents and have the man that took Jourdain punished. If it had been for a laugh then that jest had ended long ago.
They could work together. The two people could live together, just as her father and mother lived together, though he was from Triumphe and she from Faery.
As she wanted to live and be with Renaud.
They were at the same creek, and the warm air swirled around them once before leaving them. Her smile wavered and her shoulders fell as again the land stayed as it was. She looked around the area, hoping, seeing more in the light of day and trying to spot any toadstools that might be amid the brush.
“What are you looking for, my dear?”
“I thought maybe we could enter Faery,” she replied, not thinking how the words would sound, and who she spoke them too.
Renaud wrenched his arm from her. She stumbled at the sudden movement, tripping, and falling almost into the creek. One hand plunged into the icy water.
“How dare you,” he snarled, stepping further away from her. He towered over her and for the first time she feared him. “I trusted you, I let myself be lead into the forest by you—”
“Renaud! Non, I was hoping we would find Jourdain!”
As quickly as his anger surfaced, it fled, along with some of the color on his face. He knelt down in the dirt and reached out to her. “Oh, Síofra, forgive me. I did not mean that, are you hurt? Of course you wanted to find him. You have been trying to help me this whole time, thank you—”
She got up by herself, refusing his hand, drying her arm in her skirts. “How dare I,” she said to herself. Tears stung her eyes and she blinked quickly to keep them at bay.
“What do you want of me, Renaud Paul?” she snapped, his full name on her lips in her hurt and anger. She wanted an apology, a confession of love, a reason that she doing all of this. She wanted the truth.
“To be mine,” he said. “My wife. To be by my side and be my comtesse.” The tears returned to her eyes. She saw him kneeling in the dirt, still looking up at her, in a position that most men would propose in, and saying words that were so close to asking her to be his wife. It did not even seem strange that he wished to be comte when he still hoped his older brother would be found.
His mouth twisted as he fought against the magic. They were in the forest, so very close to Faery, his full name gave her command over him in a way that he could never understand. “And to be an example of what can be done if someone of Faery is tamed. I want you to be my perfect lady.”
Ice filled her veins.
“What did you say?” she asked, even as she stepped back from him. Fear returned.
“How dare you use magia on me!” The anger again, another flame ignited, and he ignored her question as he stood up. “Did you not think I would speak the truth to you without force?”
“Clearly you have not. What do you mean by tamed?”
He tried to get a hold of himself, and she saw his jaw clench with the effort. He even shook his head as if wanting to erase unwanted thoughts.
“You had been doing so well lately. You have been listening to me, and you look so beautiful in the modest clothes,” he said, more to himself than her, but still compelled. “And the iron did not affect you. Now Faery keeps closed—”
“What are you talking about!”
“The flakes,” he explained, looking up to her finally, raising a hand to the necklace she wore. “The necklace and its contents are hot iron. It will trap your magia and make you fully human. Then you can be mine. You can still celebrate your holidays, and maybe wear some of your clothes at time, but—”
“Why… why would you do that to me?” she whispered, and he kept babbling about exceptions he would let her have, as long as she remained his perfect wife in the company of others. How the clothes that were more revealing she could wear for him to take off. How maybe she could keep some of her magic to compel others on his behalf as comte.
Her shaking hands went up to the pendant still around her neck, not wanting it on her any longer, but also not wanting to touch it.
Her heart ached. Tears spilled down her face. He was the reason she had not been home in weeks. He was the reason that her magia had not been responding, and the spirits had felt far away and unfriendly. She had been so in love with him, had wanted what she saw with Pierre and Elizabeth… had been ignoring Elizabeth lately, her first true friend in this realm, for Renaud, who wanted to use her.
Hurt gave way to fury. Síofra born of Faery may be seelie, but one does not cross any fée.
“I curse you, Renaud Paul,” she said. He stopped talking, freezing at the words, eyes looking up to her. The warm wind returned, hugging her, comforting her. A toadstool began to grow at her feet.
She wrapped her fingers around the pendant and yanked it off of the chain. It was hot in her hands. She threw it deep into the forest, past Renaud, past the creek, and it caught the morning light before disappearing in midair.
“Go find it.”
He obeyed, unable to resist the magic that she still had, that he had tried to take from her. It rushed back to her in these woods. The grass at her feet began to grow, and the trees reached out to her. She closed her eyes and felt the winds that would guide her back home to Faery. Everything that has been so quiet, so dampened, now for weeks, returned.
“And keep looking, Renaud Paul,” she intoned, “for remorse, for a reason, for why. Why you broke my heart, why you tried to chain me and who I am. Wander and search through Faery, hours, days, years, until you find this. And only then be free.”
The spell cast, she opened her eyes to see him disappear in the woods. Remembering everything that has been happening she added onto it so as not to cause Pierre more trouble. “But however long it feels to you, for you will feel every moment, tomorrow morning on this plane you will be home.”
Then all of her energy was gone and she crumpled to the earth.