~ (Continued) Siwenday, 19th of Aprilis, 11831 ~

Pierre would not let her out of bed. And not, as she desired in her thoughts, as her husband. Her cough last night had worried him and he ordered her to rest today so that her illness would not resurface. It had been endearing to hear last night when she had been unwell, so she quickly agreed, but this morning she felt fine and did not truly wish to stay here all day.

“And what am I to do all day?” Lizzy asked him, crossing her arms. “Play solitaire?” They had eaten breakfast together and the dishes had been laid in the hall so they would be taken for cleaning, the door open so the guards could be construed as chaperons (Síofra had left them with a wink as she had gone to have breakfast with Renaud). Pierre had then returned to her side, Pluta jumping up into his lap.

“Solitaire is a good choice, as would be reading, though I do not see why I cannot keep you company,” the duc said.

“Because you will not use me as an excuse to continue hiding. You are the duc, and while I know you are busy working with Lord Elwin and helping Alise, ignoring your other advisors because they did not do enough will not help. Some of them did not even have a way of knowing! Lord Tibault came to Spadille only some days before you yourself.”

“I will make you a deal,” he replied, scratching his familiar under her chin. She raised a paw to swat at him. “You rest in bed for today and I will speak with Vivien.” Lizzy did not need to know that he had already intended to talk to his steward.

Before the girl could answer he yelped in pain, looking down at Pluta who had bit him. The cat smirked and jumped over to the bed before he could scold her.

“Oh, let me,” Elizabeth said, reaching out to take his hand and moving closer. She took his glove off, revealing a small puncture, before he took back his hand and cupped her cheek instead, running his injured thumb over her lips. She kissed it.

“Monsieur,” she whispered. He smiled, feeling the connection of their souls as the scant touch of blood was enough.

“I was just letting you help, as you desired,” he said, showing her his hand and the now-healed skin. Her lips were red—from the intimacy or from his blood?

“And is there anything you desire?” she asked. In reply he raised her chin and kissed her. While attending her as a lover his hand wandered, caressing her jaw and throat, performing cræft in every movement.

A few of the microanimalia from the time she was ill were present when some days ago there were none. So the vampire’s presence might bring the illness and awaken it? Had she not been cured before, but it become merely dormant?

She was thankfully neither too warm nor too cold, and her throat felt as it should with no swelling. He only barely managed to stop his hand from traveling too low, intent to only check her heartbeat and realizing as he did so that it would not be seen as such.

She was flush when he pulled back but that he attributed that to the kiss.

“I agree to the deal, Your Grace,” she said, her voice a bit unsteady. His own mind was somewhat hazy after the kiss. Lizzy laying in bed before him, hair mussed from sleep, in a modest nightgown but a nightgown nonetheless. Her protests that she was well, and evidence with how she looked and acted, made it difficult for him to try and remain as only a friend and physician.

“Then I shall go find my steward immediately, my lady. Though… I do believe Lord Vivien is teaching you blancræft, no?”

“Yes. Or well, he said he would, on Iundays. After I began to help with Alise there was no time to begin last week.”

“If you do not mind, since we know that those who practice blancræft can help this illness, perhaps your lesson can be today? I would prefer a blancmage near you.”

“That would be acceptable.”

He kissed her chastely upon her cheek, unable to help himself, and left to find Vivien.

His steward was not in his office, though on a whim and on Lizzy’s words from yesterday, he went to the spare rooms that housed Alise and her family. Lord Vivien was in Alise’s room by her bed, a children’s book in his hands. The window-shades were still pulled down, a single candle the only light to read by. The girl was asleep.

Vivien looked up and nodded, holding up a hand for his duc’s silence, and went into the hall with him after blowing out the light.

“Alise had a small fever in the early morning,” the blancmage said. “She could not sleep. I did not wish to wake you after you yourself came in late and so took the matter up myself. It has since broken and she has just fallen asleep again.”

“Thank you, that… is more than your duties entail.”

Vivien looked at his duc and then sighed, shoulders dropping. He had wondered about what to say to Pierre last night, discussing it with Maiolaine. His wife has suggested an apology and true words— they would form right as he said them.

“Forgive me, Your Grace. I did not do enough before. I am a blancmage and the steward, I am not a physician and I did not oversee that hospital… but I should have noticed that something was wrong. It is shameful what happened and what has been happening. I truly wish you had allowed me to help with Alise’s surgery. She is my citizen as well. Helping her, then and now, is part of my duty.” He took a deep breath and stepped back, looking to the ground after his outburst.

“Your apology is accepted, Cousin,” Pierre said. It was his turn to sigh. “And forgive me in turn. Elizabeth has told me you go to Alise to speed her recovery, and now I catch you doing the same when, as you say, you are not even a physician. You go above and beyond what I ask.

“I find myself in far deeper waters than I though I would be in when I began this trip home. We are in similar positions.”

A duc who was not yet a duc. A steward who had been trying to be the duc. They disagreed about magic, but not about helping and their land.

“And you are always forgiven, My Grace,” Vivien added. “Have you need of me that you seek me out?”

“If you would be so kind as to take some time today to be with Lady Elizabeth? She felt a touch ill last night and I worry her illness may return. I believe you are to be teaching her blancræft and perhaps you may pass the time in such a way?”

“I would be pleased to do so.”

“And what did you mean, Vivien, by ‘and what has been happening?’ Do you know more?” Pierre asked as the steward began to leave, the phrasing sticking out in his memory.

“This is not the first or only incident of fay being untreated,” Vivien said, gesturing to Alise’s door. He ran a hand through his dark hair. “That reminds me—my mother asks that you meet her in the dungeons at your convenience. I believe she is still there right now.”

“The dungeons?” They had been inaccessible for many years even when he had been a child. No one had yet mentioned to him that they were again in use. And whyever would Sabine be there?

Vivien grimaced. “Yes. Lord Elwin has used some magic to make the lock respond to a suitor or confidante, allowing Mother and himself their own personal hideaway for… projects. I normally disapprove, but this one is something I believe that should be followed through.”

“Ah. Then I will go right after I check upon Wolfram.”

“Lord Vivien! Did His Grace send you or are you here by your own accord?” Elizabeth sat up in bed, arranging her covers for a bit more modesty as the steward entered her room. He pretended not to have seen her, despite the edges of a blush around his beard, and distracted himself by sitting at the chair that Pierre had occupied before. He put down a children’s book on the desk beside them.

“I spoke with His Grace and he bade me keep you company, my lady.”

“Well, I believe myself a little too old for that book, but if it is all you have on hand—”

Vivien laughed. “Ah no, I was reading to Alise when His Grace found me and asked me here. It is one of Apolla’s favorite books. Alise approved.”

“Is that all His Grace did? Or have you come to an understanding as well?”

“We have. I thank you for your words to him. My own wife also offered me similar advice.”

“A good king is his own, a great king is married,” she replied.

“How do you feel today, my lady?”

“I coughed some last night after a long outing and His Grace is worried. On his orders today I must stay in bed. And that traitor Síofra has taken to spending the day with her not very secret love. I am bored, mostly, monsieur.”

“Perhaps I may help alleviate some of that. I am told you know some medicine and that your touch can heal, but not much more. May we discuss what you know as a prelude to your lessons?”

“That would be wonderful, thank you! I found a few books about magic at home and I read them. I was not given a more formal education like His Grace or my brother, so my knowledge is scraped from books and clumsy attempts.” She hoped that the words were just a statement of fact and did not betray that she felt a little jealous of both Pierre and Piers. She would receive that more formal education, was receiving it now, in fact.

Vivien nodded, steepling his hands in front of himself and resting his chin on them. “Blancræft is a natural healing magic found in the realm of Clandestina. These are spirits of healing, of growth, of youth. It is theorized that is why we are so connected to Faery, and why those who are fée or fay can stay so youthful.

“It does not need blood, though magic is greatest in the humors and blood of any being. These spirits like to stay atop the flesh so they can easily be transferred and offer aid.”

Elizabeth looked down at her hands. This was something she had read before, but nonetheless listened intently.

“Would using blood make it more potent?”

“It may,” Vivien replied slowly. “But it may also lead to using noircræft. There is no clear line where one cræft ends and the other begins, and so most blancræft practitioners stay away from using their blood for fear of crossing it.

“But noircræft is not illegal, no?” She and Pierre had after all gone to see it performed last night.

“… no. It is not. Yet it can be used to harm, which pure blancræft cannot do.That said, cræft, and more so witchcræft that is inherent rather than magcræft which is learned, responds to emotion and feeling. A mage cannot, in the end, force spirits to do his will against that of their own. A witch may persuade them otherwise.”

“I had not heard of witches and mages, or their differences, before. That is, I have heard the term blancmage, but never as anything other than a practitioner of the cræft. I did not realize witches existed.” It went to show how much her self-taught studies were lacking.

“And yet you are one. These spirits have chosen you and were born with you. If you wish and need to do something that they can do, they will, and perhaps call others if your body, as a vessel for only so many, has not enough. I do believe those clumsy attempts, as you called them, were perhaps the best way to learn.”

“The spirits are a part of me?”

“In a way that I can only hope to emulate,” he replied, with no small amount of admiration, and perhaps some jealousy. “If I stop learning or honing my cræft they will leave me. I must call them to me, and practice with regularity. For you they always will be there.”

He gestured to her hand. “If I may?”

“Of course.”

He took her palm and traced several spots with his finger. “Have you ever healed yourself?”

“No,” Lizzy replied, looking at her palm, trying to see what Vivien was seeing. They were just her hands and the normal grooves of a palm. “If I touch my own injuries nothing seems to happen. But I do find that small scrapes heal faster than they do for others. I am rarely injured for more than a day. If I am sick I can be for a few days, though.”

Vivien nodded. “Do you do anything special when you heal another’s injury?”

“No. I just touch the wound, or the place near it, through cloth if it is bleeding.”

“Are you in any pain right now? Does your throat hurt or itch?”

“I just have a headache—a small one.”

Vivien placed his hand on her forehead. “What do you feel.”

“Your hand is… cool,” she said, closing her eyes. “It is nice, not too cold. It is like it is seeping into my skin and my headache seems to be less. Earlier it was a light but constant pain, and now it comes and goes.”

“Tell me when it stops hurting.”

It took another minute, but after that her headache disappeared.

“It is gone,” she said.

“Look at my hands,” Vivien said. She opened her eyes to see him extending both arms, palms up for her to see. His right hand, which had been pressed to her forehead, was blotchy and reddish, unlike the other.

“You may have never even noticed it, but the affects of blancræft can be seen when one knows where to look. A slight discoloration as the spirits move from you to the other, your blood and the magic in it rushing to the area. Next time you heal someone perhaps take a look at your hands and see if there is a difference.

Elizabeth felt herself blush as she realized when healing Pierre she had taken to using her lips and not her hands. He had even asked, to her confusion, if she had bought a new form of makeup in town.

“I believe I have noticed it.”

A note from VMJaskiernia

Support "The Courting of Life and Death"

About the author


Bio: I write dark things that involve magic and romance. I love books and stories, and anime and gaming. I'm trying to Catch 'em All, I collect geeky pins, and listen to a lot of true crime podcasts.

The subreddit:

Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In