~ (Continued) Trisday, 12th of Maius, 11831 ~

“She’s exhausted and needs rest, but I do not see anything else that is amiss with her,” Pierre said. “She is breathing well, her pulse is strong, and she reacts to touch.”

“Oh, thank goodness.”

Síofra had been found unconscious at the edges of the Duc’s Forest by guards shortly after breakfast. Renaud, who had been with her, was nowhere in sight. She was brought to her rooms and Pierre discreetly summoned, but Lizzy and the prince, who were still drinking tea with him after their meal, had come along. The guards may have been able to suggest Elizabeth keep away, but they could do no such thing for Aimé, and so all three were now privy to the misadventure. Pierre had examined his aunt while Lizzy sat at her bedside holding her hand, offering her comfort and blancræft’s touch, and the prince stood watch.

“Has Feuilles offended the fairies so terribly that they took both of his sons?” Aimé asked softly. It was not unreasonable to assume what had happened to Jourdain had happened to Renaud, and Pierre wondered if Elwin had managed to grab the man, and if he would receive another pigeon. But the margrave would not hurt his own daughter. This was exhaustion, not a magical sleep to keep her unaware. Had another one of the fée done this?

“Why would he do such a thing?”

“Feuilles? Perhaps to cast doubt upon me,” Pierre replied to Lizzy. Had that been why Elwin’s friend did more than he was told? To cause Feuilles grief?

“Oui… Lord Vivien had said that Comte Feuilles wished to be duc,” Lizzy said. Aimé’s eyes widened a fraction— the steward had never told him this. “If his words caused issue for the fée, which we cannot deny there has been trouble lately, and if they too wish Pierre to become duc…”

“This may have been done for Pierre then.”

“We do want Pierre as our duc,” Síofra mumbled in agreement. She moaned and her eyes slowly opened, squinting in the light of the afternoon. They seemed a brighter than they had in the last few weeks.

She sat up, Pierre and Lizzy helping her from either side, and she smiled and thanked them before accepting water. “Merci. I am feeling better.”

“Do not get out of bed yet. What happened, Síofra?”

She took another drink of her water before looking to her nephew, and then the prince.

“Renaud… hurt me,” she said, softer than she wanted, a lump forming in her throat and tears springing to her eyes. Lizzy gasped and the men’s faces hardened. “So oui, while we do wish His Grace to be our duc, I do very much, this particular incident has nothing to do with that or Lord Jourdain. It is just a terrible coincidence that it happened so quickly one after the other.” She took another drink, continuing to stall. Elizabeth moved to sitting on the bed beside her and wrapped an arm around her.

“Would you be more comfortable telling Elizabeth without myself or Aimé present?” Pierre asked.

“I would be most comfortable not saying it at all, but... He… Renaud gave me a necklace when we began courting. It was very pretty, with flakes of silver suspended in a bauble, filled with water of some kind. It was made with hot iron, he said. It has been… taking my magia from me. I realized something was wrong last night when I was near that iron at dinner and felt nothing. I thought perhaps all of the dinnerware was not pure iron, but Renaud and I spoke, and he confessed. My magic has been queer for weeks, and I could not return home at Midspring, and now... I know why.”

There was more, much more, now that she thought about it and let herself feel. Things she had pushed aside because she cared for Renaud. She loved him. Had loved him? Still felt.. Something for him.

How while she appreciated his gifts, and wore them daily even if they made her feel restricted. And how she was hurt when he never used or wore her gifts to him. How he would ask things of her and then dismiss when she asked something of him. Yet he had been kind too. He had said that he loved her even if his father had not approved.

But he did not want her really. Not as someone of Faery. Not with the magic that was so a part of her that she could no more imagine herself with it gone than she could without a limb.

Her head was beginning to ache and she pulled her knees up to herself and bowed her head. She could not deny that he had hurt her, and had done far too much without her knowledge and against her will.

“Is he dead?” Aimé asked.

Síofra shook her head without looking up. “Non. I did not wish to cause more trouble for His Grace. I banished him through Faery. He will be at his home tomorrow morning in Feuilles and unharmed.”

“I will write Frederick and inform him of his son’s indiscretion in vague terms, Lady Síofra,” the prince said. “And that he is not to leave the property. Have it be said this was at my command so it will not be challenged. When Jourdain is found Renaud may be sentenced formally.”

“Formally, Your Highness?”

“My dear you are a citizen of Triumphe and Spadille. Renaud cannot do such things to another and not be punished in any way. That you are also a noble lady makes that even more true.”

“Th-thank you, merci, Your Highness.”

“Do you wish to write your parents?” Lizzy asked. “Or would you prefer to have Pierre send a letter for you?”

“No, they have much to do and should not be bothered by this—”

“Lady Síofra, as a father, I assure you, I would wish to know immediately if my child was hurt,” Aimé said. The implied threat and harm that awaited whoever hurt Ancel was thick in his voice.

Síofra heard it as well. “I... I do not want him hurt,” she said softly. “I know what he did was terrible, and I abhor him, but Maman and Papa would kill him.”

Pierre bit back the reply that he would allow it, and ask if he could participate as well. All guilt over Feuilles and his sons washed away with what Renaud had done to Síofra.

“I will still contact them that something is amiss,” Pierre said. He looked to Lizzy, imploring that she speak with Síofra and perhaps have her change her mind, but not pushing the subject for the moment. “But I will leave out the details at your desire. Or do you wish to go home for a time?”

“I want to stay.” It was too much to say that she feared she would never be able to enter her home plane again. Surely after some rest she would be well? “Would it be too much to ask for breakfast to be brought? I have not yet eaten.”

The change in topic was respected.

“Of course.”

“I’ll go bring you something,” Lizzy said. She smiled and stood up, squeezing Síofra’s hands one more. “And you should rest.”

Aimé offered his arm to Elizabeth. He glanced at Pierre and the two brothers exchanged meaning in a look.

“I will be right along,” the duc said. Aimé nodded and began to make polite conversation, leaving through the side-door into Lizzy’s rooms before going out into the hall with her.

“And how long will this day and night last for Renaud?” Pierre asked when they had gone. Síofra finally smiled. “As long as it takes him to understand and accept what was done to me.”


He made pretense of still wanting to examine her further, checking her pulse, how her eyes reacted to light, and for her to take deep breaths. While doing so he also felt her soul, having previously, discreetly, gotten a drop of blood into her water. Her soul was vibrant and shinning, a beacon that thrummed in the back of his head, not at all harmed or dulled by what Renaud or his necklace had done. Her humors were malaligned, she was very sanguine, though that might well be the usual for Síofra and seelie. And yet melancholy weighed heavy as well.

“You are physically well, and there is still a deep feeling of magic in you. You are fay. Do not worry.”

“Thank you for all that you have done,” Aimé told Elizabeth. She blushed at the compliment from the prince.

“I am only helping those I consider friends.”

“And future family, I do so hope,” he added. “I am glad you are here for Pierre and this duchy, Lady Elizabeth.”

“As am I, Your Highness—”

“Ah—Lizzy, how were you to call me?”

“Aimé. As am I, Aimé.”

“Wait here for my dear brother, I will be off to see to that letter to Frederick, and speak with the other advisors about the change in staff.”

He kissed her hand and left her in the hall outside of her room. She smoothed her skirts and glanced around at the guards at the far ends, who nodded in seeing her. One seemed relieved when she smiled back, perhaps it was the man that had found Síofra. For all the majority of the staff had been at fault with yesterday’s fiasco, not all were of the opinion that the fée should be harmed. And some, she could concede to herself, were not incorrect in fearing them. As Renaud had showed, though, there were just as many things to fear among all people.

The door behind her slammed, Lizzy jumping at the suddenness and even letting out a little shriek. Looking back she saw Pierre halfway to the floor, leaning against the door, his face hidden in his hands.

She was at his side in an instant, wrapping her arms around him, holding him to herself. Without even thinking she made sure to raise one hand in the air to stop the guards coming over. She would call them if they were needed. They complied with her.

“I do not understand,” Pierre said, his voice muffled. He paused, trying to make sense of his emotions, of the bombardment of shame and anger and fear. He curled his fingers in his hair, pulling, feeling, needing the pain. He had only recently discovered that fée magia would respond to him and even he did not wish to lose it, much less his necrocræft. That someone who had been born with it was having it siphoned away! Oh, poor Síofra. And to have that done by someone who said he cared for her.

He was going to kill Renaud. The fact that he had already planned to do this was no matter. Before it had been a political decision, an elimination of a threat, but not one that he particularly feared personally even if there was revenge involved. Now that Síofra had been hurt it was personal. Renaud would suffer.

“People fear things that are different,” Lizzy said softly. She placed her hands over his, gently prying at his fingers, stroking his hair and bringing relief to the pain he had caused himself. “At times there is a true threat to be wary of, but this…”

“She was no threat to him! Not until he decided this and harmed her first.” But he, oh, he would be a threat to the man.

He held onto Lizzy then and she squeaked as he crushed her to his body. “I will never hurt you,” he promised. “I love you, Elizabeth Anne.” He spoke with fervor and magic.

“I love you too, Pierre.”

A cool wind swirl around them, another set of women’s hands on his shoulder. Mora was offering what comfort she could. She was not fée, but she, like the fée, were among the first in Clandestina. Her magia was not outlawed in Faery, and the fée respected Death. She would take this as personally as Elwin would.

Lizzy had gone to bring Síofra her breakfast, wishing to supervise and make sure nothing was added that could be harmful to her friend. Pierre suggested porridge to drive out melancholy, with honey from wildflowers, and Elizabeth agreed with the assessment. The cool air and faint touch on the back on her neck disappeared as she walked down the corridor.

But it followed Pierre when he went his separate way to his study. To plot and perhaps again plan a murder. He had evidence this time, at least more than before. This murder would not bother him as much as Jourdain’s had; Renaud’s death would be a pleasure.

“Your Grace?” The guards that had found Síofra were still waiting.

“She will be fine, as will I,” he said. “Merci, thank you for your care.”

“And Lord Renaud?”

“His Highness is taking care of it. Lord Renaud has been sent to his home for a time due to difficulties. He is otherwise well.” One of the men nodded, the other more hesitant, but neither asked further questions and let him by.

Pluta was sleeping on his desk. She opened her eyes and chirped at seeing him, her tail twitching as she also looked into the air behind him. She sensed the unseen figure then too. Pluta purred to greet Mora.

“I believe you told me my heritage would benefit me in Piques,” he accused Death, sitting down and stroking his Familiar. His fingers itched to write a plan down and he would not dare do it in a way that could be easily seen.

He brought out a set of phials and began to prepare to make more of the separated plasma he used for ink. He had just used some of his cræft, it would be ideal to do so now while the spirits lingered. (Perhaps Wolfram would want to join him? No, not today, but the next time there was no more plasma he would show the boy how to use the centrifuge).

“I said no such thing,” Mora replied. She appeared to him, sitting on his desk, translucent and not all physical. Pluta stretched out to nudge at her thigh, meowing when she could not touch her. “My exact words were that being fay would hold weight. I never said it was good.”

His lips quirked at the misunderstanding.

“Why did no one think to warn me that this may happen?”

Into a larger phial, one with a spout that would allow for pouring, he bled until there were two ounces of blood. It was black from the initial drop. Mora's wing passed over the wound and it healed.

“Thank you, my Lady.”

He began to pour his blood into smaller phials while Pluta licked his arm clean.

“There was enough evidence for you to infer it. I have never had to spell things out to you before, Pierre. Did you never notice how few were your companions even at university? Only Piers, who knew you from childhood and was already Eglė’s love, and had no issue with the fée?”

He had not, in fact. He liked to study alone, and had assumed being the roi’s foster son more than his fée heritage had kept others away. He did not discourage the distance.

He brought the phials over to the centrifuge he had set up on the side of the room. The area that he had deemed his medical station. In all earnest he would need a second study, or third, for everything he wanted to do medically, perhaps he could turn one of the older large rooms into a clinic and do some aid here like he had for Alise, but for the moment a centrifuge, microscope, and scattered notes would do.

“So I am fay,” he said. “I declared as such publicly at the hospital, I am sure enough heard that it was all over the city, along with what happened at dinner. But it does not change me.” Yet the people of Spadille did not know him. He had left as a child. He had never even met his comtes or steward as a young man, though he had spoken with some citizens and lesser nobles at court from Piques. Surely his help of a child was taken well, but that the hospital, one of the finest in the land, was now in disarray perhaps made his choice too rash, and split the people whether it was a good thing.

Placing down the phials he put them in their proper spots before closing the centrifuge and snapping the lock. There was a hand-crank that he spun—the weighted parts of the blood would separate due to the speed, with the silver tinged plasma on top that he could skim and keep to write with. The process might take up to an hour, not including pausing to rest his arm.

“You are quite nice,” Pluta said. She jumped up on the table and examined the machine, batting it with her paw as it whirred. “Perhaps you should let the people of Spadille know you.”

“Perhaps I should,” he agreed, the idea forming as he spoke. He slowed the crank—he would put this into motion first. Turning back to his desk he grabbed a piece of parchment and normal ink, writing to Valentin Michel and Adam Roland.

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