~ Hexday, 29th of Maius 11831 ~
With the good gossip about the clinic fresh in the people’s mind, the stations to donate blood and help curb this new plague were full. Patients who had been treated, family and friends of former patients, and general well-wishers all lined up to donate blood. Aimé was among the first as well, along with each of the advisors (though Vivien did not participate), and Pierre himself (Wolfram manipulating the spirits in Pierre’s blood to rest and not appear so as to avoid coloring his blood dark). Both Rhianu, Elwin, and even Síofra donated after. The news that the fay blood would be important in helping solve this, and that the fay gave it willingly after being treated so unfairly as of late, helped to ease tensions.
In two days they had enough blood to mix and administer, bleeding the patients almost to the point of death before transferring the new blood into their systems. Pierre was present at every instance, using cræft to monitor their health and to be certain that the bad blood would not overtake the new good batch. All eight of those who had become infected with this new strain, two more after the first night, were now mending.
On Hexday Elizabeth and Pierre went down to the hospital together, wanting personally to check in with the patients who had received the donated blood. Vivien was left in charge of the clinic while the other advisors were writing letters to be sent to other doctors about the treatment and, if things kept up, cure.
They were greeted warmly at the hospital, Elizabeth being given a quick tour as she had yet to see the facility with her own eyes. Yvette, now on staff as a healer and nurse, offered to come have tea with Elizabeth on one of her days off to discuss being a blancwitch specifically.
“I am glad you are still learning,” Pierre said to her as they were returning home. “And that it makes you happy.” Another warm sunny day had them strolling along the path up to the château together. Pierre had even taken his gloves off and stuffed them in his pocket, the small cut he had made earlier to use cræft healed by Elizabeth’s touch before she even realized there had been an injury. A few of his scars, that she had already healed before, were even thinner. It was possible with more time, and more of their touching, they would disappear entirely.
Their trip had been a success. The good blood was flowing strongly in all of their patients and Pierre felt he could officially give his word as a doctor that this was a cure. If they spread this about the realm quickly before autumn then, hopefully, it could be stamped out. The political implications of the vampires causing the illness was another matter, and why it was happening now, and had not before when Clandestina was always an ally of Italaviana…
“Thank you for encouraging me,” Lizzy replied. She squeezed Pierre’s hand and tugged at his arm. He had begun to hit the ground in a rhythm with his cane as he walked, a sure sign he was distracted. “My dear, you are beginning to overthink again.”
“Oh? My apologies. Just politics.”
“And I am glad you are doing so well as the duc,” she said, staving off the frown that she had seen beginning to mar his face. “You have handled so many things just this summer!”
“And all the while it was to be time spent with you!” He picked her up, cane dropped to the side in favor of her in his arms, and kissed her as they came up over the edge of a hill.
“Oh, put me down!”
“Oh, oh, last time you told me to do this you were upset I would drop you in the river!”
“We are not near a river right now!”
“Then shall I drop you onto the road?”
He set her down, holding her by her shoulders with a grin. She narrowed her eyes. “What are you doing.”
“Trying to make sure the surprise is all set up before you look,” he said, and spun her around.
In a clearing by the road lay a large tablecloth with baskets atop it. Some dishes were set out as well, mostly to weigh down the cloth and keep it from blowing away, and even a bucket with chilled ice was laying in a shaded spot.
“Oh, Pierre,” Lizzy breathed.
He kissed her curls, wrapping an arm around her and leading her to the laid out picnic. “I asked Wolfram to set it up soon after we left so we could find it on the way back. I wanted time with you that did not involve patients or the possibility of catching an illness.”
They sat, Pierre opening the wine while Elizabeth brought out the food. Instead of putting it on a plate, Lizzy fed Pierre the small sandwich, and then her first taste of the wine was not from her own glass, but from Pierre’s lips.
Perhaps she had had a little too much of the wine, but after finishing their food Elizabeth thought it a wonderful idea to show Pierre that she knew how to hold and use a sword. She ran back to grab his cane and brandished it without knowing of the dagger within.
“You have good form,” he praised, standing and walking around her in a circle. He lifted her arm slightly, and had her adjust her grip, though with a real sword it would be much better than with his jeweled cane.
“Lady Rhianu said so as well,” she said. “I have not practiced much, but they said it would be good to know how to defend oneself. And if I am to be a Lady of Spades then I need to be a lady of swords!”
“Maybe I will buy you a dagger,” Pierre said. “So that you can carry it around with yourself at all times.” He had one on his hip of course, and switched his cane for the knife. “Here, the grip is different with a dagger, but the purpose is the same. It is much shorter but still an extension of your arm.”
She gave it a swing, and be it folly, drink, or just bad luck, it was too close to Pierre and it sunk into his flesh.
He hissed in pain, stepping back away from her and pressing his hand to his side. Lizzy gasped, paling in horror. She threw the knife to the side and rushed to him, moving his hand.
She had treated wounds like this. Treated very similar wounds during dancing lessons. But to be the cause of it, and to her beloved no less, chilled her.
“Let me,” she said. “Please, let me!” She moved his hand and pressed her own to the wound, feeling sick as she felt his warm blood on his hands. It was deeper than it looked and not healing as quickly. Panicking she moved her hands aside and kissed the wound.
Pierre’s head swam. Not from loss of blood, the wound was minor compared to what he had done to himself over the years, but Elizabeth’s soul suddenly connecting with his. He stepped back from her, needing a moment to orient himself, and then realizing that his blood would, if not already, soon turn black.
“Lizzy,” he said softly. He tilted up her chin, large tear filled eyes meeting his, her lips stained red with his blood.
“No, I need to heal you—”
“I am already healed,” he said softly. She did not believe him, shaking her head and looking back to the wound. But placing a hand in the torn cloth and touching his flesh she saw it was whole. She rubbed his blood between her fingers, dark swirls blending together.
“I am so sorry,” she said. “I cannot— I— ”
Pierre caught her as the moment became too much. He sat in the grass and laid her in his lap. He kissed her, taking in his own blood, feeling her soul and magia and healing in his body as if she was performed cræft upon him.
“It was an accident,” he said, stroking her hair. “I have had worse things happen to me without wine involved. And you healed me right away, my dear, you did well.”
“I thought I hurt you.”
“You could never.”
They kissed again, and Pierre nipped at her lips, suddenly wanting to know what her essence would taste of, and if a blancwitch’s blood did anything if it was in a lord of death.
“I am sorry—”
He stopped her apologies with another kiss, and she relented, holding him tightly.
Lizzy was trying to read, unable to sleep after spending the day with Pierre. After she had hurt him he had held her and explained several times that not only was it an accident, but no true harm had been done. Then they had kissed, and come quite close to needing to return to the city and go to Confession, but the haze they had been under passed. They used the ice-water from the chilled wine to wash up and returned to the château together, holding each other’s hand tight the entire walk.
She sat and reread the same page for the third time, unable to keep her mind focused. What if Pierre had been injured further? What if she had killed him!
What would she do?
Even death could be healed in Clandestina…
A knock on the door startled her and she almost dropped her book before putting it on the desk beside her.
“Yes? Please come in.”
Lady Sabine entered, holding a candle in her hand, and her hair let down for bed. She was wearing evening robes.
“Lady Elizabeth,” the woman said with a nod of greeting. “Forgive me, but I have a headache. I have heard you make a lovely tea for it. If I may impose such?”
“Oh, dear. Shall I go get Pierre?” Lizzy stood up, and motioned to another chair so that the older woman could sit down. Sabine placed the candle on the table, lighting up the room further, and also her small decorated cage with her spider in it.
“No, no, he is aware, and told me to come ask for you,” Sabine replied.
“I will be back shortly, then.”A smile tugged at her lips as she thought of Pierre suggesting her services. So he was not angry at her for what had happened.
The kitchens were still loosely staffed during the night, one or two cooks and an aid taking the shift in case anyone was in need of food in the night, and Lizzy greeted them before going along to make the tea. She gathered the chamomile and added in a few crushed berries now since it was summer. A teaspoon of honey, which she ate some from the spoon to keep from dripping, and then mixing the tea. She then again licked the last remains of the honey from the spoon, twirled it in the tea once more, and set the pot and a few cups onto a tray to take back.
“My lady, let me.”
The aid, who was bored and tossing a ball into the air and catching it over and over, took the tray for her and they returned to her room.
There was another woman sitting by Sabine at the table. The maid that had read to her when she was ill. The woman from her dreams.
“Madame,” Lizzy said. Sabine looked quickly from Elizabeth to the maid, raising an eyebrow, but said nothing.
“Lady Elizabeth,” the woman replied. “How are you this evening?”
“I am well. Are you—”
“A friend of Sabine’s,” she said.
This was more than a maid, or a figure she conjured up in dreams. But be it a ghost, or draugr, Lizzy did not know. Such things she read in books at times, but rarely heard of truly happening.
The aid set down the tray, nodded, and left the ladies alone. Lizzy passed out the teacups, having only brought two, but forgoing serving herself to be a good hostess to Sabine and the mysterious lady.
“Merci,” she said.
“You are welcome.”
For a moment there was silence as they drank. Sabine sighed first, placing down her empty cup.
“Thank you, Lady Elizabeth, that was a very lovely tea. My headache disappeared the moment I began to drink. You truly are talented, and I am glad Vivien has been able to help you.”
“It is nothing,” Lizzy said.
“I must disagree,” the dream-woman said. She placed down her half-empty cup and looked up to Elizabeth. She was smiling, but Lizzy felt cold. “You have great magic in you, and you are doing well to harness it. Tell me, how has your time in the clinic been?”
“It has been well,” Lizzy said slowly. She held her hands together in her lap, wishing she had a teacup to fiddle with, and settling on the edges of her evening robes. “Most patients begin to feel better just by being near me. I am learning about mixes of herbs and other such treatments.”
“Did you give blood to the donations?”
“I… I did not,” she finally said. “And neither did Lord Vivien. It… he warned me that I best not, as a blancmage or witches blood would not… fair well for donation.” It was partially a lie. She had wanted to give blood, thinking that perhaps it would be the best kind to give, but Vivien had stopped her. He had been just on the correct side of politeness, but pushed that she not use her blood for anything, even donations during such a dire time. When she had asked why he refused to explain. She had meant to bring it up with Pierre today but had forgotten.
The woman seemed to know this. Her smile did not waver, but there was a spark in her eyes that she caught the lie.
“This tea,” she said, looking over to Sabine, and then to Lizzy. “It has a lovely tinge to it. I taste raspberry as well. I believe you sweetened it with honey. Did you lick the spoon before you used it? Imbued the tea with your essence? Would it be stronger, I wonder, if you had had a small cut on your lip, and a drop of red blood mixed with the juice?”
Would it be stronger? Would it help more? There was nothing that said such magic was wrong. Noircræft used blood at times. Noircræft was not illegal.
This was healing.
Necrocræft could also heal. Ker were daimons of pain and death. To bring back the dead was the ultimate form of healing, but it went against the natural progression.
She moved a hand up to touch her lips. Still sensitive from kissing Pierre. He had bit her and she had enjoyed the small amount of pain with the trust and pleasure he gave her. If he had bit just a little harder… Had she gotten some into the tea when she ate the honey? Some of her blood. Or his?
Was she tasting blood now?
“Vivien is correct,” Sabine said, breaking the silence. “A blancmage or witch’s blood is powerful and it should not be used unless direly needed, it could invoke spirits and magic that are not accounted for. As we had many donors, among them fay as well, there was no need. Your method of brewing this tea is just right, and I thank you again, Lady Elizabeth.”
“You are welcome.”
The woman did not speak again after this, leaving with Sabine after they finished the entire pot of tea. There were still a few sips left in her cup and Elizabeth, not wishing for it to go to waste, drank it before going to bed.
It did not wash out the faint taste of blood.
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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.
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