~ Hexday, 27th of Juvenis, 11831 ~
Renaud sat at his brother’s grave. Heaps of flowers covered the entire headstone and dozens of candles lit up the evening. Two servants now had the sole job of keeping this clean, well decorated, and the candles lit, every moment for a year and a day. If he had any say in it it would continue on for longer.
“I am so sorry,” he said. “I tried to find you. I looked! But you were not even there. That bitch Sabine took you for—” he could not even say the words. That his brother had been some sort of sacrifice for dark magic made him ill. What had he even done to deserve that!
It had been he and his father that planned against the duc, not Jourdain. Was it something Sabine, or Elwin, had suspected? Jourdain had been taken with the help of fée, Elwin was involved, he was certain of it.
Had Síofra known? Had His Grace? Was it with the duc’s blessing that this was done. Or even his command?
At least Sabine was dead. He had not been allowed into Spadille to retrieve Jourdain’s body or to go to the trial of the one responsible, his father had gone alone, but he knew for certain that she had been hanged and then burnt.
“It seems I will be the comte now, as we wanted,” he continued. “Cordelia will stay here, of course, and I will make sure your child will be cared for. I will raise her well. Father tells me to wed Cordelia, but she misses you so, and I never found her as attractive as you did. Maybe in a year or two if I still do not have a bride? It would be simpler. If only your child was a son, I would name him my heir for you, his Cordelia insists it is a girl she named Arielle.”
“You know the dead can’t speak back?”
He stood, moving over to the grave as if protecting it. “Who is there? I demand you tell me. I am Renaud Paul, heir to Feuilles. Are you fée?”
“No, signore, we are not fée.”
A man stepped from the shadows. He wore a cloak covering much of him and not allowing a clear description, but the hat he wore was a style found in the south of Bladeren and in northern Italaviana.
When he smiled fangs appeared over his lips.
“I am Giacobbe, my lord. We are acquaintances of Remigius.”
Remigius was his father’s ‘chef’ a man skilled in poisons and stealth, a personal advisor publicly and an assassin in secret. It had been he who created the new toxin that had not killed Pierre, but had been enough to fell the doctor.
“And what are acquaintances of the chef doing here at my brother’s grave?”
“Paying our respects. We could not come during the day, as you can see. But he would have been our comte.” Two more vampires stepped out behind Giacobbe, holding larkspur in their hands.
“You are citizens of Feuilles?”
“We are,” one of the other vampires said. “Remigius helped us escape from our homeland and we have been in his debt since.”
“Why do you speak so freely to me then?”
“Because you will now be our comte,” Giacobbe replied. “You are of age. Your father is old. He dislikes the vampires as well as the fée. You may be persuaded to see our side.”
Renaud nodded and allowed them to lay their offerings down.
“I am listening.”
~ Iunday, 29th of Juvenis, 11831 ~
Vivien stood at his father’s grave. He read the headstone in the bright light of the night’s three-quarter moon:
26th of Septembrie, 11761 - 12th of Octombrie, 11796
There was still space for his mother’s name, but he dared not have it commissioned for fear her resting place would become known and then defiled. Vivien had come here after her cremation and buried his father’s skull, mixing his mother’s ashes with the soil, and reuniting them. The plot was not overly disturbed and no one would know she was there.
A noise brought him out of his musing and he looked up to see Elwin walking over. If the margrave had not wanted himself seen or heard, Vivien would have had no idea that he was there, and so being alerted had been intentional.
He nodded to his mother’s student of cræft, who he knew well was involved in Jourdain’s death, and yet stood and lived. Then he looked away to keep from cursing at him. If anyone had had to die for this Elwin was at least more responsible than his mother. How dare he visit her grave!
… But it had been Vivien himself who spoke up for the man and changed the course of the conversation in the dungeons. Who had understood in that moment that Pierre had been the guilty party, likely with Elwin’s aid, and had decided to trust his duc. He could not go against his vow, or against his mother’s sacrifice.
Elwin watched him, green eyes flicking between his face and hands. And the dagger at Vivien’s side, which the steward had put on to wear even though it was the middle of the night. He said nothing about the clothes which Vivien wore, and had fallen asleep in, for three days now.
“I will let you have your revenge,” Elwin said. He placed down the few things he was holding and opened his palms to show no resistance. “Hurt me however you see fit for your loss.”
“No… I am not a man of violence. I refuse to be.”
“Then you are a greater man than I.”
Elwin knelt by the grave. He touched the spot where Sabine’s ashes were buried. He picked up the items he had brought, which Vivien could finally see was a young tree for planting, and Sabine’s carrier for Aranea. The spider was inside it curled up on her back, dead.
Vivien’s heart clenched and he almost whimpered. Aranea had survived the initial death of her mistress and he had foolishly hoped she would live. One last part of his mother and her cræft. He had taken her into his own room and had been thinking of how to explain to his wife that he wanted to keep the arachnid. Now there was no need.
“May I?” Elwin asked.
“Oui.” Elwin dug into the earth again. Not far enough to expose the skull, but enough to plant the sapling and bury the familiar, giving a good reason for the moved earth, and bringing life to where there had been death.
“She came to me,” Vivien said. He did not look at Elwin, choosing to observe the sky and the starlight, but spoke to him nonetheless. “Both of them, Mother and Lady Mora, in a dream. I woke up and could not fall back asleep and came out here… Maman told me not to wallow, that I knew well what death was, and was not, and this was nothing more than a short farewell until we meet again. I am sure she believes this. She smiled in her last moment in death. There was a smile on her face when she was cut down. She was smiling in the pyre.”
“You smiled back at her too,” Elwin replied. “And I can think of fewer things I would like more in my moment of passing than a love’s one’s caring face.”
Elwin stood. Aranea’s body was buried and now nourishment for the young tree that stood atop the grave. He wiped his hands on his trousers. “The fée celebrate death,” the margrave said, looking up into the sky as well. “And they burn their dead. I know it was to make certain her body was not used for cræft, but she was given a fée’s burial in the end.”
“How do they celebrate?” Vivien asked.
“Dance,” he said. “Dance in the streets, speak of the dead, reminisce, and celebrate the life they lived and will live. Flowers, branches, and the other parts of the forest are brought out to become the pyre… She deserved to be with the forest as well.”
“I do not know if I can bring myself to dance yet,” Vivien said. “But she did not want me to despair. Thank you for the gift.”
Elwin produced his own dagger from somewhere, it was not on his belt, and he cut into his hand before dousing the tree in blood. He wrapped up the wound quickly, but Vivien reached over and grabbed him, healing the cut for him by touch.
“Thank you, but—”
“You are a friend, you should not risk showing your blood so soon. I do not want to lose anyone else.”
“Ah, of course.”
His own form of mourning was to keep his wounds for the next year, not allowing Magec or anyone else to heal them by magical means, but if Sabine’s son, who no doubt hurt just as much if not more, willed it, he would comply.
The sapling began to grow. Elwin used not only his hands, but his whole body, dancing around the grave to music that was birdsong and insect chatter. The tree grew taller and taller, until neither of the men could reach the branches, and then it bloomed. Leaves and flowers and fruits of many kinds sprung out and began to weigh the branches down, hanging over the grave, protecting it.
They talked of Sabine, ate the fruit, and by the time Vivien returned to his room, he had laughed for the first time in days.
Between the giving of blood, and the knowledge that Jourdain had been killed by necrocræft, the people of Piques and Spadille were more welcoming to those of Faery. That Pierre had condemned the practice of necrocræft so harshly brought him even more supporters. Much of the staff were more than happy to serve him now, and many apologized for their actions.
Cordelia did not return from Folia. Perdita moved to the manor of the Comte Feuilles to be with her, unable to stand staying at the château any longer even with her beloved in residence. Charlot stayed in Spadille, but come autumn would move back to Carreux and take his bride on the way, celebrating their engagement at a more opportune time. Some rumors circled that Renaud would wed his sister-in-law and take his brother’s child on as his own, but nothing came of it. The comte himself did nothing.
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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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