~ Dvoday, 27th of Iovilios, 11831 ~
Near the end of Iovilios Pierre and Elizabeth walked the gardens around the estate arm in arm. It was Elizabeth’s eighteenth birthday and Pierre was determined to finally shake off the gloom and ill feelings that had plagued everyone for the past several weeks. They would be going into town this afternoon, Pierre intending to buy her anything that caught her fancy, and they would be meeting with Síofra and her family. That evening would be a dinner with the remaining advisors and Wolfram (the boy had asked to attend with Salome, saying they were both comfortable enough now to trust the court).
It was still sullen when they gathered, but their bond was not broken. The advisors quickly understood that while Vivien’s mother had been involved, he himself had not, and had perhaps lost the most in this tragedy. Both a friend, in the case of Jourdain, and his mother. Too he was kin with Perdita, Maiolaine her cousin, and another link that was shattered with the deaths. But in return Elwin was more welcome, a new friendship between him and Vivien coming from the tragedy, and the margrave came by more often with his new home in the city.
“Lord Vivien told me yesterday that he has taught me everything he knows about blancræft,” she said. “He advises I keep practicing and working in the clinic when I have time, but if I wish to know more I should search for another teacher. Yvette did offer to help me know more about nursing as well as more innate blanc-witchery. Is that the right term?”
“I understood what you meant, my dear, so if it is not the right term it should be.”
And Pierre missed Sabine as well. She had been the first lady, or lord, of death that he had met. Who had gone to Mora’s domain and returned with magic so powerful. He could speak with her and confined in her like Lizzy spoke to him about blancræft. Vivien would understand, but not like it, and certainly not now. Ophion, for all he was Pierre’s beloved Uncle, was not a lord of death.
Had this been the loss Lady Veriette spoke of? Who else would he be able to find and speak of such matters with?
They continued to walk, and when Elizabeth saw Pierre’s smile fade and the signs that he was thinking again of all that had happened lately, she kissed him and tried to distract him. And her golden hair and blushing cheeks were a good distraction, not to mention her lips. And then, after bending down to kiss her again, something else distracted him from the corner of his eye. As it was so close now to Midsummer he should not have been surprised.
“My dear, look to the right.”
She did, and he watched her her own smile grew wide. “A fairy ring!”
She let go of Pierre’s hand and dashed to it. It was in the gardens, in the more wild area, but oddly a part of the estate and not the forests. “I have not seen one in so long! Pierre, we must make wishes!” A closed ring, one signaling a fée’s entrance and then return to Faery. It was only a few days from the fée’s Autumnfinding and the Summer Queen was finishing her rule. It seemed the château was being given special consideration for the event.
It could not have happened better than if he had planned it. Or perhaps it was just right because this was out of his hands.
She stood in the circle already waiting impatiently for him to come join her. When he entered she clasped her hands together and closed her eyes, half in prayer.
“Ready?” she asked.
Pierre was grinning. “Of course, dear Lizzy.”
“Alright.” She was silent a moment as she wished, the smile subsiding to become a look of hope. Pierre took this time to kneel before her and watched her with held breath until she opened her eyes.
“What did—Oh, Pierre!” He pulled from his pocket a small jewelry box and she pressed her hands to her face, blinking back tears.
“Elizabeth Anne,” he said, opening it to reveal the ring Jourdain had in part gave his life to obtain.“Lady d’Eichel, I wish for you to become my wife.”
“Oh, Pierre— oui! Wish granted, of course!” He stood and slid the ring on her finger, kissing her in the same motion and then picking her up to swing her around.
“And your wish?” he asked, setting her down while they both tried to catch their breath and keep from laughing.
She was blushing as she replied, “that you kiss me properly.” It was a whisper, but she did not look away as she said it. He in reply only bent his head and granted her wish in return.
~ Vijfday, 30th of Iovilios, 11831 ~
Midsummer’s night. Another change in the Faery courts with their Autumnfinding beginning at dawn. A small celebration was being hosted for Pierre and Elizabeth’s engagement, the recent deaths and betrayals not allowing for more elaborate festivities, but the occasion also deserving of some joy. As the proposal itself was more on a whim of Pierre’s rather than something planned, though he had had the ring for some time, this gala would not have much family attending. In return the wedding that was planned in a month’s time would be grand. The reine was being given full control of it. A se’nnight from tonight they would begin the journey back to the castle where the wedding would take place in early Septembrie. A longer engagement might have been more proper, some people gossiping about the quick wedding, but neither Pierre nor Elizabeth paid them much mind. They merely did not wish to wait any longer to be man and wife.
“We met eleven years ago, do you remember?” Pierre whispered into Lizzy’s ear. They were greeting the guests and making small-talk while circling around to everyone. “Exactly, even. It was Midsummer.”
“Yes, I do,” Elizabeth replied, squeezing his hand. “I was visiting Brother at the castle while he was staying there to be taught by Lord Ophion. But I wanted to run away and have some of my own fun without the nurse. I found you in the gardens and you hid me from him when he came to find me.” All three of them became friends that day, seeking out snacks in the kitchens later on to leave out for the fée, getting into general mischief, and spending that summer together. From then on every few months Piers and Elizabeth would visit the castle, or Pierre go over to Eichel.
“Your Future Graces!”
Valentin’s shout was perhaps too loud to merely call them over, but Pierre and Lizzy sighed and went over to his and Nina. Immediately the women began to talk about children, and Lizzy’s blushes and glances to her intended left little to interpret about her thoughts.
Pierre’s mind began to wander as he thought of his fiancée. She would be a wonderful mother, and he found he desired to see her carrying his children. He had thought with his cræft it would be impossible, but Sabine had bore Vivien after being a Lady of Death. She had said the ordeal was costly, and had never informed him of exactly what had happened, but if possible perhaps he could come up with a solution on his own.
“Your Grace, forgive the intrusion, but I have a message for you that is most important.”
Pierre thanked the servant that had found him, taking a note from the tray and looking it over. There was no writing on the envelope and it was unsealed, unmarked.
“Do you know who it is from?” Lizzy asked. He shook his head, sliding out the note and reading it.
“Perhaps a lover that cannot stand you are engaged now?” Nina asked, and laughed when Elizabeth forcefully opened her fan too close to the other’s nose.
“If I did not know you, I would caution that your mind may be addled from the child in your belly, but this sort of quip is not unusual coming from you.”
Pierre and Valentin smiled at each other at the banter before the duc read the message. A simple note. A request to see him in the advisor’s meeting room. No signature was present but he knew the hand this was penned in. “It is Renaud,” he said softly. “He wishes to see me.”
“He is not to be here,” Lizzy said. Valentin and Nina stepped away to offer some privacy, though kept their heads turned so as to catch some of the news. What Renaud had done, and that he was not allowed back to Spadille, was not yet known to the public.
“Non, but… given all that has happened I may allow it this one time. Just to listen and then send him on his way. I will return shortly, love.” He kissed Elizabeth, nodded to his friends, and left in a rush.
She watched him go, feeling chills.
“Forgive me as well,” she said to her guests before going to find Vivien.
Renaud sat in his old chair in the advisor’s meeting room, staring at the doorway with an empty glass in his hand. A few candles were lit around the room, but not enough to see very well. Pierre nodded a greeting as he shut the door behind himself.
“I know that it was not Sabine,” the former advisor said. “Oh, she was a confidante, and deserved her death as such, but she did not kill Brother or order him taken. It was you, Your Grace, that committed both crimes.”
“You are not to be within the border of Spadille, Renaud,” the duc said, not replying to the accusations. He did not move far from the door and gripped his cane tight, the handle of his dagger already palmed. Renaud had done something. Spirits of death filled the room.
“By breaking this you will be thrown in jail and given a true sentence for your deeds against Lady Síofra. If you leave this very instant and are unseen by anyone perhaps I will forget this trespassing.”
“Do not threaten me!” Renaud’s eyes flashed and in an instant he was across the room, pressing Pierre to the wall with a speed and strength that was inhuman. His open mouth showed fangs.
“I will no longer be a puppet! Yours or father’s or anyone else’s! I am the Comte de Feuilles, and will be the Duc de Piques as soon as we finish this. Síofra…” his gaze softened as he thought of her and he seemed not to focus on Pierre any longer, though his grip did not lessen. “She can stay as she is. I no longer mind now that I am more as well. She will forgive me. And as for this! Well, this is justice! It is no more or less than what you yourself, Your Grace, did to my brother.”
Pierre could not deny this and said nothing. If Renaud bit him the younger man would consume his blood and that was all the lord of death would need to end his life in turn.
The two men both looked at the door to see Vivien and Charlot enter the room, Tibault behind them. The vampire snarled, but kept his grip on the duc.
“I am fine,” Pierre said.
Tibault slowly backed out of the room before sprinting down the hall, running to get more aid.
“Renaud, enough,” Vivien said. The steward stepped into the room, hands up to show he had no weapon and meant no harm. “You must let go on His Grace.”
“His Grace,” Renaud replied. “Oh, His Highness, His Grace. How high and mighty. Do you even know what he did! Oh, you do, I see it in your eyes. But you, Charlot, you do not!”
“You’ve gone mad,” the future duc of diamonds said. “We have all had terrible things to deal with, but this will help no one.”
“Oh? Do you not wish to hear what His Graceful Princeling did—”
More people came in through the door and immediately Renaud stopped speaking. Elizabeth stood behind Charlot and Vivien, Elwin with her, frozen at the site of Renaud and Pierre against the wall. Then she began to cough. The spirits in the room sensed her illness and flocked to her. Her fan fell from her hand and she used both hands to try and stop it, but blood speckled her white gloves. Pierre noticed Renaud stiffen and flush at the scent.
“Get her out of here!”
Elwin reached to grab her and pull her back, but Renaud was even faster. The blood was too tempting, too fresh, and he too young to withstand it.
She did not even have time to scream.
Renaud had not bitten Pierre and there was no magic the duc could do, so he unsheathed his dagger and ran at the vampire, stabbing him in the back. He shoved the body aside and saw a second dagger was embedded in Renaud’s chest. Elizabeth had taken it from Elwin’s belt and defended herself.
His pride was short lived as he saw his beloved. Her throat was mangled, blood soaking her, her eyes fluttering but unable to focus.
“Elizabeth,” he said, grabbing her, cradling her. “Lizzy, darling, listen to me. Can you hear me?” His hands were shaking. He was used to blood, to death, to patients that were ill. But this was Lizzy! And in this state…
He pulled off his cravat and tied it around her throat, pressing his hands as hard as he dared against her flesh. She grew paler by the moment. They sank to the floor.
“Lizzy? Darling, little Lizzy mine.” Her eyes were open, but they did not see. She was not breathing. The flow of blood coming from her was slowing down.
He reached back to where Renaud lay and grabbed Elwin’s dagger, yanking it out of the vampre. He was dead, his heart pierced on both sides, and if he was still somewhat alive and suffering then let him suffer. Without thought to what would happen Pierre cut into his own arm, deeply, and let his own blood flow and join the pool of it around them.
It was either luck or a miracle but for now his blood was the same color as everyone else’s. He poured it into Lizzy’s mouth and pleaded with the spirits. They had not allowed him last time to command them, but this— this he demanded, pleaded, begged. Anything for Elizabeth.
Her heart began to beat. Pierre clutched Lizzy in his arms and sobbed as he felt her soul return and settled in her body. She was alive, in his arms, and she would be safe.
“Send for the royal physician and for Adam Roland,” he heard Vivien order. Someone was at his side then, taking his arm, wrapping it in a bandage.
“Your Grace?” Wolfram said.
“Her. Check her first.”
Wolfram nodded and gently moved Elizabeth from Pierre’s arms. Vivien knelt beside them too, one hand on Lizzy’s throat, another on Pierre’s arm. Charlot continued to wrap the wound on Pierre’s arm without comment.
The color was returning to her skin. Carefully Wolfram peeled back the dressing away from her— there was still a wound (it would be impossible to explain the events without one) but it was much smaller and no longer bleeding. He covered it again and Vivien pressed a hand to it once more.
The doctor was already at the party for their engagement and came quickly. Lizzy was taken to the clinic, still unconscious, but no longer critical.
“Vivien, go with them,” Pierre said. “I… I need a moment, I lost too much blood myself.”
Charlot helped Pierre to a seat, and Elwin stood guard by the corpse of the other advisor. Tibault went to send everyone home and end the night early.
“What did Renaud mean by what he said,” Charlot asked. Pierre’s wound was almost healed, but still bleeding, and the advisor kept the bandage pressed to it.
“I do not know,” Pierre said. His voice was hollow and adrenaline coursed through his body. Lizzy was safe. Renaud was dead. Lizzy had been dead. He had saved her.
He was bleeding. Was his blood still red?
“It is at the pleasure of the duc that a man can be killed,” Charlot said, his voice taking upon the tone of a story. The future Duc of Diamonds looked to Elwin, and then back to the Duc of Spades. “It is not unheard of for men to go missing who earned a duc’s displeasure, even without a trial. At times they have assassins, especially if there was not enough evidence for court… I remember a letter from Sister some months back, telling of how a new servant, a drunk, died after drinking your leftover wine. That it was a miracle that you only tasted it, and either recognized the attempt on your life or otherwise felt something was wrong and you did not drink the rest. With Renaud here and his mad babbles, and knowing Feuilles in passing… it is understandable to think perhaps the elder son was guilty. And you, my Grace, are fay. It would make the revenge perhaps even moral.
“Did you find out that Sabine practiced necrocræft and have her kill Jourdain? Was she teaching you?”
It was close to the truth. And yet enough that Pierre might be able to confess here and gain another ally without putting himself in too much danger.
“She began to,” he lied. “I just wanted to learn some, enough to aid in my medical practice. You know what can come of it, and how it can be used to save those too far gone. I have come to accept myself as fay, and the cræft is not forbidden in Faery. I thought, perhaps, just a few lessons… When I confided in her about Feuilles and what I thought Jourdain and Renaud were up to, she must have taken it as a desire to have them killed. I did not know, and when I learned of it I could not allow it to stand.”
Charlot nodded. “Then I suggest, your Grace, you learn from this. I am glad you knew enough to help Lady Elizabeth, but even with your bestia you may be sentenced to jail for life for it. Without her though your lessons will end and the cræft leave you, so I will keep quiet. You have my word. Can you stand now?”
They left to go to the clinic. Pierre met Elwin’s eyes, apologizing for the slander, but the margrave gave the slightest shakes of his head. Lying was part of being fay as well, and he could not hold against Pierre the desire to keep this to himself, and find an explanation that saved him.
When Elwin was alone he kicked Renaud. The man had hurt his daughter, killed Elizabeth, indirectly caused Sabine’s death, and almost exposed his grandson’s cræft. He should have killed him weeks ago when Síofra’s heart was broken. She would not tell him what he had done, but he knew enough. He had killed for less.
For now, though, his corpse would do.
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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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