Chapter 20, Part B: Loose Ends (cont.)


Nearby, the small wall clock continued its mechanical commentary. Its ticking provided the only noise in the room aside from the sound of two persons breathing.

Elanore regarded the young man with wonder.

In the conversation’s pause, the object of her study wrinkled his brow. The woman’s silence left him unable to determine whether his confession had inspired joy or distaste. She did not smile or frown. Instead her look could be best described as solemn.

Calmly, he tried to keep his wits about him as he stumbled through something to fill the yawning quiet. “I suppose that might sound peculiar to you.”

She blinked once, twice. Elanore considered the possibility that he was teasing her again while oblivious to the cues that suggested otherwise. The young woman chose her next words carefully. “Do you mean the idea that they might be able to read minds?”

A frown played across the young man’s face for the briefest of moments. He opened his mouth and then shut it, evaluating how to continue this unexpected dance with words. Edmund chose to keep his voice light and even. “How dreadful that would be if those stone creatures could read minds. No secret would then be safe from you, no surprises could be had.”

The young woman mistook his tone for teasing and turned her nose up in the air. She matched him tone for tone in reply. “I am not the sort of person who would pry that information from them.”

The reproach in her voice forced him to cast aside his teasing. Edmund reclaimed her hands in his. “I know that. However, at times I do wish you would pry.”

Her chin lifted, illustrating her surprise.

With something like his usual intensity and calmness he tried to explain himself. “I did not mean for us to be discussing the lions or their ability to mind read.” Again he stopped, his lips pursed as if he had more to say but was lost as to how to proceed.

It was she who found the means to urge him to continue. “Then let me restart the conversation again. You were glad that I kissed you and made an utter fool of myself.”

Having been sufficiently provoked, Edmund was quick to respond. “I would never think of you as a fool, Elanore!” He wrinkled his forehead. “If I have been overbearing and overstated any opinions about your choices and actions it is only because I have wanted to protect you.”

“You have always done so,” she answered soberly. “And yet I feel that I often take advantage of your kindness and I don’t want to. I don’t want Grandmother to do that either. What I mean to say is–”

“You don’t need or want a protector,” he finished her thought for her.

She dropped her eyes to their hands, still entwined on her lap. Then she nodded slightly, admitting it to be so.

The birds outside began to make noise, to assert their presence as they continued to gather around the house. Inside the house, the young lady and gentleman paid them no heed. Another long silence had unfurled itself heavily over the young couple. Edmund had turned his head away from the lady, leaving Elanore to once again study the gentleman’s profile as he closed his eyes and dipped his head. This time, she wondered if she had hurt him with her words.

As he slouched and sighed, she stiffened but did not say anything.

The clock’s pendulum swung – ten, twenty, then thirty times — before the wooden box announced the next quarter hour with an abrasive clang. He opened his eyes and watched the sunlight trickling through the window. In a low voice he began speaking to himself. “It is as exactly as our house guest said it would be.”

A queer feeling settled over Elanore as she watched Edmund’s gaze drift. She knew he was thinking of that other woman — his new confidante. She could not really know that this house guest had, in the span of several days, woven her influence over the young man. Edmund had not intended for such a thing to happen, but the stranger had uncannily read his feelings for Elanore and perceived his various moods.

Elanore’s hand wandered on its own towards his. Firmly she grasped it, startling him into a smile. He was back with her for the moment, leaning over her to absentmindedly readjust the blanket. This rather unnecessary gesture only served to magnify Elanore’s concern about this new lady boarder.

“I know things change,” he admitted. “Your grandfather commissioned me to provide a certain function until it was no longer needed. I think I’ve tried to hold on to the role of protector too long.” He had used duty as a convenient reason to linger at Elanore’s side.

Elanore’s fingers stroked the back of his hand, smoothing out his crooked smile. Her presence had an almost magical ability to comfort him.

In this one respect, he had already been in agreement with the woman. If Elanore was possessed of magical gifts, he felt it was of a kind that went beyond the silly lions’ mutterings about energy and power. He believed it was her other more mundane gifts — composure, spirit, love — that would allow Elanore, in time, to become a stronger person than all of the silly lions and Count combined.

Now absolved of the role he had been named for, Edmund felt the invisible hand of the guest in his home prompting him to speak openly. The hunter plunged into the Friar’s story in the same way he had related it to the lady house guest. He did not ornament the account or add his own conjectures, choosing to leave it as bare and depressing as he found it. Unlike Ilva, however, Elanore did not lecture him; instead she squeezed his hand.

Ilva had shown no sympathy. She was not that sort of person who mourned adversity. Instead, she told him that opportunities (good or bad) were always there to be seized and transformed. Transformation, she had explained, was not simply a principle of magic but one of life. Those who waited for favorable conditions would likely waste their lives. Those who turned the conditions in their favor would be those who would be the happiest in the end.

For days he had mulled her advice. Rewriting the story of his life could not happen unless he was courageous… unless he seized the things he wanted.

At the moment, Elanore could not foresee how she figured in Edmund’s plans. Instead, she listened patiently and then with horror as Edmund’s story shifted to describing the nightmares and possible memories that had begun to surface. Her eyes widened as she started to understand why Edmund did not look all that well.

When he stopped speaking, he stole a glance at her and almost lost his courage. She was lovely — even in spite of the unbecoming cap and nightdress that she wore. But he took a breath and gambled: “In the spring, I’ll be leaving on a journey with the lady Ilva to guide me north to find my home. I hope to find kin or something left behind for me to find.” There was a minute pause before he continued. “If by then you’ve had your fill of the Count and his home, I ask you to travel with us.”

Elanore’s chest tightened. She had never entertained the thought of Edmund leaving. In her mind, he was always inexorably tied to Winchester, always waiting here for her. She could not tell him that, for it was unfair and silly. Instead, she reminded him, “I could not leave Grandmother.”

“I ask you with her blessing. She said your mother will be here by then to take your place.”

Elanore furrowed her brow, surprised by the news of her mother. For Edmund and her Grandmother to speak of such a situation meant he thought the journey might be substantial. She nervously picked at the blanket with her fingers. “Are you not coming back?”

“That depends–” he answered lightly. “That depends on whether my companion wishes it so. When the snows have melted and this long winter has passed, I will seek her hand in marriage. Once I have completed that journey to my birthplace, I will be at her disposal to follow her as she pleases.”

“Oh.” Elanore found herself blindsided by this news of his marriage to the lady boarder. How beautiful and persuasive she must be to make Edmund’s outlook change so much in such a short period of time. Her voice was small as she protested the idea. “I’m afraid I would be in the way of both you and your wife.”

“You goose,” he scolded her. “How is it that of all the people only you have not seen what even strangers have? I am not speaking of making the boarder my wife.”

She suddenly exhaled as his meaning became undoubtedly clear. In spite of all the gossip, she had simply failed to believe that there was anything lurking behind the idea of marriage between them. She brought her own hands to her face. “Me?”

“You may find it hard to understand. But I’ve come to realize that I’ve turned down other women because they weren’t you! Even after our letters had become infrequent, your grandmother was boasting of you constantly. It was impossible for me to find any to be superior to you, Elanore.” Had the meddling stranger not had the audacity to claim his feelings were painfully obvious, he might not have been goaded into coming here and telling Elanore what he felt. “Look,” he suddenly sighed. “I know this proposal is sudden. But our paths may shift now towards different, more dangerous directions. Should we not meet again for a time, I didn’t want to have regrets about not having told you what I feel.”

As he stood, the finality of his words sunk in. Elanore tried to stand to grasp at him. “Don’t go yet.”

Weakened by several days in bed, she could not pin him down. Instead, she stumbled towards the floor. Before she could injure herself, he caught her about the waist. She felt awkward and guilty as he steadied her, knowing that she had been far too self-absorbed to notice his feelings. “I’ve been terrible to you.”

Her troubled look prompted his stern face to soften. “You have never been unkind. Should anyone say otherwise I will come back and pommel them until they recant of such a statement!”

She did not laugh as he might have wanted. Her ears were too keen to not notice what he had implied. “Edmund,” her face fell. “Will you really wait until the spring before you go?”

The sound of her uncertainty and fear caused a small hope to flicker within him. He would have given her a straight answer then if it were not for her hand drifting to touch his face.

That touch broke his patience.

Edmund seized that offending hand and pulled her close, enfolded Elanore within his arms.

And as the clock’s pendulum swung hypnotically back and forth, there was another sound, a sound of deep breaths and the rustling of fabric. He impressed himself upon her lips — not a shy, uncertain kiss like the one she had tried to give him the other day but one that expressed the pent-up frustration of several weeks. The young woman’s eyelashes fluttered against his cheek — the only resistance on her part. She relaxed within his ever tightening embrace and listened to his silent plea for her heart.

A small mischievous bird cried out, announcing that it was noon. Eleven calls passed unheeded by the young couple. On the twelfth cuckoo, a pale faced Edmund abruptly let Elanore go. She sank to the sofa, her face blooming scarlet as she smoothed out her clothing.

“I had not meant to do that.” Edmund ran his hand through his hair, shocked by his own behavior. He had no idea where that impulse had come from or why he had behaved like such a wild creature. “I presume too much upon you as is –”

Her hands had drifted up to her face, to check if it was alright. Her lips were leaden as she fumbled for words. “I should answer you…this…now…”

He looked away, clenching his hands to his side. He was furious at himself, furious for taking advantage of her. “Don’t answer me now. I have no right to demand such an answer. My behavior doesn’t oblige you. Be well, Elanore.” With that last request, he left the woman he loved alone in the room.

Her heart beat quickly in his absence, a loud counterpoint to the sound of the clock marking the time. Elanore pressed her fingers against her lips, startled and confused in the wake of her would-be suitor’s flight.

Outside the window, the birds observed all. Then they, too, raised their wings skyward and flew.


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Chapter 20, Part B: Loose Ends (cont.) — 31 Comments

  1. No I don’t want him with her 🙁 I hope she realizes that she doesn’t like him like that! 🙁

  2. Oh, he did that all wrong… silly Edmund, can’t you see she needs you to be gentle with her? Please Elanore, say yes to him!

    • xD If he did it wrong, she’ll punch him the next time she has a chance.

  3. I love it! i want her with him. I think the obvious choice would have been the count so Im glad Edmond has stepped up!

    • Hopefully he took the right step. That remains to be seen. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Scandalous! I’m lovin’ the romance going on between those two.Normally I think romance is kind of sappy.Any way, I wonder what the Count should think…Edmund:1 Count:0

    • Right now in my head, the Count and Ilva are both kicking Edmund around. I’m not sure if there are personal reasons to do so, but I think they’re generally thinking the whole thing could have been handled better. xD

  5. I haven’t posted before, but I have been enjoying the story very much. I look forward to finding out what happens. I work in the watchmaking/clockmaking world, so I couldn’t help but notice the way you used the clock in this update. I noticed something that I couldn’t help but point out. Unless the technology in this universe is signifigantly different from ours, cuckoo clocks don’t have seconds hands. Actually, I don’t see many mechanical clocks that have seconds hands, though quartz (battery operated) clocks and electric clocks frequently do. I specify cuckoo clock becasue the clock you used was indicating the time with a bird. It would be making a tick-tock sound, but that would simply be from the motion of the pendulum, and would not correspond to actual seconds. Ok, I’m done being a pain now. Can’t wait for the next update!

    • Ah… now that is useful to know! The timeperiod is a version of the 1800s, but not significantly different that I would try to bend on that point. I’ll have to adjust that then in the edited draft and attribute the sounds to the pendulum. (Symbolically I like that too so it works for me!)

      Thank you for taking the time to explain all that too. Learn something every day. 😀

      (And glad you are enjoying the story thus far!)

  6. That was a really long kiss. If you have a cuckoo clock you know he ABSOLUTELY DID mean to do that. That was longer than *I* would dare, anyways.
    (Edmund isn’t who I’m rooting for, but I give mad props to someone THAT bold.)

    • ROFL. Yes, it was probably at least a good minute xD… I am not a huge expert in clocks so was going off my memories of one I had as a kid… and… it should be observed that maintaining that length with the permission of someone else requires a little reciprocation xD

  7. Once again, I have absolutely zero complaints about the romance, which is pretty rare for me. Elanore’s reaction was just priceless, I could almost see her brain explode, lol. I’m actually really looking forward to seeing what Elanore decides to do once she gets her mental ducks back in a row. I don’t think she’s suddenly going to realize that Edmund is her soulmate… I think the real tossup is whether or not she’s going to end up getting mad that he essentially ambushed her. I’m really looking forward to the next update! (Unless we leave this lovely little dilemma to check in on one of our other characters…)

    • I love how you put it – brain explosion, indeed! 🙂
      As for the next update, you are leaning the right way. Things are going to be hitting the fan soon >:}

  8. Did I notice a introduction to your next story with the little trip in the spring? Love the story and the romance with the two young ones.

    • do feel that the natural end to this arc and the beginning to the next is spring. Whether things happen the way that a young blonde headed guy hopes for, we shall see.
      Glad you’re enjoying the story! Thanks for delurking, ninja commentor! xD If you do have the time and recollection, please let me know how you found the story.

  9. I don’t believe I’ve commented before, but this part really got me thinking.
    I wonder about the true intentions of Ilva. As the lions said Edmund has some sort of power (magic or otherwise) within him. So one has to wonder if her fascination with him is a way to get control over that. Part of me wants to say that she does want to help him and maybe even has some answers but, she has her own agenda. I do believe she’s this “white wolf” that was mentioned a little ways back. She knows of the Count, it’s disturbing that the Count doesn’t know of her, yet.
    I reread the archive and while it’s obvious that Edmund does love Elanore, this kind of revelation is very sudden. I know that all these things are happening very fast but to spring this on her while she’s still trying to get her strength back isn’t going to reflect very well on him. While the words are honest and true, it’s the way he went about it! The urgency of everything is going to upset her too. And it does seem that he’s intending to leave much sooner than the spring. I don’t think he will, old habits die hard and he still wants to protect her as much as he can. Hopefully he’ll put his search for his past on the back burner until the eclipse is over.
    I doubt that the Count and (especially) the four lions will let him leave unless this journey will help with the upcoming darkness.
    I will wait for the next update in earnest!

    • I think overall you’ve raised a lot of good questions (and have done a really nice analysis of everything thrown out here so far). I won’t comment on the specific things that are on your mind as well as some of your speculations (because that would totally ruin the fun).

      However, many of your general concerns are well said. Characters (just like people) are not always driven by simple motivations (as you raise with Ilva) or elegant in how they carry out their inner desires (like Edmund).

      Certainly, though, you are right in that Ilva has a very material advantage over both the other characters and the reader. We don’t know very much about her thoughts and motivations (which hides her from us), and second she has a powerful magic.

      • I’ll admit I was a bit tentative about commenting because of all the speculations I had. :3
        I hope we’ll learn a bit more about Ilva and what drives her (as well as the other main characters).
        I like the idea that Elanore might not end up with either of the two gentlemen in her life. While your writing has a very fairy tale feel to it, it doesn’t have the “cookie-cutter” (for lack of a better word) fairy tale relationship that most of those kinds of stories have. They are overcoming obstacles (within themselves and the dangers around them) and acting as persons in real life would act in the given situations.
        That being said, if she does choose someone to be with, I’d like her to end up with Edmund. C:

        • Preference, duly noted xD.

          Yeah – I don’t want to spoil the fun for you guys who are reading this in this particular format from the beginning and enjoy the aspect of “not knowing” what I will be tossing at you next. I do realize that this makes it hard for some readers, and can only apologize and say “I’ll have a compiled ebook version in the next year” for them to read. But, what I value about all of your comments thus far is that it provides me insight into how people are responding to the text and the characters. It’s extremely valuable to hear peoples’ points and thoughts and while not answering them specifically, thinking about how to make subtle adjustments with those comments in mind.

          Ilva’s motives will come to light, or be forced out of her at some point. There are, however, motives within motives, so you’ll have to decide whether the character is being honest with others or with themselves :).

          And yeah – to your point about this not being really a fairytale underneath the outer layer — I suspect all of you by now understand that you entered a fairytale, are walking through a fantasy landscape, but are now following a character story set in a twisted up world. Anyways, rambling… and back to work!

  10. Sorry for not reading or leaving replies in forever. For some odd reason I’m weirdly happy for Ed right now, though my information has a gap in it at the moment. Keep up the good work!

    • that’s cool! I’m glad you’re still reading and hope you are doing well. I have to catch up with your last few updates and hope to do so while traveling :)…

  11. I Always love your work; and this story is almost always extremely captivating. I love that Edmund is stepping up. The fact that as I read this there is a clock on my wall that is always quietly ticking away truly helps set the mood for your work. Today that clock added so much to keeping the mood, that I honestly felt like I could stick out my foot and trip Edmund before he could flee.

    It seems like the count is of two minds, on one hand he is happy for anything that makes Elenore’s magic and her grasp on the magic stronger. On the other hand he wants to be the one controlling her, and with Edmund in the picture controlling her becomes that much harder. Ilva, Very obviously has many motives within her motives and will manipulate things as she sees fit. At this point I don’t see her as evil per se’; but rather very much her own force to be reconned with.

    • Hm. I think the word “controlled” might be strong but I do think when someone sees something they want, they certainly have a “stake” in that person and the level of control varies according to people involved and their interactions. I do think Edmund of the three examples mentioned is fairly innocuous. The rest, it’s hard to say…

  12. Whoa there, Edmund! Calm yourself! xD Though good for him, telling her his feelings finally. Now the true struggle will begin.
    I’m not worried. A confession and compulsive kiss is nothing to be up in arms about. Elanore is her own woman; if she truly loves Edmund, she should chose him. However, there is still time for the Count to get his act together and become a serious contender. We shall have to wait and see!

  13. I find it rather funny how so many suddenly are rooting or at least congratulating Edmund on his advances whereas I, contrasting my previous comment in the preceding chapter, found him too aggressive (though with the planting of thoughts and magic weaving Ilva has been conducting of melding her own and making it seem as though everything came from Ed’s own person, it should account for some if not much of his actions in this section).
    As someone commented above, Elanore definitely will need the time to get her mental ducks back in a row as she attempts to ‘logic’ it out. (I really enjoy the depth you’ve put into every character btw!)

      • I have seen “The Birds” too o_o. Birds actually do kind of scare me when they mass everywhere.

    • He’s a young man and got very impatient. I thought it was funny actually how he didn’t really do what SHOULD have been done at all xD> ALways amused by how everyone interprets the same action very differently.