Chapter 30, Part C: The beginning of the end (cont.)


With the connection between them severed, Elanore had but one glimpse of Selva reaching for a scraggly black creature before both lady and mysterious creature disappeared into blankness.

In the real world, the circle between Elanore and the others had broken. Selva’s push had sent the healer reeling sideways. She was kept standing up by the quick reflexes of the young man next to her.

Edmund did not speak as he gripped her arm firmly. Once assured the Elanore was unharmed, his eyes slid back to the Count and to the Countess. His mouth turned down, illustrating his displeasure at something that only he had observed.

Elanore had not known who had broken the circle first, but in the confusion she saw that the Count had not let go of the Lady Selva’s hand.

A dark, fierce look had settled upon his face. Long after the snow outside had stopped falling, he glowered at the patient on the bed, willing her to wake. And she did, her eyes clouding over as she found her lord watching her.

Elanore looked down at their hands, still joined while the two watched another in silence. Her heart fluttered queerly as she reconsidered the black creature and the man before her.

As he stared down at the patient, Elanore wondered if the Count had been that thing she had glimpsed. And if so, she wondered what thoughts passed between lord and lady now.
She knew from that short moment of connection to the lady that Selva loved the lord without question. But what he felt in return was unclear.

Whatever hopes she had for a romantic reunion were dashed by the Count himself. Wolfram’s mouth drew itself into a thin line before he stepped away from the bed and retrieved his cane. He looked out the window while passing it back and forth in his hands, while the woman awkwardly folded her hands over her own stomach. “What do you think you were doing?”

Their polite company could not help but stare agape at the haughty manner in which the lord addressed his lady.

“What was I doing?” Selva mused aloud, almost playfully. “Sleeping.”

“Don’t lie to me,” he said sharply, punctuating his command with a tap of the cane on the floor.

The harsh noise made the woman flinch. But she kept her voice light and easy. “Before I fell asleep, I was conjuring snow.”

The Count’s shoulders rose slightly. The woman lying in bed could not see him as he stood there, raging silently at the response she had given him. When he returned to her bedside, she was wholly prepared for the fury which laced his words. “I did not order you to do so. Nor was there a need for you to waste your efforts in vain. They will come. We will protect them by normal means. Do you understand?”

The woman’s fingers moved, reaching out for the fingers on her lord’s hand. But he had none to give while he continued to pass the cane, back and forth between each hand.

The woman averted her gaze and drew her hand back. “I do,my lord.”

Whether the man did so blindly or intentionally, Elanore was not about to simply stand and watch the man inflict more pain upon the lady. “This is not the time to discuss such things. The patient is too sick for a lecture.”

The Count wrinkled his brow as he looked at the outspoken healer and then at the silent patient. He bowed his head before he politely thanked Elanore for her services.

This was a dismissal and yet Elanore refused to budge. “She’s not out of danger yet. What we provided was not enough. If you would take her to the lions, they collectively hold and channel more power than all of us. I believe the same thing sort of energy transfer should be repeated with their assistance.”

The patient glanced Elanore’s way, her eyes thoughtful and grateful.

Emboldened by the woman’s response, Elanore and Edmund both offered their services.

“I will carry her down, sir.” Edmund volunteered. “If you are busy–”

“No,” the man sounded profoundly tired. “I am quite capable of it myself. Your assistance isn’t required to handle our own personal affairs.” He handed his cane to Lady Tala before he picked up the patient in his arms, his stride quick as they proceeded out the chambers.

Lady Tala departed after them, glancing backwards at Elanore with a look of gratitude. Elanore and Edmund intended to follow, but found themselves trapped behind the crowd of servants and onlookers that swarmed the hallways and stairwells.

They, too, seemed intent on following their lord and lady downstairs. Elanore let them pass, for she was inexplicably exhausted. She took but a few steps down the stairs before her knees nearly buckled underneath her.

Edmund’s hand steadied her. “You’re not well. You’ve done too much.”

“No,” she reassured him. “I just wasn’t paying much attention. I was distracted and tripped on these stupid bootlaces..”

It was a poor, childish explanation but he did not hold that against her. He led her to the landing where she might sit at the windowseat and fuss with her wayward shoes. “There is no need to hurry. We can catch up with them after you tell me what’s bothering you.”

Elanore did rest, turning her face to look with him out the window. A great number of people and creatures were outside, frolicking in the fresh snow. She rubbed her eyes with her fingers when they blurred, realizing then that she was frustrated and overwrought with feelings that were not even hers. “It’s them. I found her in the middle of some kind of trance. She’s not as in control of her magic as she believes. Or perhaps he believes. But how can she tell him that she made a mistake when he speaks to her in such horrible fashion? She does this for him and he punishes her!”

He reached out to stroke her hair, understanding that her dilemma was not physical, but emotional. “I don’t know what you are seeing or feeling. But try to remember that when you look past those feelings there might be another side that can be seen. She should have waited for him and for us. She breached his trust and she did not trust him. Worse yet, she could have died. We all know that. Had it been you who had done something like this, I would have been just as furious.”

Elanore swiped at her eyes, still not completely swayed by his point of view. “Even thinking that, I am upset for her. I could feel what she felt. I know she has made so many bad choices particularly when it comes to him. She loves him and is afraid of him at the same time. His treatment of her will only chase her away.”

“They are older than us and there are far more bad habits to forget,” he tried to say with a light manner. “I’ve tried to ram into him some kind of awareness of the lady’s feelings, but I’m not sure he understands what I really mean. I think it may be better if you ease her mind instead.”

He meant to be funny, but somehow managed to be sensible at the same time. Elanore loved him most when he was like this — he innately sensed how best to balance her out before she flew off the handle or did something silly. With the crowd long gone, she leaned into him for a quick kiss that did not end as soon as she had intended.

“Elanore!” Her grandmother’s voice floated up from the floor below.

Edmund heard the steps approaching and extricated his young lady’s hands from his shirt. “She’ll kill me if she catches us,” he whispered furiously in her ear.

“She’ll just make us marry sooner than planned,” Elanore smiled mysteriously as she rested her head on his shoulder. “I’ve heard her mumbling that in her sleep.”

“Don’t tell that to the lions.” He carefully shifted in his seat to maintain the proper space between them. “You know how they are about public displays of affection. They are terrible. ”

Elanore’s expression grew quite alarmed. “You’re absolutely right. We must go warn them not to do that. It’ll only cause more trouble.”

At that idea he laughed quite hard. “In this case, that might just be what’s needed. These Wolframs are far too uptight. Life is too short to be always taken seriously. Of all the people on these grounds right now, those two need their meddling the most.”

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