Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chapter 18 (of 43)

XVIII


Much later that night, the Fromage estate sat silent and tall, and the sky was empty of clouds. Al’bert was secreted away into the corner he enjoyed most of the estate, reading by wan lamplight and surrounded by a small library. There was one window, and a branch scratched against it.


What he read was a letter from Senna, which was exceedingly long and somewhat redundant, although he couldn’t fault her for it. Her friend from midsummer, whose name was Janel and which he had picked up quickly for it was thrust upon him by her overt advances, had seen him far more than Senna had in the past few weeks, although the girl had absolutely no idea. Janel was what he categorized as an instant and generally complication-free diversion. She was really only interested in making it with le Comte du Fromage, and that made things rather easy for them both. Senna was entirely oblivious, and that also worked out remarkably well.


He was pondering how exactly to reply to Senna’s eight pages of very nearly declaring her undying love to him, when Camilla burst into the room. With her came the scent of outside, and her radiant blue eyes were wide and alarmed. His gut reaction was to find her state amusing, but he subdued his smile until he found out the reason behind her frenzy.


She hesitated beside a table, as if deciding how she should put what she was about to say.


“Fangline is here,” she said.


“Oh?” asked Al’bert, finding that very odd, indeed, but not alarming. “Is something wrong with him?”


“He’s cut his hair,” she said, and her voice sounded with a mixture of revulsion and despair.


Al’bert blinked and stood, the letter on his lap falling to the floor unheeded. Without words, he left the room with Camilla behind him and traversed the length of the estate to where Fangline waited, outside, refusing to go inside or anywhere until he spoke with Al’bert.


The wind was moving, and as Al’bert cast open the door he saw Fangline against the backdrop of meadow in the moonlight. His cloak moved and his countenance was darker than he’d ever seen it. His hair was short, like a human, but fine, like an elf and the wind grasped at it jealously. Al’bert wondered within himself what sort of odd madness had gripped his friend, and was even hesitant, through no conscious reason he could logically discern, to cross the threshold of the door and come fully into his broodsome gaze.


Regardless of what the night and Fangline’s strange state was doing to his bravery, Al’bert passed outside and drew close to the prince. Camilla waited in the shadows of the estate within earshot, but scarce to be seen.


“Fangline?” he said to him, asking a thousand things at once, none of which he desired to vocalize completely.


Fangline met his gaze with intensity, and seemed curiously possessed and certain of himself, considering that he’d just cut his own hair and looked terrible.


“I’m leaving Schloeffelonia,” he said.


“What?”


“Tonight,” he continued. “I’m not sure if I’ll ever come back.”


“But… why?”


“You know why,” he said.


Al’bert couldn’t help but feel like Fangline was throwing out the baby with the bath water, but he went along.


“Where are you going?”


“I don’t know…” said the prince, and he looked aside with deep thought in his eyes. “Rascaline, perhaps.”


“Hnn…” replied Al’bert.


“Come with me,” said Fangline impulsively.


“What?” said Al’bert, shocked at the idea of leaving his home, and unable to think of a single reason why he would want to. Then again, it was true he didn’t have to live with a family he despised, only parents he hardly knew. One was far worse than the other.


“He can’t,” said Camilla, from the shadows.


Fangline’s eyes moved, and he noticed Camilla, although he had to have known she was there before.


“Does he belong to you?” he asked with a sardonic twinge.


“Yes,” she replied territorially, moving closer, into the moonlight where Fangline could see her. As Camilla and Fangline stared at each other over his possession, Al’bert couldn’t help feeling like this was a very bizarre night.


“Fangline,” said Al’bert, interceding. “I cannot go with you. My father doesn’t have an extra son lying about, so it wouldn’t bode well at all for the family. But…”


Trailing off for a moment, he watched Fangline, who was still so oddly self-possessed. Never had Fangline ever held such focus before. He was always highly talented and held great potential, but never had he been anything but unsure and unorganized. Al’bert found it ironic that Fangline would seem so solid and intent now that where he would go and do was entirely and utterly unknown.


“Write to me, Fangline,” he said to his friend. “Don’t disappear, please.”


Brilliant green eyes flashed at Al’bert, and his gaze held regard for him. Something within Fangline had entirely changed, but Al’bert had no idea what it could have been. He might have asked, but situations dictate the decision to pry, and he couldn’t shake the vague sense of fear Fangline was drawing from him, like when something becomes completely unpredictable and unstable, and you have no idea what it might do next.


“Of course I will, Al’bert,” Fangline said. He gave Camilla a glance and stepped back. Al’bert thought it was now that Fangline would leave until Camilla, although stubborn, made a noise behind him.


She ran upon Fangline, flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. He took her kiss, possessing it and relishing it for what it was. Al’bert watched, wholly unabashed, considering it his farewell as well.


The prince left them then, and Al’bert and Camilla stood outside for a long time listening to the sound of the wind in the treetops nearby.


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