The House of the Seventh Minuet LXXX

“‘Please’?”, I repeated. “Why– why would… ‘Please’ what?”

She shook her head. “I have no idea,” she admitted. He didn’t say anything else, I’m sure of that. And nothing else happened. That was when I woke up.”

“That’s really eerie, Leila,” I told her. “I don’t know why, but that’s just…”

“I know,” she agreed in a faint voice. “I actually feel the same way. Not exactly creepy, but… I don’t know uncanny?”

“Have you ever dreamed about Blackthorne before?”

She shook her head. “I hadn’t thought about him for years. I mean, he was familiar when you asked about him the other day, so it was really strange that I dreamed about him after you reminded me about him. I can’t imagine or even so much as speculate as to what he would want. I mean, he was always really really gothic, and you said he still is, but I don’t think he ever saw vampires as more than stories and movies and stuff like that. He’s not one of the type to take it more seriously.”

“You mean he never believed he was one,” I filled in for her.

She smirked.

“Leila,” I said after a few silent moments, “that note you had the other day…”

“Stefan, please,” she said. Her voice was soft and weak, but still pleading.

“I know you probably don’t want to talk about it,” I said gently, “but please hear me out. Do you think if there really were vampires somewhere, he would want to associate with them? Maybe not become one, but be an ally to them?”

She laughed nervously, and it came out a little bit choked, as though she were trying to be dismissive of it. As though it were ridiculous. “Stefan, really?”

“Leila,” I said, trying not to let any frustration into my voice, but finding that more difficult. “That note you got the other day… it mentioned vampires, remember? Please don’t say it didn’t.”

“I…” she was hesitating again, and I worried about what she was going to say, or how she was going to turn it around.

“Leila, I wish you felt as though you could talk to me about anything. Why is this so difficult for you?

“Stefan…” she said my name again. “I just…”

“Is there some sort of danger you’re not telling me about? What are you trying to keep from me? If you talk to me, I can help you. I want to be there for you, Leila.”

The green eyes that stared up at me were pleading. She looked ready to tear up. I brushed a lock of hair back.

“But…” Her voice was shaking. “Well…”

I propped myself up on one arm. “Leila, would you rather I not be so close to you? If you don’t want me involved in your life… I’m sorry, I just thought you wanted me to be there for you.”

Stefan,” she said again. It was starting to remind me of the way people try to break bad news to someone, but were having a hard time.

The way she couldn’t open up to me at all had my heart racing. I sat up more. “Please, Leila, please just be honest with me.”

But instead of doing as I asked, she pursed her lips and just kept staring at me.

I frowned. “Okay,” I sighed. “It’s okay.” I turned around and swung my legs over the side of the bed. Not in a rush, not angrily, but I felt as though I couldn’t stay there with her nuzzled against me like that.

She said my name again, more pleading, but still I stood up and turned around to face her. “Leila, is one of the people who wrote you that note out there in that room?”

“What?” she asked.

“There’s people out in the main room, talking. You don’t hear them?”

She paused for a moment to listen. She could hear the voices. I still could, and I was a little further from the door. And were still at least three of them.

“Oh…”

I took a few steadying breaths before I said anything more. “Leila, it’s okay. I just want you to talk to me. We’re friends, right? That doesn’t have to change just because you’ve met somebody. I want you to be able to tell me anything that’s going on with your life. Just like I’d tell you about mine.”

“Wait, you think– Oh my god, Stefan, it’s not like that!”

“It’s okay if it is. I want you to be happy, Leila. And I’m still your friend no matter what. How many times these past few days have I asked you for the truth?”

“Stefan,” she said again, desperation weighing it down, and I felt like I’d had more than enough.

“I didn’t think it would ever be like this with you,” I told her. “I thought we’d always be there to tell each other about what was going on in our lives. Even if it was something like this, Leila. Am I really still someone who wouldn’t believe in what’s going on right now?”

“Just…. Just give me a minute,” she said. “I just woke up, And–“

“Sure, yeah, take your time.” I told her. “I’ll be out in the main room when you’re ready to talk.” And I walked out, closing the door behind me with a soft click.

There were three men standing in the room. One was the French-sounding man I’d met the night before, but the other two I didn’t recognize. One of them had long red hair, and long ears.

Okay, I told myself. So there are elves in this world.

One of the other men, who wasn’t there right now, was a fairy, so why not elves? The sight of the other man, however, had my hair standing on end. He was tall, dressed in shades of gray and white, and had a pair of horns curling around his head. My thoughts went immediately to the night at the dance club. I didn’t think this was the same guy, but he seemed like the same kind. I glared at him. I admit it. Even though he had this air of kindness and some sort of refinement, I didn’t want to trust him.

“Oh, good morning!” Jean-Marc greeted me, trying to sound cheerful even though he very well noticed that I was not pleased at that moment. “Gentleman, this is Stefan, one of Leila’s close friends. Stefan, I would like to introduce to you Aubré, another of our musicians, and our dear friendly faun, Evander.”

I crossed my arms over my chest and stared at them. “Yeah,” I said, “okay. So you three are out here talking about Leila, even though she’s in there trying to sleep?”

“Did she not just wake up?” Jean-Marc asked. “I thought I heard the two of you talking; I didn’t hear what either of you were saying, just your voices in general.”

“And I could hear you three,” I pointed out. “I don’t know if she woke up because she heard you too, or if she would have woken up anyway. I just don’t understand why you three think it’s okay to be in here while a young woman is sleeping.”

The red-haired elf narrowed his eyes at me, clearly not pleased by my tone. I probably wouldn’t have been pleased with him if he’d use that tone with me, but then again I hadn’t been taken from my world and put in another one, and then been expected to help said world without a full explanation of what that might entail.

“You’re taking exception with us being out here,” the elf snapped back, “but you were actually in her room? Not only that, but in bed with her. We all saw, so don’t try to deny it.”

“I don’t even know whose bed I was sleeping in earlier this morning,” I told him, my tone just as irritated as his, “but I wasn’t going to continue sleeping in there when I had no idea where Leila was or how she was doing. She must have curled up against me while we were sleeping, because when I first went to her, I’d given her her space.”

The elf didn’t seem entirely impressed with my reply, but he didn’t really get a chance to say anything, because the one with the dark horns and silver eyes spoke next. “Actually, that was my bed. You’re quite welcome to it while you’re h–“

“You?!” I snapped, pretty much hissing, too. “You have a bed in Leila’s chambers? Are you the one who’s been sending those notes? Why don’t you have your own room? Why–” But I was starting to feel too drained to want to talk. I wasn’t really in the mood anymore. What was the point in being upset with him if he already had a bed that was just one living room away from her?

He blinked as he listened to my admitted barrage of questions. He replied to only one of them. “The notes? Do you mean the pieces of the ballad that I sent her? I’m glad they got to her. I sent those, yes.”

“It’s a ballad?” I asked, my tone still grumpy. “Did you write it?”

The elf chortled, and I glared at him. He glared back.

“You’re clearly too upset about the situation to think logically,” the elf told me. “How much of it have you even read? Obviously he didn’t write it. He’s just been sending her parts that he’s taking the time to copy down from the original.”

I felt my eyebrows knitting together. “You couldn’t just give her the original?”

“I’m afraid not,” the horned one replied. “I would have liked to, of course. But I don’t think that it would fare very well in your world.”

“Do you have an excuse for everything?” I asked him.

“Stefan,” a voice said from the doorway. I turned to see Leila slipping through, entering the main room. She walked up to my side. “I was really hoping you two would get along. I know Aubré takes a little more getting used to, but Evander is one of the nicest people here.”

“‘Nice,'” I repeated, realizing even as the word left my lips that it was pretty much coated in acid. “Did you forget the night of my debut? A creature just like him accosted you.”

“That was a satyr,” Leila told me; I don’t know why she thought that made a difference. “Evander is a faun.”

I sighed heavily. “I don’t know how you manage to see a difference between those two, but seeing as how you haven’t denied having been accosted by someone, I can’t understand why you’ve taken such an interest in someone of the same type as the one who was trying to be inappropriate with you.”

Leila’s expression was a mixture of concern and frustration. “You’re misinterpreting again,” she told me. “Evander is not–“

“Whatever you’re about to tell me, Leila,” I interrupted, “just let it be the truth.”

“I’m trying to tell you the truth, Stefan,” she said.

“Lady Moss,” Evander said, his tone somehow calm and even, as though it were so easy for him to be the sensible one. Just then, I didn’t want to like him. “Would it be best if I escorted him back to the door to Earth?”

“Don’t even think about it!” I snapped. “I’m not leaving without Leila and our friends. And definitely not without the assurance that all of you will leave us alone from now on.”

He ignored me and met Leila’s eyes instead.

“It’s all right,” Leila told him. She stepped up to my side and took my hand. “I’d rather have him here with me.”

“It shall be as you wish,” he said. “Might I asked then, if you need anything more for your wound?”

“Oh, it’s–“

“What wound are you talking about?” I asked. “How do you know what–” I stopped when I realized which one he must have been talking about. “You mean her arm, don’t you?”

I looked between the two of them. “It wasn’t really thorny branches, was it?” Evander seem to realize that it was best that he not talked just then. I stared down at Leila. You lied to me about that, didn’t you?”

“Stefan…”

“No,” I said. “I don’t want to hear it. Stop saying my name, stop trying to explain everything away.”

“But–“

“Just tell me what actually happened!” I knew I sounded a lot harsher then I’m maybe should have. But it was yet another lie she’d told me, and yet another danger she’d kept from me. What else was I supposed to do?

About Legends of Lorata

Eleanor Willow is the author of the high fantasy series Legends of Lorata, which takes place on a medieval-style world filled with elves, dragons, and faeries. There is also a fourth race, one that is rare and magical: the angelic Starr. Lorata is a planet where four gods are known: good, evil, elemental and celestial-- and there are plenty of legends about them all! One of the most important ones is the prophecy of Jenh's champion, Loracaz, who is promised to return to the land whenever evil threatens to take hold. There are currently three books completed, and the first one can be read online. Book four is currently being written, and a fifth will most likely be in the future. Any news I have on about publishing will be shared as it comes in!
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