This chapter returns to the point of view of Leila moss.
I watched Stefan storm out of the room. He ignored me when I called after him. I watched Jean-Marc hurry to follow him. I heard them as they rushed through the halls and down the stairs. I tried to chase them as well, but Evander gripped my hand.
“Lady Moss,” he said calmly, “perhaps it is best that we give him some space.”
I shook my head. My face was soaked with tears. My chest felt tight. I could hardly see. Evander was hardly more than a gray blur in front of me. “No…” I breathed, my voice shaking even with that one singular syllable. “I can’t let him go.”
“He’ll be all right”, Evander assured me.
I looked up at him. “Will he, though? I think I’ve done something terrible. I went about this all wrong. Evander, he thinks… He thinks that you and I are… Evander where were you last night? I– I couldn’t ask for you, because I was worried about what he’d think when I asked after someone specific here, and he’s already on edge. I was going to introduce you guys and explain… God, now I think I’m making everything even worse!”
“I went to visit my wife,” he told me.
“Your… your wife?”
He nodded. “It’s been weeks since I’ve seen her. She sent word that she was fertile, so I went to her without delay.”
“Oh… I didn’t realize… Wow… I’m sorry… I should have gotten to know you better. That’s… Is that good news? “
“It’s wonderful news, Lady Moss,” he said, smiling warmly, “and you needn’t be sorry. I am at your service.”
He pulled the handkerchief from his breast breast pocket and dabbed my cheeks with it.
“You’ve mentioned Stefan to us before, haven’t you? Perhaps not by name, but I can see that he’s someone very important to you.”
“You got all that from him storming out on us?”
Evander nodded. “He’s clearly beyond worried about you.”
I nodded. It felt like my whole body was shaking, so I’m nod sure how perceptible it was to him. “I… we… Evander I don’t think we should let him get a very far alone. I need to apologize to him. But I also… It’s time that I get more of an explanation, too.”
“As you see fit. Milady. May I suggest, though, that I help you find suitable shoes first?”
“Yeah… ok we probably should.”
I went back into the bedroom, and Evander opened the chifforobe to help me find something to wear. I didn’t have time for a dress, so I pulled a pair of leather pants over my pajamas and took the simplest boots he could find.
We headed downstairs and out to the stables, where the stable-master was already preparing a horse for Jean-marc. I rushed past him to looked out the back door of the stables. Sleipnir was out in the corral, running in circles around the other horses, and–
“Woah!” I froze in place. “Is… That’s a moose!”
Evander nodded. “He’s quite friendly, milady. Would you like him to take us to follow Stefan?”
“I… Wow, I didn’t know– Well, I should have guessed your stable-master could look after something that big! But he wasn’t here last time.”
“Indeed he wasn’t, milady.” Evander walked over to the moose to pet the side of his neck. “He usually roams the woods around the village I come from. We rode here early this morning.”
“He’s amazing! But… Actually, for now, I’d like to take Sleipnir. Stefan would love to meet him.”
“Of course, milady. I’m sure he will be glad to see you again. Go ahead and call to him.”
I nodded, then walked further past the moose. “Sleipnir!” I called, waving my arms. “Want to go on a run?”
The eight-legged horsed stopped chasing the centaur he’d been after. He huffed a few times, presumably looking me over, then whinnied excitedly. He wasted no time in running up to me and lowering his head to press his forehead to mine. I was a little taken aback, but managed to keep my footing.
“Yeah, I missed you, too. We need to go help a friend of mine, Sleipnir. Oh, he’ll be so happy to meet you!”
Argos caught up to us a moment later. “Oh, Lady Moss, welcome back!”
Evander let him know that we were in a hurry to find Stefan before he got lost or hurt. A moment later, they helped me onto Sleipnir’s back. Argos carried Evander and led us around to the front of the house. Jean-Marc was already there with his horse, an ivory mare with a pale golden mane and spots of gray on its mane.
“Did you see which way he went?” Evander asked when we were all riding alongside one another.
“Bien sûr,” Jean-Marc replied. “He went due south, right along this road. I doubt he’ll stray far from it, what with him being barefoot.”
“It’s a bit cold out for that,” Argos noted.
“Stefan has a high tolerance level,” I informed him. “He’ll be torn and bloody before he admits that this was a bad idea.”
We pressed onward. Evander could see the slightest signs of the soft grass on the side of the road having been trampled; at least Stefan was somewhat trying not to hurt himself. We kept moving, following the curve of the road. There was a small wooded area ahead, and I caught a glimpse of golden hair flowing on the breeze and Stefan ran over the grass between the road and the trees.
“He didn’t get too far,” Argos said as he watched.
We slowed our pace a little bit. “Heh… He could have gotten farther if he really wanted to. I’m sure his tactic changed one he heard hoof-beats.”
“He’s a determined young man, isn’t he?” Jean-marc noted.
“That’s one of the things that makes him so wonderful,” I replied with a sigh. “I shouldn’t have gotten him so frustrated. Could I ride ahead and talk to him? I, ah…”
“You need not explain it to us, Lady Moss,” Evander said. “It is enough that you have made up your mind. We shall await you here.”
I nodded to him in thanks, then rode Sleipnir out over the grass. He strolled over to the edge of the woods and knelt down so that I could get off of his back more easily.
“Thank you,” I whispered to him, caressing his cheeks. “Stay here and enjoy the grass, okay? I think I saw some yarrow flowers, too.”
Sleipnir huffed agreeably and nudged me over to the tree-line. Although the day was bright and clear, the woods I walked into were cool and shaded. I called out Stefan’s name and I slid between bushes and ducked under branches, but the only thing I could hear in return were the sounds of nature.