This chapter reverts back to the point-of-view of Leila Moss.
The dining room was nearly full once everyone had come down. Aubré sat at the far end of the table and kept himself busy talking to Tobias. Brom was able to secure a seat next to Stefan, and Jean-Marc Sat across from him.
I was surprised, though, when Nikolai arrived, because he brought someone with him whom I hadn’t met before. The man looked pale and weary, and he was leaning heavily on Nikolai.
“Nikolai, really, you didn’t have to force him out of bed!” Jean-Marc exclaimed, rushing over to help the pale man to a nearby chair. “He is to be brought breakfast in bed for as long as it takes for him to recover.”
“It’s all right,” the man said breathlessly. “I want… I wanted to come down.”
“He heard that everyone else was coming down to have breakfast with Leila and her friends,” Nikolai explained. He sat down next to him and poured him some tea from a nearby pot. “I couldn’t stop him.”
The man accepted the sugar and cream from Jean-Marc and sighed contentedly when he finally took a sip. He looked like he was normally strong and quick-footed, and I hated to think about what had drained him so badly– and how Stefan would react to that.
“Lady Moss, I am pleased to inform you that one of our own has returned to us,” Jean-Marc said. “May I present to you Sir Maël Bayeux, otherwise known as the Blue Knight, in service to His Lordship. Maël, this young woman is Leila Moss, and these are her dear friends, Stefan, Larsa, and Killian.”
“A pleasure,” Maël said. “How blessed that… that your friends could join you.”
“Don’t over-exert yourself,” Jean-Marc reminded him, fussing over him as he buttered some toast and brought over a pot of jam. “You need to eat.”
“He’s normally all formalities and pleasantries,” Brom filled in as Jean-Marc asked Evander to have the staff start bringing out the platters.
“It’s all right,” I told him. “It’s… Sir Maël, It’s wonderful to meet you. I heard that you were on a quest to track down Brielle; I had no idea it would result in you coming into such harm.”
“Fear not,” he said as he finished off a piece of toast. “It proved to be worth it, in the end.”
“Worth it?” Stefan asked. “What happened to you?”
I gave Stefan a look that said he shouldn’t have asked so boldly, but he didn’t seem to care.
“I found her,” Maël said. “It took ages, and there were…”
“Let me tell it for you,” Nikolai said. “He followed a lot of false leads and rumors, but eventually he was able to track her down. He was mostly fine up until that point, but once he found her, that was where things got worse.”
“Where…” I breathed.
I paused as the staff came out with plates of eggs, sausages, potatoes, and so much more. There were also bowls of oatmeal, with the option to add cream and spices. I saw Tobias load his plate with cut fruit, and assumed that faerie-kind didn’t eat meat. Sir Maël, however, more than made up for that.
“She was in a cabin in a distant woodland,” Nikolai informed me.
“A cabin? But why?”
“She’d gone there with her beloved,” he said. “They couldn’t be together otherwise.”
“A tale of forbidden love?” Stefan asked. “Why couldn’t they be together?”
“Because her beloved is…” Maël paused to take a breath. “She is a vampire.”
I pursed my lips as I looked to Stefan to see his reaction. He wasn’t going to like this– especially if it meant that Maël had been harmed.
“Vampires…” Stefan eyes stayed locked on Maël. “I… Well, clearly we’re at a point where the more I hear, the more questions I have.” He took along drink from his mug and let one of the servants pour him more coffee. “I think I’m just going to listen to you tell it your own way while I eat.”
He was overwhelmed. That had always been the sign that he had more questions than he could even think to ask: he’d just sit back and listen for a long time. He’d save the questioning for later. As much as I felt bad that he was on edge, I was glad that he used that tactic instead of acting out.
“Allow me to tell you a bit more about Brielle before they explain more about recent events,” Brom said. “She learned to play cello from Maili Moss. When I saw the affection blooming between them, I warned Brielle that the people of Earth do not live as long as we do. She wouldn’t give her up, though.”
“She couldn’t give her up,” Tobias corrected. “Their love was powerful, and the music they wrote together was a gift that made our world thrive in more ways than Nikolai, Brom, and I had done combined.”
Nikolai nodded. “Maili refused to marry anyone back on Earth, and I’ve been told that’s an immense feat for her time. She lived longer than most humans of that era did, too, and she was always happiest when she was with Brielle. When she did pass away, Brielle was heartbroken.”
“But she… she found love again, right?” I asked.
Brom’s expression was not a hopeful one. “I have more to explain before I get to that. As I’ve said before, when a new Terran comes to our world, they arrive in the home of the most recent musician. The next Terran after Maili didn’t come for a very long time; I was almost worried that something had gone terribly wrong, and that we would have no new music. Or perhaps a Terran had visited, but had left right away without Brielle there to greet them; we cannot be certain. Nikolai, Tobias, and I would visit Brielle’s home from time to time in order to help her through her loneliness and play music with her. Caelan Moss appeared during one of my visits.”
“It’s wonderful that you were all there for her,” I said.
“I must admit, Brielle didn’t see it that way at the time,” Brom went on. “We would have supported her either way, but the fact is that we were in her home– rather than inviting her to one of ours– because the gateway between Earth and Tierney Ríocht was in her music room. We helped explain our world to Caelan, and he was incredibly kind to Brielle. In fact, when he learned that she’d never been able to find out where Maili had been buried, he helped her track down the plot.”
“Oh, I see,” Killian said. “Brielle couldnae attend her funeral, could she? She couldnae risk revealin’ their relationship.”
Tobias gave a sad nod. “It upset Brielle as much as losing her. I hadn’t needed to stay away from Finnegan’s grave or funeral, and Nikolai could attend Brendan’s as well.”
“Even for me,” Brom added, “bidding a final farewell to Ashleen wasn’t out of the question. But for Maili, all of us had to ensure that we didn’t arouse her family’s suspicion, and protect her reputation.”
“It wasn’t a good time for the people of that part of Earth,” Nikolai noted. “Thankfully, Caelan was far more understanding, and due to his kindness, they forged a friendship that helped her far more than the three of us had.”
“And in return, she helped him find me,” Maël said.
“Does that make you more obligated to help her since she’s missing?” Stefan wanted to know.
“Any of us would have helped find her,” Nikolai answered for him. “Sir Maël was simply the first to volunteer.”
“And when does this vampire come into the picture?”
“Brielle met Ingrid just a few years ago,” Tobias explained. “It was a chance meeting, a night festival up north. They were both smitten with each other right from the start. It was wonderful to see Brielle smile again.”
“But Ingrid was already a vampire at that time,” Nikolai said, “and she wasn’t supposed to be at that festival. She was hardly more than a fledgling, and she’d ignored her master’s orders to stay at the castle.”
“She didn’t obey him, of course,” Aubré said. It was a little surprising to hear him finally saying something, as he’d been in a sour mood all morning. “Ingrid snuck off to see Brielle whenever she could, and every time, her master took her away. If it hadn’t been for the fact that she’s one of our musicians, he might have ended her life.”
“Why can’t he just let them be together?” Larsa asked.
Maël smiled at him. “You still believe that love conquers all.”
“Well, it does!” Larsa insisted. “Don’t you believe in it, too?”
“I most certainly do,” he said, smiling still, even though he looked exhausted.
“That’s why he’s like that now,” Nikolai told us. “Ingrid and Brielle won’t give up on each other. She begged her master to turn Brielle, and for permission to do so herself. He refused every time. She even asked the lord of their bloodline.”
“A vampire lord…” I breathed. “And a castle…”
Brom nodded. “They were denied every time, until eventually they couldn’t bear it anymore.”
“What did they do?” I asked.
“They met in that cabin where I found them,” Sir Maël explained, “and Ingrid turned Brielle, even though it was against her master’s and her lord’s wishes.”