Copyright © 2017 Rachel C. Lightfoot. All rights reserved.
Chadwick had just settled into his favorite chair by the fire when a knock came at the door, urgent and insistent. Strange. It was rare for him to have visitors, especially this time of year with the Glen’s spring rains. Anyone who would normally drop by should have been safe at home, out of the constant damp.
But the knocking came again, and he realized it couldn’t be a trick of his mind. It was far too regular for that.
With a sigh he set his cup of tea down and made his way across the room. His brow furrowed immediately at who he saw waiting on him. “Geoffrey?”
“Hello brother,” the elder said as he pushed past him to get inside, not caring how much or how little rainwater he tracked in.
Chadwick, however, minded. His brow still furrowed as he tried to process what was happening. “What are you doing here?”
“Can’t a man drop in on his baby brother without a reason?” Geoffrey took no time making himself at home, settling into the vacated chair as he reached for the waiting cup of tea. “I swear though, you never have anything good to drink. Only this blasted tea.”
“Hey!” He grabbed the cup away before he could finish the last of it, looking down sadly at what remained. “You could have asked for your own.”
“But why wait? It was there, and I’m cold from a long ride.”
Chadwick ignored his placating smile and stepped into the kitchen with a sigh, coming back a few moments later with a second cup and the kettle. “Not the best day for riding.”
“No. But it couldn’t be helped.” He took another swig, this time from his freshly made cup.
“Something big happening in Court?”
“You could say that.” He raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you’re tempted to get involved. I always told you, it would happen eventually, but you never would-”
“No, Geoffrey,” he shook his head as he took up the second chair. “But I know you. You wouldn’t be out in this kind of weather for anything short of some game at Court.”
“I’m telling you, if you’d only apply those deduction skills, you’d do quite well with the dance.” But he set his cup down, leaning back. “Mandibar’s dead.”
Chadwick’s eyes grew wide. He hadn’t heard that name for decades. “I didn’t think anyone even kept in touch with him still. Don’t tell me you-”
“No, no.” He waved him off. “Don’t worry, I haven’t spoken to him since the war. Some rumors from the lesser fae reached the Hunting Grounds, and from there, Court. Naturally, a few were curious and wanted to investigate.”
“I take it you were one of them?”
Geoffrey smiled. “What would give you that indication? But yes. I went with a few other sidhe to Mandibar’s home, only to find it in tatters as the rumors said.” Taking up the cup again, he looked over the rim to him. “Something big crashed through a wall. Everyone figures the Kait did it, and the lesser fae that will talk aren’t denying it.”
He sat up straighter, tense. “You don’t think it’s trying to lash out at people who wronged it during the war, do you? That would mean you’re-”
“This long afterwards?” He shook his head emphatically. “No. If I were to take a guess, I’d say Mandibar did something more recent than that to make it target him. Either way, he’s dead, and by the looks of it he’s been dead for a while.”
Somehow, that did little to comfort him. “And that has you out riding in the rain?”
“In a way, yes.” He helped himself to another cup of tea. “You’ve heard the different rumors surrounding Alvarie’s necklace, right?”
“You’ve brought them up before, yeah.” Surely he didn’t believe them though. Geoffrey had always been a practical man. Putting stock in rumors was a stretch for him unless he’d been drinking and someone took the chance to swindle him.
“Well, I’m wondering if there might be some truth to them.”
Chadwick shook his head slowly, not even realizing he was doing it. “You can’t be serious.”
“But I am.” He sighed when the incredulous look continued. “Chadwick, you don’t know what it’s like in Court. How easy it is to slip out of favor.”
“I think I know quite well, actually. We were both trained there, weren’t we?”
“But you weren’t there as long.”
“Because I didn’t prove to be useful. I fell out of favor, you didn’t.”
“Haven’t,” he corrected. He looked down into his cup, refusing to look up at him when he answered. “I doubt my position is as secure as you seem to think. I haven’t climbed higher in the ranks for years.”
That came as a surprise to him. “But you haven’t fallen, either, have you?”
“No,” he admitted, finally looking up. “But at times that’s worse than falling. Because it means that no one sees me as a threat anymore. That it’s safe to leave me where I am.”
“Maybe they’re afraid to challenge you?” he offered, trying to get him to cheer up.
“Maybe.” He shook his head. “But I have my doubts, and I don’t like feeling this precarious. So I need to secure my place before it’s too late.”
“And you think chasing after rumors from the lesser fae will help you do that?”
“Maybe,” he said again before a glint caught in his eye and he edged forward in his seat, instantly more animated. “Unless, of course, you’re willing to help me with that.”
He stiffened. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t have anything important to do, right?”
He knew they could argue over that, but he’d inevitably lose. Best to jump ahead and get it over with. “You want me to go hunt after the necklace for you?”
Geoffrey smiled. “If you would, yes.” Catching the way he twitched as if to speak, he added, “It means a lot, Chadwick. More than you realize. And it would help keep my hands free at Court. You know how important that is.”
“But what if I do have other plans?”
He stammered for a moment before saying, “It’s hypothetical!”
“Chadwick, please?” He leaned forward, eyes hinting at hidden sorrow. “You know what my standing means to me. It was a miracle I hung on after Alvarie died. Look what happened to Mandibar! And I was just as close to her as he was.”
He doubted that, which made his quest for the necklace seem more odd. “I don’t think you’ll get kicked out of Court for that now.”
“But you never know. I might. You know how fickle sidhe politics are.”
He sighed, shaking his long hair out of his face. “So where is it?” Quickly he waved off Geoffrey’s excitement. “I’m not saying I’m helping you find it. I’m just asking a question. A hypothetical question,” he clarified. No sense in getting his hopes up.
“It’s hard question to answer.”
He held up his hands. “I’m not trying to make this difficult. The problem is, no one knows where it is. Mandibar’s been gone for some time, the way things looked. Who knows how many people passed through between now and then? And any one of them could have taken the necklace for themselves. Of course,” he shrugged, “you’d think we would have heard about it by now.”
No wonder Geoffrey was trying to pass this off on him – he hadn’t a clue where to start and didn’t want to waste endless time looking for it. “Well, where do you think it might be?”
“I’m not sure, but Mandibar’s castle might be a good place to start. Unless you want to follow up on every rumor you come across.” He shrugged. “But that could take awhile. You know how the lesser fae are. Wouldn’t want to be caught up in months of adventure, now would you?”
He sighed. “So you want me to go to there and poke around until I find something?”
“Not until you find something,” he corrected. “I want you to keep looking until you’ve found the necklace.”
“Or a lead?”
“The necklace,” he said again. “Though I’d say any leads you follow will get you closer to that.”
Chadwick still didn’t like it. Geoffrey was right about one thing, he might be searching for months on end, something best avoided even in good weather. “I don’t even own a horse,” he countered.
Geoffrey smiled, knowing he’d already won. Even if Chadwick started putting up more of a fight now, he’d not be able to stall for too much longer. “That’s easily fixed, you realize. But maybe the bigger question is, do you know how to ride one?”
“Of course I do!” He retorted. “Do you think I forgot everything Dad taught us when we were kids?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “You spent the whole time complaining. I wasn’t sure how much sunk in, and how much went right out your head the moment you got back to Mother’s kitchen.”
He sighed. There was a fight that could go on forever… “So you’ll help me get one?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Oh Chadwick, do you really think life’s supposed to be easy? I can’t keep doing everything for you.”
“You’ve done nothing for me!” Geoffrey raised an eyebrow, waiting. “Ok. Some things. But not in this moment. Other than come in and drink my tea, then talk about sending me on a pointless quest.”
“It won’t be pointless, baby brother,” he reassured him. “I can tell there’s greatness in store for you if you help me with this.”
“You can keep your greatness. I’m quite happy where I am, right here by this fireside.”
“Chadwick, you disappoint me.” He leaned towards him, wounded. “I come to you, asking for help, and you refuse to do anything.”
“I never said that.” He shook his head.
“Then you will help?” He let his voice take on a hopeful lilt.
Chadwick looked at his brother, uncertain. He knew that odds were good he’d regret saying yes later, but if he needed his help… Could he live with that guilt?
As he continued to look him up and down, his mind raced, going over the different possibilities. He loved his brother, even if he only came by every so often to ask for an outlandish favor. And that’s why it was hard to say no: Love. It bound them together, the same way their shared blood did but stronger. Watching him act so troubled and torn, Chadwick knew he couldn’t refuse. The last wall of his resistance crumbled away. He sighed.
“So what should I do when I find this necklace?”
Geoffrey smiled warmly, trying not to let his true enthusiasm shine through. No sense in wounding his pride. “You can still find your way to Court, can’t you? I’m sure no one would give you much trouble if you tell them I sent for you.”
“I thought you were worried about your power crumbling?”
“I am. But you’re my brother. No one would bat an eye if you came to visit. I’d just about bet on it.”
That still didn’t bring much comfort, but he didn’t press on as he brought the cup to his lips. “So about that horse.”
Geoffrey barked a laugh. “You’d be better off without one this time of year. Good chance it would slip and break a leg the moment you hit Glen Proper.” He noticed his brother’s hesitation. “But I’ll see what I can do to have one sent by morning.” The man shifted towards the edge of the chair, all but bouncing. “Anything else?”
Of course there were other things he would have liked to know, but just from the twitching bounce in Geoffrey’s foot he knew it was pointless asking. “No. I think I’ve got it.”
“Great.” He smiled again, standing. “I’ll leave you be, then.”
“You’re riding back in the rain?” Part of him wasn’t too upset. He might get to drink his tea in peace. Grimly, he realized it would probably be the last time he’d be able to in the near future. Tea wouldn’t keep well on the road, not in this season.
“Have to. Already been away longer than I meant to be. Rain slowed me down.” As he reached for the doorknob, he turned to glance back at him with a small smile. “I hope to see you again sooner rather than later.” Then he was gone.
Chadwick spent a while staring into his cup after Geoffrey’s departure, mulling things over. The longer he sat, the more his head seemed to stop spinning. Always seemed like it did that when Geoffrey was around, spin endlessly… But now he could breathe. Accept what had happened. A quest. In Glen Proper. He shuddered. Never a place he’d thought he’d go again, not after Geoffrey stopped dragging him along on business a few centuries ago.
As the hours passed and the fire died down, he rose from his chair with a sigh. He should, at least, make preparations. Find ways to make life on the road a little less miserable, hoping they would be enough to last him until he could return home again.