Lenore’s Plight

Lenore The young woman hurriedly walked up the stairs leading to the headmaster’s office, the warm sunlight shimmering through her auburn hair from the tall paned windows in the stairwell, glinting off her white masquerade mask under the delicate lace veil covering the entirety of her face.
She reaches the top floor and takes the few steps down the short hallway to the office of her former betrothed, pausing a moment to nervously correct an imagined wrinkle in her long green skirt and re-centering her shawl hanging loose behind her, the ends draped over her elbows. With a deep breath to calm herself, she extends her brown buckskin-gloved hand to gently knock on the heavy oak door.
After what seemed to be an eternity the door is opened by a sharply dressed bespeckled young woman with her dark hair tied in a large bun. Every aspect of this woman screamed “capable” and “professional” but never stern.
“Can I hel… oh! Lenore. Please come in.” said the woman as she opened the door wider to let her guest in.
“Hello Cyrilla.” said Lenore sheepishly, still finding the assistant headmaster rather intimidating despite having worked together at the school for the better part of a season. “Is Edmund in? I would like to speak with him please.”
Cyrilla walked to the headmaster’s door behind her desk, “Uh, yes. He’s in his office getting ready to travel to the Kingdom of Korstilla to see how the rescued royals are recovering. I’m certain he’ll make time for you.” She opens his door to peer inside, “Lord Edmund, Lenore is here to see you. Shall I let her in?”
Lenore hears his voice from within his office, “Huh? Oh! Yes please. I needed to speak with her anyway.” Cyrilla opens the door wider and motions for Lenore to step in.
“Thank you Cyrilla.” says Lenore as she moves towards the office but then the assistant headmaster gently places her hand on Lenore’s arm. Startled, she looks at Cyrilla.
“You can talk to me you know, anytime you need to and without the burden of position.” says Cyrilla, flashing a warm smile to Lenore. Lenore smiles back, grateful for the gesture before Cyrilla lets go. With a nod to Cyrilla, Lenore walks into the sparsely decorated office, more utilitarian than what would be expected of a noble, even a minor one such as Edmund.
“May I shut the door my lord?” asks Lenore as she steps in.
“Sure, by all means.” Edmund says, a touch of concern on his face. The headmaster, the man that would have been her husband and recently ennobled by the Archduke of Xelios stands waiting behind his desk. He was somehow more handsome than Lenore remembered, having matured greatly since arriving in Xelios. No longer the dreamy-eyed child that hung on her every word from childhood that could not see the woman she was but only the woman he wanted her to be, but now a man who overcame great obstacles to empower himself to nobility, found a school of magic, and make political connections at the sovereign level with multiple countries, even recently saving an entire continent from a near cataclysmic event with the help of his friends. His open desire to elevate his allies even to his own detriment in the eyes of those in power, regardless of their background, and his uncanny ability to turn his enemies into friends was astounding to her eyes. She couldn’t help but like the man he had become but deeply regretted what it took for that to happen. Despite all of this and the income he gained from owning and running a prestigious college of magic, the man couldn’t dress himself to save his life. Sure the clothing was of good quality and well made, but it was far less gaudy and trendy than what a noble would be expected to wear. Lenore could plainly tell that Edmund was unaccustomed to living like a noble, having only been one for less than a year.
Once the door was shut, Edmund continued, “And please, it’s just us. We can drop the title.” He motions for Lenore to have a seat as he sits down himself, “Also, I’m formally changing my name back to Edward. With our alliance with the Night Vale college in Korstilla, the need for the alias has now passed.” He pauses to look at Lenore, realizing that she’s still wearing the mask, “Did… did you channel void magic before coming here?”
Lenore looks down, her anxiety heightened with the question. She takes a moment before she answers, her voice lined with fear, “No. It’s been two days. It’s not getting better and Dr. Leslie doesn’t have an answer. Any spells I cast now are tainted and just make the corruption worse.” Lenore could feel the lump growing in her throat as she tries to maintain her composure.
“May I?” Edward asks, motioning to her mask as he moves another chair to sit in front of her. She nods slowly as he removes the mask. Her skin was pale as the grave while her eyes were jet black in their entirety. Her veins had darkened to a deep purple and were clearly visible while cracks in her skin spread like black tendrils of corruption from her eyes and mouth, giving her a monstrous appearance. Dark inky tears welled up in Lenore’s eyes as she looked up at Edward.
“I’m scared Eddy. All I ever wanted to be was a wizard like you and my father… but now….” She clutches her shawl tightly as she begins to sob, the tears staining it as she uses one end to wipe her face.
“It’s not your fault. Your father should have taught you as he taught me and I completely agree with you. You’re just as capable a wizard as I am and there’s no reason to deny you training just because you’re a woman. There are too few wizards in this world as it is and we need every able-bodied caster we can get. This was just as true in Clyfandraig as it is here in Suria.” said Edward, trying his best to be reassuring.
“I know, but if we can’t fix this, any magic I use will only make this corruption worse. Thanks to my choices, being the wizard I wanted to be will probably kill me… or worse.” With renewed distress she pleads, “I was a ghoul once Eddy, what if it happens again?”
Edward pauses to consider his words, “I don’t know Len, but I promise you we’ll figure it out. Your actions helped save my daughter, I’m not going to forget that. We will find a way to get you well again.”
Despite everything, Lenore knew he meant it. There was a shrewdness to him, a willingness to manipulate people that wasn’t there before and a dark side that haunted him, but she also saw someone who would risk life and limb to rescue a friend who only months before tried to kill him.
They sat in silence for what seemed an eternity before Lenore spoke again, “Why are you being so nice to me? I mean, it’s my fault Korgen threw you in the catacombs to begin with.”
Edward took a moment to carefully consider his words, “It’s because I get it. I understand why you sought out Korgen to teach you magic even though he was a necromancer. Your father certainly wasn’t going to do it. I love being a wizard, always have ever since I was a child. When your father took me in as an apprentice I was overjoyed! I couldn’t get enough and tried to learn everything I could, even though I nearly burned the house down that one time.” Lenore smiled briefly at the memory as she remembered the scolding he got from her father. “If someone tried to keep that from me I would be livid. I probably would have gone to Korgen myself.” Edward placed a reassuring hand on her knee, “I’m not going to pretend to know what it is like to be denied for something as irrelevant as gender on a constant basis, but I do know I won’t stand for it. Not at my school, not while I draw breath.”
“But the catacombs!? I had him send you there!” Lenore pleaded.
“There’s something you should know.” Edward answered, “I knew the whole time. Korgen couldn’t shut up about it. Every time I saw him he’d taunt me with the fact you wanted me out of the picture. That you specifically told him to lock me up with the ghouls. Yes, it hurt. A lot. What I had to do to survive… affected me in ways I can’t begin to….” Edward paused to compose himself, “Korgen also told me that he never planned to teach you any real magic, just the basics to keep you interested. To keep you around. All so you could be his sacrifice during the height of the dark moon, Rizan, when boundary between the natural world and the spirit world was at its thinnest. He was planning to summon something, though I don’t remember what it was. Yeah, you tried to have me killed but I knew I could handle myself. What he planned to do to you would have been far worse than anything those ghouls could have done.”
Lenore stared directly at Edward with those black eyes, in complete shock as to what she just heard. She unraveled everything he said, mentally going through the layers of information he just gave her. First the fact that he knew she tried to kill him, then the fact that her teacher had only taken her in to kill her, and then that Edward had saved her anyway after being horribly disfigured in the catacombs for months. She knew he wasn’t lying. Korgen had been planning something big for weeks before Edward dragged her out of there. There were things that Korgen did, objects he collected, that now made sense in light of this new information.
“Why didn’t you say anything before? Why tell me now?” asked Lenore in astonishment.
“There wasn’t time. I had planned to tell you after I healed some and got better but you and your father got sick. Too late your father and I realized I was carrying the ghoul fever though we didn’t know why I wasn’t showing symptoms. When you died and became a ghoul yourself it was obviously too late. As for why I’m telling you now? I just want you to know that no matter what happens, I have always had your back and still do.”
Lenore struggled to hold back her tears but managed to compose herself and wipe her face with her shawl. “Edward, I’m so very sorry for what I put you though. I wish I could have saw then the person I see now, things could have been so much different.”
Edward stopped her before she could continue, “I wasn’t the same person then. I was in love with the idea of you but I never actually knew you. I took for granted that you would be my wife because your father said so without ever considering what you wanted. I’m just as guilty as your father for denying you your agency. I drove you to Korgen just as surely as he did.”
Lenore slumped back in her chair, “You’re right but we both messed up and wishing that things were different doesn’t change what happened. That said, I… I like the new you. You encourage everyone regardless of who they are and you’re passionate about your craft. The fact that literally anyone can come here to learn magic is amazing. Kings and paupers, men or women, it doesn’t matter. I would have done anything to see that kind of inclusion back home.”
“It’s amazing what people can do when given the opportunity. Getting to know you again for the first time was… is… eye opening. It taught me not to judge people too harshly for nobody is the villain in their own story.” said Edward as he stands up, moving to pour some wine for the both of them. He offers Lenore a glass before sitting back down and taking a sip of his own.
Lenore swirled the wine around for a bit, pondering what to say next before taking a drink herself. “So what can we do about this corruption?” she says meekly as she motions to her face.
“Right now I have no idea but keep working with Dr. Leslie. She’s your best bet for now. Her knowledge of demons, undead, and the void far surpasses my own and she likes you.” he says before sipping his wine again. “Oh! Father Dante mentioned something about how his spiritual connection strengthened when the dimensional portals opened. Maybe he can help? I don’t know. His magic baffles me, the arcane analysis engine doesn’t even register when he does his blessings.”
Lenore’s face brightens at this, “Yvith’s blessings! Of course! I completely forgot about Father Dante.” She smiles down at her cup before taking another drink, “Thank you Edward, I feel better. I’m glad I came to talk to you. You’ve given me some measure of hope that I can recover from this… and that I can be better too. I think once this corruption is gone I might focus on earth magic. I had used it in the tower when we were looking for your daughter, Rasa, and found it to be rather to my liking.”
Edward raises his glass to Lenore and says with a smile, “That’s what I like to hear. I’m sure you’ll do well with it.” Lenore returns the gesture before they both finish their glasses.
She puts the glass on Edward’s desk as she stands up, “I should get going. I’d like to see Father Dante before he closes the chapel for the day.”
Edward stands as well, putting his glass next to Lenore’s on the desk. “Good luck Lenore. I sincerely hope he can help.”
Lenore beams him a smile with her dark cracked lips then leans in to give Edward a peck on the cheek. “Thank you Edward,” she says afterwards. She moves as if to say something else but thinks better of it before quickly putting her mask back on and hastily making her exit, leaving Edward stunned.
As she goes through the outer office door, Edward frowns, shaking his head before stepping out into the outer office. Cyrilla looks at him with a raised eyebrow after seeing Edward’s expression. “Is everything okay? She seemed in a much better mood than she came in with.” she asks inquisitively.
Edward closes the outer door before turning back to Cyrilla, pondering, “No… I don’t know. I may be reading too much into it.”
“Reading too much into what? Is there a problem with the corruption?” she asks.
Edward looks at his overqualified assistant directly in the eye, “I don’t know about her corruption but she kissed my cheek before she left.” He sits down in one of the guest chairs in front of Cyrilla’s desk, “I don’t want to get her hopes up for the wrong reason.” He turns towards Cyrilla and asks, almost pleading, “Is your offer to talk still open?”
She smiles reassuringly, “Of course.”

Published by Rav

Husband, Father, Designer, Artist, Writer, and Gamer.

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