Misty meanderings

Misty forestSigns and Portents
There, just on the edge of the clearing, I see it.  One long, lone branch in an otherwise fully dressed tree.  One bare branch, twisted a dozen different directions.  It points, menacing, I think, at what may have once been a path, but is now a testament to Nature’s ability to reclaim what Man has forgotten.
I want to forget the path, the branch, the reason that I am here, debating on this fine summer day.  I want to go back the way that I came, through the cool forest to sit at the sun-dappled brook and ponder nothing more serious than what it is burbling about.  What *I* want seldom if ever, enters into the equation.  I adjust my pack, grasp my staff an set foot on the once-upon path.
The path looks benign.  Actually, the ‘path’ looks virtually non-existent.  Were it not for the ancient oak and its’ sentinel branch, I would have overlooked it, and I am excellent at finding things, even, sometimes especially, those which have been hidden and likely ought to remain hidden.  That talent is what started this whole mess.
Princesses shouldn’t traipse through woods alone, unguarded.  Princesses shouldn’t want to go traipsing about like common drudges.  They should be content to sit and sew fine seams in their ever thinner wardrobes.  I loathe sewing.
Since I am a sixth princess, and we are rather thick on the ground in the neighboring kingdoms as well, I was allowed rather more latitude than some deemed strictly suitable.  They might look down their noses at my un-princess-like activities, but my simpering sisters were all too happy to absorb my share of the dress budget.  I was pleased to have the tutor all to myself, happily learning Latin and Maths and History.  The good friar who taught me was even pleased with me, even if I was ‘only’ a girl.
Friar was pleased, until he was called away on a religious matter.  The various sects had been so consistent about arguing their finer points amongst themselves they hardly knew what or why they were arguing, but it was all very important, at least to them.  As the typical tutors, all religious, were gone, another was appointed in his place.  It was thus that Florian came into our lives.  Tall, willow-thin, long haired, green-eyed Florian.  No-one ever dared ask if he was an elf, they just looked at his up-tilted yellow-green eyes and nodded.  They looked at his incredibly long thin fingers and they whispered.  They wondered if his nearly supernatural hearing was because his ears weren’t round like ours, but pointed, helping him to hear mischief makers before they could catch him.
I had seen his ears, once, briefly, in the course of a discussion. I am certain that he meant me to see – but it was never mentioned. They were perfectly normal (mischief makers are seldom quiet, to their own detriment) right up to where they pointed gently back at the very tip.
It was Florian who had me dig up all the old family histories, looking through old journals and tracing ancestors long forgotten.  Every family has its secrets, and mine was no exception.

My great-great grandfather Girard, of whom little is said, and less good, seemed to have created quite a mystery.  His father Donatien was one who went on campaign with the religious and never came back, back when nobles would chance riding to the fanatical wars.  His mother, the lovely Giselle (having seen her portraits, she was) was reputed to be flightly, and left Girard when her husband left for the wars, leaving Girard with a largish fortune and his own devices.  Girard was a happy sort, in spite of apparently being completely abandoned.  He like to laugh, and kept a good table.
A Company appeared one spring from foreign parts, but no-one managed to hear where exactly they had come from; some thought east, some south.  They were well dressed and well-countenanced, as a chamberlain bemoaned their affect on the servant girls and pages alike. The Company stayed for some time, and became quite close to Girard, whose ever more lavish parties nearly bankrupt the family.  It is murky, because many of the papers of the time were muddied or missing, but it seems much more than a friendship was struck up.  There is a notation in the household accounts of Girard’s wedding to a F[name undecipherable] with no last name or province listed.  In time, the accounts show three children being born, my great-grandfather Hugh and a pair of twins.  The wife and twins seem to have disappeared with the Company shortly after Girard broke his neck in a riding accident.
We have an entire Hall of family portraits, and a wing in the attic contains a further collection.  None of them show the mysterious F or the twins.  Hugh has several portraits, as a youth, with his wife and children and later with grandchildren.  Girard’s sole portrait hangs in shame in the attic.
My great-great grandfather was less the fool than legend tells.  While certainly entertaining the Company cost a great deal, others at the same time period were loosing far more money through an assortment of disasters.  The chamberlain frets that the suffering neighbors will be come envious and come to take Girard’s prosperity, but they were never attacked.
One rainy day, I was poking rather more than usual into corners of the attic, hoping to find something new, something old, anything different.  Lessons were done outside, where we could wander, while we talked.  Florian did not take well to being closeted indoors and he had dismissed me as nothing could be accomplished while we were both out of sorts.  Tucked behind a rafter, in a corner of the oldest section of the house was a small box.  It contained a book of tales, a book of recipes, and tucked into the pocket of an ancient cloak, a journal.  In the back of the journal, on fine, smooth wood is a family portrait; Girard, a beautiful woman, and three children, one of whom is clearly a young Hugh.  Girard’s wife, the mysterious ‘F’, and the twins all have delicate tips on the top of their ears.

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