"The Hunter's Moon"

written by kris-et-dan

Authors' notes:
And thus, the fifth chapter! A bit more of the manor's history comes into view, allowing the story to unfold a little bit more, as well as another character... Also, I apologize, but the chapters won't be getting any shorter in length. However, I hope this won't hold much bearing on you continuing to read the story! Anyways, onnward, to the fifth chapter!

'fifth chapter - waxing gibbous I'

Renee peered through a window, watching John as he worked outside in the last rays of the sun. The past few days since her moon-viewing with Aldric, he would get up before her and work all day, even though there was little left to work on where he was. She sighed and walked down the stairs and out the back door to stand on the porch. "John!" she called, a light frown on her lips. "You are going to overwork yourself! Please come inside and rest."

John turned, shirt soaked through. He looked almost surprised to see her talking to him. " Neya, I'm fine. I'll come in when sup' is ready."
"Non, you will come in now," she said sternly, almost like a mother, hands positioned on her hips. "You have done more than enough work for today."

He was still as a statue before he stalked over, almost reproachfully, though he did smile meagerly as he passed. "I'll, er, take me a bath, then."
Renee's expression lit up, eyes and voice full of innocence as she asked, "Oh? Do you need me to get Monsieur Aldric, then?"

"Er, neya. I'll ge' it. Dooant thee botha wi' it." He rubbed his nose with a dirty finger, smearing it onto his face. "Er, I'll see thee a' supper then. Er, 'bye." The large man hurried off through one of the doors from the entrance room.

Renee turned to watch him leave and looked a little desolate. There was something wrong, but she wasn't sure what, exactly. She bit on her lower lip as she thought about it, but when she came up with nothing, she sighed and sat down in a nearby chair. If she was to assume the best and that he wasn't using her, was it all right for her to wonder what happened to him protecting her? How was he supposed to keep her from harm if he wouldn't look her in the eyes or talk to her? She supposed it would be possible, but it'd be a very sad and lonely protection.

It was at dinner that Aldric announced, as he was setting out the main course, that he would be staying in bed the next day. "I am afraid I will be bedridden tomorrow. I felt the beginnings today, but I know it'll be bad tomorrow. It always is." Even so, he smiled serenely. "And as such, I hope you will be able to get along without me. Please feel free to go to town and eat there if it pleases you."

John glanced up, despite his latest habit of steadfastly looking at his food as he ate during the meals he attended.

"Oh, non!" Renee smiled, thinking that it would be a great opportunity to clean more things. "Please, focus on your health. Monsieur John and I will take care of the manor, so do not worry." Her gaze flicked over to look at John. "Unless you have other plans..."

He hurriedly shook his head. "Neya I dooant!"

"Wonderful..." Aldric said with a light frown. "I hope tomorrow will be sunny so you will be able to do what you please."

The following day was not as Aldric had predicted. It was the complete opposite, actually. The sky was filled with thick dark clouds, heavy with rain, which poured heavily on the manor. There was a light accompanying breeze, but it was chill and cool.

"Er.." John started at the breakfast table. There was a supply of hot oatmeal he had found and cooked, per Aldric's instructions. they had turned out fine, though some butter and honey were not amiss. "Looks li' a bad day..." he sad conversationally.

"Outside, perhaps, but it does not have to be inside." She turned in her chair, seated across the table from him, and frowned. "John... are you mad at me? You seem to not want to even look at me, much less speak to me." She looked down at her hands. "I am sorry for how I treated you a few days ago, so I understand if you are angry with me still."

He stared at her before turning away. "Neya..." He fidgeted in his seat, large fingers playing with the silver spoon. "I... I... I knew thee were mad a' me, An' I'd be too, if I'd done wha' I'd done t' thee... Sa... I just knew tha' if thee..." he broke off. "I di'n't do a right gran' job protectin' thee e'en though I said I 'ould... I let thee down, an'-an' I thowt tha' thee'd ratha I just wasn't aroun'"

Renee gave a small sigh, giving herself a chance to figure out the words that had rattled out of the man's mouth. "I will be honest... I was very hurt that you let go of my hand and left me behind because I was absolutely frightened at the time, but you did not have a way of knowing that something would happen." She shook her head. "Non, for that, I do not hold a grudge. I am still unsure of whether or not I can trust you, but Monsieur Aldric told me that I should not believe everything strangers tell me." She nodded to reassure herself. "So I suppose I trust you again, in that case..."

He couldn't help the happy grin as he leant over the table to her, full of youthful vigor. "Really? Tha's great, tha' is!" He quickly finished off his bowl. " Wha' doa thee want t' do afta' this, mm?"

Renee smiled sheepishly. "Oh, nothing that Monsieur Aldric would approve of, or would interest you."

The man's grin grew wider. "Ah? Wha's it, mm?"

"Just cleaning." Her smile became a happy one. "Monsieur Aldric tells me I am not supposed to, but there is something extremely satisfying to step back and look at all that you have accomplished."

The grin was gone. "Well, where thee goin' t' start then, mm?" He sat back down, looking almost dejected.

Renee noted the vanished grin and dejected look and returned it with her own. "Forgive me... did I say something wrong?"

John waved it off with a heavy hand. "Neya. It's nothin'. So where are thee goin' t' do this cleanin'?"

"Actually, I have been wanting to work on the late Master's study, but I am worried that I might break something. Everything in there seemed so delicate the last time..." She sighed. "So, I suppose I will work on the bathing room first, and move from room to room from there."

"Mmm. 'Ey! I kno'! 'Ow 'bout we clean tha' chapel down there, mm?" he motioned to the floor. "I've 'eard it's a great ol' place! I heard the butler talkin' 'bout it, mutterin' really, 'bout how he wanted t' clean it an' all. How 'bout we do tha', huh? I'd bring all th' candles y' want, an' I swear o' th' Lord I won' leave y', e'en for a second!"

Renee's expression lit up. "Ah! That is a wonderful idea! I am sure Monsieur Aldric will be pleased that we accomplished something for him while he is in bed." She stood and nodded. "Shall we get to work, then?"

"Yeah!" He rushed up. "Wha' all d' we need? I kno' we'd need some clothe an' water an' soap, but... I've ne'er cleaned a chapel before..."

After some scrambling for supplies, soon both were stationed at the base of the stairs, the stone steps ending in a wide, if squat, room. The ceiling was low, brushing the top of John's hair, entangling wisps of cobwebs in the dark strands. "Lessee... I think it's over here... Tha's the only door I see, anyway." He motioned over to the door in the side-wall. It was a plain sort of wooden door, which matched the plain dankness of the low chamber. There was a small puddle that he splashed in as he reach a hand over to open it; he quickly jerked back when the digits met the cool silk from an old abandoned spiderweb that had been interwoven from the doorknob to the ceiling corner.

"Ack.." he said as he wiped it on his trousers.

Renee frowned disapprovingly. "But now it is on your pantaloons. It is not easy to clean off, you know."

He shrugged absently with a grin in her direction. "It's fine. These'r workin' trousers anyway. I wore 'em t' ge' dirty." With those words, he pulled the door open with nary a sound. It was strangely open-able, slipping from it's frame easily. "Huh." John said, crooking a curious frown at the knob in his hand. "I'd've figured tha' it'd be swelled 'cause o' all th' dampness down 'ere." He held the door open for Renee to step inside as he spoke.

It was a tall narrow room that was as plain as the door that led into it. One side was of plain stone, smoothened by hands, inscripted with a few unintelligible names made unreadable by the dust that coated the entire room liberally. A row of solidly-built wooden pews lined on the other side of the wall, thoroughly coated with a thick layering of dust and mouse droppings. The same sort of coverings littered the beige and white tiles that made up the floor. Hanging above the pews were what seemed to be glassy paintings depicting various scenes of the bible, though it was too dark to truly tell what lay on, or beyond, the glass. John quickly felt his way to the rear of the room slowly, not wanting to step on or in anything, placing candles here and there and lighting them with his own. Soon the air was cheery, the light bouncing off the warmly yellow walls, if incredibly dirty.

"'Ey..." John said from his spot behind the front of a stone table, the altar. "Not all wha' I'd think o' a chapel, I guess." He turned to glance at the large golden cross that stuck from the wall, a life-size Jesus drapped from it, his body leaning under its own heavy weight, his ragged face staring blindly up at the ceiling, eyes clenched shut in pain and mouth wide open in glorious holy rapture. Shiny gold drops of blood glinted enticingly in the candlelight as they dribbled from wounds on his hands, chest and forehead.

Renee gave an almost empty, hollow smile as she looked around. "It is certainly not what I had in mind." She walked up to the cross and gingerly touched the foot of the statue of Jesus, reverently pulling it back to her chest. "Why is this how people remember Jesus? I have never understood. Surely he did not wish for this to be what all of the world knows him as."

John made an noncommittal noise as he was already on another subject, looking at the empty wall with the inscriptions carved into the stone. Absently, he wandered over and wiped at one area and grinned excitedly. "'Ey! This is the tombs!"

Renee tensed up and kept her back to him, her gaze now fixed on Jesus' face, or what she could see of it from where she stood on the floor. "O-oh... that is g-good." She walked stiffly over to the supplies, retrieved a wet rag, and knelt down to start cleaning on a pew, the furthest from John and the inscripted wall. "What a mess this place is."

"'Mary Annabelle Micheals'" John intoned in an innocently interested voice. "'January 3, 1802-September 31, 1824'. O', 'ow sad... She was only 22..." He eagerly moved to the next one. "'Robert Edward Micheals, July 20, 1823-September 31, 1824'. 'Ey... He was born th' same year I was!" He turned to grabbed a small rag from the bucket before using it to clean the wall instead of his hands. "Rather sad, it is."

Renee looked at him curiously. "So... that would make you nineteen now?" She giggled and returned to cleaning. "I am nearly twenty-two myself. I would never have guessed you were younger than me."

John froze and hesitantly turned his head to meet her gaze bashfully. "Er, it don' bother you none does it?"

Renee paused to contemplate the question for a moment. "I do not see how it would bother me... you are still John, whether or not we are different in age. Is it an issue that I am older than you?"

He was still for a brief second before grinning wolfishly. "Neya, it don' bother me at all!" He cheerfully wiped at the next inscription, squinting some to read it. "'John Edward Micheals'... Oh, tha's jus' the old man, the one who died 'ere. 'Ey, here's another one! 'Adeline Victoria Micheals, March 14, 1813-'" He paused. "Guess she's still livin' then."

Renee frowned and got up to look over his shoulder. "They had her tomb ready for her before she died? I would not like that. It would feel like I was being waited upon to die."

The man laughed. "Yeah, I know wha' y' mean." He was silent more a few minutes before he started whistling tunelessly.

"I wonder where she is..." She smiled to herself as she looked down at where she had cleaned before starting up again. "I cannot help but wonder if she has passed away and no one is aware." She paused, the smile falling. "What if the ghost I saw was Mademoiselle Adeline, haunting the manor because she did not receive a proper burial?"

John shrugged, turning to her. "I've ne'er heard anythin' li' tha' though... 'Course, wouldn't y' think tha' they'd put 'er here if she was dead?"

Renee shook her head. "Non. The fantome that I saw was in pain... so much pain. If it was Mademoiselle Adeline, then she was killed. Surely they'd know, I mean, there'd atleast be gossip, or somethin'."

"I don' know..." John said finally. "Maybe the butler'd know? Maybe you should ask 'im?"

"Monsieur Aldric does not know. She left before the manor was built, I believe he said." She turned her head to look at him, smiling. "Let us not dwell on it too much! We are here to clean, are we not?"

"'Course we are!"

Renee frowned as she stared at the door leading to the study. Aldric had left it unlocked for her when she asked about it a few days ago, and he was currently working downstairs. With a trembling hand, she turned the knob, pushed open the door, and jumped back, as if afraid something would eat her. She glanced around to make sure no one was watching before she snuck inside and shut the door behind her, making sure to muffle the latch as best she could with her hands. It still made a low clanging sound. Renee studied the door for a while, not trusting it to hide her presence. Once she felt secure, she started to poke around, hoping to find any... clues!

Deciding to tackle the desk first, as it looked the safest to look through. The shelves that covered the rest of the unclaimed wall-space were filled to the brim, items stacked in a haphazardly way. It was no wonder that that Aldric had accidentally pushed the globe off the shelf! It looked as if a well-aimed sigh would cause the great mounds of misculaneous items to fall in a vast cascade of who knew what!

The tabletop offered nothing except hand-written receipts, small lists of objects such as '2 bolts of calico fabric' and 'cotton stuffing', as well as leather-bound books housing literary works and sketches of various animals and plants, most noticeably birds. There was also a small pile of ink-bottles, both empty and not, as well as quills, some broken, some not, many black splotches still visible. Renee paused for a long moment, getting lost in the books, staring absently at the grand multitude of sketchings, particularly a group of art studies on ravens. Or were they crows?

Renee finally stood up, frowning lightly at the lack of, well, anything. She was cautiously approaching one set of shelves when she noticed a little black book. It seemed to have fallen beside the wooden desk, caught between the two. The girl gingerly pulled it out, not without some minor difficulty, and opened it up. There were nothing but blank pages inside.

With a frustrated little frown, Renee absently tossed it onto the desk. She missed, having aimed too low. The small book bounced off the side of the desk and fell to the floor with a clatter, some pages slipping out to flit and flutter down to the floor. She huddled slightly, waiting for someone to burst thorugh the door to see what the noise was. When no one came, she cautiously bent down and picked the scrap sheets of papers. After all, it would not due to mess up the room that Monsieur Aldric had spent time on cleaning! Though... Was that writing? Turning over one of the sheets, she noticed lines of... something. It almost looked like organized collection of scritches and scratches, the same chickens left in dirt... And the paper, now that she actually looked at it, were not the same as that of the small book.

Renee glanced between the pages, frowning. There were many similar markings, so it couldn't be random lines and curves. She sat there with them in silence. She had to figure it out. With a determined nod, she sat down at the desk and, after retrieving a filled ink bottle and a quill that wasn't broken, opened up the book to one of its many blank pages to get to work.

Nearly an hour passed by and all she had figured out were theories, ideas, and a few noticeable patterns. One idea was that one particular set of symbols were either 'me' or 'to', though she leaned toward 'me', since it showed up frequently at the end of words. She grew discouraged, however, when she remembered that not only were the letters different, but the words could be, too.

It could be a different language altogether. She pushed the papers and book aside and set the quill in the ink bottle, then used the now free space to rest her forehead on her arms and give a small moan, feeling very defeated.

"What is giving you the trouble, Mistress Renee? Is there something I can help with?"

Renee jumped, startled, and frantically tried to close the book without him noticing, though her efforts were in vain, since he was standing right behind her, peering over her shoulder. "Oh, non! I am fine! D'accord, ca va, I do not need anything." She avoided looking at hin. "Non, please do not mind me."

Aldric smiled lightly. "I apologize for startling you, Mistress Renee. Master John had finished his work for today, and was feeling peckish, and so I offered to find you and ask if you would enjoy a cup of tea and some light food... And as you were not in your room, I decided to search for you, and here you are. I hope I have not caused any trouble? I must admit to eavesdropping for a few minutes, but perhaps I could offer some assistance?"

Renee stared at him, biting her lip. "Euh..." She timidly opened the book, though she still looked away. "I am trying to figure out what these letters say. I cannot prove anything, but I do have a few guesses."

Aldric was silent for a moment before smiling softly. "May I ask where it was you found these things, Mistress Renee?"

"The book... I found the book, and they fell out of it." She hung her head in shame. "I am sorry."

"Nonsense." He started forward and peered at them with a indeterminable expression. There he stood silently, gazing appraisingly over her shoulder at the letters scattered on the desk. After what felt like hours, he finally spoke. "I believe I recognize it, Mistress Renee. Perhaps you would like me to help you?"

"Please," she asked in a soft voice. "I would like that very much. I want to know what it says."

"Ah, I see then..." He straightened himself, his voice seeming to lack liveliness. "Please wait here. I'll get the book I remember seeing it in. I'll be right back."

He returned within a few minutes, a small, thin tome under his arm. "Here we are..." he said gently, placing flipping through the pages with a slim finger. "If you remember me saying so, I've always enjoyed the moon... When I was still a young servant here, there was a man, a traveler, that happened by. He stayed for about a week, but during that short time he taught me many things, especially of the moon." He paused and scrolled down a page. "Ah, here we are. He had created a language, or rather, was in the middle of creating it... And he let me have a copy of what he had done at that point. I am unsure whether he has ever completed it, but... this is what I believe you have found."

There was a thin silence as he glanced from page to letter, unusually solemn, for although he was a serious man, there was always a hint of playfulness hidden in his eyes. "Mistress Renee..." He bit his lower lip and simply placedthe open book on the desk by the papers.

Renee looked at the book with the curiosity of a newborn child, but overcame it to tear her gaze away and look at him. "Aldric... what is wrong?" She slid the chair back and stood. "If you do not want me to know what these papers say, then I will forget about it."

"Nonsense." Aldric said with a weary smile. "I am sorry that you have found them... I... I am afraid that they must be what were the letters that the late mistress found on her pillows in the morning..." He stared at the letters with a dull stare. "I... I am just afraid that you will be scared by what they may say and... and you will not feel safe here."

He brought his head up to her, misty-eyed with emotion. "I do not want you to feel that way, Mistress Renee... I will not stop you from reading them, as it would only burn at you like a sore until you have had your try at them... I only ask you to please remember that this happened a long time ago, and it will not happen again. Please believe me."

Renee smiled and took one of his hands in hers, lifting it to hold it against her cheek in a comforting way. "Please do not worry over me. I am sorry that I did not trust you once before, but I will not mistrust you, no matter what they say." She let go of his hand and sat down, mumbling to herself as she worked along, one hand shifting between letter and book, the other marking down the letters on a blank page. And this is what she found:

The first letter read as follows.

'you traitor

i hate you

you betrayed me

you left me

i hate you

i hate you

i hate you

i will kill you'

The second letter.

'i love you mommy

do not you love me

you left me

i hate you now

i will kill you

i want you to

hurt mommy

i hate you'

The third letter.

'you chose him

over i


for that i

will kill you'

Once she got to the last word, Renee stopped and read over the translation. She fell silent for a while before she jumped to her feet, beaming up at Aldric, looking as if she had just been told the best news of all. "Aldric! Do you think Mademoiselle Adeline wrote this? Oh, if she did, then it makes me believe even more that my theory is right!"

Aldric couldn't help but smile at her happiness, but shook his head. "No, no... I am afraid that I am safe in saying, er, Adeline was not the writer of this notes. By that time, she should have been out of the house already. She left not before before the courting and marriage of the late master and mistress."

Renee slumped back down into the chair, now looking as if his words and demolished all of her happiness. "So then... you do not know if Mademoiselle Adeline passed away?"

"I am sorry for bringing you such news, Mistress Renee, and I hesitate to add on more, but... Adeline is still among the living. I must admit that I do not know of where she lives, but she has been here these past few years, if only to see, excuse my language, but to see if 'the damn place' had decayed beyond repair. I fear she never had enjoyed her father's company, and I also fear that the feeling was not unrequited."

"I thought..." She sighed and shook her head, trying to match everything together. "I thought wrong. I am sorry. I had believed that..." She shook her head again. "Non, I will not speak of it. It was a silly theory."

"Nonsense." Aldric smiled and boldly placed a hand on her shoulder. "I am simply glad you are taking this not as a fright, but instead as a challenge." He smiled brilliantly. "Please let me assist you in whatever you wish to do. I am at your disposal."

"I just want to figure out who she is... the fantome, I mean. But I have not the slightest idea where to start..." She lifted a hand and gingerly placed it on his. "I am sorry for troubling you with this."

"Nonsense." the butler repeated gently. "Though, if I may offer a change in the conversation, would you like to come with me and have another moon-viewing? I would suggest the full moon of the upcoming month, as I do not believe that many would find the other phases as lovely as I do."

"Ah!" She turned her head to look up at him, seeming revived by the proposal. "I would love to join you, though it does not have to only be for the... fool moon, you call it?" She paused to contemplate the name. "I do not know what you mean, but Lune is always beautiful. Anytime that you go to see her, I would be happy to come with you, Monsieur Aldric."

Renee stared at the doorway a few lingering moments before she stood. "Well... cela est cela." She started to walk away but stopped with an almost agonized, but brief, look on her face. Slowly her head turned to gaze at the room she tried to leave behind. After an inner struggle, she turned her head away and marched out of the room, hands clenched shut, assuring herself that she would come back later when she knew what she was looking for.

Despite what she had hoped, there was nothing unnatural that occurred, and there seemed to be nothing to learn. There were no strange and mysterious sounds, no shadowy figures and not even a helpful hint to be found, no matter how hard she looked. Even the strange feeling of being watched was gone of the week. Everything felt comfy and homey, even though the weather outside began to cool as the fall season begin to set in. The days quickly fell into comfortable routine. It was not until the following days that the routine broke.

It was during the morning meal when it happened. Aldric had just finished setting down the small crystal bowls full of fruit and cream when there was a brusque knock on the door. With a hushed apology, the butler quickly went to get it. At the table, the sounds of the door opening and someone being greeted could be heard. There was a muffled gasp before silence. A few moments later, Aldric escorted a tall thin man in a plain sort of outfit that were getting a bit threadbare and a mustache of the most outstanding sort. He seemed to at an age somewhere above twenty and below forty.

"Ah!" Aldric smiled rather happily, setting down the final bowl with a soft clink. "Mister Micheals! I would not have thought you would come by so soon this fall!"

He smiled in the same sort of way a wanderer does, travel-weary yet content in the life he had chosen. "I apologize for disruptin' you, sirs, miss. I jus' thought while I was here, I'd visit for a day. I'm Melbourne Micheals."

"He is a far relation of yours, Mistress Renee, and the traveling doctor of the area." Aldric explained with a soft nod as he took the man's coat and carrying bag, setting them by the door.

"Oh? I see." She stood and gave a polite curtsey to the man, her exaggerated curls bouncing with the slight motion. "Welcome, Monsieur Micheals. Have you had your small lu- ... ah..." She paused just long enough to look at Aldric's face and, as if the mere sight of him triggered her thoughts, she finished, "break-fast yet?"

"I don't want to-"

"Come on! We've plenty!" John interrupted the man with a cheerful grin. "Grab thee a seat!"

Aldric nodded once more softly. "Please allow me to get you a plate, sir."

Melbourne laughed gently. "Well, if you insist..." He stepped forward, and after a bit of hesitation, sat down beside John. "I apologize for interrupting..."

"Dooan't worry!" John called out once more with a loud grin as he clapped the man on the back.

Renee smiled and returned to her seat. "Please do not worry yourself. You are among family, as far as I am concerned, so there is no need to apologize or hesitate." She happily nibbled on her fruit, sitting with her back rigid and straight, her other hand placed in her lap. "Where have you come from, Monsieur Micheals?"

"I thank y' for your kindness, even if we are fam'ly." He smiled once more, however, with more youthful vigor the time around. "I'm actu'lly from London, but I've come t' love this area. So I've began a practice and become th' county doct'r. I'm actu'lly on my way to a batch o' colds outside o' Cornwall. I see you're the new heiress?"

John simply leant back in his chair, grinning to himself, arms behind his head.

Renee gave an idle nod, though her attention and gaze were fixated on John. "Monsieur John? Are you close with Monsieur Michaels? You seem suddenly content."

The man in question started. "Oh, neya! I just met 'im an' all!" He quickly glanced at the kitchen door. "I just li' 'is comp'ny better tha' th' butler's. He's too much o' a dandy fer me." He scowled reproachfully. "I bet 'e stan's in front o' a mirror before he leaves 'is room, jus' t' make sure he's all proper an' all."

Renee gave a chiding frown. "There is nothing wrong with Monsieur Aldric, and there is certainly nothing wrong with taking care of one's appearance. That aside." She did her best to look more interested in her fruit than anything else. "I look at myself in the mirror in the morning. Does that make me too..." There was a moment's hesitation from the uncertainty of pronunciation. "... dahn-dee for you?"

"No." John frowned petulantly. "You're allowed. You're a girl. He's a man. Men shouldn't look a' themselves all th' time."

Melbourne chuckled lightly. "I'm sorry, I had assumed you and he were on friendly terms."

He got a blank stare. "Wha'd'y' mean, 'friendly'? I've ne'er met th' guy 'til jus' las' month, when we got 'ere."

"Really? Are you sure?" the doctor frowned lightly. "Surely you know each other somehow?"

"'Ey, why d' y' keep goin' on 'bout it, mm? I've never met the guy 'afore." John shrugged, though he frowned a bit and leaned back into the chair.

There was a thoughtful noise from the thin man. "I see."

Renee forgot her rebuttal that Aldric was a butler in place of curiosity, gazing at Melbourne. "Is there something you know, Monsieur? If you have a story to tell, I would love to hear it."

"Oh, it wouldn't be in my business to do so, please forget I said anything." He was silent for a second before cracking under John's seemingly idle frown. "Well, it really isn't anything except that it was the talk of the family about you bein' the one asked to escort the Miss here. It should've been someone like him, the butler, but instead he specifically asked f'r you to guide 'er here. I just thought you were on friendly terms 'cause of that, that's all."

"That is curious..." She leaned forward, glancing between the two. "Though it is good, because Monsieur John is in love with the manor." She smiled as if content. It only took a moment for it to fade and she pondered aloud, "I do wonder now, though..."

"You wonder what, Mistress?" Aldric stepped back in, a plate in both hands. "I hope this will do you well, sir."

"It looks wonderful, thankee." Melbourne smiled gratefully at the steaming plates of..food.

"Do you know Monsieur John?" She frowned at the question and waved her hands. "Non, that came out wrong! Pardon me... do you know him from before when you two met?" Her frown became a look of near-desperation. "Ah... non... I cannot word it right."

Aldric smiled bemusedly. "What? I.. Ah, I understand." He held an empty platter in front of him as a shield. "As you may know, John's parents were long-term family friends, correct?"

Melbourne nodded sagely. "Yes, that is true... A branch of the Clarkson family have always associated with us."

"And while the late master was still alive, I had heard of a small boy of the family who had visited from time to time who had always wanted to live and work here. Later, once I had heard of the new mistress, I thought it would be prudent to offer a chance for the boy to do what he had always wanted." He paused and glanced at Renee and John. "Was I incorrect in doing so?"

Renee smiled, looking, for the first time, almost smug as she turned her gaze toward John. "That was very kind of you, Monsieur Aldric... and correct. Do you not agree, Monsieur John? It was almost... dahn-dee of him, I think."

"Yeah. Thanks." He offered a weak attempt at a smile.

Aldric smiled slightly wider, a definite gleam in his eye. "Then I am glad to have my bold actions praised as they are. Please go on and enjoy yourselves, Master John, Mistress Renee, I am sorry to disturb you, but I have some query for the good doctor."

"Of course, Monsieur Aldric. Would you rather we leave? I have... some... 'query' for Monsieur John as well." She nibbled on her last piece of fruit and moved to stand.

"If it is not too much?" He titled his head slightly, long ashen hair sweeping over his shoulder.

"Certainly." She walked over to John, her hand held out. "I promise I will not take too long with the 'query' (said a bit more confidently this time), John."

His face perked up slightly at the lack of the 'Monsieur' honorific. Aldric frowned lightly but did not comment on it. "Uh, sure." the larger man said dumbly, standing and taking her hand, letting himself be led from the room. "Wha', er, was it?" His tone was much more subdued than usual.

"I am afraid it is the same old thing." She let go of his hand to clasp both of hers behind her back, leaning against the wall, staring down at her feet. "I cannot figure out why it is that you dislike Monsieur Aldric... he is the reason that you are here, so are you not thankful?" She moved one hand to hold it in her vision, looking at her fingers as if trying to count her rebuttals. "And he is dahn-dee because he is a butler... and, um..." Her brow furrowed. "Oh, there was something else. Oh!" She lifted her gaze, her expression lit up. "If you dislike him, then why did you want to clean the chapel for him?"

John hunched over, hands clapsed behind his own back, eyes straight on the ground. "I... I li... You, I mun..." he paused and sighed. "It's nothin'. 'Sides, I... I didn' know he were th' one who got me 'ere. I'll try t' do better. I'm goin' t' go out an' start workin' for t'day."

Renee smiled, as if completely forgetting the earlier conversation had taken place. "May I help you? I promise I will not try to pick up anything too heavy like I did last time."

John shook his head roughly. "Neya... I'd rather do it m'self. Give me some time t' think an' all." Without waiting for a respond he quickly turned away, tossing his jacket off to the wall, where it crumpled to the floor as he made his way to the back door.

Renee stood there for a while after he was gone, looking somewhat rejected and sad. She pursed her lips to keep from pouting and retrieved the jacket to fold it neatly and place it beside the door. "Cela est cela..." she mumbled, now rather fond of the phrase and its vast usefulness. She put on her best smile and walked down the hall toward the stairs to retreat to her bedroom.

It was not until lunch that Aldric stuck his head in. Upon seeing her, he sighed softly. "Mstress Renee? May I ask what is wrong?"

Renee looked up and smiled. "I did not realize that anything was wrong. Do I look wrong?"

"Oh, so there isn't?" Aldric smiled in spite of himself. "Then I am glad. Would you rather me bring up your lunch, or would you prefer to dine downstairs?"

Renee pursed her lips. "Umm..." She closed the book in her hands and stood. "Is Monsieur Micheals still here?"

Aldric nodded. "Yes he is. I have offered him lodging here before when he was passing by, as his parents were well-liked by my late master, and have allowed him a room for the night, if that it alright?"

"Then it seems only proper that I dine with everyone else. I do not want Monsieur Micheals to get the wrong impression." She walked over to the small vanity table with her assortment of things on top and looked at her reflection. "Oh, dieu!" She gave a small hiccup of laughter and brushed out the only curl that remained of her hair, the rest having smoothed back into gentle waves. "I am sorry. I did not realize my appearance was so dreadful. I understand why you thought something was wrong."

Aldric laughed gently and stepped towards her. "Nonsense. "I find your hair most lovely as it currently is. It is much like spun sunshine, and I am sure it feels just as golden silk does. I could only wish my own hair would wave as yours down, but all it does is lay there. A long sting of ash." He smiled.

Renee paused, looking at his reflection in the mirror. "Oh, non, Monsieur Aldric." She smiled and started to brush her hair again. "Your hair is fine as it coo-rrent-ly is. I am afraid I cannot imagine you with hair like mine... straight hair like yours has a more official and clean look to it. It is fitting, I feel."

"Y-you think so?" Aldric quickly lowered his head, not able to contain the happy little smile that grew on his face. "Here." he said straightening quickly. "Please let me do it. I have something that would suit you much better than curls."

"Oh?" She loosened her grip on the brush and held it back for him. "I did not know you knew about hair. Please, do what you think is best, Aldric."

"I hope that I will be able to do you justice, Mistress Renee." He took the brush from her, taking one side of her head, and started working his way back. "Ah, it is as if I am touching silk. I am still envious of you, despite of what you may say. My own mother, I mean, the late mistress, seemed to enjoy playing with the hair of others. It's why I've come to have hair such as this. when my hair was shorter, as yours is now, she would use the style I beleive will fit your face very well. And even if it does not, I have more styles I can use, so please tell me if it is insufficient for yourself."

Renee smiled fondly. "I have only worn it down or in curls, so any change is fine." She closed her eyes, lavishing in the attention. "I am equally envious of you... neither of my parents were... 'affectionate'. It is understandable, but I found it hard to accept as a child. I was a bit of a troublesome girl when I was younger."

Aldric laughed. "I'm sure that many a person saw me as a girl after the late mistress had played with me. Of course, I supposed I was one for her. I didn't mind being a doll, because it gave me attention, which I of course ate up." He laughed softly once more. "Of course, I was probably a most troublesome servant-child as well. Children are to be seen, not heard after all."

"Perhaps it is inherent in children to be troublesome, then. My parents said that I was the only one." A bubble of a giggle escaped her. "They told me that they would toss me in the Sienne if I did not act better. Thankfully, they did not actually do it, even though I continued to cry out for attention." She opened her eyes halfway to gaze at his reflection. "The late mistress sounds like she was a very kind woman."

"I suppose she really was." He frowned lightly. "Of course, I am happy to have you here. Would you mind handing me that ribbon? It is very pleasant to have someone sane to talk to."

Renee complied, handing him the ribbon. "Sane... I am not familiar with the term and me. I suppose I do not come across many who are not sane to be told that I am." She closed her eyes again with a smile. "I would think it would be nice to talk to anyone. This manor can feel lonely, even knowing you and Monsieur John are around."

"Ah, that makes sense, but I suppose I am just not a sociable sort of person." He drew her hair back, tying the ribbon with a gentle, though stable pull. "There we are, would you please critique it? I am able to change it if you would like."

The girl in the mirror stared at Renee, her hair pulled back strictly, a large blue bow tying it back so that it fell into gentle goldy waves to her back. Even her bangs had been worked back into the hair, though one or two strands peeked out stubbornly from the hair that draped slightly along the sides before turning back to the bow. Two long waved strands escaped the bow to hang triumphantly, framing her face.

"I suppose it is sort of a simple style, but I would like to think it matches yourself as you do not need elaborate styles, I mean... Is it alright? I can change it if you need." Aldric bit his lower lip absently.

Renee stared for a few silent moments while a rosy hue adorned her cheeks. "I-I..." She giggled and leaned forward for a better look. "I am afraid that it does not suit me at all.. It is far too lovely of a style for such a plain face!" She shook her head with another giggle. "I am sorry that I am not a good enough face for such a lovely hairstyle."

"Really?" His voice was high and breathy. "I'm glad you think so. I was worried you may think it as too childish."

"Not at all! Oh, non." She smiled, almost dreamily. "It is very flattering. If anything, curls are too childish."

"I'm glad." He quickly set the brush down and hurried to the door. "Then shall I escort you down to the table?"

Renee blinked a couple times, startled. "Should we not change it? I would hate to wear something meant for someone else."

Aldric blinked. "What do you mean?"

Renee pointed at her hair. "Surely you do not mean for me to wear my hair in such a lovely way?"

"But why ever not? Please think of it a a thank you," He paused and smiled calmly. "and if not that, then perhaps a belated 'welcome home' gift."

"B-but..." She turned to look at the mirror with a frown. After a battle of stares with her own reflection, she surrendered and stood with a sigh. "All right, but," she said as she walked over to him. "in return, I wish to do your hair after you are done with your chores." She smiled almost mischievously. "You want waves like mine, do you not?"

Aldric blinked owlishly at her, at a loss for words before hesitantly smiling. "Yes." The smile was genuine. "Yes, of course. I would enjoy that."

Dinner was a pleasant, happy affair, with conversation flowing seamlessly with interludes of laughter and soft giggles at Melbourne's tales of the country about them. In fact, it seemed that time flew by too quickly, as supper was over before it had even begun, and even Aldric sat down at the table to join in, setting aside the chores of clearing the table and cleaning the dishes. In what appeared to be only a few riveting stories and tales, several hours had passed, and Aldric shooed the three from the room, ignoring offers of help, so he could clean the room for tomorrow.

Ushered into the main room, many more narratives were told by candle-light, the butler peeking in and pausing every once in a while to lean against the doorway and listen in, offering a comment here and there. Renee was seated quite happily on a rug by the fire, which both John and Melbourne managed to get started with minimal effort. There the company was held until Aldric appeared one final time to offer the time, at which it was decided bedtime for all.

As the three gathered to leave, Aldric remained behind to pick up the room. As soon as the two were alone, John having just entered his own room, Melbourne pulled Renee aside, gripping both of her shoulders. "This may be bold of me, but... Has all been alright here? Has anything happened at all?" His tone was quite unlike the soft, soothing bass from before, instead gathered into tightly bound knots. His eyebrows furrowed in seriousness.

"N-no..." Renee managed shakily, a bit frightened at the sudden change in character.

He nodded. "Good." His shoulders drooped. "Good. I will see t'morrow then. Good night."

"G-good night..." she slowly replied, leaning against her chamber door, quite unsure of what had just happened. Suddenly, all of the good vibes from before had vanished like smoke, though she couldn't quite figure out why. It wasn't as if Monsieur Melbourne had acted inappropriately... It anything, he sounded worried... But there was no reason to fear, right? Renee shivered, though the air held no chill and slowly stepped into her room. The door shut behind her, the lock latching with a solid click.

'fifth chapter - waxing gibbous I'

To Be Continued...

From here on out, the story is reaching completion. Admittedly, there may be more mistakes or inconsistencies in this chapter than normal... I also apologize if John's accenting is beginning to decay... Honestly life is kicking in, but I hope to keep to the schedule of one chapter per month, if not faster (and hopefully pick up the slack...).

That aside, for any mistakes, please feel free to review to let me know of any needed corrections or inconsistencies or anything of the sort (I would thank you for it, really)! Well, in either case I would appreciate any reviews, of course, whether it's for praising, criticizing, flaming, etc...

However, that aside, I hope you will continue to read! Thank you so very-very much! (low bow) Until August!

yours sincerely,