II. Arrival

A dent in the country road jolted Eleanor awake. Surrounded by a few cushions and seated across from her brother (who somehow managed to find it perfectly comfortable slumbering between two bags), she tasted her lips in search of the remnants of sweet dreams, but couldn’t quite find them. She took out her pocket watch to find that her travel has been a little over five hours. Why, and she already fell asleep. Her brother’s sleepiness must have infected her.
They were to be transferred to the charge of a maternal relative since urgent business called her mother upon a lengthy trip at late notice. While Eleanor attempted to convince her mother that both her brother and she would be perfectly fine on their own in the manor, Lady Crisiota could not bear the idea of her precious children out of the careful eyes of a trusted adult since Elliot was to accompany the Lady. Ellie made the case that she was already sixteen, while her brother ten, but did not fight her mother’s nerves out of compassion and a shared paranoia: her father passed just a decade ago. Accident, Eleanor recalled the uniformed men at the door say. But, as soon as the uniformed men left and Elliot shut the door behind them, as soon as her mother ceased drowning in tears, there was a pure streak of horror that spoke so much more to her six years old self. She once heard her mother say to herself, sitting next to the fireplace late at night as the eternal absence of her beloved robbed her of sweet dreams, “I have killed you…I killed you…the Council….damn them…”

Such late night ravings were quenched by the arrival of Sirius, her sweet little brother. Instead of cursing whatever the Council was, her mother focused her energy upon the child in her womb and, after his birth, his every single need. Eventually, the sweet smiles of her infant brother smoothed over the trauma of the Crisiotas’ greatest loss, and her sweet mother returned to love her children without any reserves.

These same smiles that saved her mother faced Eleanor now as they at last arrived upon their place to stay in three more hours, as Sirius squirmed against the bags around him, his chubby cheeks sweetened by dreams.

Eleanor could not fight the urge as she reached across from her seat and pinched him, rousing the boy to a whiny grumble, “…owie…”

“Wake up, we are here,” Sirius pouted to himself, but obediently searched for order in his ruffled dress; the older sister reminded him in a mimic of their mother, “Be kind to Mr. LaLauren, now.”

“Don’t worry, Eleanor, I will behave!” The boy chimed and stretched as their servant opened the door to usher the two into the cold and darkness.

After fastening Sirius’s cloak with a brooch, Eleanor took the boy’s hand and led them behind the servant’s steps into the parlour. She noted the park: it impressed her that Mr. LaLauren’s grounds should hold competition to her home as a mere gentry. The large expanse of trimmed wilderness somewhat comforted her.

They were brought to the drawing-room, where LaLauren’s head servant gave a low bow before muttering, “The Master will be here shortly.”

As the servant took his leave, Eleanor seated herself in an armchair by the windows while Sirius stood by, “May I stand around for a bit? I am numb from sitting so long…” Eleanor adored how careful the boy was of his manners as she ruffled the boy’s head and granted him freedom to wander within the small premise of carpet before her. “Is that a portrait of Mrs. LaLauren?” He pointed.

His sister followed the boy’s finger, studying the masterful artwork, “She looks quite…wild.” She observed, leaving her seat to better her examination. The woman looked to be young, with full feminine charms confined in traditional dress, bright, blazing eyes with heavy lids freshly revealed from wisps of brown locks that a porcelain hand was in the middle of brushing aside, her cheeks painted with flush happiness and her full lips curved in a small smile as though to keep joy from spilling out of them. “She’s beautiful.”

“My late lady,” A voice answered Sirius’s question, stern though with a certain charm of sincerity. “She passed nearly ten years ago, my greatest loss…”

Eleanor snapped around to face who she presumed to be Mr. LaLauren, a man around his early forties with a build not unlike a soldier and sharp features that shadowed icy eyes, “Lord Sirius, Lady Eleanor, pleased to be of your assistance.” They exchanged bows, and Sirius soon hid half of his small frame behind her.

LaLauren began, “I am sure both of you are exhausted from your travels: please, allow Cephas here to take you to your rooms,” for the first time, Eleanor noted the young man named Cephas beside Mr. LaLauren, a lean youth with brooding eyes and an angular face that seemed to despise.

After they bid each other “good night” and after Cephas bowed deeply, the Crisiotas followed him to another wing of the mansion, furnished more deliberately than the one they were originally in.

“When does Mr. LaLauren typically wake?” Eleanor asked for the sake of passing time in their short journey, which Sirius had slowed with his sleepiness as he leaned heavily into her.

“The Master wakes early, around an hour after sunrise, Lady Eleanor,” Cephas offered to carry the boy, and Eleanor obliged.

“He was probably too excited for the journey the night before and thus didn’t sleep much…”

Eleanor thought she imagined a scoff, “Excited?” Cephas spun around to face her, the candle that was passed into her hand as Cephas carried her brother casting wavering shadows, the young man’s pale face twisted by a cruel frown; Sirius rested happily against his shoulder.

“…What?”

A change came over Cephas’s features, her confusion clearly softened him, “Please forgive me, your servant spoke ill: I just find it odd for anyone to be ‘excited’ to visit this premise,” he chewed the words quietly, his firm steps against the marble floor almost drowning out his low voice before he added, “…after the passing of Mrs. LaLauren, that is.”

So, he was here for more than ten years, Eleanor thought to herself before asking, almost unnecessarily, “Was she kind?”

A pause in Cephas’s step, “Yes, she was. The household suffer a great loss.” The end of his sentence trailed into a low whisper.

That, along with their arrival at the Crisiotas’ rooms terminated conversation. The room weren’t nearly as well-mannered as their own home, of course, but the visible wealth in the furnitures and carved frames were a bit reminiscent of home. With some arrangements they settled, Cephas leaving the siblings with a promise to rouse them by breakfast if the pair should oversleep.

After she changed, Eleanor stared at their pile of invading boxes and bags that the servants had set in the corner of the room from her seat upon the bed. Her brother was already breathing evenly into the blankets despite her urging for him to get to his own room. “But, I am scared…” He muttered before falling asleep, and who would have the heart to wake one from such slumber? Eleanor drew out the pendant that was warm from being pressed against her chest, its simple lustre bring a soothing sense of peace in its green color as she sighed, giving herself off to the claims of sleep once again.

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