All That I Can Give, Part 2
Château de Selvilles
15 Laurent, 597 Année de Paix
The letter was waiting on his desk when he woke up. Immediately, Jean-Pierre knew it was out of the ordinary. From the beautifully uniform parchment to the ornate green seal, everything about the message exuded importance. Picking it up, he instantly recognized the seal: a circular pattern representing the Church of Ántou. The letter was from the monastery.
Jean-Pierre did not often receive communications from the monastery in the mountains. It was a remote and reclusive place, and the monks who lived there generally considered politics to be below them. Whatever. Those stuck-up fanatics could have their books and cathedrals and prophecies. Jean-Pierre was content with his warm castle and sincere, hardworking subjects. And although the Grand Moine occasionally intervened in large-scale diplomacy to voice opinions, the church mostly stayed out of his way. He preferred it that way, and tried to return the favor.
And so it was surprising to see a letter with the generic seal of the monastery, rather than the special one of the Grand Moine. Jean-Pierre took a sip of medicated water and, with a stroke of his penknife, unsealed the scroll.
Monsieur le Comte,
I hope this letter finds you well. It has been some time since we last exchanged a communique — five years, if I recall correctly. In that message, you requested to send your daughter, Arielle, to the monastery. In a mark of strange coincidence, this message also concerns your daughter. Isn’t it interesting how some things come full circle?
Monsieur, I will be brief. Two nights ago, a large population of the women of the monastery disappeared — Arielle among them. In total, fifty-six nuns and trainees have vanished. We have sent search parties to no avail, though we will, of course, continue to search for them.
As you know, the monastery is well-guarded against any sort of attack. I find it inconceivable that they have been kidnapped or otherwise taken by force. In the end, I am left to conclude that these nuns have gone rogue and departed of their own accord. I do not know where they have gone, but rest assured that we will find them.
I need not tell you how much social fallout would occur were the public to learn that over fifty nuns have gone rogue. I trust, therefore, that you will keep this information secret — as a favor to myself and to the people of Martoise at large. It will not be necessary for you to take any action at this time. I thought merely it would be courteous to make you aware of this event, given your personal stake in it.
May the light of Ántou fall ever upon you.
Le Moine Principal du Martoise
Jean-Pierre sat down hard in his chair. The air felt thick and hot in his throat, and his heart raced.
It was all his fault. He had sent Arielle to the monastery because he had thought it would mean a better life for her. But he had been wrong. If they caught her, she was as good as dead. And if they did not...he refused to even imagine what could have caused such a mass exodus from the monastery. It was a rash and thoughtless decision, and he wished more than anything to be there with her now, to gently convince her to come home, to tell her that everything would be alright and all would be forgiven.
He hated that he was powerless. All the wealth of the Challant family, all the political power of the Comte, yet as meek and helpless as the basest peasant.
He had become the very thing he had tried to protect Arielle from.
Jean-Pierre cursed fate as Ántou swaddled the lonely room in crisp, wintery sunlight.