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Chapter Text

In light of her revelation Fozhan found herself often questioning Waltraud's heart.

Two days after the amenity of the betrothal feast Fozhan found her summons to her chamber ignored by her bride. Her handmaiden assured her the message had arrived and when she sent Roozbeh for a potential explanation the chamber was found to be empty. The following investigation revealed no trace of her potential spouse. She was not in the stables, meeting hall, nor within Lady Röselein's chambers. None had seen her leave.

The daughter of the Shah turned the invitation over in her hands; it was a simple request to spend an afternoon with her, without even the mention of the aspiration to begin endowing Waltraud with the knowledge of those who would be her people. As Fozhan had studied the esoteric culture of the Alemannians Waltraud must acquaint herself with the abstruse one of the Parsi. At the very least her father may be more accepting of someone who had pledged not just their loyalty but their heart as well to the empire.

Waltraud could not be found. She had apparently coalesced into the frigid walls of the castle itself, not even her attentive page's footsteps had been heard, following his mistress in her unseen travail. Fozhan dared not approach Lady Röselein in her search, for if the Beast was prowling it was at her mistress' orders. Fozhan turned away from the worried expressions of her attendants and towards the window that offered a view of the courtyard.

Her brow furrowed as she contemplated if Waltraud had some lingering animosity for her and was staying out of reach because she had found the burden of affection too great to bear. Or was indeed on an errand for her mistress and would return drenched in blood. Fozhan's hand curled beneath her chin, or had the assassin at last found his mark? Her fist knotted. Foolish wretch! Why had she not insisted that she be guarded by her own men?

As her heart stopped a shadow fell across the courtyard. The tortured organ began to beat again as Waltraud crossed her sight, stopping right where the great wolf of Ländle had lain. The woman knelt down, as if chasing after some faint memory or scent of death. She startled and looked up however as Fozhan began to beat her hands on the window and cry "Wait!"

She pushed away from the glass in a hurry, pulling up her veil in an afterthought and forgetting her shoes entirely. Roozbeh cried out and followed her charge. Fozhan ignored his footsteps behind her, continuing to carry her skirts around her knees to fly around corners, sail down stairs, and land at the feet of her beloved. She held her breath in fear what she had seen was the last gasp of the soul before it departs the earth; a phantom of all that might have been.

These things you do to me my love. She gave a gasp of relief when Waltraud came into sight as veritable flesh, for Fozhan laid a hand upon the wrist she had injured, knowing the wound was still there and none of this had been taken away. Waltraud blinked at her apparent upset but let the other woman catch her breath patiently even as she gave a wary survey of the yard.

"You, didn't answer, my summons." Fozhan at last gasped.

"Forgive my negligence, it was not intended." Waltraud put a hand on her shoulder and Fozhan swallowed, knowing such a freely given touch could not have been improvised. It left as quickly as it came, a true gesture of comfort for Waltraud was clearly distracted. She raised her head toward the window Fozhan had appeared in.

"Is one of your ladies missing?" she asked as she narrowed her eyes, as if she could hope to see the handmaidens through that distant window.

"Oh…no," Fozhan followed her line of sight at the unexpected question. She glanced at Roozbeh but he shrugged, he had also seen nothing awry.

"I was hoping…" Waltraud lowered her head. "Never mind."

She looked down at Fozhan. "I will come to you tonight, I promise."

"Wait," Fozhan cried again, she reached to grasp Waltraud's arm to prevent her from escaping again. "What is wrong?"

"It is a personal matter." Waltraud shrugged and pulled her arm away but Fozhan would not allow her to retreat.

"It is hardly personal if you asked after one of my attendants!" She snapped. Waltraud glanced back at her and she glowered. She couldn't hope to get into Waltraud's face even upon her tiptoes but she raised her finger to point directly at Waltraud's chin. The other woman leaned back, nicely giving Fozhan all of her focus and attention.

"What is going on? Are my people in danger?" Waltraud hesitated, giving the question the weight it deserved. She lowered her head.

"I don't know." She at last admitted. She closed her eyes in a wince. "Ernst is missing. I haven't seen him since last night. He was not there for his morning duties, he would never…"

She looked back up towards the window. "Ernst is very loyal, he has never failed me. I was hoping however perhaps he'd had something of a rendezvous with that lady of yours he fancied. If that's not it then…"

She looked away, towards something Fozhan couldn't see. "I don't know where he is, and what may have happened to him."

Fozhan stepped back at the frustrated look in Waltraud's eyes. Ernst was devoted to Waltraud but Waltraud was also devoted to Ernst. Perhaps she even loved the boy in the way one does a foster child. Her anger at the thought someone had taken him from her spoke of true affection, and this vulnerability was unguarded, genuine. It was what Fozhan had seen in her eyes with Gilbert, it spoke when words were unnecessary. What was Waltraud's was hers, not to be taken away.

Here was a guardian who would protect what was precious to her at all costs.

Fozhan reached for Waltraud's shoulder but as her hand began that arduous flight another voice interrupted.

"Please excuse me for interrupting a lover's interlude," A woman walked into the courtyard. Fozhan slowlyy recognized her as the one who had been especially interested in Waltraud at the feast. She was taller than Fozhan but had none of Waltraud's towering height and build. She was more like the people from the steppes than the Alemannians Fozhan had seen so far with her long and flat nose and tilted eyes. Her dark hair was dressed in the elaborate weaving of braids that the Alemannian noblewomen enjoyed. Fozhan realized that the reason why Prince Franz looked so unlike his father with his dark hair and fine eyes was because the Northern Kingdom had such ancestry in their royal family.

As she came closer and smiled Fozhan realized she had oversized canines like Waltraud, though they were more hidden beneath full lips when she was not showing them. Unlike Waltraud this woman had the advantage of the angles and planes of her face being more symmetrical; she was strangely beautiful with her leering fangs. She carried herself like a grand lady in a vivid red dress embroidered in gold with full sleeves and her girdle casting waves of the heavy wool around her legs. She walked with petite steps, yet her person carried a looming presence, as if something much larger lived within her. Her eyes remained upon Waltraud, as if she was trying to pinpoint the origin of her heartbeat by sight alone.

When she reached the pair she gave a respectful bow. She lifted a hand, offering it to Waltraud.

"I am Lady Dagmar Ymirsdaughter, of Oland."

Waltraud at last took her hand after an interlude that almost seemed to stretch into eternity. Her eyes had been clouded by some internal struggle. Fozhan watched as she swallowed as she seemed to choke something back. She ghosted her lips over the back of that delicate hand, never quite touching the flesh below.

"My lady. I don't think we've met before," Waltraud murmured and Fozhan could scarcely believe such a thing after that struggle of recognition. Waltraud kept her gaze downwards, never meeting the dark eyes of the Olander.

"I am cousin of the former queen, and kinswoman of our dear King Ludwig and princes." The lady introduced herself. "We have met before, Lady Waltraud."

"Then, it was very long ago." Dagmar looked pleased at this assertion and at last stepped away from Waltraud.

"And if you are looking for your page, try the throne room." The woman bowed lowly as if she had just done them both a great favor. Waltraud didn't even wait for the lady to fade back into the shadows before she began her heedless charge towards the direction she had been pointed. Fozhan called after her, trying to remind her of reason and discretion. Who knew who this Olander was and what harm she meant! Fozhan was certain she had seen the face of a devil in that coquettish expression!

Her voice was lost however and all she could give her love was the sound of her footfall, forever following after, wherever she led.