Margot was shouting something and running toward them.
Alexandre had commanded Jeoffroi to break Margot’s legs.
She kept yelling something but there was so much noise and sound.
Finally she fell into one of the crevasses he made, catching her legs in the earth up to her knees.
Jeoffroi moved automatically... the earth closed in and crushed her legs...
Alexandre was laughing sickeningly as she screamed in excruciating pain.
But Jeoffroi heard her voice now. He had heard her scream.
“Say it again, Margot.”
With all the force of pain and desperation he heard her shout. “Jeoffroi! Sleep for ten hours, now!”
The Obligation locked in and gripped his mind, suppressing all other Obligations.
He took it gratefully and was unconscious before he had hit the ground.
Jeoffroi came to consciousness with a gasping start. Where was he now?
This time he didn’t immediately fall back asleep. So that Obligation had worn off.
“Don’t get up right now.”
His body seized. He hadn’t realized he had tried to move but his weight fell back into the bed. This new Obligation suppressed his compulsion to leave. He turned his head toward the voice and saw a woman in green regalia with several guards. A Nobleman.
“What’s-?” he muttered, trailing off. Of course she wouldn't answer him. He turned to look at the ceiling. He was clearly a captive.
“I don’t know what’s happening myself,” the woman said. “The queen asked me to watch you and to keep you subdued. My father is clearly upset by this whole thing, but really, I don’t know what it’s about.”
Knows nothing. This Nobleman must be a relative of the queen of Ninove. Not a princess, or at least not an heiress.
“Why is Alexandre alive?” he said in a disinterested tone. Honestly, it made no difference if it was Lorraine, or Marceau, or Roland, or Alexandre, or Ninove. He flexed his hand absentmindedly. He felt the Obligation to find Alexandre, but was held down by her’s.
“I wasn’t informed about that either.” There was a short pause before she continued. “To be honest, it seems we’re trying to sort out what to do with Lorraine. While they sort this out, what would be the most comfortable way for you to be confined?”
“This sleep thing is pretty great,” Jeoff said with a dead weight in his voice. He didn’t want to think right now anyway.
“I see. Questions will need answering, I’ll send for someone. Until then, sleep for another hour.”
His consciousness dropped away again into darkness.
Jeoffroi woke again with a sharp intake of breath. His mind was foggy from so much sleep. He rolled onto his side with a groan, then pushed himself up to slide off the bed. He moved automatically, his Liegeoath compelling him to get up – to find and rescue Alexandre. His mind hadn’t caught up yet to the full situation.
“Lucas,” a young voice hissed. A woman? Not the Nobleman from before. A younger voice.
Jeoffroi put a hand to his head.
“J-Jeoffroi, for one hour do not attempt to leave this room and do not attack anyone.” An Obligation he wasn’t prepared for, from a young male voice.
The new Obligation gripped him and suppressed the one compelling him to get up. With that motivation drained, his arm buckled and he collapsed back into the bed.
His ribs stung and his body felt sore on one side. Jeoff moaned and put some effort into regathering himself and become present again. He took another deep breath. What happened? There was a vague memory of Alexandre shouting angrily and then kicking him hard in the ribs. But the Obligation to sleep took him back under.
He clutched the area of his ribs and gingerly pushed up to sit on the edge of the bed.
He glanced around, finally taking in the room. It was well furnished. A guest room? Window, bed, chair, bookcase, door–
The woman from before wasn’t there anymore. She was replaced by two apprehensive guards, a boy, probably in his teens wearing what was likely a royal Ninove uniform that was dirtied from rain and mud, and standing next to the boy, arms crossed looking at him, was…
“Adele,” Jeoff wheezed in recognition. “You’re-” his words got cut short as he winced at the pain in his ribs.
She looked relatively well and uninjured, maybe a bit messy from rain and mud as well. The recent events clicked into place. He was in Ninove. Alexandre had come for a Magician boy with Jacques’ name. Adele had shown up to defend them. Then suddenly she vanished during the battle. A while later, Margot had come out to the battlefield and stopped him using a command to sleep. What was it she said?
He ran a hand through his messy hair and the cord holding his hair fell loose.
“Ten hours –” he muttered. It must have been ten – no, eleven hours, since the battle. That Nobleman woman from before had added another.
“H- Hello, I’m Lucas,” the boy introduced himself awkwardly. “We’re sure you must have questions but we need to –”
Jeoff gave the boy a sharp look. The command from before must have been from him. A Ninove Nobleman.
Did Ninove claim them now?
The boy flinched under Jeoff’s accusing eyes and sputtered incoherently. An ill-trained Nobleman. And he had Adele now. Where was...
“Margot,” Jeoff said with a start. He looked to Adele. “Is she–?”
“Margot is gonna be okay, I hear,” Adele said with a little smile on her face. She turned to look at the young Nobleman.
“Ah, right,” he said. “The Princess is resting now. Our physician is taking care of her personally.” His voice probably meant to be comforting but there was uncertainty in his demeanor. His posture was timid and hunched.
Jeoff let himself take another breath and looked at the floor absently.
That was good. She’s alive... What an odd princess. An outcast in her own royal family, and a Nobleman who would help Magicians? That girl was an anomaly. Was that why Jacques spent time with her as a child? So she would be different from Noblemen?
But now, was she and Adele also trapped in Ninove? Was he? Again, passed from one Nobleman to the next...
No, wait. That wasn’t quite right. Alexandre’s Obligations still stood.
“Why is Alexandre alive?” he hissed, looking up again. His hatred snuck into his voice.
Adele spoke with venom at the sound of his name, “He’s safe, don’t worry if that’s your Obligation. It’s just, Margot asked for his life to be spared.” She let out a hiss between her teeth. “Well, he lost. Now he’s at Ninove’s mercy – the queen is considering Margot’s request. Out of respect to her for saving their city from your attacks.”
Your attacks. He took those callous words and shut them out swiftly.
It was true. It couldn’t be helped.
Adele continued, “And of course they’ll have Alexandre release you of all Obligations as soon as possible. And Ninove won’t add new ones. They will actually let us go. We’re free to stay or leave. Only thing is they want an official,” she waved her hand dismissively, “court thing. And for Margot to be present so we’re waiting for her to recover some.”
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was so much.
And it wasn’t possible.
He switched off, pushing away any feeling that was trying to crawl into his chest. This had to be fake. Hope wasn’t possible.
Jeoffroi turned away, staring absently at the floor. Adele was probably Obligated to tell him this story. Ninove had won with Margot’s naïve help. She must have been captured and was now at their mercy. Clearly she couldn’t run after what he’d done to her. Alexandre probably begged and convinced Ninove that he’d be useful in some way, so they’d spare him. Jacques’ son was caught, and his daughter, and now Jeoff himself. How was this different from Lorraine?
His next liege would be Ninove.
“What Obligations are you under?” The dead words escaped his lips before he realized he said them.
She seemed to understand what his question implied. “Yeah, I couldn’t believe my ears either at first,” she said nonchalantly. Then she put some effort into sounding comforting. “But hey, I’m fine, my brother is recovering. Ninove released us from any Obligations. I’m only still here because my mother and Margot wouldn’t leave this city to die.”
Jeoff didn’t react.
There was a pause. Then the young Nobleman spoke up with determination, “I read about the war and how Magicians were treated – what Noblemen have done to them. I won’t let that continue. Grandfather agrees with me and Grandmother too. They made Uncle Tobias release Adele and Jacqui. They’re free and under our protection.”
Again, Jeoff didn’t respond.
Adele kicked the young Nobleman’s foot.
“Wh- Adele?” he said in a quiet voice.
“Command me to speak truthfully and say what Obligations I have.”
“I’m literally telling you to do this. He won’t believe it otherwise.”
Jeoff looked up slowly. Watching this odd exchange.
“Er- How did you want it worded?” The Nobleman boy scrunched his face into a grimace.
She rolled her eyes and repeated herself. He copied her exact words.
She responded to the command. “I’m only Obligated to protect myself from bodily harm by Marguerite Lafarge and – to answer this question truthfully by Lucas, of Ninove.”
Adele grinned slyly at Jeoff. “It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”
“I’m glad you’re ok,” Jeoff said with a low stiff voice.
He wanted this to be possible, but couldn’t bring himself to risk hope. He put it away again but decided to be cooperative to the situation.
“I assume you’re here to ask questions before your hour runs out.”
Lucas jumped. “Ah! Of course. Sorry.” He pulled a chair forward and sat down, placing himself at Jeoff’s eye level.
Lucas’s eyebrows furrowed and eyed where Jeoff’s hand was, clutching his ribs.
“Are you hurt?”
Jeoff looked down at where his hand was. “Alexandre,” he answered without feeling. “Kicked me, after I heard Margot’s command.”
Jeoff then let out a dark laugh, thinking of how panicked and upset Alexandre must have been. He gasped from the painful twinge in his ribs. He can’t even let himself enjoy this much.
“We shoul- Ah - I mean, I'll - yeah, I'll send a physician to see to it later. If - you're okay with that.”
Jeoff just looked at him, waiting for the next question.
Lucas fidgeted with a button on his coat, but tried to look straight and determined when he asked his next questions. Jeoff stiffly answered what he could.
This Nobleman avoided imperatives the whole time.
“Why – haven’t you commanded me to speak truthfully?”
“Huh? Did Lorraine anticipate being captured? A-Are you Obligated to lie to us?”
“No,” Jeoff gave a humorless laugh. “Alexandre would never have expected this.”
“Then – there’s no problem, right?”
Was this boy naïve? Jeoff pushed this thought aside too.
He dropped his eyes to the floor. “I’m still dangerous and a liability. I can’t be left conscious with Alexandre’s Obligations. I can feel the hour ending.”
“What is your preference?” Lucas asked cautiously.
Jeoff was going to try and leave in a moment. Before that could happen he leaned back into the bed, careful with his aching ribs.
“Just keep me asleep for long stretches of time – Margot used ‘sleep for 10 hours.’”
Lucas gave Adele a look and then quietly said, “Jeoffroi, sleep for 10 hours.”
His mind filled with a soft fog as he swiftly lost consciousness.