Margueritte awoke but did not open her eyes at first. Her stomach churned a little and she did not know why. She did not remember being sick. She heard the sound of shuffling beside her, like someone rearranging things on a dresser. She looked.
An old woman had her back turned to the bed. Margueritte sat up a little and that got the woman’s attention. The woman turned, and Margueritte threw a fist to her own mouth to stifle a scream. The woman was frightening to look at, especially in her piercing eyes.
“Ah, you’re awake,” the old woman said. “But you must not act that way toward your own, dear mother Curdwallah.”
“Mother?” Margueritte felt confused, but that did not sound right.
“Yes, dear,” Curdwallah said. “You left the tower again. The little ones almost caught you, and you lost your memory again. I bet you don’t even remember your name.”
Margueritte paused and wrinkled her brow. She did not remember.
“Lucky for you your mother was able to save you again and bring you back to safety. This tower is isolated. You are safe here and no one will find you, but you must stay in the tower, my dear, or you will never remember anything.”
“What is my name?” Margueritte asked.
Curdwallah paused as if she considered her options. “Margueritte,” she said at last. “I always did like that name.”
“Mother?” Margueritte said it, but it was really a question.
“The only one you have,” Curdwallah responded, but she never did smile.
Margueritte shook her head. That did not sound right, but the name Margueritte felt right and it made her wonder about the rest. “I must stay in the tower?” She did not exactly understand.
“It is the curse,” Curdwallah said with a raise of her brows. No doubt, she intended to pretend concern, but in fact it made her look more frightening so Margueritte had to look away and just listen. “You would not marry the evil one.”
“I am old enough to marry?” Margueritte wondered.
“Not quite,” Curdwallah responded. “That was part of the problem, but you must not interrupt your mother. It isn’t polite.”
“I’m sorry, Mother Curdwallah,” Margueritte said, and swallowed, like the name caused a great lump in her throat.
Curdwallah paused, but Margueritte refused to look.
“You would not marry the evil one. He made you lose all your memories and told you lies to try and trick you into his bed, but you would not. I barely saved you the first time, when we came here. Our great god, Abraxas, made this a safe place for you. You will not be haunted by your past or by strange dreams of the future, and the spirits of the earth that the evil one has sent to find you will never find you here. But you must stay here, always, er, until I can find a cure for the curse. Every time you leave the tower, you lose all of your memories and we have to start all over again.”
Margueritte swallowed again. She could think of no reason to disbelieve what she was told. She screwed up her courage and looked again at Curdwallah. It was not easy. “Am I so beautiful then that he cannot resist me?” She asked.
“Yes,” Curdwallah lied. “And see, your hair has grown again as it should.” Margueritte looked quickly. For an instant, she remembered having long hair, hair to the floor, but this was ever so much more. It looked twice as long as she was tall, and to be sure, she got up to see.
“Good.” Curdwallah said. “Come here, girl.” Margueritte went and Curdwallah brought her to the window. “Tie your hair to the pole here and let it down outside.” Curdwallah said and showed her how. “I have much to do today.”
“But mother Curdwallah, will you not stay with me?” Margueritte asked. She did not want to be left alone, at the moment, in unfamiliar surroundings.
“No. But remember this.” Curdwallah trained her sharp eyes on the girl and Margueritte shrank back ever so little. “You must never go down to the first floor and the door to the tower must always remain closed to you or the spell of safety may be broken. I go in and out the window.”
Margueritte changed her mind in that moment. She wanted company, but Curdwallah, mother or not, frightened her terribly. “Yes, Mother Curdwallah,” Margueritte said, thinking it prudent to be agreeable.
“I must go,” Curdwallah said and taking hold of Margueritte’s hair she easily stepped over the window seat to the sill. “I am servant of our great god Abraxas, and there is always work in service to the god.” She began to lower herself, hand by hand until she reached the ground. “Now pull your hair up.” She instructed. “I will call you when I need you to let it down again.
“Yes, Mother Curdwallah,” Margueritte said, and complied, but to herself, she said, “Abraxas is no god of mine,” and she doubted in her heart that anyone so horrid could be her real mother. When her hair got safely wrapped around her shoulders several times like a great scarf, she went and threw herself on her bed and cried. She did not know why she felt so sad. She really could not remember anything at all. But she felt sad all the same and finally decided that life was simply too unfair for words. She found a bit of bread and a cup of milk on the side table, but she did not feel hungry. There were no mirrors, but she decided she did not want to look anyway. She nearly tripped on her own hair when she went to the door of her room but decided she did not want to search the tower. She hoped her hair would not get much longer. Finally, back on her bed, she cried herself to sleep.
Almost a year passed before King Urbon called off the search and sent his condolences to Lord Bartholomew and Lady Brianna. They, of course, were not for giving up.
Early on, Luckless, who could stand at the front door and find the exact spot where a copper had fallen in the labyrinth on Crete, sniffed the air and spun around so many times he got dizzy; but he could not find a trace of her. “But she isn’t dead,” he insisted. “I would know if she was.”
“She isn’t dead,” Grimly confirmed over and over before he disappeared.
“Gone to raise the troops for a good look around.” Little White Flower told Brianna. They had indeed become best of friends, and Brianna did not mind at all that Elsbeth and Margueritte had in Little White Flower something of an older sister. In fact, she sometimes treated Little White Flower like a daughter, and the fee, whose own mother was long gone, responded willingly and with her whole heart.
One afternoon, they walked beside the oak in the triangle and sat on the bench Brianna had put there. “I don’t know if they may find her, though. It is like she has been taken right out of this world.”
Little White Flower stayed big as much as she could stand, and she had taken to wearing the clothes of a true lady and calling herself Jennifer. Brianna thought to change the subject.
“And will you marry Father Aden?” She asked.
Little White Flower began to cry, and Brianna instantly felt sorry to have brought it up. “Without Margueritte that may never happen,” Little White Flower explained. “It is one of the oldest rules of all; that the sprites are not to marry or even mingle with people without permission.”
“Oh. I see,” Brianna said. “But we will find her, and soon.” Brianna always sounded positive about that and Little White Flower, that is, Jennifer perked up a little.
“Oh, I hope so,” she said.
“I have explained all that to Charles.” Roland yelled as he came crashing out of the house.
“But son.” Lord Bartholomew argued right back. “It will do no good getting yourself in trouble as a deserter. We will send word as soon as there is word to send.”
Roland shook his head and would not listen. “Charles has plenty of swords and can take care of himself.”
“Damn, stubborn.” Lord Barth started but pulled up short when he noticed the women. “Sorry, my dear.”
Brianna stood. “Roland. I believe Charles may need you for more than just your sword,” she suggested.
“That’s right.” Bartholomew picked up on the thought. “A good head is worth more than sharp steel alone.”
Roland paused, looked first at Lord Barth and then at Lady Brianna and settled finally on the fairy. “I’m not for giving up,” Roland said plainly. “How about you, Lady Jennifer.”
“No giving up.” Little White Flower agreed, and her cry was completely forgotten and replaced by a grim determination. “I know my Lady LeFleur has kept the little ones to task, lest the world suffer while we search for our Lady; but I think I may pay her one more visit. I can’t possibly do much more praying right now. My knees are almost worn out as it is.” That was quite a speech for the little lady, but then, when the fee spent considerable time in their big size, they tended to behave more like ordinary people.
Brianna took and patted Little White Flower’s hand for support.