‘This is quite impressive, Domina,’ Teg says as he looks around the enormous reading room. ‘There’s an ancient feeling to this house, like it’s been here for as long as Boon & I, have.’
‘To be honest with you both, I actually felt it before. It’s something you don’t miss, you know what I mean? I remember the feeling even if I haven’t been in this house since I was a kid… I might not be explaining myself very clearly! How do I say this? Well, I remember the house was gigantic to me. I ran around the house, the staircase, the kitchens, the large open gardens and farms but I didn’t expect it’s going to look even bigger now that I’m an adult!’ Alex looks around the reading room, admiring the interiors and its intricate designs. As they are admiring the room, mesmerized by it, they did not notice someone was standing right in front of them. He is tall with a lean swimmer’s built; wearing a butler’s uniform with tidy blond, almost white hair swept to one side.
‘Good evening and good morning.’ A voice greets them suddenly which startled them. It startled Alex so much that she actually fell back but Boon managed to catch her before she fell on the floor. ‘Apologies for appearing out of nowhere, but I heard you all come in just now and would like to welcome Miss Alexandria to her home. Please allow me to introduce myself first. My name is Fortesque and I am the guardian of Maison de la Mer.’ He gives a bow and a polite smile. Alex’s mouth forms a wide smile on her face.
‘You haven’t changed, Fortesque! Except for the hair colour but you still look almost the same! And you still do that awesome ninja thing!’ she half runs up to him and playfully punches him on his arm. He smiles at her. She gives him a hug which is a pleasant surprise to him.
‘It’s lovely to see you again, Miss Alexandria,’ he tells her. ‘I agree that it’s been quite a long time since we last encountered each other. You’re still that little girl who ran around the grounds all day to me but I will say the same thing about your hair – it’s the only thing that’s changed,’ he says, nodding at the direction of her rainbow coloured hair which made Alex feel like a shy little kid.
‘Fortesque, these are my friends, Teg and Boon.’ Teg lands swiftly on the table, took off his hat and bows at Fortesque.
‘Teglyth, Warden of the Fair Folk Forests but for now, just a lowly citizen of Fair Folk Kingdom.
‘Pleasure is all mine.’ Fortesque bows towards him.
‘Boon, Domina Alexandria’s Libra,’ he says as he bows low towards Fortesque.
‘Please, I should be the one bowing lower,’ Fortesque says as he bows towards Boon. ‘You are both legendary in this family. I didn’t think I would have the honour to meet you both in my lifetime. Please allow me to make you all comfortable. Welcome back to Maison de la Mer, Miss Alexandria.’
‘Did you know I was coming back?’ Alex asks Fortesque.
‘Yes, of course, Miss Alexandria. The mistress instructed me to make the necessary arrangements for you before she passed on.’ He makes the sign of the cross, a shadow of sadness passing his collected expression. ‘Pardon me.’
‘Arrangements for what?’
‘She told me to get the library archives ready for you, in case you decide to come here. I have also made the necessary changes to the manor that would suit your needs so you all can settle in quickly to your new home.’
‘You make it sound like I’ve already decided to move here, Fortesque!’ Alex laughs, nervously.
‘I guarantee that this is one of the safest houses you will ever come across, including your parents’ flat. This manor has been spell locked with the flower of life even before it was built. Actually, the land itself is spell locked.’
‘You know about the magia…?’ Alex looks back to Teg who is levitating and Boon standing beside her. Alex sheepishly smiles at Fortesque. She’s forgotten that all this is not the norm.
‘Why yes, Miss Alexandria. These kinds of occurrences and beings are quite normal for me now,’ he assures her, looking calm and collected.
‘You’ve seen them before?’ Alex wide eyed.
‘Oh no, I’ve seen some of his people, the Fair Folk and as for Sir Boon, this will be the first time I’ve encountered a Libra.’
‘You’ve encountered my people?’ Teg asks surprised. He didn’t expect any of them to come out of the kingdom.
‘Your King was infatuated with the mistress. He had been a long time suitor, over 20 years but the mistress would not hear any of it.’ Alex felt a hint of relief but maybe she is just imagining it.
‘Great! I guess I don’t have to explain so many things. I’m glad that this is normal in the family. So, you were speaking of the flower of life and how it’s used to spell lock this house….what’s so special about it?’
‘Miss Alexandria, the flower of life is said to hold the most important and sacred patterns of the universe. It is quite mysterious and I think it’s no coincidence that it is Domina Stēlla’s crest.’
‘That’s interesting…’Alex nods, thinking. ‘Did any of you know of this?’ she asks Boon and Teg who both shook their heads. ‘Well, that’s new. For all of us.’
‘There are still many things you need to know, Miss Alexandria. I shall prepare your rooms. Please feel free to look around the house.’
‘Thank you, Fortesque.’ Alex smiles at him. Fortesque bows and left the room quietly.
‘Heh, I thought we were going to break in! Ha! I guess we didn’t need to…unless it’s a trap! Hahaha, no, it can’t be.’ Alex muses, feeling quite elated at the turn of events.
‘Did you inherit the manor, Domina?’ Boon asked, curious.
‘No, I inherited money…which I still haven’t spent but I will…and that’s about it. No mention of the manor.’
‘Domina, he knew you were coming here.’
Alex nods in agreement. ‘He certainly did. I would become suspicious of him if he wasn’t in my family for years, even before I was born. My Dad told me that Aunt Hera and Fortesque grew up together and he ended up looking after her and this manor. I wanted to ask him how he’s holding up but I didn’t want to bring it up. I just feel that he’s still mourning but is not showing it.’
Teg sighs. ‘You know, Domina, he has an aura about it. He may not be a Libra but he certainly acted the part around your Aunt Hera.’
‘What do you mean?’ Alex asks.
‘He’s dabbled with magia as well, I can feel it but he doesn’t have an inch of anything sinister in his aura. Boon agrees with Teg and nods.
Alex realizes that Teg may be right about his theory. Aunt Hera didn’t marry because she was the one looking after the stone.
‘He’s a good man,’ Boon finally says after a short silence.
‘I believe they call it ‘love’.’ Alex concludes. ‘What else could it be, right? Anyway, let’s look around the manor.’
They exit the room and found themselves in another gigantic room. In the middle is a grand staircase leading up to other floors.
‘I remember this area but I don’t know if this is the receiving room. I think there are still more rooms,’ she says, trying to remember which room is where. ‘This house is too big for one person, to be honest – even if there is Fortesque and the maids.’ Alex says, taking in what sees, impressed by its grandeur.
‘The crest is everywhere, Domina.’ Boon observes. Alex nods in agreement. It must have been a powerful symbol, she thought, to actually safe lock an entire manor. How anyone could hide a manor from magical creatures except someone even more powerful, she thought. Suddenly, she starts to reminisce when her eyes fell upon the grand staircase. Aunt Hera used to follow her around, looking after her when she was still a child. Fortesque will be following them around, looking after them both. She remembers it well. She wonders if Aunt Hera longed for children of her own but is tied to another kind of fate. This thought saddens Alex. No wonder she likes me a lot, she probably thought that I would look like her child, if she ever had one. Alex feels a hand hold hers. She knows it’s Boon and she holds on to it for comfort.
As they got to the base of the grand staircase, a large painting of a woman greets them. It is hanging on the wall leading up to the first floor.
‘Who is….that?’ she turns to Boon.
‘I’m not sure Domina, but the likeliness is uncanny.’
Alex, Boon and Teg stare at the painting of a woman, who looks exactly like Alex.