It had been Pentuary too when it happened, sixteen years before. Iolanthe, Augie, Yuah, and Dorah were sitting in a circle on the floor around Master Akalos, who was making them recite the names of the books in the Modest Scriptures. That two of them were the children of aristocrats and two were the children of servants made no difference to Master Akalos. That three of them were Kafirites and one of them was a Zaeri did, and the tutor gained a perverse delight in drilling them on the set of scriptures that the Zaeri did not believe in. Terrence, who was watching from beyond the door, could see the queer laughter hiding behind the man’s eyes. Both twelve-year-olds, Terrence and Enoch, had finished their lessons for the day. Enoch had hurried off to his chores in the stable, while Terrence had made himself a sandwich.
He leaned against the doorframe and took a bite. From this location he could see both the other children at their studies through the door and the carriage sitting in front of the house through the open window. His mother’s friend, Simon Mudgett, was visiting again. His carriage was out front, the horses still harnessed. He squeezed the last two or three bites together into his mouth.
“Julien, Wind, March, Magic, Raina, Egeria, Dallarians, Zaeri…” the four children recited, almost together. Iolanthe missed Raina and went right from Magic to Egeria. Yuah was determined to recite the loudest. Augie was moving his mouth without actually saying anything at all. All of them were casting envious glances at the scant breeze blowing in through the window.
Then Terrence saw a movement out of the corner of his eye. It was his father down the hallway. Quickly heading down the hall after him, Terrence saw the shotgun in his father’s hand. This was a great opportunity. Terrence liked shooting as much as any boy. But his father was going the wrong way. He was headed up the stairs. Had he already been shooting? Was he going to clean his shotgun now?
Terrence followed, now just a few feet behind his father, and as the elder Dechantagne opened the door to his wife’s bedroom, Terrence followed right on in. Then it was as if everything was in slow motion. Terrence’s mother was in bed, the bedclothes covering only the bottom half of her naked body. Next to her was Simon Mudgett.
With agonizing slowness, Lucius Dechantagne raised the shotgun to his shoulder and fired. A red spray blossomed from the bare chest of Iphigenia Dechantagne, covering the bed in blood. A second shotgun blast hit the bed just to her left, but Mudgett was already on the floor running for the window. The snap of the shotgun being opened was drowned out by the crash as he broke the glass from the already open pane, crashing through and falling naked and bloodied from the sloped roof to the grounds below. Terrence’s father snapped the weapon shut again, having replaced the two shells. He walked to the window, only to find nothing to shoot at. He turned around to find his wife, her mouth and eyes wide open as she gurgled a few last dying breaths and his twelve year old son, his face gone white, staring at each other. He shot his wife once more in the chest, turned and gave the boy a long look, and then turned back and shot her in the head, leaving a corpse that no longer at all resembled a living human being.
* * * * *
Terrence walked into the parlor to find it surprisingly cool. Iolanthe was there sipping an iced beverage. The outside of the tall glass was covered with beads of condensation. She looked up casually, but narrowed her eyes at his appearance.
“What have you been doing?” she asked.
“What are you drinking?”
“Really? Is it any good?”
“Very refreshing. Would you like one?”
He nodded, taking a nearby chair, and she waved to a servant standing in the doorway, who then hurried off after the drink.
“What have you been doing, I ask again?”
“I have been as well.” She gestured to the family scrapbook on the divan next to her.
“You should burn that.”
“We can’t do that. But you are right, dear brother. We should stop looking to the past. Our future begins now.”
“If you say so, Iolanthe.”
* * * * *
Minutes before her brother had arrived in the parlor, Iolanthe had indeed been thinking over the past. It was not the same tragedy that Terrence had been reliving though. She knew that Terrence carried a scar from the murder of their mother, though she didn’t quite understand exactly what it was or how deep it cut. She had her own, more recent scars—scars scarcely ten years old.
Iolanthe had continued to live in her father’s house near Shopton, long after her brothers had gone away to military school. By her seventeenth year she had grown into a strikingly beautiful young lady. Not one to stay in the brooding mansion, she spent her days happily riding across the countryside. It was here that she met a young man named Jolon Bendrin. At first, she found him attractive. He certainly found her so. They met several times and talked and she enjoyed his company.
Then one day, he changed. They both attended a party at the Banner residence. Afterwards they had walked in the garden. Nothing seemed strange. When he kissed her, she had let him. But then he forced her down onto a stone bench and reached under her dress. She only realized the danger of her situation when he put his hand over her mouth. He raped her. Then week after week, he did it again. She tried to avoid him but she couldn’t. He seemed to be everywhere. What could she do? She wasn’t strong enough to fight him off, and there was no male protector for her—her father was in a drunken stupor and her brothers were both away. And who else could she tell, without disgracing herself? When she turned eighteen, she left Mont Dechantagne, moving to Brech, and leaving her father to waste away by himself.
* * * * *
Iolanthe took another sip of iced tea and looked at her brother sitting across from her. No, there was no point in living in the past. One must look toward the future. There was a great deal to do. But there was always the possibility that Jolon Bendrin might come to Brech. What would she do then?