Continued from The Binding of Elise.
As Elise and her kitten matured into young adults, they became more and more inseparable. One never saw one without the other, and Elise walked most often with the lanky cat about her shoulders, draped elegantly and always purring.
Elise spoke often to the small feline, often as though she understood the language of cats.
The next winter came and went, and Elise’s father met with various families to find a husband for his reformed daughter. It took only a few visits for him to find a suitable husband for the girl in a childless, wealthy widower named Dalton, and the engagement ceremony was extravagant as my nephew paraded Elise for all to see. He tried to forbid her bring her cat, but the cat followed regardless, and charmed Dalton with her friendly manner.
The marriage took place in the spring after a short engagement, and Dalton and Elise got on well together. Despite his years, the pair seemed to be of one mind on many topics, and Dalton even carried Elise’s cat sometimes.
Elise moved in with Dalton, and I was invited also– along with my runt kitten. We moved in, and life was lovely. Dalton’s home was lovely and lively, and Elise made an ideal lady for it. She quickly learned who to trust and who to dismiss among his court.
Many times during the first months, I noticed Elise in the company of Dalton’s physician. She never noticed me, and always seemed worried. Whenever I asked, she deflected my questions. She became adept at dodging my worries. I asked Dalton, and he offered to ask the physician, who gave him no answer, either. We worried, and Elise continued to live her life merrily, despite our concern.
Eventually, we found out. Elise was barren.
Dalton was shocked. His elderly mother demanded he get the marriage with Elise annulled in favor of a more fertile woman. He refused outright, and asked Elise to discuss options with him.
Impressed by his care, she eagerly discussed the possibility of adopting from another family, or allowing him the use of a surrogate. Together, they sought such a woman out, one who resembled Elise, in hopes that the child would look as though it was properly theirs. They found one, paid her, and kept her near. Elise and the woman, named Beth, got along well and became like sisters. My grand-niece offered Beth an adoption into the family, and Beth tearfully accepted, for she was of base birth and had nothing save what little fate gave to her.
The adoption was quiet, and few outside the family knew of it. The birthing was anything but. Screams echoed throughout the keep, and lights in the town burst to life as the townspeople woke from sleep to hear the screams of what they thought was surely the death of their lady.
Beth delivered a healthy young boy as morning dawned, and handed him over to Elise with tired hands. Beth didn’t survive the night, and Elise was devastated. She put on a brave face as she cared for her new son, named Beneth after Beth and me.
Despite the loss of Beth, the family was happy, and Beneth was a hearty child. He brought Elise from her depression with ease, and the people of Dalton’s lands accepted the boy as the heir happily.
Our pleasant life lasted a few months before something horrible happened. An assassin snuck into the keep. He dispatched Dalton and his mother before anyone was aware of his presence. Elise was stabbed in the chest. Beneth was untouched, because Elise’s cat protected the infant, and her yowls brought the guards in time to arrest the assassin. I arrived at Elise’s side once I saw the boy safe, and my vision was too blurry to see much. I thought I saw the cat stick a paw in her my grand-niece’s mouth, but it might just have been the feline batting all cats did when they were curious.
The physician took Elise’s care seriously, and saved her life. She recalled nothing of her family or the attack, however, save that she had a cat. I took over the care of Beneth, and Elise’s cat cared for her with love and affection, despite a broken body.
I checked in often on the pair, but neither seemed to make any effort at recovering beyond their current state. At length, I spoke with the physician, who informed me that the pair were simply slow to heal, and were showing signs of recovery, even if such signs here slow and minute.
It was early in the morning on a winter day when I saw Elise sitting up for the first time. The cat sat on her lap, and Elise stroked the creature.
“Elise?” I asked in shock as I stepped toward her. She looked so thin, and no longer had any sign of femininity on her gaunt face.
Slowly, she looked up. “Grampy.” Her speech was stilted, but I didn’t care. She recalled me finally.
With slow steps, I approached her and hugged her with gentle, trembling hands. Elise hugged me back.
“I’m going to be ok now, Grampy.” She managed with a tired smile. “Just worry about taking care of my son, please. I’ll recover.”
I nodded slowly and kissed her forehead. “I’m glad you’re doing so much better.” I murmured in wonder.
She smirked. “Go, let me rest.” she urged.
Over the course of a week, she and her cat both blossomed back to health, though their movements were eerily similar. The cat no longer showed any new white whiskers, and lost those that had appeared in her brown coat.
Truly, such a recovery was miraculous, especially so suddenly, but something didn’t seem right. I continued to check on Elise.
Suspicion rose in the infirmary, and I heard rumors of witchcraft and fate. I tried to silence them, but one of the assistants to the physician carried a grudge against magic and all of its ilk. She poisoned Elise, and though my grand-niece survived, she survived only because of the very thing the assistant feared. I watched as the cat bit its own paw and shoved the bloodied pads into Elise’s mouth.
Elise was too damaged to recover her mind.
Now, my grand-niece believes she is a cat, and the twin to her pet.