February 19, 2017

In Which Laralita Mentions the Letter

July 16, 1203

"It's adorable. They haven't even met yet, but he's already smitten. I swear, whenever he's not writing letters, he's just waiting for her replies!"

Behind her, Laralita's twin brother groaned. "I'm right here!"

"I know--and you can't even protest. Adorable!" But in truth, she did rather envy Roderick. Laralita had nothing against her own betrothed, but... she had met him. And she spent most of their time together... waiting for him to grow on her.

Plus, they'd been a half-random match of similar age and not-inappropriate standing. Not that she didn't think she was the all-around lucky one, not being the perpetual center of their mother's scheming--but a betrothal to Carvalli royalty? That was a not-insignificant perk.

"Don't be embarrassed, Roderick; I had a few classes with Dera's sister, and she says Dera's similarly enamored." Their cousin Holladrin shot a wink over Laralita's shoulder before turning back to her. "For the record, I have no trouble believing it. He's sweet--like his father."

"I guess." Her father was sweet--but it was strange that Holladrin thought so, given that the last few instances of their being in the same room had involved a level of interaction so minimal that it seemed almost choreographed. But, maybe part of her father's sweetness was that he was a perpetual fish out of water? And whatever Holladrin privately thought, she was the type to give the benefit of the doubt until there was no doubt left to be had. "And with all she dotes on him, I will give my dear baby brother credit for not turning out like our mother."

"Baby brother?" Roderick smacked his own forehead with an open palm. "We're twins! And I'm the older twin!"

Laralita sighed. "God, he's so pedantic."

"And Mother doesn't dote on me! At least not since I grew up, she hasn't. She just can't let go of her stupid delusions of my being king one day. I'd love it if she treated me like she treats you."

"She barely even remembers I exist!"

"That would be perfect!"

"Oh, don't fight! You two always get along so well, so long as the topic of your mother never comes up." Holladrin took Laralita by the arm and dragged her over to the empty bench by Roderick, seating herself on the far end and pulling Laralita down beside her. "Can't we all just agree that your mother is a terrible mother to both of you, if just in different ways? Even my mother thinks your mother treats you both horribly, and my mother might be the only person left who even sort of loves your mother."

"I guess." Roderick sniffed. "I'm sorry, Laralita."

"Sorry, Roderick." Laralita curled her toes inward, the silk of her slipper not so soft as a minute prior. They would be sorry, for now. Her brother may well have been her favorite person on the planet, but of course her mother had to ruin him for her too. "For someone so allegedly obsessed with what's best for you, it's alarming that she doesn't know you wouldn't want to be king even if it were more likely."

"And if she took a minute to notice you, she'd realize that you're clever and charming and full of ideas--and not just some accidental twin daughter to be treated as an eternal afterthought."

"I'll say. She didn't even notice me standing there while she was sending out that letter."

Her brother's mouth curled, dragging his brows down with it. He hadn't known? Their mother hadn't told him? "What letter? Who does Mother write to?"

"I'm not sure, but it was strange even for her. She even came down to meet the courier herself rather than sending it with a servant. She had him prove his illiteracy with a note insulting his mother--I guess she thought he'd react if he could read?--then insisted that the note was only ever to be delivered to... I don't know, she showed him a drawing of symbol or something, then burned that on a candle after he left. Oh, and he told her to burn it if he couldn't deliver it for some reason. Even gave him a flint, just in case."

"That almost sounds like--" Holladrin cut herself off with a shake of her head. For the moment, Laralita would take that as another benefit of the doubt, but she'd ponder the end of the sentence later that night as she drifted off to sleep--and she wouldn't know it then, but the answer would cross her mind. "Maybe she mentioned something to my mother? I'll ask her. If she didn't, then... well, my mother would want to know anyway."

"And I think we'd want your mother to know too," Laralita agreed after a quick shared glance with Roderick. "Sometimes I swear that your mother is the only reason ours isn't a serial killer yet."

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