June 30, 2009

In Which Roderick Will Grieve

September 27, 1158

"Well, this certainly is a surprise," Roderick greeted the young man in front of him. "My God, boy--I haven't seen you since Rudolphus and Eudocia got married. Terribly sorry that I missed your sister's wedding, but it isn't as though anyone didn't know why I wasn't there. How are Lileina and Cambrin doing, anyway?"

"Well, thank you very much," answered Tarien with a half-hearted smile. "Their little girl is almost a year old now. All three of them are very happy."

Roderick sent him a teasing grin. "And are you thinking of achieving such happiness for yourself any time soon, young Tarien?"

The young man sighed. "Well, I've been promised to my cousin, but her father doesn't want her to marry before she's sixteen, so I'm still free for another three years. Just as well--lot of empty sheaths out there lacking a sword, if you know what I mean, and I might as well feel around before I find the one that fits."

Shaking his head, the king pulled himself to his feet and pushed his chair back into place. "There's not much else you young people think of besides 'sheaths' and 'swords' is there?"

"Unfortunately, my very visit proves you wrong there," muttered Tarien wistfully. "So many beautiful maids in this castle, and after I give you this news, I will be in no state to seek their undoubtedly agreeable company."

Roderick nodded, understanding. "Something dreadful then, I take it. Has someone found the body of my late wife?"

"No, but you are on the right track, your majesty," the younger man insisted. "In fact, it concerns my uncle, the Earl of Bandera--your wife's brother."


Gravely, Tarien nodded. "We all knew it was only a matter of time, but now that's happened, it just feels so... odd."

Roderick felt his lips curl into a frown. "I see."

"I'm sorry if we were at all presumptuous in sending you this message, considering all that happened with your wife," the boy apologized, "but Karlspan always held you in high regard, I hope you realize. He never had a bad word to say about anyone--he was a fine man, my uncle."

Indeed he had been. Despite everything that Geneva had done to him, Roderick could not have asked for a more gracious brother-in-law than Karlspan. Never before had he met a man both so brilliant and so accommodating, so frail of body, yet powerful in spirit. Nobles and peasants alike had loved him. He would be sorely missed by all, including the man who had been so insulted by his sister--regardless of Geneva, Roderick would grieve for her brother.

With a slow nod, he agreed, "The finest."


June 29, 2009

In Which Octavius Reads Another Sign

August 11, 1158
Octavius was not particularly surprised to find Medea alone in the sitting room as usual, but the fact that she was wearing only her nightgown did puzzle him slightly. Ordinarily, Medea was not one to leave her own bedroom in anything less than her typical brocaded, straight-laced perfection, far beyond modest and into the realms of frigidity. Had it not been for her severe hairstyle, he might have thought she had simply not bothered to dress for some reason or another, but seeing as not a single blond strand was out of place, it seemed more likely that she was entirely unaware of her attire.
"Uh... Medea?" he addressed her, unsure of whether or not to comment. "Are you... feeling all right?"

Her stony eyes fell upon him unblinkingly. "Of course. Why would you assume otherwise?"

"No reason," replied Octavius quickly, taking a seat beside her on the couch.

Medea rolled her eyes. "I see."
For a moment, they sat in a strained silence; Octavius half-expected her to ask him to leave, but she seemed oddly content to merely forget about his presence and stare into the space directly ahead of her. He might have thought it a nice change to her usual screaming and nagging had he not been questioning her very sanity.

"Sparron was asking for you," he ventured at last.

Medea shrugged. "So? He knows I have better things to do than to be at his every beck and call."

"He's two years old, Medea."


Perhaps he'd been better off just keeping his mouth shut. He didn't want her talking about their children like this; he had to change the subject.
"Oh, did you hear? Alina had her baby yesterday," Octavius informed her.

His wife only blinked. "Another one? Good Lord, that woman has babies like a hen lays eggs. What kind is this one?"

"A little girl. They named her Viridis, for Severin's stepmother. Funny thing is, they're both blond and brown-eyed; quite the coincidence, is it not?"
"I'll say. Three fair-haired babies in a row? Either Severin turns a blind eye or he's a complete idiot; obviously, Alina's sleeping around. Oh well, at least he can be certain that Rahileine is his--unfortunate girl."

So it seemed she was just as ready to insult his friends and their children as she was to insult him and his own. Was no one immune to her disdain and judgment? Surely there was someone of whom she could speak no ill...

Ah! Who better than the person of whom none could speak ill?
"I recieved a letter from your cousin this morning," he declared. "She was fairly ill for a while, but she seems to be recovering quite nicely."

Medea bit her lip. "Which cousin?"

"Princess Holladrin."

"The princess?" she parroted; had he not known better, he might have thought she sounded confused.
Octavius nodded. "Indeed. She sends us all her love and hopes that you are well."

"Don't be ridiculous, Octavius! Why on earth would the Princess of Dovia be writing to you?"

Well, that had certainly been unexpected.

"Because she's family, maybe?" He shouldn't have had to explain this to her.
"If you're trying to make me laugh, it isn't working," she scolded. "To call a princess one's family is near blasphemy. You shouldn't voice such falsehoods."

"Falsehoods?" Octavius repeated, silently praying that she was only playing some sort of joke. "She's your cousin. Her father the King is your uncle; you never miss an opportunity to remind me of that!"

Shaking her head, Medea stood. "Really, Octavius, if I had a King for an uncle, I would know. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some important things to attend to."
And with that, she was gone; in some ways, he felt as though she'd never even been there to begin with.


June 25, 2009

In Which Severin Finds an Exception

July 12, 1158

"...and so then he got mad because she thinks I'm cute, but he likes her. I told him I didn't want her to think I'm cute, because I don't want to be cute, but he wouldn't listen and punched me, so I punched him back, and that's the truth, Uncle Severin," Searle hurriedly concluded his anecdote. "Anyway, Falidor saw and sent me to Father Sextus, so I confessed and then he sent me to you, and now you know everything. Can I go now?"

"Why the rush?" laughed Severin. "Want to go pick some flowers for your sweetheart before it gets too dark?"

Indignant, Searle bounced up and down in his seat. "No, no, no! She's not my sweetheart! Were you even listening?"

"She thinks you're cute, doesn't she?"

"So does Nora," grumbled Searle, "but you don't think she's my sweetheart."

"Why? Would you rather she was?"


Perfectly on cue, Falidor barged through the door, announcing himself by firmly stepping forward and sending a cool glance Searle's way. "What's this I hear about my sister?"

"My page wants her for his sweetheart," Severin answered gleefully.

Falidor's eyes narrowed. "Is that so?"

"No!" Searle protested stubbornly. "I don't want a sweetheart. Girls are stupid."

Chuckling to himself, Severin shook his head. "Oh, you say that now."

"I say that forever!"

"Forever's due to end in about six or seven years, then," he deduced. "Anyway, Falidor, is there someone here for me?"

Falidor nodded. "Florian, my lord--and he doesn't seem his usual caustic self today."

Frowning, Severin closed his eyes and sighed. It must have been Medea; perhaps she had done something to seriously harm Octavius, or one of the children. But then why would Octavius send Florian to him? Shouldn't he have sent Florian immediately to Roderick in that case?

Oh well, there was no use speculating at this point. "Send him in. Searle, you're dismissed."

Falidor bowed and left, Searle following quickly at his heels. The door closed behind them, but barely a minute had elapsed before it opened once again.

"My lord," Florian greeted him in an uncharacteristically meek voice. "Falidor said you weren't busy?"

If Florian had asked if he was busy, then that meant it wasn't too pressing--Octavius and the twins were fine.

"No, not at all," Severin assured him with a smile. "I was just scolding my nephew for hitting the cook's son--some scuffle over the captain's little girl, apparently."

Ordinarily, Florian would've made some snide comment, he knew; however, he merely breathed the word "Women."

Shaking his head, Severin pulled himself to his feet and made his way around the desk. "Since you asked if I was busy, I imagine it isn't something Octavius sent you for, is it?"

"No," confirmed Florian. "It's a personal matter. The baron knows nothing about it. He doesn't even know I'm here--it's my day off."

"Oh. I had no idea we were so close."

Florian cocked his head slightly. "Don't get too comfortable--you're my only choice. I need to talk to someone in a position of influence, so that rules out almost everyone I know. This would hit some nerves for both the king and the duke, and I imagine it might--oddly enough--make the baron feel somewhat jealous. Therefore, you're the only one I can tell."

"You aren't going to make me guess what it this is about, are you?"

The baron's steward met his eyes. "No, I'm going to be as brief as possible. You see... it was about two months ago now..."

Severin nodded. "Yes...?"

"Well, Byrn had just died, and you know how Norwan wanted a son to inherit the farm, so... well, you can imagine what he did to Thetis that night," Florian finished flatly as Severin scowled. "Anyway, she left after that and broke into my house. I woke up and found her on the bench in my bedroom, crying. I figured Norwan had raped her, but please remember that at that point, I didn't know that Byrn was dead."

"All right. Continue."

Florian inhaled softly, then released. "So I comforted her, and she kissed me, and... well, we had sex."

So that was why Florian had come to him. Roderick would have been furious, as he had recently had an experience with an unfaithful wife; Dalston would have been sensitive, as he was still feeling guilty over his own sexual misadventure. Octavius, he saw now, might have been envious at the chance to throw away his marriage vows for a night--Severin doubted Medea had visited his bed since she'd learned she was pregnant with the twins.

Florian, of course, had no idea of what Severin might have thought about all things adultery. How would he know, really? All of Severin's ideas on the subject related directly to his father, whom he preferred not to discuss often. No, the man could not have possibly had any clue about what Severin might think of all this.

But then again, he supposed it didn't really matter. The other three did have it worse he was sure. Besides, this was Thetis--if anyone was justified in being unfaithful to her spouse, surely it was Thetis. In fact, with the way the scumbag treated the poor girl, Severin barely considered Norwan to be Thetis's husband at all; he respected the church and its views, but felt no obligation to agree with them where he saw unfit, and the matter of Thetis and Norwan's marriage was one such issue.

Sighing, Florian began to aimlessly pace about, his footsteps neither even nor sure. "She says there will be a baby in February. He's raped her since that night, so it's probably his, but..."

"There's still a chance it's yours," Severin finished for him.


"Well, it would probably be in her best interests to keep her away from Norwan for as long as possible," he mused, turning around to face Florian once more. "If he gets angry about anything--which he will--he'll probably beat her, and then she'll likely miscarry, and then he'll act as though she'd planned for that to happen and... well, I think you can figure out the rest."

Florian nodded grimly. "Bastard. Someone should tie his cock to a horse and poke it in the ass with a lance."

"Indeed. Now, does Norwan know where you live? Or even who you are?"

"No," Florian answered. "Thetis makes a point of not mentioning me around him, as knowledge of me could lead him to Evera."

Uneasy, Severin placed one hand on the desk and leaned slightly toward it. As reluctant as he was to place Thetis and Evera in the same place, at least he could rest assured that it was unlikely that Norwan would find them in the first place. "Perhaps you should take her to live with you then, at least until the baby comes, if we can't get away with keeping her any longer than that. I'd take her myself, but obviously I'd be the first person he suspects."

"Fair enough," agreed Florian. "God, I hope Norwan rots in hell some day soon. I doubt he even appreciated the son he had--he just wants a boy who can be bullied into doing all the work around there when he's older. If I didn't think he would harm either of them, I'd hope the baby's a girl."

"I hope this isn't too bold of me, Florian," muttered Severin sullenly, "but if I didn't think he would harm either of them, I'd hope the baby is yours."


June 24, 2009

In Which Florian Makes a Bittersweet Reaquaintance

May 25, 1158

Over the course of his nearly twenty-three years, Florian had been woken by quite variety of sounds, ranging from his mother's comforting footsteps to the simultaneously pained and pleasured moans of the seasoned convict in the next cell taking advantage of his bitch, but never before had he heard one that so effectively cleansed his mind of his need for sleep, one so tragic and horrifying that--had he been anyone other than Florian--he might have succumbed to the sheer force of gravity and begged whatever trace of God was present in the room to stop the noise immediately, for he had seen the light and now had a newfound appreciation for all he knew.

It was the sound of a woman's quiet, yet tortured sobs.

Had he been deaf, he might have thought she was merely sleeping, curled up on the bench like a puppy on a corner rug, but the seductive elegy of her stifled cries brought into sharp light much evidence otherwise. He could see her tear-stained face, the quiver of her lips, the way her body trembled and shuddered with every breath she took...

Ordinarily, his initial instinct would have been to ask what the hell she was doing in his bedroom at this hour, or how she'd even gotten into his house in the first place, but even Florian could tell that in this instance, a more sensitive approach was required; something was horribly wrong.

"Thetis?" he whispered cautiously. "Thetis? Are you all right?"

Rubbing her eyes, she rose, slowly and shakily. "Florian..."

"What's wrong, Thetis?"

She merely shook her head--then, as if even that had been more than she could handle, she began to bawl.

"Thetis...?" he gently pressed once more, taking her in his arms with all the clumsy tenderness of a child trying not to crush a butterfly he had caught in his hands. "Thetis, please tell me what happened."

Oh, but he was being an idiot; clearly, the girl was in no state to speak. For now, he could only guess.

"Is it... Norwan?" ventured Florian, voicing the name with a distinct loathing reverence, as if it were the devil's own. "Thetis... did he rape you?"

A nod, followed by another fit of tears. Florian wasn't fully convinced, however. While Thetis claimed that Norwan had eased up on her sexually following the birth of the twins, Florian knew that every once in a while, the man did still like to shove her against the bed or the wall or the table and show her who her master was. Could Norwan have raped her today? Certainly--but that wasn't the only reason she was upset.

"Uh... more than once?"

Another nod; however, this still didn't seem sufficient. Perhaps he was only prying--he would let her tell him when she felt she was ready.

Suddenly, with surprising force for a young woman of her size, she had thrown her face into his shoulder. Startled, he leaned back in recoil; it had been quite some time since a feminine face had rested upon his bare flesh.


"P-please... d-don't," Thetis stuttered. "Just... d-don't say..."




She silenced him with her lips and tongue, allowing him a bittersweet reacquaintance with that perfect kiss he had bestowed upon her over a year ago now, that indescribable work of art. Quickly it was that he lost himself in the depths of her mouth, ceased to exist for any purpose other than memorizing its entirety as his tongue explored every corner of it. This was not simply kissing--whatever this was, no word had yet been invented for it.

A painful searing sensation surged throughout him from the place on his shoulder blade where he felt the metallic touch of her wedding band. In that moment, it was not a ring, but a knife, a toxic dagger, its poison spreading from the source so long as it remained. Had the moment not been so delicate, he might have torn it off her, perhaps flung it out the window; surely such an act would not be a disservice to her.

"You can stay here tonight, if you'd like," he offered as their mouths finally parted. "I'll wake Goodwife Noth and tell her to ready the guest bedroom--"

Thetis whimpered in protest. "No... don't..."

"Well, you can't very well head home at this hour, can you? Silly girl. I'm sure the bed upstairs is much more comfortable than that bench, so--"

This time, Florian had cut himself off; in his defense, however, the progression of the centuries has sufficiently proven that many unsuspecting men are stricken suddenly mute upon seeing a woman remove her clothing.

He tried not to stare. As the minutes passed, his gaze traveled from her hips to the ceiling, from her thighs to the walls, from her breasts to the floor... finally, he settled on her eyes, that beautiful color of life he had always adored. "What do you want, Thetis?" he muttered at last, surprised at his own coherency.

Less surprising, however, was her answer. "I don't know."

"If I do this, I can't take it back, you know."

She nodded. "I know."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"I know."

"Are you sure this is a good time for you?"

She shook her head. "No... but we're both here, aren't we? We won't always be here."

She was half wrong; on some level or another, she, for one, would always be there.


June 21, 2009

In Which Avine Invokes a Demon's Wrath

May 25, 1158

During her childhood years back in Dovia, Avine had always been the fastest little girl in the village, the only one who could consistently challenge boys to races and come out on top. Her running prowess had not faded with womanhood, marriage, and motherhood--but today, no matter how fast she ran, she felt lacked the speed of a mere babe toddling along after the lanky young men.

Not for the first time in her lengthy sprint, she prayed against all logic that Thetis was home. Thetis, she knew, always came to get Byrn before returning home, but today had to be exception. It just had to be.

Gasping for breath, Avine through herself against the door, continually pounding. "Thetis!" she screamed. "Thetis!"

It was no use; no one answered.

Frustrated, she began to pound, biting her lip so hard her teeth might have pierced through her skin. "Thetis! Oh, God, Thetis! Please be home, please! God dammit!"

Suddenly, the door flung open--however, the person it revealed was not Thetis.

Avine had never met Norwan, nor had ever had any care to, but here he was, just as Thetis had described him. He was not a large man--in fact, he was rather short--but his angry scowl, cruel eyes, and very aura made him a fierce, intimidating presence. He wreaked of a vile mix of sweat and ale, and altogether gave Avine the distinct impression of being rather troll-like. She could not fear him, however; there were far fouler things at work today.

"Who the hell are you?" he spat sourly, his voice invoking the sudden mental image of a rotting fence board with jagged, rusty nails sticking out of it from all angles.

"I--I live in the village," panted Avine, struggling to catch her breath. "I--Thetis--she leaves Byrn with me--sometimes."

Norwan barred his teeth, his foul breath seeping into the air; had Avine been in a state to be any more aware, she would have recoiled out of sheer reflex. "Can't be bothered to take care of her own son, can she? Little whore! She's in for it when she gets back, that's for sure! Now, if she shows up with Byrn again, you just tell her to get her scrawny ass back here, you hear me?"

Avine trembled uncontrollably. "I... don't think..."

"You don't what?" demanded Norwan, shoving her backward, causing her to very nearly fall into the fence. "God dammit, woman! You filthy whores have a code or what? Vile wench! Now, why the hell are you here?"

"I came to tell Thetis--"

He gave her no chance to finish. "Well, Thetis ain't here, is she? Now, you tell me whatever the hell you wanted to tell her, or I'll rip those whore braids right off your head!"

She didn't know how to begin, especially under this pressure. What should she say? Why hadn't she thought this through? Was it possible to think something like this through? "The horse... he's usually calm, I swear! Something must've startled him, it was the damnedest thing..."

"I don't give a rat's ass about any damn horse!" Norwan snarled dangerously.

Once again, Avine panicked--why hadn't she sent Bernver instead? "But if I would've thought... I wouldn't have let him... never was a tamer horse, I swear it, and..."

"To hell with the fucking horse! You start talking sense now, or God help me, I'll tear you to shreds!"

Avine couldn't hold it in any longer; as she slowly walked away, she raised her hands to her face and began to cry. "It's... it's Byrn," she wailed, her voice barely even audible to Avine herself. "He's dead."