July 31, 2009

In Which Laralita Is Made Even More Comfortable

March 30, 1160

It had been a rather taxing day for Queen Laralita of Naroni. She had spent her morning being fitted for various gowns, and had then spent several long hours debating with herself over pieces of jewelry to compliment them. Her afternoon had been spent in the company of her sister and the duchess, who were both pleasant enough, but rather exhausting--and of course, they had brought along their combined three girls to play with Laralita's own stepdaughters and baby. Needless to say, by the time supper had finished, she was feeling quite tired, so she retreated to her bedchamber as early as she possibly could.

Oh, how she loved her new bedchamber! She was now quite familiar with the room that Roderick had shared with Geneva before the scandal--Leara was sleeping there now--and she could not for a minute understand why on earth her husband's first wife had preferred that tiny little closet of a bedroom to these luxurious quarters. Yes, this room was rather empty, she had to admit, but decorating it would prove to be just the sort of challenge Laralita lived for, and of course, she'd already set to it. The wedding gifts had proved a great help in this endeavor; seeing as Roderick and Laralita had each been married once before, the vast majority of their presents had been of a pleasingly aesthetic nature.

And the one they had recieved from Alina and Severin was the finest! It seemed that they loved the statue she had given them so much that they had purchased an identical one for her! Oh, could she ask for a more wonderful sister and brother-in-law?

"A little early to be wearing your nightgown, don't you think?" mused her husband as he stepped into view, a smile on his face. "Not that I'm complaining, of course; it does rather showcase your charms."

"Oh, I was just feeling a little worn," she informed him with a sigh. "Alina and Celina and the girls came for a visit today, and while they are all lovely, they can be rather tiresome."

Roderick nodded in agreement. "Indeed. I spent the day at Armion with Dalston and the men and the boys, and I assure you that I left feeling precisely the same way."

How wonderful it was to have a husband who understood her! Poor Karlspan, of course, had been a good man, as well as her dear friend, but unfortunately, he'd never known this sort of connection she shared with Roderick. If only Karlspan had been more attuned to the important things in life: money, power, jewels, decorations...

"Oh well; we two are alone now," Laralita mused happily. "The nurse said she'd put the children to bed, so it will just be you and I for the remainder of the evening."

Her husband gave a sigh of relief, tossing his head back as he always did--oh, he was so regal when he glanced upwards! "Excellent!"

"Indeed. Now, come and sit with me."

He did as he was told; the king ruled the kingdom, of course, but everyone knew that the queen ruled the king.

"Comfortable, I hope?" he asked her.

Laralita nodded. "Oh yes. Really, Roderick, ever since we got married and I started sleeping in this bed, I've been more comfortable than I've ever been since before giving birth to my older son."

"Really, now?" slurred Roderick, his hand slowly weaving through her hair, his fingers tickling the sensitive skin on the back of her neck--and in just the right spot, she noticed. "Perhaps I can make you even moreso."

"Well, can I really refuse that?" she purred as she allowed him to hold her close. He was right--she was even more comfortable than she had been before.

She smiled contentedly as he pressed his soft lips to her forehead. "Well, you could, I suppose... but I would hope you wouldn't want to."

Pulling herself to his eye level, Laralita giggled. "Oh, Roderick!" she cooed as she leaned in to kiss him. "Believe me, I am not about to refuse anything right now."


July 29, 2009

In Which Arydath Needs No Words

January 10, 1160

It was not the first time Arydath had ventured within the walls of the duke's castle--and given the duchess's pregnancy, it would not be the last--but never before had she come of her own volition, without having been summoned first. Back in Dovia, she never would have dreamed of boldly marching through her lord's gates... but then again, she wasn't back in Dovia anymore, was she?

But it wasn't as if she was here to trouble the duke and duchess themselves, of course; that would be far too presumptuous of a woman of Arydath's standing, even if she had twice tended to the duchess in childbirth. She was here for the steward, or perhaps a secretary or something of the like--someone who was not doing anything at the time, and who could read.

As luck would have it, she found Aldhein in the front room, his young daughter in his arms, but otherwise unoccupied.

"Good morning, Master Denvus," she greeted him with stiff politeness, then turned to the little girl. "Eilyssa."

The child turned away shyly, but her father chuckled. "Same to you, Goodwife Diarn. How are you?"

She shrugged; she did not particularly like Aldhein, but he did suit her purposes at the moment. "Well enough, I suppose, although I'm here to ask a favor of you."

"Ask away," he told her, gently lowering Eilyssa to the floor with a quick kiss on the head.

"All right. You're a steward; you can read, right?"

As he pulled himself to his feet, he frowned; perhaps he could sense her unease. If that was the case, she did pity him, but she could not bring herself to fully trust a man who had once been a lover of the former queen. "Of course. Might I ask why?"

"I recieved a letter today," she explained, showing him the folded piece of paper she grasped in her left hand, "and I should very much like to know what it says."

Arydath didn't know how she should have expected him to react, but his suddenly raised eyebrow caught her off-guard. "I would've thought a lady as intelligent as yourself would have been able to read."

She sighed--that hadn't been necessary. "What can I say? I'm a farmer's daughter and another farmer's wife. I never had the opportunity, and really, I can get by for the most part. If I stare hard enough, I can see my name, and my mother's, and I can tell that it's the old village reeve's writing, but that's it."

"Can your husband read?" he inquired further.

Arydath resisted the urge to tell him to mind his own damn business. "Do you think?"


"Not a word."

"Thought so."

"Lovely!" she exclaimed, not sure if he would catch her note of sarcasm. "Now that we've established that my husband is not particularly bright, can you read this letter and tell me what it says?"

Nodding, he offered her an outstretched hand, into which she hastily shoved the letter. "And don't you be telling anyone else what's written there, you hear?" she added as a warning, momentarily forgetting that he was a steward and she was a mere peasant.

"Please, Goodwife Diarn," he slurred, rolling his eyes. "What sort of man do you take me for?"

I don't know, the sort of man who sleeps with his married queen, maybe? she thought bitterly to herself. Sure, Arydath herself was no angel--Lord knew Halford probably wouldn't have worked up the courage to ask for her hand if she hadn't seduced him first--but at least she'd had the decency to stay away from anyone taken. She'd personally delivered both princesses, and she knew that they and their brother were now short a mother thanks to this man--she could not forgive him that.

But at least they had a new queen now, even if she was rather insufferable. Really, though, Arydath wasn't sure whether or not she preferred this Laralita to Geneva just yet--she supposed time would tell.

He turned away from her as he read the letter, so she could not see his expression, but she noticed a slight slouch in his shoulders increasing steadily. Arydath had been prepared for some sort of ill tidings--as far as her mother was concerned, no news was good news--but she had not expected that it would be something grave enough to cause such body language from the ordinarily straight-backed, controlled steward.

"Well?" she pried impatiently as he folded the letter along its creases once more. "What does it say?"

Sighting, Aldhein turned around slowly--Arydath had not pegged him as one to do either. "Uh, Goodwife Diarn... it's your brother."

Arydath frowned. "My brother?"

"Yes. Well... it seems there was some sort of accident on your family's farm, and... well..." he paused, as if looking for the right words--not that she really needed any words, a tear in her eye told her. "I'm sorry."


July 26, 2009

In Which Octavius Keeps Pacing

January 7, 1160

"For God's sake, Octavius, would you stop with the pacing?" demanded Dalston as Octavius stepped back and forth in front of the couch upon which his guests sat. "I understand that you're uncomfortable, but this isn't going to help at all."

Octavius ignored him. It was his study, after all; if he wanted to pace, then dammit, he would pace! Besides, the couch really only comfortably fit three, and his desk chair had a funny wobble.

"So... how is Medea doing?" asked Roderick at last. It had been nearly two months now that she'd first been locked in the dungeon, and following her initial imprisonment, Octavius had felt the need to inform the others of her condition.

"Uh... not any better," he admitted. "Really, I'm still in shock over the whole thing; I'd noticed she started acting a little odd after Geneva disappeared, but I never expected anything like this. The woman is raving mad."

"Maybe we should have seen this coming," Severin mused from the far end of the couch. "Apparently her mother was rather like this near the end, or at least as far as my father knew."

Turning his head, Roderick frowned. "Since when do you take anything your father says seriously?"

"He found out that Alina named our son after him. He sees it as a peace offering. I'm humoring him. Now, can we please get back on topic?"

"So her mother was like that," muttered Octavius under his breath. "That's interesting. Her father never mentioned that when he was arranging our betrothal."

"Maybe he figured you wouldn't have her if you knew," Dalston ventured with a grin.

Closing his eyes, he shook his head. "It wouldn't have made a difference; her siblings are rather level-headed, are they not?"

"Yes, but she never was."

All was quiet for a moment, until Roderick inquired, "So you're having the servants bring food to her?"

"Of course," he answered. "I do try to keep her comfortable. I just wish it hadn't gotten this bad--even while she was losing it, I did always like having a woman around, even if she did despise me. If only I had some spinster sister who could come and live here..."

"You could always marry again," the king suggested. "It worked wonders for me!"

"His wife is still alive, though," argued Dalston.

"True. Hmmm... maybe take the maid as a live-in mistress."

"But I don't love her!" protested Octavius automatically.

Roderick didn't look convinced. "Did you love Medea?"

Octavius turned around and continued to walk, only this time not stopping at Dalston's feet. He continued past to the bottles of wine perched on the small table, then glanced back at his companions. "Not as I would have liked to, no. Now, would any of you care for a drink?"


July 22, 2009

In Which Florian Is Home

November 19, 1159

What an odd evening it had been, Florian mused as he stepped into the bedroom, treading lightly as to avoid waking Thetis. Never in a hundred years would he have imagined himself in such a position; had someone told him that he would one day find himself in the middle of that sort of situation, he might have thought that they ought to be locked up themselves.

"You're back."

Damn, she was still awake! To think, he could have been as loud and clunky as he pleased--instead, he had been pointlessly silent. Go figure.

"Someone's up past her bedtime," he teased her as he made his way to the dresser and pulled off his tunic.

"Someone was out past his curfew," she retaliated promptly.

Shoving the tunic into the drawer and slamming it shut, Florian shook his head. "I had to help the baron with something. He called for me just as I was about to leave, and unfortunately, the task took considerable effort, and then we both required a drink at the end of it."

Thetis raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Do you mind telling me about it?"

"Do I get a choice?"


Florian sighed. "All right... the baroness has finally cracked."

"Only just now?" Thetis inquired as Florian lowered himself onto the bed. "You told me months ago that she was mad."

He shrugged. "She was mad--now, she's too mad to function, apparently."

He chanced a quick glance toward his young wife; she frowned. "Could you... elaborate? Please?"

"Well, by the time I got to the nursery, she'd knocked out the baron and was attempting to smother their three-year-old daughter with a pillow."

Silence. Then--

"...I see. What did you do about it?"

"The baron came to after I'd pulled the baroness away from Jeda, and we locked her in the dungeon," he explained, "and by 'we', obviously I mean the two of us and about six guards. That woman is stronger than I ever would have thought--too bad she's fucking psychotic.

"I kind of wish she'd just die. I know it's a cruel thought, but... she's made that man miserable long enough. As long as she's alive, he's stuck with her; I think he deserves to find someone better."

Thetis said nothing, but she nodded for him to continue.

"And the saddest part is... I think he has found someone better, but that bitch is still standing in the way, dungeon or not. Really, someone should put that woman out of her misery--therefore freeing him from his."

He heard a small, feminine sigh from beside him. "Florian..."

"Yes, Thetis?" he asked, shifting his gaze to those flawless eyes.

"No one was hurt, were they?" she whispered softly. "You, the baron, his little girl... all of you are fine?"

Why hadn't he mentioned that before? Naturally, that would have been her concern... not that he would have expected her to be able to tell that at the very least, he was all right, considering the sight of him and everything.

"No, we're all fine," he assured her, taking her in his arms and gently planting a kiss on her cheek. "I mean, the baron and his kids are rather shook up, but no one was seriously injured or anything, unless she's managed to claw her way out of the dungeon or whatever... but he's got her guarded, so it should be fine."

"And you?" pressed Thetis.

Laughing softly, he lowered her to the mattress and kissed her. "I'm home, aren't I?"


July 19, 2009

In Which Medea's Song Is Muted

November 18, 1159

Oh, why wouldn't that man stop with his damn singing? If he wanted those babies to sleep, perhaps it would have been a better idea to just shut up? Surely he was keeping them awake--he was definitely keeping her awake. Blasted eighth son of a barely-noble family! Her father must have been out of his mind when he arranged for their betrothal, may the old earl burn in hell!

Angrily, Medea sprung from the bed and stormed toward the doorway, into the dark, narrow corridor that led to Octavius's bedchamber. She'd silence that man if she had to strangle him to do it!

Since when had the corridor been so long? Her strides were quick and lengthy, and yet, the hallway stretched on in front of her, the opposite wall always retreating just out of her reach. Finally, after what seemed like a tortured eternity--with that blasted singing growing ever louder, no less!--she reached his chamber door and barged into the room.

As she could have expected, his bed was empty, clearly and neatly made since the crack of dawn. Throughout the room, the candles remained lit, each flame flickering as though required by their master even in his absence. The dresser was untouched, the mirror tucked away in its little alcove. The only sign of life the room held was the half-finished letter on the desk, the chair in front of it slightly askew; the fool must have been writing to the princess again.

He was in the nursery, the singing announced from the door by the bed--as she had originally suspected. That man could not get his fill of those children. It was no wonder that he had chosen the bedroom that led into their nursery, really; it was fortunate for him that they did not share quarters, for she would have never settled for this dismal excuse for a bedroom!

Medea pushed through the door and stepped into the nursery. Sure enough, Octavius was there, gazing fondly at their daughter's sleeping form; though his lips were unmoving, the singing persisted.

"Oh, hello, Medea," he greeted her absent-mindedly. Then, he took one look at her and hastily added, "I'm sorry I wasn't home to bid you goodnight before you retired. You see, I was over at Veldora, to finally see Alina's new baby. He's still a little on the sickly side, but Laveria and Arydath both think he'll make it now, thank God. Still... poor little boy's future was looking bleak for a while, wasn't it? We were all pretty scared for those first few months."

Christ! Did he ever stop talking? And could he at least talk about something she actually cared about?

"They thought he would die right then and there, when he was born. He was so small, and so sick, and he wouldn't eat... they christened him in that very room, which is probably the only reason he ended up being named for his grandfather. If Severin had been there, I'm sure he would have argued it, but Alina insisted on calling the boy Lonriad, and at the time, it looked as though it wouldn't have even mattered."

Apparently not.

"But he's getting to be a plucky little thing now," Octavius continued, clearly oblivious to her disinterest. "A little on the small side for a four-month-old, but he should pull through. And would you believe it? Alina's having another baby next June! My God, those two can't keep their hands off each other, can they? And guess who else is expecting? Celina!"

Medea rolled her eyes. "If you're trying to convince me to bear you another child, Octavius, it's not going to work."

Abruptly, Octavius planted one last kiss on Jeda's forehead and placed himself firmly in front of her, hands on his hips, an unfathomable expression on his face. "Please, Medea. You may say what you like about me, but we both know that I am not that sort of man. If I was, I do believe we would have a much larger brood than we do now. Now, what is it that you want?"

"Nothing unreasonable," she insisted--she didn't appreciate the raised eyebrow. "I just want you to stop singing. I'm tired, and you're keeping me awake."


"Yes. Stop singing."

Octavius frowned, blinking several times as he studied her intently. "Medea... I wasn't singing."

"Bullshit," she declared. "You were most definitely singing. I could hear you from my room."

Stubbornly, he shook his head. "Medea, I think I'd remember if I was singing..."

"I know. Maybe you're even more of an idiot than I thought you were."

For some reason or another, he laughed. "Well, if that isn't the solution to absolutely everything that goes on around here, then what is? You might as well have just come in here, called me an idiot straightaway, and we would have been done with this. Now, it's probably just the wind; I assure you, I was not singing. We both know my horrible voice would frighten the babies anyway."

That was true--there must have been another culprit.

Actually... two other culprits.

"Medea?" he addressed her suddenly. "Medea, why are you staring at that crib like that?"

"She's the one singing," whispered Medea breathlessly. "Not you--Jeda. And Sparron is singing too."

"Medea, no one is s--"

"Don't make excuses for them!" she snapped, thrusting out her hands and shoving him backwards. He stumbled to avoid falling; she had caught him off-guard.

"Medea, what are you talking--?"

"Have you even half a brain? They're keeping me awake!" spat Medea as Octavius regained his footing. "My God, do I need to find even smaller words in order to get through to you?"

He scowled--it occured to her that this was the first time she had ever seen him angry. "Medea! Do not make me repeat myself again! No one in this damned castle is singing! You're mad--now please, go back to bed before you wake the children!"

Had he not even heard her?

"You tit-fondling bastard!" she screamed, lunging toward him--startled, he jumped backward slightly. "They're already awake! How can they be singing in their sleep?"

"They're not singing!"

This was getting to be quite annoying.

"My God, Octavius! I can't decide what bothers me more--their singing, or your redundant insistence that they are not!"

"But they--Medea! What are you doing? Get away from that crib!"

"No!" she refused, breaking his grasp and leaning down toward the waking girl, staring into those same hazel eyes she had escaped mere seconds ago. "She has to stop singing--they both do! I need to sleep!"

Once more, he tried to pull her away, but she would not have it; they had invoked her full wrath, all three of them. She would make sure that Jeda would stop her infernal singing, and then she would proceed to Sparron.

And then to Octavius himself.

"Florian!" he called. "Lacira! Anybody! I need some help in here!"

Enraged, Medea turned around and grabbed him by the collar. "Shut up, Octavius! Just shut--up!"

And with that, she pushed him to the ground, more forcefully this time. His mouth wide in terror, his head hit the floor, prompting a stony freeze to his features. She had knocked him out--with any luck, she had killed him.

The door swung open.

"What in the hell is going on in here?"