July 12, 2013

In Which Lettie Does Far Too Good a Job

February 26, 1182

"Feast tonight!" Alina declared on behalf of the little wooden queen, the poor woman's head scraping up against the castle wall in the excitement. "Tell everybody!"

Prior made the king nod, then picked up a toy horse--everybody, in this case--and had him pass along the news. "Feast tonight!"

"Yay! How many can come?"

"A thousand!"

Alina strained herself upright and peered into the castle before dropping back down to the floor. "We need more chairs. Mama?"

"Oh, no. I'm not riding all the way home just to pick up a few of your toys." And Lettie would not have indulged any of her children like that, unless maybe the toy in question was some beloved security blanket whose absence merited an otherwise unstoppable bout of tears and snot. In particular, she would not miss a second of one of Alina's play-dates with Prior, even if her heart still ached over not getting to see one every day. Especially if that. "You'll just have to pretend."

"You have to pretend for food anyway," Camaline added. "Let me know if you want snacks, but you know the rule about food around your toys."

Prior nodded and resumed maneuvering the king about with a tender sort of care uncharacteristic of most three-and-a-half-year-olds. Sparron was Lettie's usual companion during these play-dates, but today was one of his better days, and it seemed Isidro had beaten her to him with the promise of a good training session--though no doubt he'd be grieved to know he missed Alina. Lettie had nothing against Camaline, but they hadn't spent much time together since... well, since Prior and Alina had been born.

But she supposed she wouldn't be disagreeable to that if it did happen, even if her heart cringed every time Prior called Camaline 'Mama'. She did get to see firsthand that the woman raising her middle son was--if a little strict--loving and affectionate in her own way. "I know it's probably a losing battle, but I'd rather keep the toys clean."

"You wouldn't be the one cleaning them, though."

"No, but the servants have enough to do as it is. Besides, Prior's old enough now to start taking care of his things." At the sound of his name, Prior looked back at them, but Camaline smiled and waved, gesturing him back to Alina. Part of Lettie wish she hadn't; she wanted to look at Prior's face a little longer. "Besides, if Sparron's brothers managed to keep that thing intact, it should be no issue for Prior--oh, good afternoon, Octavius."

"Ladies." The baron glanced down at the toddlers on the floor as he stepped into the study. Lettie paid him a brief nod of acknowledgement, then turned to search Camaline for any trace of shared discomfort. She found none. She supposed she was alone in still feeling awkward around Sparron's father--even if the man was her stepfather now, as strange and perhaps temporary a thought as it was.

"Do you need the study?" Camaline asked. "We can move to the sitting room if you like."

"That won't be necessary. I just came in here to find something; pretend I'm not even here."

Relieved, Lettie tried not to sigh. Not that the baron had ever been anything less than kind to her--she'd given him a grandson, after all--but if anything, that made it more difficult to be around him, this accommodating man whose life she had once helped to turn upside-down. She knew from Sparron that his father (rightfully) placed most of the blame with Searle, but it didn't matter. It still had to have been a struggle for him to look at her.

But as he'd said, he wasn't there to look; he went straight for the bookcase in the corner and took to thumbing the spines in turn as he sought his bound quarry.

Lettie fumbled for some change of subject with Camaline, but the other woman beat her to it. "I got a letter from my sister Lily today. Apparently Searle is having a house built for Laralita."

"Yes, my mother mentioned that too. That's surprising." Or was it? Searle of Bandera did seem the type who was willing to be the better man if it served him in the long run. If he still technically owned the house, there were many uses he or his son could find for it whenever Laralita and her children left. And perhaps there had been some lingering hint of something for the woman who'd birthed him--not much, but enough. Still, it was an odd thought. "Did she try elsewhere first, or did she go straight to Bandera?"

"Straight to Bandera, it seems; it struck me as odd as well, her parents and most of her siblings are still being around and all." Camaline sniffed. As of not quite two months ago, she herself no longer had a parent. She might have envied a stepmother, practically twice her age, who still had both. Had either of them been someone else, Lettie might have asked, but neither were any good at that sort of conversation. They both preferred straight-up facts. "She was countess there, though, so maybe Searle figures he was obligated there. Has your mother seen Laralita since she got to Dovia?"

"Oh, no. Not unless Aunt Laralita went to visit her." And with everything that was going on, surely Laralita had about a hundred things to take care of before she went calling on either of her surviving sisters? "It'll still be a good few weeks before Mother can get down to Bandera. It's only a shire away, but I doubt Mother can even get down the castle stairs these days--not in her condition."

Thud! The dropped book hit the floor and Lettie's stunned flesh became stone. Pretend I'm not even here. She'd done far too good a job of that. "...Shit."

"Um..." The baron turned around, gaping. He was the sort of man who always seemed to have been expecting the unexpected, and she didn't recall ever seeing him even remotely surprised. Before today, that was. "Her what now?"

NEXT CHAPTER:

5 comments:

Van said...

Today's real life date is Prior and Alina's birthday. It also happens to be my dad's birthday. This may or may not be a coincidence. ;)

Ann said...

A very happy birthday to your dad (as well as to Prior and Alina ;) )!! I hope you all had a great day!

Hehe, now I understand why you said this arc was going to be more lighthearted. Oh, I was hoping for this! Certainly neither Octavius nor Renata suffer from infertility. XD Ride fast, Octavius! I can't wait so see how this'll play out! *does bunny dance* Judging from Renata's face it'll be great! ^^

Van said...

I think he had a reasonably good day. :)

Given the number of kids each of them have, I don't think anyone figures either Octavius or Renata has fertility issues... but yeah, I don't think anyone was expecting Renata to get pregnant at her age--especially Renata.

morgaine2005 said...

Happy birthday to Dad of Van, and Alina & Prior!

And oh goodness! Now now, there's no need to jump to conclusions. There are lots of conditions that could lead to difficulty going down the stairs. A broken leg comes to mind.

Buuuut this is Naroni, so of course Renata is preggers. Way to go, Octavius and Renata! What is this, baby #20 between the two of them? ;)

However, I do have to wonder why Renata didn't mention this. I mean, did she really think Octavius wouldn't find out? He's got a good nose for babby-related scandals.

And lastly, I must admit -- when you mentioned Octavius thumbing through the spines of the books, I kept wondering which swear words were spelled out. ;)

Van said...

Naroni and pregnancy do sort of go together like that. XD

If we're counting dead siblings (each has one dead daughter) this baby will be Octavius's eighth(!!) and Renata's tenth. So that makes this one the seventeenth overall (I know that sounds like bad math at first glance XD).

Why Renata never mentioned this will be the main conversation of the next post. Needless to say, Octavius will be wondering about that too...

Oh, the swearing books! XD That just makes me even more excited for the upcoming Florian posts. :)