August 21, 2013

In Which Severin's Fear Fades to Fairytale

September 1, 1182

Falidor had not lied.

Rarely did strangers call at Severin's castle on the first of the month. The first of the month was the day the tax collectors went about from house to house, and most of the people were cooperative enough to stay close to home--and those who weren't certainly weren't about to march up to their lord's front door. After the collectors had what they came for, they'd go to the knights, who would have to recount, and then later in the week, the knights would come to him, and he and Nora and Raia would count again and pay everyone accordingly. There were always those who needed more time with their payments, of course, but they most often had the sense to call a few days before the first. The odd visitor from another shire aside, many a first of the month came and went without him seeing a face that wasn't a part of his household.

But today, sure enough, there was a young green-eyed woman, a woolen purple coat for the unseasonable chill, a swaddled infant in her arms. He didn't think he'd seen her before, and she didn't look to be in dire need of a tax break, and something about her gave him the sense that she would have taken care of it earlier if she was. What could she have needed?

For all he was wondering, it was Nora who asked. "Can I help you?"

The woman shook her head. Most people had reservations about meeting lords and ladies with gestures, but the way she was biting her lip, perhaps she deemed it preferable to what she had to say. "Thank you, my lady, but I'm as well as I can be." As well as I can be. What did that mean? "My name is Morgan, but the way. My companion is tying up the horses; I'd explain why we're here, but he told me he'd rather tell you himself, and he does have more right to the story than I do."

More right? Severin frowned. No one claimed to lack 'right' to a pleasant story. "What do you mean?"

Morgan's green eyes fell to the baby as she stepped forward, stopping only a few feet short of him. Severin couldn't claim to be an expert on baby faces, but he saw little resemblance between mother and child. "I'm sorry, my lord. Um... this is your granddaughter."

She bit her lip, likely expecting some stunned silence, and not to be disappointed if she was. Severin stared at her, then at Nora, who'd crossed her arms and lowered her brows, no doubt thinking the same word he was.

JADIN!

Severin leaned in for a closer look at the baby. She had fine, fair hair like little Celina, but other than that she bore little resemblance to any of Jadin's other children. Not that siblings always looked like each other or their parents, but on some strange level Severin suspected beyond the visual, she just didn't fit with the rest at all, even if she was only a half-sibling. And if she didn't look like Jadin's family, why didn't she take after her mother more, at least so much as babies could take after anyone?

She did have Severin's eyes--unlike any of Jadin's children, or any of his blue-eyed children's children at all, if he thought about it. Come to think of it, had he ever seen a brown-eyed child of two blue-eyed parents? Or a blue-eyed parent and a green-eyed parent?

...Lonriad? No--this little one looked even less like Lonriad's children than she did like Jadin's. Less like Lonriad too.

"She's... very cute." She was, but that wasn't the point, and everyone in the room knew that. Luckily for all of them, the baby yawned.

"Sounds like someone could use a nap." Nora shot Severin a quick grimace, then took Morgan by the shoulder and led her past him. "You look a little tired yourself as well. Severin, we'll speak with Jadin and Xeta later?"

He nodded. If the baby wasn't Jadin's, then there was no point in worrying him and Xeta unnecessarily, and he wanted to hear Morgan's side of the story first--or that of the companion who apparently had more right to it. Somehow.

Nora shut the door behind her, her footsteps and Morgan's fading out of earshot as they walked toward the guest chambers. With any luck, they wouldn't run into Jadin or Xeta--or Jadin, at least, if he was the father. Nora had probably already thought up something to tell Xeta if necessary, and surely Morgan would have the sense to play along? She seemed like a sensible young woman...

"Uncle?"

Severin turned his head. His son-in-law stepped in the door with a look of death beneath his eyes and the mystery fled at the sight of him. Morgan had been right. The baby was Severin's granddaughter.

His mistake had been in assuming that Morgan was her mother.

"Searle." Years now he'd lived in dread of Searle turning up without Viridis in sight, having resumed his old habits and lacking the decency to at least strand her with those who loved her, but if the pieces added up, then the true story turned that fear to a fairytale. "Viridis... never wrote that she was expecting."

"She didn't want to get your hopes up." As if his hopes would have ever been an issue! "She'd lost a few before, and I think she thought that with her health..."

Her health. Searle's health, from the look at him, from the rasp in his voice. Viridis's body had never refused a passing ailment. Poor darling. "Was it the birth, or did she catch what you have?"

"She had ten days with the baby." Ten days. If Severin could guess the age of the baby, then she hadn't been gone much longer. How ever long it was, it was still too long ago, and not long ago enough. "She spent all of them in bed, but I'd never seen her happier. She wanted her so badly..."

Severin clenched his hand and dug a nail into his palm. He wanted his daughter too. "God."

"The baby's name is also Viridis. They have the same birthday, and... well, after the birth, I kind of knew that it wouldn't be long." Searle wheezed, shrinking into himself as his lungs collapsed and sputtered. It wouldn't be long for him either, and Severin suspected he knew it. "Morgan is the nurse. She's a godsend, I swear; she turned up the day the baby was born, even though her own baby didn't make it. She even helped me bury Viridis beneath the tree where we used to picnic." Viridis had shown Severin the tree the first time he'd visited. He'd wondered if her resting place had been her idea. She'd always thought far too much about her own death. "When I die, write my father and tell him to lay me beside her?"

They'd always had that in common, her and Searle. "Searle..."

"It's all right, Uncle. I was lucky. I had more than ten days with her." So had Severin. It meant little. "I don't want another without."

NEXT CHAPTER:

9 comments:

Van said...

Sometimes titles are hard.

Winter said...

Oh, no. No, no, no. :(

Fingers crossed that little Viridis is safe from whatever it is that Searle has. At least she's not stranded in Carvallon. Searle might not be at the top of the daddy game right now even if he was well. For the baby's sake, I hope Searle pulls this out. He looks so defeated.

And Morgan lost her baby? Damn.

Van said...

Sorry. :(

Little Viridis does not have Searle's illness. Guess God figured he owed her mother one.

Searle has never been someone who's coped well with loss, so even in peak condition, probably the best thing he could have done for his little daughter was move her back to Naroni so she's got family around while he pulls himself up, if he does. And now Searle is not in peak condition, so getting her out of Carvallon may just be his crowning moment of fatherhood (though I'm sure that, if the worst happened, Morgan would have been willing to take in Viridis).

Morgan's baby was a stillborn. :( The poor woman lost her husband shortly after she got pregnant as well. The post after next will be from Morgan's POV, so we'll get to know her a bit better then.

Mimus said...

Aww, I had hopes that Viridis Sr. would pull through. :(
Though I guessed already that she would die when I saw on your tumblr that the baby was named Viridis Jr.
What kind of sickness do they have, anyway?
But Severin takes it surprisingly well. Is it maybe because he always expected Viridis Sr. to die before him?

morgaine2005 said...

NOOOOO!! :( Damn it, and here I was sure she'd pull through and was just being pessimistic because ... well .. Viridis!

Gah. This just sucks all around. Poor Viridis. Poor baby Viridis. Poor Searle.

(And Searle, if you just managed to ride all the way from Carvallon, you're clearly not dead yet. At least try to fight through for baby Viridis's sake! Do you really want to abandon ANOTHER kid, this one that you actually wanted??)

But at least Severin and Nora are on the case. There's nobody else I trust more with crisis management. Hopefully they'll help poor Morgan, too, for all that she seems to have a pretty good handle on things so far. (She certainly seems better than I would be with a newborn -- she knows which way is up!)

Still. Viridis. :( And Searle. And Morgan's unnamed baby, too.

Van said...

Sorry. :(

Mimus: I have no idea what Searle has/Viridis had, apart from that it's clearly not good news. It doesn't really matter much at this point, though.

As for Severin... well, I think this is just how he grieves. He goes kind of physically numb and mentally anguished, until he either starts acting out or pulls himself up. And some part of him may have feared that he'd lose Viridis, but I wouldn't say that he expected it. Far from. :S

Morgaine: Nope, Searle is not dead yet... but the trip may have taken too much of his remaining strength. Maybe not enough that he's not about to fight it, but Searle has never been particularly good at fighting. :S

I'm sure Morgan will have all the help she needs, especially since she'll still be nursing baby Viridis. She does seem to be coping well, but it's always nice to have someone there, and this is the family that always has plenty of room for more lost lambs.

(Morgan's baby's name was Greta, after her foster mother; it might come up in-story a couple posts from now.)

Mimus said...

Maybe I should have written "suspected" instead. xD'
I just hope that he doesn't fall into the same despair as he did after Alina's death. It's the last thing anyone needs.
And it is said that losing a child is worse than losing any other person...

Grr, stupid Blogger, stop capitalizing words that don't need capitalizing! >.<

Peeennnnnn said...

I just can't believe Searle rode all that way with a newborn. Is he out of his mind? :o

Wait, don't answer that. Under normal circumstances, Searle isn't 100%. Under these circumstances, he is probably looking at the single digits. I wonder too, like Mimus, if some part of Severin really did think that Viridis was soon to die if only because Severin allowed her to marry that man. I mean... Searle? With everything that Severin knows about him? But if Viridis were convinced that he would make her happy, and Severin thought that she did not have much time left for being happy, maybe he would make some allowances. As a reader, I always assumed that Viridis married Searle and basically moved away to die, in a somewhat cat-like fashion. I can't imagine what it is like for Severin though, knowing that he will never see his daughter again. :\

Van said...

Mimus: I'm sure that Severin suspected Viridis was in her last days at least a few times in her life. :S

While the loss will have more of an impact--his own child dying before him--I don't think Severin's in danger of totally falling apart like he did when Alina died. He's grown up a lot since then, and so have his children, and now he has Nora; even if he does start slipping, someone will whip him back into shape before things get out of hand.

That said, it's not going to be happy times in the household for quite a while. :S

Ack! Blogger is such a mess, isn't it? :S

Pen: Yeah, I don't think Searle's ever been at 100%. I'm thinking his logic was just, in case he dies, Viridis would have wanted their baby to go to Severin, and he was going to grant her that. :S

It's a possibility, though I doubt it would have been on a conscious level. I think Severin may have figured that Viridis was the most likely child to predecease him, but still a shock (and not something anyone wants to think about anyway).

That could have very well been Viridis's MO with the marriage and the move, though she did really love Searle. She was probably shocked to have lived as long as she did after that. :(

Like Mimus said, there's really not much worse than losing a child (well... not having any children, there's no way I'd know that first hand, but it's not hard to believe). This is not going to be easy.