September 20, 2013

In Which Jeda Gambles with the Otherwise

February 2, 1183

The baby's cries had subsided, leaving only the occasional breath to break the strained silence. Arydath hadn't said a word as she'd cut the cord and wiped the remains of the birth from the newborn body, nor when she'd retreated to the nursery to diaper and swaddle the child--not something for which Arydath normally required privacy, if Jeda recalled correctly from her previous two labors. And it hadn't been just Arydath. Leara hadn't moved since Jeda had said she could leave her side for a look at the baby, the baby Jeda herself could barely see from the bed even if she strained, and she had made no comment. Camaline, who had been at the foot of the bed with Arydath, had fixed herself in front of the window following the birth, nothing and no one existing for her but the February snow.

And now Arydath was several minutes back, and still nothing. Jeda didn't know how much longer she could take it. What was wrong with her baby? All she could tell from where she sat was that the infant had the right number of heads, and the right shape. "Arydath?"

The midwife looked, but still said nothing. The soundless, senseless void swelled and it was killing her. She had to know.

Jeda stood. This, Leara seemed to notice. "Jeda, you should be resting..."

"I can't."

In her spot by the window, Camaline tensed. Arydath swallowed, and Jeda's baby squirmed--just like any other baby. What weren't they telling her? And why? It was her baby. She had to know. "What's wrong with him?"

Arydath sighed. She glanced down at the baby in her arms, then to Leara, who decided she found the floor more interesting. Finally, and not without hesitation, she turned to Jeda. "There's nothing wrong with her."

Camaline's fingers twitched to a tight clamp around her own arm while Leara slouched, shrinking into herself. They knew full well what sort of man their brother was--and with those several consultations even after she'd declared to King Roderick that Jeda was fine, Arydath must have had a sense too. "Oh."

That was it, then. She had fulfilled Ietrin's condition of getting pregnant within the past year, but with that had come the implicit understanding that the baby was to be a boy. For months, Jeda had dared hope it might be. It had sat a bit differently than her other daughters, kicked with great frequency, brought on a separate set of cravings, but apparently those weren't boy things. And apparently Arydath hadn't lost her touch, back when she'd changed the subject every time Jeda had dared muse about the baby's sex.

And now he'd be furious, because they had a beautiful baby girl. Jeda drew a little nearer. The baby looked just like Gennie when she was born, fair blond hair and hazel eyes, sweet and peaceful, but not lacking in that wriggling infant curiosity. She was plump and healthy and perfect, but for Ietrin, that wouldn't be enough.

So it would begin again. He'd allot her the bare minimum of time to recover from the birth and insist that she not nurse the baby herself. Her courses would return. He'd resume his thrice-daily presence in her bed. Four times. Five times. He'd make another ultimatum, and this time he'd be clear to specify a son, as if she had any say in the matter. And maybe she wouldn't be so lucky.

Maybe he would take her books. Maybe he would take her sewing kit and her stuffed animal patterns. Maybe he would ban her friends, her daughters, everyone. What if he pushed her father and brother over the edge? What if they did something rash and then had to suffer for it? All because of her, all because of Ietrin, all because they didn't have...

No. She couldn't have that. Her family would not suffer because of her. Ietrin could not take her daughters.

She could not stand for that. "Don't tell him."

Arydath blinked, as did Jeda herself. She'd maybe thought it on a whim when Gennie had been born, perhaps mused at the possibility during this pregnancy, but she hadn't thought herself stupid enough to suggest it. It might not have been stupidity after all. "I mean... what if we told him... otherwise?"

"Otherwise?" A fingernail flitted to Leara's mouth, a remnant of a childhood nervous habit. "Jeda, we couldn't. He'd find out eventually..."

Eventually, yes. That much was inevitable. But maybe all she needed was a stall for time? "Maybe... maybe it will be easier for us both to conceive a son under less pressure? And when that happens, she could tell Ietrin she wants to join a monastery, then... go off and do as she likes?" That would convince none of them. Camaline hadn't even dignified her with a glance.

Leara picked at the most obvious flaw. "But what if you don't have a son?"

"Then I'll be stuck in this castle until one of us dies." Like I will if Ietrin knows that she's a girl. "I can't think about that right now. I need Ietrin to be happy for a while. If he's miserable, then he makes sure I'm even moreso. Me, and the girls."

I'm so sorry, baby. "I can't take it any more."

Still nothing from Camaline. Leara's slipper dragged across the floor, believing, disbelieving. Arydath bowed her head and held out the infant, whom Jeda took with a care reserved for glass figures. I'm sorry. "The diapers..."

"I'll change them myself."

"What about when she gets older? Children sometimes..."

"She won't. I'll make sure of it." Somehow.

"But hunting trips, dips in the pool... what if some friend wants to take her to the brothel?"

"I'll worry about it then! Just please tell Ietrin that he has a son!" And she hoped to God he wasn't listening at the door right then! If he did find out, she would have to work something out, some way to make sure that her daughter was safe should Ietrin seek to punish the innocent. If that happened, Jeda would take the fall. "Tell him his name is... Holden."

And in my heart, I'll call her Holladrin.

"Please, Arydath. I know it's risky--impossibly risky--but please. Just let me worry about it." If she had to worry. Maybe her only 'punishment' would be the divorce she'd dreamed of for so long. Or perhaps Fred would return and kill Ietrin like he had Roderick. "If he finds out, I'll tell him I bribed you, or blackmailed you. I promise."

The midwife crossed her arms, if only to stop the shaking of her head. "Jeda..."

"But--"

"Jeda, I can't--"

"Arydath."

An imaginary needle pricked the base of Jeda's spine and the sting reverberated upwards. Camaline had spoken at last.

"No offense, Arydath, but you've never had any trouble getting pregnant and you don't know what it's like to have anyone on your back about it, never mind a fucking king."

Jeda turned her head just in time to watch her sister-in-law do the same. Her violet eyes were red with fire. "Tell my brother that he has his precious son. There's always a chance that he'll never learn otherwise."

NEXT CHAPTER:

22 comments:

Van said...

Question!

Winter said...

Damn, damn, damn.

This is certainly an inventive way of Ietrin getting his son and that not necessarily interfering with a future Queen Dea. If Ietrin gets burned by this, it's his own damn fault. For all this is such an illogical, dangerous, and ultimately temporary solution, what other choice is there?

Camaline is right, and I'm glad she was there to back up Jeda. (And can I say how much I love how she's getting to be more fire and ice than just ice?) It's a nightmare situation, and Jeda's perceptions are spot on. Her only guarantee is that the lords wouldn't let him get away with executing her for some imaginary crime. Short of that, every loss imaginable is on the table as long if Ietrin is still in want of a son.

Loved this chapter so much. This is going to be a great storyline.

Van said...

Thanks! I have a few concerns about this storyline, so I'm glad you're interested.

Queen Dea is still very much a possibility, for all Dea herself will not know that for a while yet (we'll be getting a Dea POV soon, actually), but Ietrin will be happy for now, since he's not about to change any diapers himself. Jeda's playing with fire here, but at this point, Ietrin has left her to pretty desperate measures, and you're right--the whole damn thing is his fault.

I figured that Camaline had to be here. She's just on such an awesome streak these days, and she's one of only two named Naronians who can even sort of relate to what Jeda is going through (the other is Thetis, what with her first husband, but as if Ietrin would ever let a mere steward's wife attend the birth of his child). I think the whole thing with Prior really fueled her fires, so to speak; since then, after going through her own fertility-related ordeal, I think she's decided to become something of a champion of women's health and the pressures of child-bearing.

You're absolutely right that the lords aren't about to let Ietrin have Jeda executed for this! Octavius would probably beat the shit out of Ietrin if he even though it. If Ietrin wanted to punish Jeda, I think the lords would push him to divorce her instead, since clearly Jeda would not be averse to that anyway.

That said, concealing little Hollie's true sex will be a difficult, dangerous task, and not just for Jeda. Maybe Hollie will be completely comfortable being a boy, but maybe she won't be. And either way, things are bound to get very difficult when s/he gets older...

Mimus said...

Oh boy, hopefully the little one won't get a trauma from pretending to be a boy. .~.
If not for the pressure, I would find this an awesome idea. And maybe little Holladrin will be a little tomboy until she gets older and Ietrin dies before she shows any signs of being a girl. *fingers crossed*
Didn't you say, Ietrin doesn't have such a long lifespan anyway?

Mimus said...

P.S: I just wanted to add that Camaline is my favorite of Roderick's first three children by now.
I never really warmed up to Leara (no idea why) and even though I saw a little bit of potential in Ietrin at first, this has long since evaporated and I wonder now, if I only tolerated him because I always liked Ellona.
But Camaline has made quite a lot of progress from a somewhat spoiled brat to a genuinely good person, even if she doesn't see herself as that.

Van said...

Yeah, here's hoping things aren't too difficult for the kid on that front. :S

But who knows? Maybe she will be a tomboy as a child and Ietrin will kick the bucket before puberty ever hits? Stranger things have happened. ;)

I'm not surprised that Camaline is the favourite of the Roderick/Geneva spawn. Ietrin is interesting, but more in a love-to-hate way. Leara... well, I think Leara was always destined to be more of a support character. There's nothing wrong with her per se, but she's just not as interesting as most of the company she keeps (and really, she's probably better off for it; she has a pretty happy, stable background life).

Camaline, though... yes, she has grown a lot, even just in recent years. There's a world of difference between the Camaline who was intent on the baby-caping scheme and the Camaline who is backing Jeda and consoled Xeta. She might be trying to atone to a certain extent, but I think a lot of it is just her coming to realize that you can't measure a person by their (alleged) fertility.

Penelope said...

Wait, Fred killed Roderick? I really need to go back and read in order, like a normal person. :p

I am certain that millions of people throughout history were raised as the opposite gender. It's not impossible. As for Ietrin, he would be a lot more angry than just divorce angry if he were to find out, no? Particularly if he doesn't find out until years down the road, I could see him getting downright violent over this. The longer he thinks that he has a son, the more of an asshat he would appear. I can't see him taking that sort of embarassment lightly. How the rest of Naroni reacts to his reaction might not even factor into his decision-making.

Orilon said...

If push came to shove would Jeda be willing to hire him to kill Ietrin (or was that thought just a wish that she isn't willing to act on?)

She may get away with this for awhile, but I'm worried about how Ietrin will react when he finds out.

Orilon said...

*when/if he finds out.

Van said...

Pen: Yep, Fred as commissioned by Elarys. Jeda's the only person in Naroni who knows it was him at this point; he didn't explicitly tell her, but he did sort of imply and she picked up on the hint.

It has probably happened in the past, for sure. And Ietrin would be furious, probably to the point where he'd want her dead if anyone was willing to back him there, especially if it went on for years. He could very well go over heads, but that could cause him some grief as well...

Orilon: I think that was just wishful thinking on Jeda's part. I can't really see her hiring Fred on her own, or even weeding through a web of seedy characters to find someone who knows how to contact Fred. But we know that Fred is quite fond of Jeda, so who knows? Maybe a favour isn't out of the question.

Oh, Ietrin will not be happy about this when/if he finds out...

andavri said...

Yeah, because it's really Jeda's fault that he backed her into a corner... I came out of lurk because I just have to ask, why is Ietrin so hung up on Jeda being the one to provide him with an heir?

I mean he doesn't like her, he's never liked her. His highest compliment that I can tease out of my brain is calling her a "nice girl." There's not one noble-person so far as we've ever met in Naroni who would even give him a side eye over a divorce (and I imagine precious few in Dovia who would either, the ones that might are either idiots or completely clueless.)

It's not like he's got to worry about his father's opinion any more, and considering what a joke the church is here in Naroni, I can't imagine that Ietrin is worried about what might possible happen to his immortal soul if they did/do divorce. (Not to mention I don't think Ietrin is particularly pious on the grounds that he can't believe anyone or anything has more power than he, himself, can wield. Delusions of grandeur, the specialty of a kings of Naroni.)

So why not just let Jeda go and find himself some other woman with whom thrice daily bedroom romps wouldn't be something for both of them to suffer through.

You know, though, Ietrin may be king, but he is far from untouchable. Roderick, as stupid as he was, who was as harmless as a man with a lot of power and the IQ of a box of rocks could be, is proof of that. Fred aside. If Ietrin's nobles decided to take him off his throne (which I would definitely see being possible, given how Severin and Octavius feel about the jerkoff.) who is really going to stop them? And I can't imagine that even Lorn would really side with him if he hurt or considered hurting Jeda.

Ietrin probably alienated a good chunk of the people who he could have gotten support from in Dovia over dick moves like how he handled Roderick's funeral and what he did with his half siblings too. And even if he had tons and tons of rabid supporters in Dovia that we don't know about, the people in Naroni could have Ietrin's head gift wrapped and given to Deian for being such a "nice neighbor" and all the Dovians could do was go "Hey, wait, wasn't Ietrin king last week?"

Man, I can't believe that I actually sorta miss Roderick...

morgaine2005 said...

And the plot thickens ...

However, I'll admit, I kind of want to shake Jeda. She's in a room with BOTH of Ietrin's full-blooded sisters -- the people who might be guessed to be most loyal to him -- and neither of them is objecting to this scheme. Leara didn't say anything, and Camaline is fully on her side.

YOU HAVE ALLIES, JEDA. The Tamrions are fully on your side, through Leara you could probably get the Mokonris, and Severin would come down against fluffy kittens and adorable puppies if Ietrin said he was for them. STOP playing by Ietrin's rules. Start a frickin' rebellion! Put Dea on the throne! Enough is enough!

Plus, you're already fantasizing about your not-quite-lover killing your husband. You're almost there. Protect yourself, protect your girls -- GET RID OF IETRIN.

You can do it, Jeda! I know you can!

*fingers crossed for Jeda, baby Holladrin, future Queen Dea, and Gennie, too*

*flip o' the old bird to Ietrin*

Penelope said...

At the risk of having shoes thrown at me from all sides, I am officially giving Jeda the side-eye. This decision is questionable, but she is in a dangerous situation and has to do what she thinks is best for herself and her children. This is okay. The side-eye is coming from the fact that she is mooning over the guy that she strongly suspects of having murdered Roderick. What is up with that? I mean, Roderick was an pompous, ineffectual tool but that was about the worst that could be said of him. He didn't pose any real threat to anyone. And he and Jeda must have spent a lot of time together.

Van said...

Wow, I picked the wrong night to leave the house. XD

Andavri: You know, that is a good question. And I really had to giggle over your last paragraph there. I can't see Ietrin being too popular in Dovia right now, especially since Laralita comes from such a huge and influential family (and of course, all the Dovian families are related/inter-married). If someone in Naroni were to stage a coupe, I doubt Dovia would be eager to back Ietrin up.

As for why Ietrin is still married to Jeda, I think the answer is ultimately three-fold:

1) The church in Naroni may be a joke, and Ietrin is not the most pious of people, but they still do answer to the church in Rome, and there might be someone on some intermediate level as well. If Ietrin wants to get a divorce, it's not just the priests in Naroni he needs to go through, and I don't know how willing they would be to give him what he wants. Even if they've had more trouble than Ietrin wanted, Jeda's still clearly fertile, and as far as anyone knows, she's been entirely faithful.

He could always pull a Henry VIII and make his own church, which would make for an interesting storyline... but alas, I think that is a storyline for another monarch.

2) Ietrin has some serious issues with misogyny, beyond most of his contemporaries from what we've seen. His mother left when he was very young, he didn't get along at all with his stepmother, and pretty much every romantic relationship beyond a one-night stand turned pretty sour (and this one was completely his fault, but instead of realizing that, he's just used that to reinforce his existing views, because Ietrin just doesn't learn). It may not be a matter of "Why Jeda?" so much as it is a matter of "Who else?/Would he really prefer any other woman?". If he were to divorce Jeda, his trying to find another bride that he deems suitable may be a losing battle. He doesn't like Jeda, but the odds of him liking anyone aren't great.

(As satisfying as the thought of him marrying a widow who'd had a baby a year for a decade and then failing to impregnate her and therefore proving himself to be the one with the problem is...)

3) At this point, it may just not occur to Ietrin to try to get an heir out of anyone else (well, apart from making Kaldar the heir). He's been married to Jeda for so long that he may just be used to the idea of her, or he may even be fixated on her--like she owes him an heir and damn it, she'd better pay up.

Regardless, I don't think you've the only one who misses Roderick. But you're right in that Ietrin is not untouchable. His nobles do not like him, and who knows, maybe someone will gun for him like Elarys gunned for Roderick. The only thing Ietrin has going for him right now is that the economy has improved.

Morgaine: I think Jeda may have been drowning for so long that she's past the point of flailing. But she might be getting close to washing up on shore.

If it came to all-out Ietrin vs. Jeda warfare--you're right, it's hard to think of anyone who would side with Ietrin, especially if he was threatening an innocent child.

Van said...

(Blogger made me split my comment in two.)

Pen: We've got shoe-proof nets here! Nothing wrong with the occasional civil disagreement; everyone has a different perspective, after all.

Interesting thought about Jeda and Fred, though I'm not sure I'd say she's quite mooning over him. Clearly she still remembers him, which is saying something, but so far, most of the romantic implications in their relationship have come from his point of view. That's not to say she doesn't necessarily have feelings for him.

If anything, Jeda benefited greatly from Roderick's presence because he might have kept Ietrin on a bit of a leash--a slack one, but a leash nonetheless. I think the most I can say right now is that Jeda's fascination with Fred has to do with his complexity. Jeda doesn't get to see multiple sides of Ietrin, so she reads him as fairly simple, but with Fred, she has both the knowledge that he was a good friend to her when she needed one and the suspicion that he is a high-profile assassin. Even if she'd decided she hated him, that's still something she might obsess over for a while.


Aaaand that was the longest reply I've written... well, ever, given that it was too big for Blogger to accept in one comment. If I missed anyone's points, let me know!

Mimus said...

I think, apart from infidelity and infertility there is only the proof of the two being to close genetically. And that's sadly not the case here. Jeda and Ietrin would have to be at least first cousins with obvious health problems in the family or uncle and niece/brother and sister.
I know one king was able to divorce his first wife because of that reason (she wasn't his sister, though. ;P).

Though as to why Ietrin wouldn't want to divorce Jeda, it may also be because he's afraid that Jeda remarries and then has children right, left and center which would his infertility away, if only deep, deep down.
And I think that Ietrin is also a little bit afraid of strong women. He is somewhat of a coward.

Van said...

Jeda and Ietrin are second cousins, so yep, that takes them out of the running there. The Dovians are okay with first cousin marriages as well, which may explain some of the issues with certain noble houses.

That could be part of it! Some piece of Ietrin may actually know/fear that it's a problem on his end, especially now that Ellona had no problem getting knocked up by Casimiro. If he divorced Jeda, and Jeda remarried, and she had no problem having kids with her new husband, Ietrin would take that as a serious blow.

He does seem to be afraid of strong women. He more or less left Ellona alone whenever he got her to the point where she had to take her claws out. Then Cherry pretty much destroyed him a few posts ago. And then there's Raia, who Ietrin has something of a history with and not one that left him with the upper hand, and now she's in charge of this university and he did protest that decision. It should be interesting to see how they interact once the university is up and running, since the university will be its own sort of sub-shire; any time Ietrin has an issue he thinks the university should be on top of, he'll have to go to Raia.

Ekho said...

Go Camaline! I'm impressed with her, she's got brains, and the balls to use it! I don't blame Jeda at all, I think she deserves a little break, but if I were her I'd want to jump back on the horse asap to produce an heir in case Mr. King finds out!

Penelope said...

This storyline is already providing a lot of intrigue. With Fred, I say that she seems to be mooning because I read her thought two ways:

1)Jeda wishes that someone would off Ietrin and

2)Jeda was hoping that gee golly, it would be great if Fred had a reason to come back.

I am surprised that no one suspected Fred, and would be equally surprised to see him back in Naroni (unless I missed the part where Laralita or someone suspected him?). A perfectly healthy middle-aged man does not just drop dead. The first thought should have been, "Hey what about that stranger who came to town and gave the king some wine that only he drank, then disappeared into the night?" Is anyone even looking for him?

Van said...

Ekho: Camaline definitely dodged her father's stupidity! And for all she can be cold, she's always a good bet for an ally if she can sympathize/empathize with your cause.

At this point, Jeda's plan does require a spare, though it will be a while before she brings up the possibility to Ietrin. Firstly because... well, she does need the break. And secondly, if Jeda was suddenly all over Ietrin... well, I think even Ietrin is not so egotistical to think that she just suddenly wants him. He'd figure something was up.

Pen: It is suspicious that someone would miss a person they suspected of murdering their father-in-law...

There was talk of Fred rather briefly, but no one in the castle suspected murder early enough to think to preserve the evidence. But it might be worth noting that the death was suspicious by design. But if no one's mentioned Fred since, then I suppose the logical assumption is that Ietrin doesn't suspect him strongly enough to deem him worth the trouble--which is convenient for more people than just Fred. ;)

Kayla nunes said...

I'll be surprised if Ietrin just takes their word for it. But then again, it's coming from a very well respected midwife and not the wife he despises.

Van said...

Yep. There's the source, plus the fact that Ietrin isn't likely to have much interest in any individual sons beyond the point of being able to say he has them. :/