October 2, 2013

In Which Dea Is Not the Good Daughter

March 3, 1183

Dea spent every birthday at her grandfather's castle. Her mother came with her, and her sister, and this year, her brother as well. That was why she'd taken to the couch in the old sitting room, alone.

Not that she minded being alone--she actually rather liked it, most of the time--but the baby so monopolized her mother's life since he'd been born that she'd felt the need to retreat on principle, just to see if her absence was noted. It was a petty and juvenile response, but she didn't think she could say much better about everyone else's reactions to Holden.

It hadn't been like this when Gennie had been born. Sure, Dea hadn't been her mother's precious only child any more, but she'd always been "an independent spirit" as her grandfather liked to call her, and her mother had still made her efforts, so it hadn't seemed like much of an adjustment. And even babies needed their space every now and then, or at least Gennie had--for all she could have stood to need her space every once in a while now--so Dea and her mother had still had their moments when it was just the two of them.

Holden, though... had she seen her mother without Holden since he'd been born? She hadn't caught her alone, that much was certain--and when she'd asked Gennie, she'd found her sister's experience no different. She supposed she could have understood if Holden had been sickly or even fussy, even if babies were nowhere near a spot on her list of favorite things, but from what she could tell, her brother was as happy and healthy as could be expected of an infant. If she recalled correctly, Gennie had been more demanding.

And then there was their father, less noticeable but similarly troubling. Dea wasn't stupid; her father claimed to love her and Gennie whenever he was expected to do so, but he'd never had a shred of real interest in either of them. But now that he had his long-awaited son, there was a jig in his step and a smile on his lips and always a boast about his fine new son bursting from his mouth--even though Dea could have counted the times she'd seen the two together on one hand. Her father was not an affectionate man where anyone was concerned, but his preference for sons had been obvious long before he'd had one. She recalled distinctly how he'd been when Gennie had turned out to be a girl.

But she never would have thought her mother shared that preference! Her mother, who was so painfully aware of what it was to be a woman in a man's world. The only explanation Dea could think of was that she'd hoped her thirdborn would be spared that fate... but if that was the case, then ought she have been more concerned with the girls still, if only out of pity?

"There you are."

It wasn't her mother, but her uncle. At least her brother wasn't with him. "Hello, Uncle Sparron."

He'd been out when they arrived. Aunt Camaline had said he'd taken her cousin out for a ride, now that it was dry enough for the pony Prior had received for Christmas. Whether Holden was the favorite or not, Dea doubted her father would be bothered whenever her brother was big enough for a small pony. "Happy birthday."

"Thank you."

"Can I sit with you?"

Nodding, she pushed herself up and sidled over. Her uncle took the vacated seat and scuffed his boot against the floor. "How are you holding up?"

"With what?"

"Holden." Of course Holden. "Though... I don't blame you if you don't want to talk about your brother. You've probably heard too much about him this past month."

Dea snorted. If she told her uncle that talk of a single baby boy being more prevalent than talk of a university in the works was a sign of a world without priorities, he might appreciate it. "And not nearly enough of it is interesting."

"Baby siblings as a rule aren't very interesting. Trust me, I have six of them--seven if you count your mother."

"My mother is eight minutes younger than you."

"The point stands."

Did it? She doubted he remembered being eight minutes old. That and... "But you're a man."

Way to state the obvious, idiot! she cursed herself as the remark slipped away, practically sticking its tongue out at her as it flew away. But her uncle didn't seem offended, or confused. They'd always been well-attuned. "So that's it. Everyone's treating Holden as special because he's a boy."

"Exactly." The crown prince, the heir. A baby. Who even knew if he'd make a better monarch than she would? How could they tell, at his age? "I mean, I expected this from my father, but my mother..."

"Seems to have taken the baby on as an extra appendage?" An odd image, but fitting all the same. Dea nodded. "Yes, I'll grant you that her mothering there is a little excessive, but... well, she has her reasons. She may tell you one day, when you're older, but I take it you at least have some idea of how much pressure your father has put on her to produce an heir?"

"And Gennie and I were failed attempts?" Like she needed him to answer that.

"No, your father is an idiot." A good daughter would have protested. Dea was apparently not so good. "Your mother loves you, Dea--you and your sister both, and your brother, and she loves you all equally. Differently--you're all different people--but equally. Your mother's attachment to Holden is not rooted in any distaste for you or Gennie."

"And you're sure of this?"

"Positive. No one knows your mother like I do. We shared a womb for nine months, remember?" He smiled fondly, as if he actually remembered it. "I know your mother loves you--and you will too when you see what she has planned for you this evening."

NEXT CHAPTER:

8 comments:

Van said...

I can't believe it's October already. :S

Ekho said...

SHE'S SO GROWN UP! Oh gosh, poor Dea, do I detect a hint of jealousy - not for her brother's gender, but for his right as heir? I'm psyched, bring on a female monarch for Naroni! ;P

morgaine2005 said...

Pfft, I don't blame Dea for being jealous -- of her mother's attention, of her "brother's" status of heir, of really anything. First of all, I'd argue she's dealing with her jealousy over her mother's attention in a relatively mature way for a ten-year-old. (Seriously, if the worst that she's done is leave the room to see if anybody notices she's gone, I'd call that pretty mature for ten.) Secondly ... Dea is probably the smartest person in that royal castle. And they want to pass HER over as heir for an infant? Anybody would be jealous.

Also, I wish Dea would stop beating herself up over being a "bad daughter." She's a hell of a lot better daughter than Ietrin deserves. I hope someday, when she's older, she gets to tell him what's what.

And someday ... man, I hope Jeda tells Dea the truth about "Holden." Keeping the farce going might be necessary while Ietrin is alive and in power, but the minute he's dead and/or deposed? QUEEN DEA!

Van said...

Ekho: Dea has always been wise beyond her years, for all certain people (coughcoughIETRINcough) have failed to see that.

She's certainly jealous of her brother's heir status, though I think she's going out of her way not to think that specific word. As for gender... well, Dea is a person of logic, and logically, there's no connection between sex and ability to rule, so she's not about to pretend that there is just because that's the norm. She wouldn't be jealous of Holden's being a boy simply because it shouldn't matter.

But we on this side of the screen know that not all hope is lost for a female monarch... ;)

Morgaine: For a ten-year-old, yes, I think Dea is handling this quite maturely. She's not pitching tantrums or insulting everyone, she's just going off quietly on her own as if to prove a point. And yeah, given the situation, I don't blame Dea for her reaction at all. Even a less intelligent person would have to feel insulted, being all but told that a month-old baby is a more worthy heir than they are. :S

If Ietrin had gotten what he deserved in terms of daughters, every girl he sired would be pretty much a blend of Morgause and Babette. And he'd have to put up with all their shit. Dea may not think much of Ietrin (and Ietrin has only himself to blame for that), but we've heard nothing about her being openly disrespectful of him. And even if we did, I think Dea would want to keep family matters as family matters and call him out in a private setting.

It is absolutely a possibility that Jeda will tell Dea the truth about her "brother" when Dea is older (maybe before she heads off to Naroni U, so she knows that majoring in Practical Governance wouldn't just be dream-chasing?). It could very well get to the point where she needs to know.

Mimus said...

Well, I believe getting Dea as secret keeper might be in order sooner or later. Nobody would find it odd if the older sister watches after her "brother" and if something threatens to go wrong (for example, when Hollie's about to be found out) , nobody could find anything suspiscious about the older sister swooping in to "scold" the little brother or something to that effect.

Though I do understand Dea's jealousy since I myself was a rather jealous child, and about much smaller things, too. xD'
I was always angry when my mother spent some time with another child, sometimes even if those children were my own cousins.
...It's probably a good thing I never had any siblings.

Van said...

Having more trustworthy people in on the secret will probably be necessary as Hollie gets older. Dea is a capable, level-headed person who would do well in a situation where Hollie could potentially be revealed, like if her first period comes when Jeda's not around or something like that.

My younger brother and I are only two and a half years apart, so I don't remember if I was jealous of him (according to my mom, he was a much needier child than I was), but yeah, I figure that Dea's jealousy would be totally normal. Gennie is probably dealing with similar feelings as well, just expressing them differently.

Winter said...

Dea looks great as a teen, and it suits her. She's always felt older than she really is, and her feelings over Hollie are a great introduction to teenage angst. (Even if she's only ten.)

Way to go, Uncle Sparron! He did a really good job with this. He knows much more than Dea does, but he didn't let that color his response.

I like to think Dea would be one to understand what Jeda had to do when she's older. I'm sure she'll never be in that situation herself, but a critical mind like hers would understand the danger. Of course, I am now hoping the last thing Ietrin hears is Dea telling him his son is a girl and Dea is going to be queen ;)

Van said...

She did grow up rather well. She always has been old for her age, so I think a little teenage angst is okay for her at ten. ;)

Sparron does understand Dea very well, but he's loyal enough to Jeda that he wouldn't imply that there was anything suspicious about Holden. Sparron, I think, is one of those characters who really struggles with his own problems, but generally steps up to the plate when it's someone else in need.

Yeah, I think Dea would understand if Jeda told her, at least when she's a little older. I don't foresee an Ietrin of Dea's own in her future, but you're right; she's got a good head on her shoulders, and a good heart in her chest, and she does love her mother and would come to understand in time, if she could empathize immediately.

That would be a fitting last thing for Ietrin to hear. ;)