November 23, 2013

In Which Ashe Finds the Same in Both Eyes

December 5, 1183

"Aww, she's just a little kitten."

The tiny bundle of fluff had scared easily, but the snow was higher than the top of her head, so Ashe had managed to thwart her getaway without much difficulty. That didn't mean she'd gained the complacency to stop squirming. "Poor thing. Out here in the cold all alone."

Rona sniffed. This would have been so much easier if she hadn't been here, if he'd stumbled upon the kitten on his own. Her official policy on the strays called for their extermination, but whenever Ashe caught one, he'd take it to one of the villages and release it with little more than a finger-wagging and a wink. If Rona knew that, she'd argue that that didn't stop them from coming back, and that wasn't a fight he wanted to pick if he could avoid it, so he let her believe he'd taken them to the river in bags and drowned them.

If he did that with this one, he doubted she'd want to accompany him. But he didn't like lying to her face. "She probably got separated from her mother and siblings."

"So there are more of them around, then."

"I guess so." He glanced down at the wriggling kitten in his hands. She pawed toward his chest, meaning to scratch but failing to reach. Poor thing. Maybe if he gave her to one of the farmers to watch, he could reunite her with her mother and litter-mates. If he didn't find them, perhaps she'd have a home as a rat-catcher. "I'll look around after I deal with this one."

"Two trips to the river in one day? Don't be absurd. Just use the well."

As if she understood, the kitten's thrashing quickened. Ashe tried to calm her by stroking her belly with his thumb, but to no avail. "The well? We drink out of that!"

"So? Animals get into wells all the time. Remember that time Lorn's men had to clear out all those half-decayed rats?"

And now that she'd said it, those sodden carcasses of years prior were as clear in his mind as the kitten in front of him. "Never mind everything else that gets into them. As long as we keep boiling and filtering the water before we use it, we'll be fine."

Ashe sighed. The nearest farm wasn't far, but it wasn't so close that he could run there and back in the time it took to drown a kitten in his own well. He'd have to just shoo her out the gate and hope for the best. "All right. Why don't you go inside and get something to drink, and I'll... deal with her."

Rona's brow nudged upwards. "Why would I have to go inside?"

Shit. "Uh..."

"You're not really going to do it, are you?"

God, he hated lying to her. "I'm sorry. I don't feel right about it."

"That cat a few months back seemed to feel fine about attacking our daughter, in case you've forgotten." Panicked, the kitten strained her neck and tried to bite him--though if her eye movements said anything, she was more afraid of Rona. Or was his mind just playing tricks on him? If one human was holding her and wouldn't let go, and another was just standing there, Ashe thought he knew who the kitten would choose as the greater threat. "I don't feel safe with all these animals around. I don't feel that our kids are safe with all these animals around. If you send them away, they're just going to come back, and that scares me."

"But she's just--"

"But she'll grow up! And I know you think I'm irrational, but please." Her eyes hadn't been so wide since she'd woken from her coma. He couldn't see it, but somehow, when Rona looked at this tiny, defenseless little creature, she saw something terrifying, as some saw snakes or spiders. Irrational? Yes.

But did that make it any less real?


God damn it. "At least pull up the bucket for her? That's a long drop."

Rona nodded and they trudged through the snow to the well, the kitten in a panicked frenzy all the while. Ashe tried to calm her with a slight rocking movement, but it was no more effective than the stroking had been. It was a stupid thought, but he couldn't deny it. She knew what her sentence was.

I'm sorry, kitten.

Rona drew the bucket. Ashe placed the kitten inside, nearly taking her back as she clawed helplessly at its side, her two front paws and her little head poking over the rim. If only Rona would look at her. They had the same fear in their eyes.


He took the well's wheel in hand and lowered the bucket.

A light splash echoed from below as it hit the surface of the water. Ashe strained not to look down until Rona took him by the arm and led him away.

They were at the foot of the steps when someone yelled.




Van said...

Back to late-hour updates, it seems. Today turned out to be much more hectic than I thought it would be. :S

Winter said...

Standing corrected. Rona needs that I Love Kittens flavor pack.

I can't fault Rona wanting to keep the kids safe and the castle clear of cats. Enough weird things have graced her life so far that she has a right to trust her gut. But, it almost feels like Rona is expecting her family to go to pieces at some point, so she's overcompensating. Killing the cats is the surest way of eliminating a threat, and so she goes full out on it. The drama of it all is very Rona, but I wish she could find it in her to relax a bit more - and that probably won't be for a while, now.

Those three could make a family therapist a bundle after this. It's just horrible from all sides. Well, at least Yvanette is safe, and at least her parents know her condition and can protect her from here on out. :(

Van said...

I would not be surprised if Rona does expect her family to fall to pieces. She and Ashe have reached an understanding, but there's still the magic's effect on the kids (though at least she knows one out of three now?). Plus... well, I think she's still that insecure teenage girl deep down, and now that her life is finally "good", she might be trying a bit too hard to keep it that way.

It is very her. And you're right--she probably won't be relaxing any time soon, especially not after this incident. Next post is a Rona POV, so we'll get more insight then.

Any therapist would make a killing in Naroni, and a smart one would gun for the Torgleids as clients even if this hadn't happened. Assuming that she gets out of that well quickly enough to avoid getting seriously ill, Yvanette is bound to be scarred for life. :(

Ekho said...

I wonder how they're going to react when they discover their daughter at the bottom of that well... I bet Rona will think twice next time..

Van said...

The reaction will be recounted in the next post (as it happens in my mind, it would have been impossible to pose--though I won't say exactly what that is, in case I find something else works better when I actually write the post).

But suffice to say, I think Rona's cat policies will have to loosen up.

Andavri said...

It's probably sad, but I see Babette in Rona. And I feel about the same about the both of them. (As in wishing they'd both grow up and STFU, not necessarily in that order.)

I feel so bad for Ashe and for Yvanette. No kid should have to listen to their mother condemn them to death. And nobody, I don't care how much they love someone, should be forced to live with knowing that if they had gone with their own instincts, if they had done things their own way, that they wouldn't have almost killed their own daughter. Certainly not someone as fragile as Ashe. He's never going to forgive himself and he's also probably never going to blame his spoiled brat of a wife. And I'm sorry, that's all Rona is to me. She needs to get the clue that she doesn't stand in one place with the universe revolving around her.

I had one teensy sliver of hope that she would take what she learned, with Ashe, and use it to grow up just a little bit. Most people live and learn, apparently Rona just lives.

While it's not the most flattering thing to admit to (as in it reminds me that I can be a vindictive bitch on occasion) I sort of hope that Yvanette never forgives her mother and stays as far away from her as humanly possible as much as humanly possible.

I dunno if I think the Torgleids need therapy (although Yvanette might after being pulled up out of the well.) I think Rona just needs to pull her head out of her ass. Granted therapy would probably help Ashe set some limits and boundaries because no person should have to override their personal sense of morality for another person. Whether they love them or not.

But unless the therapist was a miracle worker, I somehow doubt that Rona would ever see that she is the problem and work to change it. Why blame yourself when you can blame others? >_<'

Poor Yvanette. Poor Ashe.

Mimus said...

I don't know if selfish or self-centered is the right word to describe Rona here. Nor is she necessarily a spoiled brat.
However, I always got the feeling that Rona wasn't a particularly smart or perceptive person. It took her about three or four years, I think, to get behind Ashe's secret, even though he did many of the things that Aspen (Sr.) did too.
Mind, her stupidity are not on Roderick/Laralita-levels of stupid, but she's definitely one of the dumber members of her family.
And I have to add that while Yvanette may have worried about her mother's reaction, but Rona won't do what was the usual action towards shape-shifters (especially supposed werewolves) back then, namely burning them at the stake.
That being said, I'm angry at Rona, too, but more on the level that I'm always angry at people that do something stupid.

Andavri said...

The reason I call her self-centered here is because the only thing that matters to Rona here is getting. her. own. way. As long as the cat is gone, who cares if Ashe dumps it in the river or the well or with the nearest farmer? Rona does. Because she deemed it so and she stood there and waited and watched until he did it.

While you could make the distinction that she has had a history of Ashe lying to her, I don't think this scene would have played out any different had it been anyone else in the courtyard with her. Whether that person had ever lied to her or not. She'd have either steamrolled them into drowning the kitten right then and there while she watched or she'd have been up against someone she couldn't steamroll and she'd have lost not because she didn't try but because she didn't succeed.

And I disagree, highly, about whether she's spoiled. She expects to get her own way and unless someone with a lot stronger personality overrules her, like Lorn with the tourney, she gets it. And like with Lorn and the tourney, she pouts and sulks and makes everyone miserable when she doesn't get her way.

If she's not happy, no one around her is allowed to be happy if she can at all prevent it. She did it with the tourney, she did it with her courtship with Ashe, she did it with the whole thing with Lonriad, she did it with Aspen getting fired, she did it when she sent Ashe with Lonriad, Riona, and Izzy, she did it here with the cats... Pretty much every arc that Rona has been a major part of it's her MO to either get her way or make everyone else miserable trying.

And considering that she is surrounded by soft-hearted people who don't like making other people unhappy, they have to have a damned good reason to go against her.

I'll agree that she's pretty dumb too. But this is more than dumb. Her needs, wants, desires and whims play a far bigger role in Rona's head than anything else. I cannot think of a single time where Rona has bowed to someone else's wants because she cared about that person and what they wanted, even if it didn't agree with her, making them happy was more important than making herself happy.

That to me is pretty much a textbook case of a self-centered, spoiled brat.

Mimus said...

I don't really agree about the tournament, honestly, because I can see where she was coming from in that case: Being dumped on a man that only proved his worth through beating up others without knowing if he won't abuse her or expected things from her that are not possible is scary.
And for that matter, I didn't think Lorn was in the right with the tournament. He let himself be talked into the thing and it only mattered to him that Rona won't be a deadweight to the family after Lonriad proved that he wasn't interested.
Sure, Rona needed to be married sooner or later and might have demanded a marriage, but he could have gone about that in a different way. On top of that: Rona might not have been so hell-bent on marriage if she hadn't believed that nobody wanted her. This, of course, is completely false and she shouldn't have been so annoyed and resentful about it.
But the tournament only inforced this believe by being declared a trophy-wife by her own brother (!), who (much like his father) still doesn't understand why arranged marriages - especially to complete strangers - might be a bad thing for some people (for example Jeda, Searle Andronei (as a lesser case), Isidro's mother).
Celina tried to do the best about the situation and be a peace-maker, but by this Point the fronts had hardened too much for this.

The other thing, sending Ashe away, was a reaction to the deception and I honestly can't think of a single person that would have taken that well, especially in combination with the potion of the Narons that falsified the issue quiet a bit.
Of course, we see the whole thing mostly through Ashe's eyes, so we are biased about the whole thing.

And I don't think that she only thinks about herself or to only get her way. For example, as I said before, I can't see her throwing her daughter out of the house now that she knows what Yvanette turns into or deciding to go all Spanish Inquisition on her. And she couldn't have known that Yvanette is this kitten unlike with the Aspen-Ashe-Situation, where there were clues, even though drowning cats (or any animal really) is a cruel thing to do.

I don't like Rona, but I can't say that all the reactions about the things happening around and to her are completely unreasonable.

Andavri said...

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree because you still haven't convinced me around. You can go on justifying your opinion on Rona and I'll go on justifying mine. It happens sometimes.

Van said...


Looks like today was the wrong day for a good-but-long movie/disappointingly-one-sided football game combo. But really, I find it sort of oddly comforting when people have dissenting opinions on certain characters of mine--especially in situations like this, where I'd say that neither of you are wrong in terms of general thought, even if there a few details I wouldn't personally agree with. I like it when characters and their motivations can be interpreted in different ways, both because it makes me think and it makes me aware of depths I hadn't thought I'd reached when writing, especially since I feel like I do such a half-assed job on most Naroni posts these days.

They say that every character has aspects of their author in them, and sometimes, that's not so flattering. The thing that Rona and I really have in common is that compulsive need for control of our respective situations, and how we tend to react when we run into things we can't control: overcompensate until we break down. In fact, this is the very reason I started writing in the first place. I had an okay home life as a child, but I got picked on ruthlessly in elementary and junior high--in a Christian school, by kids whose parents were associated with the church the school had spawned from, surrounded by adults who were well aware of what was going on but wouldn't do a damn thing about it, and nothing I did ever made a difference. I was powerless. So--to give myself some control over SOMETHING--I started making up people and places and worlds where nothing ever happened without getting the green light from me (my bullies had a lot of expies who tended to die painfully). This is also quite possibly the reason I usually make a point to keep Naroni on schedule even when my life is absolute shit and I don't really have the energy to spare. So, while I don't want to defend Rona's behavior, I definitely understand it.

I've mused about it in the comments before, but I think life started to go downhill for Rona when Xeta got pregnant. After that, both Lorn and Ovrean took to being very overprotective, to the point of being stifling, which would have contributed to her anxiety over getting married and away from her brother--and the perception that nobody wanted her didn't help. And then the whole tournament thing happened, and for all she knew, that would have stuck her with a man who made her wish she was back with her brother. And then just when she thought she'd gotten lucky with Ashe, she finds out that he has this deep dark secret that could ruin their marriage, and that their kids have these ticking time bomb magic auras and who knows how they'll manifest. Things may have improved in recent years, but all in all, I can't really blame her for trying to assert control over something that most of us would consider trivial, even though there are many more productive (and much less cruel!) ways of fulfilling a need for power.

I wouldn't say that she's stupid, though--for all she is just as capable of doing stupid things as anyone else. She's anxious and neurotic and obsessive, and while that can lead to irrational thoughts and behaviors on her part, I don't think that's necessarily related to innate intelligence. In terms of her full siblings, she's not as smart as Xeta or Farilon, but she's definitely smarter than Abrich. She's probably on the same level as Lorn in every aspect except for interpersonal skills, which is her problem area (though Lorn has had his blunders there too--the tournament, for example). She did need some help with the Ashe/Aspen connection, but that was an unheard-of supernatural occurence that most of Naroni's finest minds will go to the grave having never considered; Lonriad never would have guessed if he hadn't witnessed Ashe in one of his panicked frenzies, and Celina is one of those rare people who can see right through her loved ones.

Van said...


Rona can have her Babette-like moments in terms of irrationality and selfishness, but I generally don't see it. Rona doesn't subscribe to social games the way Babette does, making catty comments and puffing herself up every time she perceives someone struggling with something that seems to come naturally to her (like Babette when she thought Garnet was having trouble conceiving), sucking up to those "above" her and looking down on those "beneath" her. She's also--and I think this ties in largely with her need for control--very insecure, and while we can say many things about Babette, I don't think anyone can say she has any issues on the self-esteem front (at this point in her life, at least). That's just my opinion, though.

As for forgiveness... eh, I don't think that understanding if someone never forgives someone else makes a person a vindictive bitch. I'd never expect Josh or Elizabet to forgive Jayson or Cox, or Elias to forgive Romeo. I wouldn't expect Delyth to forgive Aglovale if he tried to stuff her in a nunnery without her consent (or tried to force her "consent"). I actively hope that none of the de Ganis women ever forgive Bors, and I'd probably spend an hour beating my head against a wall if Dindrane or her kids ever forgave Mordred. Sometimes characters (and worse, real people!) do some damn unforgivable things.

As for whether Yvanette ever forgives Rona, I guess that remains to be seen, though none of the three of them are going to get out of this without some sort of psychological repercussion. And if Yvanette wants a pony for Christmas, she'd damn well better get it.

sinisterbutterfli said...


Mimus said...

Nah, you can have a movie-day whenever you like. xD

"I wouldn't say that she's stupid, though--for all she is just as capable of doing stupid things as anyone else. She's anxious and neurotic and obsessive, and while that can lead to irrational thoughts and behaviors on her part, I don't think that's necessarily related to innate intelligence. In terms of her full siblings, she's not as smart as Xeta or Farilon, but she's definitely smarter than Abrich."

Well, I didn't mean that she's stupid as in lacking intelligence. But she doesn't have the insightfulness that Xeta and Farilon have and tends to overlook things. And she can be unbelievable bone-headed. .~.

As for Yvanette forgving her mother: Well, she's only five years old and children tend to forgive much worse behavior of their parents. And Rona really had no way to know that this was her daughter and she's probably beating herself up enough about it now.
Of course, maybe the whole thing might never have happened, if both - Rona and Yvanette - had had more trust. Rona, after all, knew that her children would have magic.

Van said...

sinisterbutterfli: I think I recognize your screen name (forgive me; I'm not operating at 100% these days). In any case, welcome!

Mimus: Yeah, Rona is not particularly analytical or thorough, except in instances where she skips the ideal range of those qualities and takes to over-analyzing and reading into even things that have nothing to do with anything.

Kids that young do tend to be forgiving of their parents, unless it occurs to them to be unforgiving later on. This could have been avoided if Rona and Ashe had warned their kids about the magic, or if Yvanette hadn't been so afraid of telling them what was happening to her. But I'd be much more concerned about a parent who didn't beat themselves up about this than one who did.

Penelope said...

Wow, this chapter sparked some conversation! I'm not quite sure why Ashe allowed Rona to bully him into dropping the cat down the well (other than the fact that he can be a little bit spineless where she's concerned), even if he intended to retrieve it later. And of course, Rona has gone completely wacko over this whole thing. I am curious to see what their reactions will be to finding Yvanette down there, particularly if they find out how she got there. I think they'd both die of shock and regret considering not only what they'd done but that their daughter's affliction might have something to do with the fact that Ashe is an enchanted woman. Ay ay ay.

Van said...

Ashe and Rona kind of have a strange relationship (well... strange in ways other than are already known). On the surface, it looks like Rona is the one pulling all of the strings, and there's an extent to which she is. She is Ashe's weakness, and generally speaking, if she pushes him hard enough, he'll do almost anything she asks of him. That said, while I doubt Ashe knows it, I think Rona needs Ashe a lot more than Ashe needs Rona. She's quite prone to flying off the handle and blowing everything out of proportion, and Ashe is her link back to earth.

More on their reactions to come soon...