December 19, 2013

In Which Mother Elwyna Takes the Side of Right

February 22, 1184

Half the convent had woken to the sounds of the man's yelling and the girl's raspy sobs, but by the time Mother Elwyna reached her study, the pair had tensed themselves to silence, broken only by the occasional cough from the girl. No one had mentioned to Elwyna how long or how far they'd traveled--she doubted either guest had told--but the man, at least, looked to be the pinnacle of health, so she guessed no further than Dovia.

But the girl was in rough shape, rougher than most who journeyed from kingdom to kingdom in the winter. What business did she have that required her to come so far in her condition? Had she been in Elwyna's charge, she would have been confined to bed.

But if they'd come all the way here, then surely they would at least tell her why. Elwyna sat herself down at her desk and met the man's eye. "How may I help you?"

"My daughter is here to join your convent."

The man's face was stoic, but his words were ice and fire at once, a subtle sidelong leer toward his daughter as he stated their relation. Elwyna looked over to the girl just quickly enough to catch a scowl. "She doesn't seem pleased with the prospect. Tell me, was this her choice, or yours?"

"I am her father. Her only choice is to obey mine." His lightning eyes threw a bolt the girl's way with a single flick. She shrunk further back into her chair, but not without a sharp breath that seemed to Elwyna like that of a cornered cat. Nothing to gain, nothing to lose, a mere hiss a last defense at certain doom. "Through her own foolish actions, she has become otherwise useless to me. Here, she can at least work toward restoring the appearance of my family's honor."

And just what honor, Elwyna ached to ask, is there in abandoning your daughter in a convent when she doesn't want to be here in the first place? "Forgive me, but I have heard no hint of a scandal in any of the major houses. Your family's honor may yet be salvageable without forcing your daughter into a life she doesn't want."

The man's line of a mouth curved just enough to frown. He had a rock of his face, but she didn't doubt it could be cracked. "With all due respect, Reverend Mother, but I hope you never said such things to your own father when he decided that you would become a nun."

"My father had nothing to do with my becoming a nun. I took my vows of my own free will, because I wanted to serve the Lord." As, she believed, every nun should have. But she'd been around long enough to know that not all did. She'd dwelt in three Dovian convents before coming to Naroni, and she'd seen many young girls whose parents had seen fit to choose their futures for them. Most who were sent to the nunnery while they were too young to want much more grew up to be fine nuns, and some of the older ones did find that they liked the life, or grew to eventually.

Some, though... some never did. Elwyna had seen girls stop eating. She'd seen the scars on their wrists from the attempts to feel something, anything; one young woman had even used the sharpened corner of her crucifix when they'd taken away her knife. Some chose to waste away to nothing, any youth they had left abandoned along with the desire to go on. One young woman, the night before she was to take her final vows, had been found dangling from the rafters. "I do not think that your daughter has been called to do the same."

"She has been marked for the church."

And how arrogant did a mortal man have to be to claim that? "The only mark is desire."

The girl raised her head a little, body shaking as her neck struggled with the weight of her matted, tangled hair. Her deep blue eyes swelled to shadows and the skin of her cheeks stretched inward, but she managed to move her mouth just enough that Elwyna got the message. She was grateful. She didn't want to be here, but she was grateful. She'd been alone on her side for far too long.

"You look very ill, my dear. Would you like to lie down?"

"No," her father answered on her behalf. "She should count herself lucky I do not make her stand."

"She..." It was a new voice--quiet, nearly broken, but nonetheless there. "She asked me, Father. Not you."

"I thought I told you! Not another word!" And there it was, the face of rock a landslide of flash-fury. Elwyna's spine stiffened, but the girl did little more than glance back down at her lap. "Were you not your grandfather's pet, I'd tear out your vile tongue."

The painting of Christ that hung behind her flashed itself in front of her eyes. Elwyna stood. Rome may have wished for all its servants to follow the book to the letter, but all too often the official way and the Christian way differed greatly. "Sir, I will not have you saying such things."

"Don't you have any idea who I am?" Said as if he thought it actually mattered to God. "I am heir to the countship of Tagrien!"

"We are not in the countship of Tagrien! This is Naroni, and this is a house of the Lord!" Kicking back her chair, she stormed around her desk and stopped a few feet short of him. He was a large man, much taller than her, but Elwyna feared neither giants nor devils. This man may have had dogma on his side, but she had right. And more importantly, she was in charge here. "Now, I will have you know that as long as I am Mother Superior here, no girl or woman shall ever join this convent unless she decides to do so freely!"

"You would deny Christ of his rightful brides?"

"Christ would not have it any other way! I don't know what heartless god you serve, but mine is not a monster!" And it only angered her more, recalling once again that far too many thought he was. "He is fair and loving and has blessed us with choice! Do not deny your daughter what God has given her!"

"And if you know what's good for you, you will not deny what I am giving you!" The man drove his fist into his own hand, thin lips pulling back to reveal gritted teeth. His breath was every bit as ugly as his words. "This is my only daughter. She has a substantial dowry. You would be a fool not to take it!"

"My integrity is not for sale, and nor are my beliefs in a righteous God!"

"A pity, then." The man's stony brows cast a hood over his eyes, hand flying back as if swatting some invisible fly. "I picked this convent so my daughter could have some distance from the family she dishonored. Thought it would be better for all of us. But if you're unwilling to take her, I'm sure somewhere in Dovia--"

"Sanctuary!"

The man scowled, face swinging toward his daughter at the steer of a loathing glare. Elwyna softened her own eyes before gazing to the girl.

"I mean... I know it's not a chapel, but I can still ask that, right?" Her head drooped forward, matted curls scraping against her unsatisfactory coat. Elwyna thought she saw a smear of mud in one lock. "If I say that..."

"Then you can stay here and recover for a while without becoming a nun," Elwyna finished for her. The girl was a sorry sight, but the request stirred in her heart a little hope. If she sought sanctuary, then she hadn't fully resigned herself to her father's wishes. There was fight in her yet. "Yes, I will allow it. Have you any family in this kingdom?"

"A few aunts and uncles, and my grandmother is the baroness."

"Hmph. Garrett and Valira, then Renata and her brood." The man sneered, not much fondness found in any name, though Elwyna caught the familiarity. Knights and nobles, many of them charitable. It would not be hard to find the girl a new home among her kin. "Bunch of bleeding hearts, the lot of them. Reverend Mother, be sure that they aren't blinded by their pity."

"It is neither your place nor mine to dictate how your relations feel about your daughter." But it was Elwyna's place to know how she felt about the girl's father, and those feelings were sinfully unchristlike. There was only one way to fix that. "Now, I will give you a choice not unlike the one I imagine you gave your daughter. You will either leave this place of your own accord, or I will call for the guards and have you forcibly removed."

NEXT CHAPTER:

11 comments:

Van said...

In other news, I finally got back to posting aspiration subtypes on my blog. The Kemorins.

Ann said...

Oh my goodness, what a bastard!! Poor poor Nearina! What she needs is a good dose of 'Granny' Renata.
I vote Moar Bleading Heats for Nearina! And genital leprosy to the jerk who calls himself her father!

What did the poor girl do anyway?
I guess we'll find out... next chapter. *sigh*
Why, Van? No fair! ;)

Orilon said...

If this is related to the tumblr Crystal Gazing that Renata would be pissed, I don't blame her for being pissed at the abuse of one of her granddaughters.

Its sad that some abusive fathers use the church as an agent to continue their abuse of their daughters. Its one thing if the daughter chooses to take her vows and wants to become a nun, its another if the daughter is forced by an abusive father.

Mimus said...

*takes the Tamrions of Dovia off the sanity list*
It was too good to last. v.v
Now only the Kemorins remain as completely (if unconventionally) sane.

I guess Nearina is pregnant? Or was she caught with somebody?

morgaine2005 said...

That poor girl. All the time Elwyna was arguing with that bastard, I was thinking, "No, no! Take the girl, don't make her take vows, and figure out what to do with her once her asshole father is out of the country!" But I like this better. It's Nearina's choice this way to stick around.

And something tells me that she won't find a shortage of allies in Naroni. Even Severin, who seems to be the only one not related to her, would probably chip in and help out. He knows what it's like to be forced into a monastery against his will.

Yeah, I think Octavius (she is a Tamrion!) and Renata both will be going to bat for Nearina. And that father is in for a royal arse-kicking if he doesn't get that unpleasant arse out of Naroni, stat.

Van said...

*was not expecting to come home to three comments* :)

Ann: Oh, he is definitely an ass.

Granny Renata will absolutely be bringing the comfort, as will the Naronian aunts and uncles. That said, the healing may still take a while. :S

Actually... not next chapter. What Rina Did will be a mystery for a couple in-story months yet. Sorry about that!

Orilon: This is related to Renata's crystal gazing, as well as a couple of other people's. She is absolutely going to be pissed over this. She was never a fan of Felron anyway, but this is the last straw there.

It is a really shitty thing to do to a kid! If someone joins a religious institution of their own free will, then all the power to them, but to be forced into it? Especially given that most clergy careers seem to carry at least the expectation that church membership will be permanent, yeah, I would call that abuse.

Mimus: Well... the Primus (Nythran) and Secundus (Danthia) branches seem to be okay, but we haven't seen all of them. This is the Tertius branch, which also spawned Garrett and Valira, who are both much better people than their big brother. Tertius himself is a good guy, but he's... um, rather compromised at the moment. I'm thinking the reason why he was powerless to stop this will slip into either the next post or the one after that.

I won't say what happened with Nearina just yet, but feel free to speculate. Felron absolutely would have shoved her into a nunnery for both of those reasons.

Van said...

Morgaine, your comment slipped right by me! XD

If Nearina hadn't called sanctuary, I'm thinking Elwyna could have easily gotten to the point where she might have done that. But you're right. I think this way works better for both Rina, who needed to feel in control of something, and for Elwyna, who didn't want to compromise herself.

And this way, Felron doesn't get the satisfaction of thinking he's won. ;)

Yeah, I'm thinking the Naronian nobility will generally be sympathetic, regardless of the reasons. Octavius and Renata will be in her corner, and Severin will be too if her closer relatives decide to involve him. The only one who might back Felron is Ietrin, and nobody really cares about him.

Mimus said...

Well, reading your comment to Ann, I'm guessing it's not a pregnancy. That would be noticeable pretty soon.
And fourteen is normally not the age to be caught with someone. Normally.

Actually, Ietrin would notice very fast how little power he has over his own subjects if he tried to back up Felron. Without the consent of the other nobles, he can't do much in Naroni.

Van said...

For now, my lips are sealed as to exactly what went down for now, but needless to say, the poor girl's been through quite a lot. :S

Yeah, none of the others would send Rina back to Felron if Ietrin commanded it. If he got to the point where he'd force it, they'd probably smuggle her into Carvallon, where Ietrin has no power and the Queen Mother thinks of him as a colossal joke at best.

That said, I don't see Ietrin bothering to get involved. If he finds out about the situation, he'll probably agree with Felron, but ultimately decide it's not his problem.

Penelope said...

Yikes, that was tense! I think that might rank up there with the most painful scenes in this story, Van. But in true Naroni fashion, the good guys have won a satisfying victory. ;)

Holy Moly does Felron look like Dead Searle.

Van said...

This scene was pretty difficult to write. Tense indeed. :S

Felron and Searle are distantly related, so it's not super weird that they'd have some similar facial features. The hair doesn't help.