February 27, 2014

In Which Alina Is Not Rosy Either

September 21, 1184

"You really didn't have to walk me home."

Of course Alina hadn't had to--but Lady Xeta had asked, and her twin brother gave the poor woman so much grief that Alina couldn't help but give her a hand when she needed it. Rina had always been out of sorts, but ever since Severin ran off, she'd become even more so. Today had been particularly rough, given the stress of the history test--Rina's worst subject, according to Severin. Rina had nearly been in tears by the end of the day, and that hadn't escaped Lady Xeta's notice, so she'd asked Alina if she'd see that Rina got home all right.

As for why it was she who'd been asked, as opposed to one of Rina's cousins or one of the baron's sons, Alina guessed it was solely because she was Severin's sister, though that brought complications of its own. Knowing their mother might react poorly to yet another child failing to return home, Lady Xeta had written up a quick note herself, which Alina gave to Teodrin when they met after class--along with a promise to their parents that she'd head home immediately after getting Rina home.

And even now, she pictured her mother slumped in her chair with her head on the table, Teodrin's cat brushing against her legs in search of a scratch, Esela struggling to occupy all the children on her own. It wasn't much fun, being the responsible one. Still, someone had to be.

"It's no trouble. Actually, I've kind of been wanting to get to know you a little better. You must be interesting if my brother prefers you to books." Though, honestly, she'd yet to see why. Didn't being interesting require... having interests? "Plus we're only a few months apart, so we might be housemates at the university in a few years."

"I guess so."

"Plus my family's been asking about you--kind of big news, Severin having a friend and all." Not as big as Severin disappearing for no apparent reason, but still up there. "My mother kept pestering Severin to invite you over for dinner. Actually, maybe you should come tomorrow; getting to meet you might cheer her up for a while."

"I don't know if I'd feel right about that."

"Why not? It's just dinner." All right, dinner with a bunch of strangers who happened to be kin to a runaway friend. But perhaps they could commiserate? "I mean... my parents are going to be worrying about Severin whether you're there or not. It might be good for them to make an effort."

"But it's my fault he--!" She cut herself off with a gasp, hand flying to her mouth. Her face matched the bone white of her undersleeve.

Alina doubted she was rosy herself. "What?"

"Shit. I, uh... well, I told him something I shouldn't have. I had a problem, and he might have... maybe thought he could solve it."

"Oh." Non-specific, but that did sound like Severin. He did pride himself on being smarter than everyone else, whether he actually was or not--and Rina didn't seem like the type to ask for favors. Alina decided she wouldn't blame her just yet.

That said, if Rina had information, wasn't she obligated to pry it out of her? Severin was her twin, after all. "Do you think he can solve it?"

"No." There went any idea Alina had of recapping this conversation to her mother. "I just hope he doesn't do anything reckless."


February 25, 2014

In Which Florian Holds and Will Be Held

September 18, 1184


He'd hardly stepped through the door when Thetis flung her arms around him and buried her head in his shoulder. He greeted her with a grin, but it slipped as a drop of eye-flung moisture landed on his neck. Odd. Some people did have that strange habit of crying whenever he walked in the door, but Thetis was not one of them. "Oh, thank God you're home!"

And 'Thank God' was a phrase he was more accustomed to hearing as he left. "Thetis? Are you all right?"

"Ah... no. No, I'm not."

She pulled herself off of him and wiped aside her tears. Their absence left a shadow about her eyes that nearly dulled their emerald color. When had he last seen her like this? It must have been when someone had...

Shit. "Thetis?"

"Severin didn't come home from school."

God damn. Florian's fingers twitched to a fist, a caustic surge throughout his arm set in motion. Of all his kids, Severin was the one he most often had the urge to strangle, but the boy was still his little baby--his smart-mouthed, cynical, antisocial little baby. He was a pain in the ass, sure... but if he was missing...

Don't panic. Thetis is already upset. Be strong for her. For a minute, at least. One of them had to be strong while they were both around--and usually Thetis got stuck with that burden. "What happened?"

"I don't know. He sent a note home with Teodrin. He said that there was something he needed to do, and not to expect him back until October."

Well, at least no one was dead. But still, a stupid kid, all on his own? Especially a stupid kid who had no idea how stupid he was? "Did he say where he was going?"

Thetis shook her head. "I guess he didn't want to be followed."

Of course he didn't. "I could go to the baron if you want. Could ask him to send out some riders. I mean, Severin couldn't have gone too far yet, right? Thetis?"

She drew her hands to her face and sobbed. Florian swallowed. He'd never really figured out what to do with tears. "Thetis..."

"He's all alone!" Her shoulders shook. He placed an arm around them and pulled her closer. "He always wants to be alone, and now he is. What if he's not really coming back?"

Then he's even more thoroughly grounded than if he does. "He'll come back. He's not a liar."

"But he's still just a kid! What if he can't take care of himself?"

What if he couldn't.

Hell... what adult could? Thetis needed Florian to hold her for a while. Florian would need the same later. "We just can't think like that right now."


February 12, 2014

Unexpected Hiatus

Cross-posted: Kingdom of Naroni, Tumblr, PBK

So, my laptop is sick and will be going to the computer hospital.

Long story short, I had an issue that was most likely the result of a Windows update, but when I was on the phone with tech support, they had me run diagnostics on the machine just in case, and it kept crashing during the process (even after a bios update), so while they didn't get enough information to pinpoint the exact issue, there is almost definitely some sort of not-yet-fatal, but worth-looking-into hardware problem.

The computer is still functional at the moment--I'm on it right now, not wanting to type this up on my phone--but seeing as it's still under warranty, it doesn't seem like the worst idea to send it in before anything catastrophic happens. I did run a backup between the resolution of the initial issue and the diagnostic tests, so if it turns out to be a hard drive issue, I'll be able to restore my data (though I'm kind of hoping it's something that won't require that, because I'm lazy).

In any case, the lack of laptop means that I won't have access to the game, so as far as my own Sims stuff goes, I'm going to have to take a hiatus. I don't know exactly when I'll get my computer back, since that will depend on how busy the technicians are and just what the issue is and other things I don't feel confident about guessing right now, but I was given a conservative estimate of five to seven business days and was told that they'd phone me with an update on Monday.

The timing is pretty lousy since a ton of other Medieval/Fantasy Sims stories are on hiatus right now (never mind all the other crap in my personal life at the moment), and I'm sorry about that. That said, while I won't be updating or making custom content, I do have my phone and I do have a certain degree of access to my dad's computer, so I will be able to read, comment, and respond to comments (though comments from my phone may be sloppy). I just may not be as prompt as usual.

Thanks for understanding, everyone. Here's hoping it won't be too long a wait.

In Which Cherry Pays a Compliment to Greek Statues

September 18, 1184

Cherry had not been expecting company--and if she had, it would have been someone she knew, or at least knew of. Or, failing that, someone who had tangible reason for calling on her. It would not have been someone random teenage boy she'd never met in her life, a boy whose name she only recognized because she'd once witnessed his father being thrown out of a tavern.

That said, she'd let Severin in and led him upstairs to the sitting room, then seated herself once he looked to be comfortable. She drew the line at food, though. If he expected food, he ought to have given her notice. Or at least found some opening to introduce himself in a public space before inviting himself to her house.

"I don't want to be rude, but isn't it a school day?"

He shrugged. "If I wanted a lecture about skipping, I would have dropped in on my mother."

"More of an ends fellow than a means one, I see." As she could have guessed, he didn't dignify that with more than a blink. "All right. What do you want?"

"I heard you're from Tagrien. Is that true?"

...what. Maybe she had mentioned Tagrien to Florian in the tavern. Didn't make his question any less of a shock. "Well, I was actually born in Rexus, but I did live in Tagrien for most of my life, yes."

"You weren't acquainted with Count Felron, were you?"

Oh, God. "What, you think all people from Tagrien know each other? I'll admit it's not exactly London, but you need to check your population figures before you assume things."

"So you didn't know him." Direct enough--she'd give him that. "Any chance you knew someone who did?"

"Naturally. It's not exactly London, after all." She winked; he didn't seem to appreciate it. "A friend of mine had a sister who was a maid at the castle."

"A servant. Interesting." Severin shuffled up against the arm of the bench and leaned over while Cherry did her best to maintain a polite distance. "They usually have the dirt on their masters, don't they?"

"They do. Alas, I don't think it was ever a big secret that Felron is an asshole." Hell, even his own mother had admitted it, or so Cherry had heard said. She recalled more than one rumor that said Felron might be passed over for Sir Garrett on that basis; pity it hadn't turned out to be true. "That other thing might be, though."

Her guest raised an eyebrow. He know doubt wanted her to say it, but she kind of wanted him to ask. He'd shown up uninvited, after all; there was no reason for him to stop taking initiative now. "What other thing?"

"Well... see, a lot of noblemen feel entitled to take their female servants to bed, and Felron has a habit of doing just that. My friend's poor sister had that misfortune more than once, and, well..." How to put it? As far as the world ought to have been concerned, she'd already said the worst of it. But some people had no priorities when it came to shame. "...apparently he's, er... not particularly well-endowed."

"Well-endowed?" Severin repeated, eyes wide and mouth twisting. Poor stupid kid.

Cherry sighed. "He has a tiny penis."

"I know what you meant!" And yet, his indignation wasted no time swapping itself for curiosity. "How small?"

"Small enough that there were rumors among the staff that his wife had to have her maidenhead surgically ruptured. Nothing anyone with any knowledge of the female anatomy would believe, but that seems to be more people than not." Though really... if a maidenhead covered everything, then why were such heavy periods possible? That stuff was more gunk than liquid sometimes. If a maidenhead wasn't fully permeable--which surely it wouldn't have been--then why didn't women go through their youths with only light bleeding and then lose years' worth of backlog after first penetration?

"Huh." Severin sunk back in his seat and looked to the ceiling. Fighting to get the image of a naked Felron out of his mind, no doubt. Lord knew how long that had taken Cherry when she'd first heard the size of the thing. "That's... got to be pretty small."

"Embarrassingly so."

"How embarrassing?"

Was there a scale of embarrassment where cocks were concerned? Cherry shrugged. "Well, not having one myself, you'd know better than I would. But based on what I know of men's egos and the length between Atasha's finger and thumb when she told me, I'd say there are some Greek statues out there who stand to be feeling pretty good about themselves if they ever wind up in Felron's bedroom."


February 10, 2014

In Which Severin Ponders the Standards of Luck

September 17, 1184

"So today I have to take my brother to the doctor after school, but I could come over and help you with history tomorrow." History was probably Severin's least favorite subject, but it was also Rina's worst. He'd helped her with her other subjects some months prior, to the point where she was mostly caught up, but her grandfather's death had hit before they could get to history, and she hadn't felt up to it since. Even now, he felt bad about pushing her.

But his obsession was getting to an unhealthy point. She'd had a week off from classes earlier in the month and on Wednesday, the agitation of her absence had mounted to the point where Hamrick had caught him sulking and sent him off to the brothel with a full purse. There had been a brown-haired, blue-eyed girl with freckles. He'd called her Rina as he climaxed and while women of the night may have been used to such instances, he still felt bad about it. He'd tipped her handsomely.

He doubted she wanted to court anyone--and if she did, she probably wouldn't have settled for him. But he didn't want to be one of those assholes who were only friends with a girl if they wanted to get her into bed, and in truth he liked spending time with her so much that a platonic relationship was infinitely preferable to nothing at all.

"I guess that's fine." She shrugged. Probably all the enthusiasm he could expect from her about history. "I mean, my family would leave us alone if we're studying."

...eh? "Alone?"

"Yes, well... I don't know. My uncle keeps asking all these questions." She plucked a blade of grass from the ground and tossed it aside. "I think he's planning a birthday party for me."

Spoken like she'd uncovered a murder plot. "Your birthday?"

"The fourth. Like I really care. The last thing I want is a big party." A couple more blades suffered the same fate as the first. Severin couldn't blame her. His parents had thrown a large surprise party for his and Alina's tenth birthday, and he'd spent most of it hiding in the attic. At least Alina had enjoyed it. "There's nothing I want anyway--or nothing he can do, at least. The only thing that might make life any better right now is having Kevin back."

Severin swallowed. If Kevin was a boy's name, then Kevin was a boy's name. He didn't want to be jealous. He'd force himself out of it. "Who's Kevin?"

"My horse."

Huh. Perhaps he'd rethink his blase attitude toward the animals. "Your horse?"

"Yes. My father, he, uh... he wouldn't let me take Kevin." Why was that not a surprise? That prick. "He's back in Dovia. My grandmother says he's being used for work now; I guess I'm just lucky that my father didn't have him slaughtered."

God, she had low standards of luck. Even by his reckoning. "That's rough. But couldn't you get a new one?" I mean, it's hardly as if your uncle or your grandmother is strapped for cash...

"I don't want a new one. I want Kevin."

Well, fuck. Now she sounded like Teodrin when their last cat died. A week later and a new cat had cheered him right up.

But Rina wasn't much like Teodrin. She wasn't much like anyone.

Who knew? Maybe that horse was just as different.


February 6, 2014

In Which Riona Contemplates the Logical End

August 11, 1184

Riona doubted she'd heard more than four words out of her twin since the funeral. Xetrica had always been the quiet one, especially after she'd married Felron, but the past while had been silent even by her standards.

She couldn't say she blamed her. Her father-in-law, the most reliable buffer against her husband, prey to an apoplexy and now dead after his months-long suffering. Her daughter--her only daughter--practically expelled from the family. And if Riona knew anything about Felron, she'd eat her shoe if his newfound countship hadn't gone to his head.

But Felron wasn't her concern. Not her immediate one, anyway. "Mother said to tell you that her invitation is still open."

Not surprisingly, Xetrica shook her head. "Felron wouldn't allow it."

Of course he wouldn't. Not for the first time, Riona regretted not talking to her mother about Xetrica's future when she'd had the chance, back when they were girls. Their father hadn't been the worst sort of man, but he'd still been... well, a man. He'd assumed that he was doing his daughters a favor by finding them husbands. Ever the obedient daughter, Xetrica wouldn't have dreamed of telling him otherwise, but she'd confided in Riona more than once that she would have preferred joining a convent--she'd always been the most pious of them, after all. At the time, Riona had thought it better to allow Xetrica to approach their parents herself, but that had never happened. And sure, their father might have taken it as pre-wedding jitters, but their mother would have listened...

Now, after all these years of Felron, Riona had to wonder if her sister was still on decent terms with God.

"Mother will fight him, and so will Nearina. Marsden and I will join in too."

"No, none of you should have to."

"Of course we shouldn't have to--but that's because Felron shouldn't be such an ass in the first place." What sort of man kept his wife from her own mother? Not to mention, her daughter. "Look, if you want to spend some time away without leaving the country, you're also welcome to--"


It was the same answer every time. And every time she heard it--no matter how happy she was with Marsden--that old guilty ember flared within Riona's heart. She had been the one to pick between the two prospective husbands, and she'd done so selfishly. A gentle soul like Marsden would have been the husband her sister needed, if she had to have a husband at all. The logical end to Riona and Felron would have been one of them strangling the other in their sleep, but she might have done the world a service if she'd been the one to act first. "Xee..."

Her sister sighed. Before Felron, that would have been a rarity. "I can't leave.

"Leaving would only make things worse."


February 5, 2014

In Which Lyraina Catches On

August 4, 1184

"Sev! My favorite brother-in-law!" Not that Congren provided much competition. Still, Lyraina had nothing against any of her sisters' husbands, but she did have to admit--to herself, at least--that she enjoyed Sev's company more than any of theirs. "Excellent timing. The biscuits are almost done."

"You didn't have to make biscuits."

"Your new little niece or nephew begs to differ." The scent was enough that she might have run the risk of drooling on his shoulder. "Anyway, have a seat and tell your brother and I about your first week."

"All right." Sev nodded toward Had, then started around the table to a seat on the other side. Lyraina took advantage and nabbed a nearer one.

"Second semester already. I could have sworn Father told me he was sending you off just yesterday." Had grinned as his brother tucked himself in, no doubt blushing. "How are your classes?"

"They're good, but I won't bore you with the details until Father gets here. You don't want to hear it twice."

"You're probably right."

"Had!" Lyraina smacked him against the arm on principle. She didn't find Sev's classes any more interesting than Had did, but it was important that they at least understood the basics. Of course, Sev's university experience did include more than just the classes. "How are your housemates? Does Senwick still feel the need to greet the sun with his drums?"

"Yes, but I can usually sleep through it now. And so can Orrick and Landus, so they're fine." Sev shrugged. With Senwick in the house, early morning drumming must have been mundane by now. "Koradril's still getting used to it, though."

"Koradril?" Must have been a new housemate. Curious, Lyraina leaned forward. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that's a noble name."

"Uh, well... yes, I guess it is." But rather than elaborate, Sev chose to shut up and stare at the table.

But that crook in Had's brow said he wasn't satisfied. "That wouldn't be... Prince Koradril, would it?"


Well. So the university experience took an interesting turn. "It is, isn't it?"

"Look, he doesn't want people to make a big deal of him being there, all right?"

Lyraina glanced over at Had, who frowned. Sev usually wasn't so defensive. "Sev...?"

"Sorry. It's just that he just wants to have a few years of normal, and he was hoping university could be that. I guess this doesn't really matter because we're here alone, but... I don't know, habit. I'm trying to be a good friend."

"Oh." That was more like Sev. Though... "Wait, you two are friends?"

He shrugged. "I guess so."

"Do you see the two of you staying friends?" asked Had, eyes narrowed. Surely he was thinking what she was thinking? "I don't know, say... once you've graduated?"

"Well, it's a little early to tell, but I don't see why not."

"Interesting." Had tried to keep his smile at bay, as he usually did when he was getting ahead of himself. And surely he didn't want to voice his thoughts in front of his good-natured, altruistic little brother.

But while Sev may have been the one taking the business classes--and enjoying them, whereas Had probably would have slept through more lectures than not--Lyraina's husband had taken the lion's share of the instincts. If they were to, say, start selling horses to the Dovian Royal Family, and the Dovian Royal Family found them to be good enough stock to spread the word...

Well. Who better for word-of-mouth marketing than royalty?

"Very interesting."

If Sev had caught on, he opted not to press. But Lyraina did know one thing: between Sev's book learning and Had's intuition, her father-in-law's business wouldn't be bankrupt any time soon.


February 2, 2014

In Which Rina Is Granted a Glimpse

July 23, 1184

Rina dreamed of a staircase.

Her classmates stood at the top, and so did her peers back in Dovia, her brother and her barely-older aunts. She was close enough that she could see them, but she never got any closer. She walked, she ran, she barely more than lifted her legs step by step, but every step she cleared reappeared at the top of the set.

Every pair of eyes at the top fell upon her. Some of the faces were laughing, some of the fingers pointing, some of the mouths shouting unclear taunts that she nonetheless knew to be hurtful. Some looked upon her with pitying eyes, shaking their heads. Others still grimaced, as if to pretend they hadn't noticed, or to offer empty encouragement despite knowing it to be futile. She wasn't sure who up there she hated most.

Her younger uncle passed her on his way up. Her little brothers. Her cousins, her age, younger, younger still. Some of them even crawled, and the laughter from the openly cruel swelled.

Rina... someone called, near and far both at once, barely audible amidst the noise of the crowd. Rina, Rina...

Severin Tumekrin emerged from the crowd and ventured down a few steps to offer her a hand. She grabbed it and he returned to the top, trying to pull her after him, but no matter how many steps she climbed, their distance remained constant.


"Stop!" she screamed to her mocking peers. "Stop it! Leave me alone!"

More cackles, more taunts, louder still. An extra stair emerged between her and the top; Severin's grip on her hand weakened.


"Go away!" she yelled again as more steps spawned, as she held to Severin merely finger to the finger. "Go to hell, all of you! Don't look at me! Don't look at me!"

What remained of their grasp broke and she tumbled backward, past toddlers and babies and the not yet born, the noise of the watchers deafening. She rolled further and further, unable to stop herself, until she fell from the stairs entirely. She landed on a sickly, saccharine pink mattress, wooden walls and babyish toys surrounding her. If she looked up, all she saw was her father, glowering down from his great world of blackness.


Stop it.




I wish I was dead. Just let me die!


Her eyes snapped open. Her father was gone. There was no cradle, no stairs, no jeers from ruthless bullies. She was in bed, in her room at her Uncle Garrett's castle.

With the only person in the world who could maybe make it better. "Grandfather?"

She sprung from her bed and ran to his outstretched arms, like she had when she was a child after all those times her father had chastised her. "Grandfather! You're here!"

"Oh, Rina." He squeezed her a little tighter and kissed her on the cheek. "I had to see you."

"I didn't want to go away." Surely not if he would have recovered!

"You did. You don't know it yet, but you did; you just wanted to leave on your own terms. I don't blame you for that."

His embrace eased and Rina's tiptoed feet fell flat. Her hand lingered on his arm as she looked him in the eye. "Grandfather..."

"I wanted to apologize. I should have stopped your father. I've spent the past months regretting that I couldn't."

Why would he say such a thing? "It wasn't your fault. You were ill..."

"Yes. That changes nothing." But it did! He would have helped her had he been well. Surely he would have? Some days, it was the only thought that kept her going... "I'm so sorry, Rina. But I need you to know that things will get better for you."

Rina grimaced. Her grandfather was not a liar. But neither were her grandmother and her aunt and uncle, and they told her that far too often. "Grandfather..."

"I know you don't believe it, and you're probably sick of hearing it. I wouldn't say it if I didn't know for sure." He took her hand and squeezed it. It had been months since she'd felt so warm. "I've been granted glimpses, Rina. I haven't seen everything, but I've seen the important things--enough to know that it will get better."

Glimpses? "Grandfather? What are you talking about? What do you mean?"

"Take care of yourself, Rina." That wasn't an answer. "And if you can't, remember that I'm never far away."


"I have to leave now." But hadn't he just--? "I love you, Rina. I always will."

Why had his voice grown more distant? "Grandfather--"