February 28, 2015

In Which Rina Is Not Fortunate

September 3, 1189

"You wanted to see me?" Severin kissed Rina on the cheek, taking her hand as he stepped back. "I hope I'm not in trouble."

"Of course not. I just wanted to..." Well, she didn't want to. But she had to. Didn't she owe him a chance? "...talk."

"Talk." He got that. "Uh-oh."

"Yes, well... I just wanted to make sure you were clear on the situation." Rina grimaced, some vain attempt to make him smile. "I mean, I know that you know, but maybe it was a bit selfish of me not to bring it up again when I'd asked if you'd marry me."

A frown. He got that too. "You mean--"

"Yes, that. I just wanted to make sure you understood that, well... Ardyath wasn't hopeful about my chances of ever having a baby."

"I know."

"Well..." She swallowed. God, how it hurt! But she had to. It was only fair.

"Are you really all right with that?"

Yes, no, I'll think on it... she didn't know what she expected him to say. But she didn't expect that he'd put her hand to his lips and kiss each knuckle, never afraid to linger. "Absolutely."

"You're sure?"

He chuckled. "Rina... I hate children."

She pulled back her hand. Hadn't expected that either. "What?"

"Well... maybe not 'hate', but I'm not fond of them. Even of my nieces and nephews, only Thetis is really old enough to be bearable now."


"Don't get me wrong--I care about my nieces and nephews. I'm just glad I'm not the one who has to parent them. I never wanted kids of my own."

What? "Is... is that why you're marrying me?"

"What?" He cringed. At least she'd jabbed him to her level of shock and insult. "No! I loved you long before you ever told me about that. It's just a... a fortunate coincidence."

"Fortunate? You think what happened to me is fortunate?"

"Of course not! I--"

"Tell me: if by some miracle I did get pregnant, how would you feel about that?"

Clever as he prided himself on being, he was less than automatic. "Uh..."

"Wrong answer!"



He fought back whatever vitriol he had and sighed. "What do you want me to say?"

Why the hell was it her job to tell him? "Get out!"


February 26, 2015

In Which Alina Mentions the Frightening Prospect

August 19, 1189

"So, it's official." Alina's hands fell to her lap, her body wanting to sit after that morning's long walk but too stimulated for complete stillness. "We bought the land--for the bank and for the house. We had to borrow some money from my parents and Jothein's, but we'll be able to pay them back eventually."

"And my grandmother will be happy to reimburse you for some of the bank land. I think I can convince my brother to contribute some money too."

"Excellent!" Oh, how lucky they were that Rina had patched things up with her brother! "I have to say: much as I love school, I'm so excited for what happens next. Jothein and his brothers will get to work on the house as soon as he graduates, so it'll be ready well before we marry."

"Severin and I have been looking at land too. Once we choose a place, Hamrick said he'd set to work on the house. The baron said he'd start recruiting a crew for the bank construction come spring."

"Great. Do promise you'll be near, for all Severin would hate to have his sister for a neighbor."

"I don't think he'd hate it," Rina assured her with a hint of a laugh. "I'll try to convince him."

"I'm sure you will." Her brother was a stubborn ass for everyone else, but damn was he clay in Rina's hands. It was sweet enough that even she found it borderline nauseating. Of course, she'd never admit that to either of them. "This is going to be so much fun! Us, the boys, the bank, Severin's surgery and Jothein's archives, our children growing up together--"

"Our what?"

"Our kids." Why was Rina's mouth twitching? Sure, the prospect was always a little frightening... but good frightening? That was what Alina's older siblings had all said, at least. "You know. They'll be cousins and they'll probably be the same age and they'll grow up close together. Won't it be nice?"

"I guess..."

Her mouth may have said it, but the rest of her face took a while to catch up.


February 24, 2015

In Which Eldona Can't Help

August 11, 1189

Of all the people Eldona might have thought she'd find at the school library before term even began, her cousin Searle had not been among them. He didn't have much particular interest in any subject. He certainly wasn't doing well in many of them. He was barely even aware of where he was more days than not, and it wasn't as if he had any friends to pull him anywhere on their days off.

Why was he here?

"Searle?" He jumped. Why had she expected he'd noticed her? "Oh. Sorry, I... are you all right?"

He shook his head. "No."

Poor boy. Perhaps looking for new poems would have to wait. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Searle sighed. "I'm writing to Aunt Maeja."


Her father had gotten the news some days back. Their Uncle Marsden had been killed just before the end of the previous month. Eldona had never met him, but Searle had lived in Dovia. He would have known him well enough. "I see."

She also saw the page: blank except for the phrase 'Dear Aunt Maeja'.

"I... I'm not good at words."

"Don't say that. You're just... unpracticed, maybe." At any rate, this was the longest they'd ever spoken. Some people who didn't talk much expressed themselves in writing, but it stood to reason that some kept their thoughts and feelings inside, in the forms they took before they were words.

"Help me?"

Help? "I don't know, Searle. Letters like that are pretty personal."

"But you're a good writer. All the poems you read in class were so..." He stopped, in search of a new word. Instead, he fell back on a familiar one. "...good."

"All right." Not that she was feeling too poetic after a conversation like this--but she sat down anyway. "'Dear Aunt Maeja'."

Searle nodded. "Then?"

She thought on it a moment. But, she had to shake her head.

"I can't write this for you. Only you know what's in your heart."

He bowed his head and stared at the paper, as if he wasn't quite sure he had one.


February 22, 2015

In Which Elarys Reflects on the Moment

July 16, 1189

It had happened shortly before midnight.

Elarys had been waiting for that moment for years now, and not for the first time. Her mother had waited. Her grandmother had waited. Before she died, she'd have to patch things up for Ellona so she'd know to wait too, and Ella or Eliana or Rahileine after her. It would be easier for them. They were so near the source.

The line had not been stable in generations. Rarely had a link in the chain produced more than one child, and children almost never came without difficulty. The last Heiress had been born only because Elarys had called in some favors from the other side, to the last of her line before her, a dying woman wasting away in the care of a nunnery.

With this Heiress, that moment had come once before. It hadn't lasted.

This one, Elarys thought as she stabbed at the logs in her hearth, would. It had to. The Heiress still had fertile years ahead of her, but with her family history, the universe damn well owed her--owed all of them--at least one living Heirling. If it were more than one, the better.

As of shortly before midnight, if the next nine months progressed as they should, there was at least one on the way.

Perhaps the future was more secure than the past had led her to believe. The line had gone to Naroni, after all. The land would offer some protection there, she hoped--and according to Neilor, the husband was a member of a prominent noble family. Given the Dovian tendency for not marrying within their own environs, any relocation was unlikely to be far.


It may have been time to make things clear. She'd have to visit Naroni, and sooner rather than later. Once the child had survived its delicate first years, maybe.

A lucky thing her contacts had produced that boy Searle.


February 20, 2015

In Which Morgan Names the Muscles

July 15, 1189

"So." Lonriad pried his lips off of Morgan's cheek and ran his hands down her back. "We're alone."

It wasn't the first time they'd been alone. But it would be the first time... well, actually, Morgan's first time since her first husband had died. "Looks like it."

"Alone. On our birthday." The girls had been delighted to discover that Lonriad and Morgan had the same birthday. "And our wedding night."

"You do realize this means you'll never have an excuse to forget our anniversary."

"Hmm. If I remember correctly, Vera and Lucien came home with a present last year to find that you had forgotten your own birthday."

"Hey! I was very busy! My senior composition class had just turned in their final project proposals."

"Then perhaps I'll submit a project proposal this time next year too." He winked. "A dirty one."

"Romantic." Though, so long as they were in the right place at that time, she supposed she didn't mind. "So... I guess we should..."

"Well... only if you want to. I know this progressed kind of quickly. But first, let me make a point in my favor." His sheepish grin disappeared beneath his tunic as he pulled it over his head. It reemerged when he flung it to the floor.

Oh, my.

"So." He pulled himself close again. She found herself looking down, mesmerized by the distinct muscles of his core. Her poor Lonan had been skin and bone even in his better days. Much as she hated to compare... it seemed there was at least one perk to marrying a knight. "What do you think?"

"I think I didn't know there were six muscles there."

"And each firmer than the last, if I do say so myself. You can name them if you like."

Morgan smirked. "I just might."


February 18, 2015

In Which Yvanette Doubts the Idea

July 15, 1189

"Feeling better?"

Yvanette shrugged as Sevvie sat down. He shouldn't have been here. He shouldn't have been standing guard outside his cousin Searle's bedroom. It was his father's wedding. He ought to have been enjoying the party. "You can go if you like. I don't want to keep you here."

"And leave you here alone?"

"Why not? I shouldn't have come in the first place." Why had she let Aspen talk her into it?

Sevvie sighed. "You shouldn't have to feel like you need to sit everything out. I'm always happy to help, and I know your brother and sister are too."

"I don't want to be a burden."

"You wouldn't be. And you're not." Like he knew. "Didn't Deian say you'd learn to control it eventually?"

She snorted. It was probably the closest she'd come to laughing in a while, even if it was pure sarcasm. "That was long enough ago that we can probably call him a liar."

"But even if he is, you still deserve to be happy. To be able to do what you want and go where you please. When was the last wedding you attended, even?"

"My Uncle Abrich's, maybe?" Her Uncle Searle would be getting married in November, and she'd be expected to attend. She was dreading it already.

"Your Uncle Abrich? Hasn't he been married for seven or eight years?"

Yvanette swallowed. "Closer to nine."

"You've never even danced, have you?"

She shook her head. "Just with Darry and my parents."

"Huh." Sevvie stood. He stepped a little closer, one hand outstretched. "If you want, we can dance now."

Could they? She did want to, even if she was still a little light-headed. It couldn't have been a good idea, but she took his hand anyway. "I'm not very good."

"That's all right." He set his other hand at the center of her back. "Neither am I."


February 16, 2015

In Which Morgan Doesn't Notice

June 25, 1189

"Mama!" Viridis sprung from her bed, her plush cat hitting the floor as Morgan approached. God, how she loved her daughter--and how her daughter loved her. She couldn't let her down. "Mama, how was your day?"

"It was good." I think. She'd made the right choice, waiting to tell Viridis first. She thought she'd known that from the start, but her daughter's eyes confirmed it now. "But I need to talk to you."

"Oh?" Viridis frowned. "Am I in trouble?"

A girl of her age would ask that! Morgan chuckled. "Of course not, sweetie.

"You see... your Uncle Lonriad has asked me to marry him."

"Oh!" Viridis strained her neck, feet raised to her toes. "What did you tell him?"

"See, that's it: I told him I'd have to check with you first."

Her daughter blinked. "Me?"

"Yes. I know I didn't give birth to you, Viridis, but I am still your mother. My first priority is what's best for you. I've grown very fond of your uncle, but if you have any objections to our marriage, or to the two of us going to live at his castle, I will listen."

"What objections?" Viridis grinned, more of her teeth visible than Morgan remembered ever seeing. Inside her chest, her heart matched her daughter's mouth. "I love Uncle Lonriad! And Alina and the others."

Thank God. "You do?"

"Yes! Please marry him!" Her daughter bounced, but caught herself just in time. "If you want to, that is."

"I do want to." Morgan scooped Viridis into her arms and twirled her about. Her little girl was getting rather big for such a gesture, but this time, she didn't notice. "I'm so glad you agree."


February 13, 2015

In Which Lonriad Confides in His Dog

June 22, 1189

"Well, Snowdrop." Lonriad scratched behind the ears of the now-inappropriately-named dog, not nearly so white as the day he'd brought her home. He'd gotten her for Asalaye back when she was a tiny puppy--and back when Asalaye had been pregnant with Sevvie. "You're getting rather up there in dog years, aren't you?"

Snowdrop yipped. Never in a thousand years would Lonriad have imagined that the dog would outlive his wife. It would have taken even longer to entertain the idea that he might one day find another woman he'd even consider marrying.

And yet, both had happened. He still wasn't sure what to do about the latter.

"Do you think Asalaye will understand?" He did still love her. He always would. He knew it, the kids knew it, even the dog probably knew it. But did Asalaye, wherever she was?

The dog sniffed. Helpful.

"I mean... if it had been me, I'd like to think she would have found someone else, eventually. But I guess that's easy for me to say, not knowing what it's like.

"Any point asking you how you'd take it, if you were gone and the stray from the butcher's back alley started humping some other dog?"

A yap. Nope.

"I just... I know enough people who made it work twice to know it's possible to love two people, you know? And if only one of them is alive, and you've had time to make peace with the other, then there's no sense in not trying, is there?"

Was there? Was there any sense in him at the moment?

He was talking to a dog, after all.