March 30, 2015

In Which Meera Is the Next Pair of Good Hands

September 6, 1190


She didn't mind given the circumstances--illness wasn't anyone's fault, after all--but when Meera had imagined her wedding party, it had not included a detour to her mother-in-law's bedroom to make sure the woman was comfortable. Laralita had mellowed considerably since her years as Queen of Naroni, everyone said, and Meera didn't doubt it given their pleasant-enough time spent together. That didn't mean seeing Laralita to her bed would have been her first choice of wedding reception activities.

Of course, it would have been even further down Laralita's own list. "Much, thank you. Where did you learn to rub shoulders so well?"

"My mother used to rub ours, before she died." And many nobles would have considered that too common a task, but Meera had always found it a welcome personal touch. "Do you need help with anything?"

"Oh, no, I'll wait for my maid. I couldn't keep you long from your own wedding party."

"It wouldn't be much trouble. The party will surely go well into the night anyway." Provided the guests had the presence of mind to keep the noise down.

"Not without the bride, it won't! Farilon and Lily can always check up on me while you have your night. Just tell Farilon to make sure that ghastly wife of his doesn't bother me."

Meera shuddered. Danthia of Valcria--or, as she insisted, Princess Danthia of Naroni, for all her husband was half an exile of that land. With any luck, she'd turn up her nose at the 'low-brow' festivities and leave in a huff before supper. Meera's mother had taught her better than to look down on other women, but Danthia wasn't even human enough for Meera to consider whether she was a woman or not. "You and me both. I'll tell him."

"Thank you. It's good to know that the rest of my boys married good women--my lucky young Conant in particular." That last bit might have been gratuitous--surely Ren had been far more accommodating to Laralita overall--but the first part was sincere enough.

"Well, however you raised Conant and his brothers, they grew up splendidly."

"Well... I can't pretend I deserve much credit for Searle, but for the others, thank you." She smiled--tired, weary, but a smile nonetheless. "I'm glad Conant will be in good hands."

There was more to that, but it needn't have been said. "I'm glad you approve."


March 28, 2015

In Which Rina Holds Up

August 1, 1190

"You don't think the braids are too juvenile, do you?" Cladelia fidgeted with the front lock of her hair yet again. It was half a miracle the lilies tucked inside had held.

"No, they look fine." Rina forced herself to smile. She didn't think she'd been Cladelia's first choice to help her dress, but of Cladelia's two old-enough half-sisters, Renata was in Naroni and Maelle had been barred by her mother on the technicality that she hadn't bled yet. That must have left the future sister-in-law as the first line of backup. "You look fine."

"You're sure?"

"For the hundredth time, yes!" She gagged out a laugh, if only to make up for Cladelia's sullen stepmother seated at the desk. Lady Odette could scarcely be bothered to give the time of day to her own daughters, never mind her husband's first wife's. "You're beautiful."

Cladelia blushed. "Well... thank you."

Of course, Lady Odette only sniffed. "It is immodest to agree, Cladelia."

"It's her wedding day. Everyone else will be admiring her, so why shouldn't she join in?"

"I suppose one might expect such sentiments from a girl who agreed to marry a steward's son." Not that girls had never married far lower to get away from parents like that. Much to Rina's relief, Lady Odette rose and made for the door. "Cladelia, I'm going to find your father. No doubt he's about to walk you down the aisle with his hair in disarray. You're welcome."

Cladelia, tactful as ever, waited until her stepmother had shut the door behind her. "If what I'm thankful for is that you're leaving, yes."

"Never mind that you no longer have to live with her," Rina added. "There's not much worse than a lousy parent."

"And I'm sorry you would know that so well." Cladelia hugged her--not something they'd done before. But, Rina supposed sisters-in-law did things like hugging on occasion. "Arkon and I will be in Naroni for your wedding, all right? We promise."

"It won't be until some time next fall. You might--" Did she want to say it? Would it hurt too much? "--have a baby by then."

A bit of a sting, yes--but not the searing pain she'd braced herself for.

"We'll worry about that then." Cladelia grinned--just in time for someone else to come knocking on the door. Someone who was definitely not Lady Odette.


"Oooh, your betrothed!" Her sister-in-law just managed to keep from clapping. "Come on in."

He did. Woe behold those who disobeyed a bride on her wedding day, after all. "Rina. Cladelia. You both look lovely."

"No need to state the obvious," Rina insisted with a smirk. Perhaps that baby comment had emboldened her somewhat.

"But it's appreciated nonetheless." Cladelia flipped one of her braids, finally satisfied. "Did you two want a moment alone?"

"Would that be all right?"

"As long you don't have sex on my marital bed."

"We'll try not to."

"You'd better." Cladelia winked, then slipped past Severin and into the corridor. He shut the door once she was out of view, then stepped forward and took Rina by the hands.

"How are you holding up?"

"Better than I thought I would, actually." She squeezed his fingers. "Thanks again for coming with me."

"Any time."

"I'll make it up to you one day."

"You never have to make it up to me." He took her in his arms and dipped her with a kiss. "You make my world every day."

How corny. And how unlike him.

But he was sweet for trying.

"We did say we wouldn't have sex on Cladelia's marital bed."

"How about in the study where you father died?"

Sweet indeed. "You know just what to say to a girl."


March 26, 2015

In Which Renata Promises

July 14, 1190

"I'm glad you felt up to attending Alina's wedding." For all the idea had worried Renata at first--but once they'd reached the chapel, Laralita had seemed all right, at least then. "I know it meant a lot to her and Searle."

"Oh, I needed to get out of bed anyway. Besides, it's not every day one of my nieces or nephews gets married--even with the size of our family." Laralita giggled, but there was a hint of a sigh behind it. "The doctor said he expects I'll make it to Conant's wedding in September, at least. I hope Lily and Marsden will forgive me for missing theirs when their wedding days arrive."

"Of course they will."

"I should hope so. With any luck, I'll have a decent view from the clouds."

Perhaps. Still. "You needn't speak like that just yet."

Laralita sniffed. "I'll speak how I like. Besides, it would have been a poetic injustice had I lived too long to leave a beautiful corpse."

"We're Sadiels, Lara; we all leave beautiful corpses." If only they could all leave beautiful elderly corpses.

"I suppose that's true. But promise me one thing--or try to, at least."

Renata didn't think her sister had ever asked her to promise anything, but she nodded now. "All right."

"If it's possible, I'd like to be buried next to Roderick. One of my sons can deliver me if that good-for-nothing stepson of mine relents."


March 24, 2015

In Which Renata Is Understood

June 11, 1190

Renata rubbed her brow as she waited for Octavius to finish reading the letter. They rarely read each other's correspondence, instead extending the courtesy of filling each other in by mouth, but she'd found she wasn't up to recounting. She and Octavius were among the oldest surviving of their generation now, strange as it was. Neither was any stranger to the prospect of losing a sibling, sad as it was.

It didn't get any easier. Rather the opposite.

The desk chair dragged against the floor and the paper fell to the desk. Octavius's footsteps approached the couch. "I'm so sorry."

"She's my last sister," Renata muttered as he sat down beside her. "We were never that close, but... with all the others gone, we did make more of an effort."

"And she seemed to be doing so well, once she got back on her feet."

"She was. She finally seemed like a real person to me." Seems, she corrected herself. Laralita wasn't dead yet.

Just dying.

"Would you mind if I headed out for Dovia a little early? I mean, we'll be there in July for Alina's wedding anyway. What if I went a few weeks early and the rest of you met me there?"

"Of course." Octavius sighed. He'd had seven brothers once, and only two remained now. He understood. "Savor the time she has left."

She nodded. Tomorrow, she'd call on Ovrean and Tarien, see if they wanted to come with her. Whether they did or not, she'd leave within the week. "Yes."


March 22, 2015

In Which Searle Needn't Pass the Greeting

May 16, 1190

"A boy! How delightful!" Though, Searle didn't doubt for a second that the lady would have been equally happy for Morgan had Kay been a girl. "Now she has one of each, doesn't she?"

"Yes. She has an adoptive daughter."

"How charming. Plus her stepchildren now, too. I am most happy for her."

"Shall I tell her?"

Not that Searle had ever been good at passing greetings secondhand. Or firsthand. But the lady shook her head, her raven hair adrift on the sea of her red silk. "Thank you for the offer, but perhaps you'd best not. She doesn't know me from Lilith, after all; she might be uneasy with a message from a stranger, even a congratulatory one."

"Maybe..." Did he dare? Lonriad had said he could have friends over if he liked. Though maybe Lonriad had only said that because he doubted Searle would make friends. Searle hadn't thought he would either. "Maybe you could come and meet her?"

"One day, perhaps. But for now, I believe I'll give her and the baby their peace. The first few months are critical to the mother-child bond."


"But it seems a shame to cut short a perfectly fine trip, especially with this lovely whether in these parts. Perhaps we should stop at the bakery in the village?" The lady smiled. Her face was sweeter than anything the baker could muster up. "My treat."

Searle beamed. "I'd like that."


March 20, 2015

In Which Lonriad Needs His Fill

April 20, 1190

"So... umm..."

Lonriad laughed. Rona--like most normal-ish people--would have known how to ask, but she hadn't felt up to coming to see the baby today. That left Ashe and his undecided mumbling. Good thing that Lonriad had enough children by this point to know what the first thing most people asked was. "He's a boy. His name is Kaydren, but Morgan's taken to calling him Kay and the rest of us have caught on, even though my father keeps shaking his head at the repetition of syllables."

"What repetition?"

"You know. Kay Kemorin."

Ashe's head jerked up, mouth folded in puzzlement. Lonriad hadn't expected that. "Wait, the first syllable in your surname is pronounced 'kay'?"

"You don't know how to pronounce my surname? You're the worst best friend ever!"

"You nobles never say your surnames! I'm used to seeing it in writing."

"You ought to know that words aren't always pronounced as they're spelt. Hell, your own wife's full name starts with a silent 'W'."

"Fine, fine, fair point. But it's going to take me a while to adjust to not thinking 'Keh-mor-in' in my head." Ashe sighed. "Anyway, how's Morgan doing?"

"She's tired, but happy." And no doubt relieved after what had happened to her first baby. That poor little girl. "She was a bit worried about how Viridis would take it, not being used to sharing a mama and all. Luckily, my girls have been keeping her sufficiently distracted."

"And Searle's been... uh, better?"

Ah, God. Searle. That poor, strange kid. "Yes, I think he's realized that there are boundaries--and now that Kay's here, he's at least leaving Morgan alone. He's more fascinated with the baby now, and of course he likes every scrap of attention he can get, like his papa and uncles."

"That's no surprise. You're lucky enough that Sevvie managed to dodge that blood, so don't count on having another son with a sense of restraint."

"Lucky for you, maybe--since he's your future son-in-law and all." He choked back a smirk as Ashe shuddered. "Though hey--if it turns out that Rona's carrying a girl, maybe this one will be too."

"Arydath thinks it's a boy."

"Ah, that's just as well. Lonriad bowed his head to his little son and kissed him on the forehead. "Morgan and I need to get our fill of him before we marry him off anyway."


March 18, 2015

In Which Gennie Happens Across the Wrong Kemorin

March 11, 1190

"Dalston's not here."

Gennie could see that--and what a disappointment it was! Willott had mentioned that Lord Severin and Lady Leonora would be out surveying some of their lands, and typically when a lord was out and about for the day, it was the heir who had the run of the place. She had not expected to find CeeCee in the study.

But as a blush took over her face, she found she was too proud to tell CeeCee that. "Who says I'm looking for Dalston?"

"History, maybe?" CeeCee turned the page of the ledger in front of her and scribbled something in the margin. Dalston's aunt was ordinarily pleasant enough, but now that she was in her university preparation year, her impatience tended to require less coaxing. "I don't know if he's even in the castle, to be honest. If he left, he would have told someone where he was going, but it wasn't me. You could ask his mother, or Uncle Falidor--"

"I'm not looking for Dalston!" Was that a little too defensive? She hoped not! "Perhaps I'm only here to chat with my good friend CeeCee."

Her 'good friend' CeeCee sighed. "What's 'CeeCee' short for?"

"Cee... Ceenderella?"

The other girl snorted. Gennie supposed it had been a weak guess. "Look, Gennie, I told my father I'd get these figures balanced for him, and then I have some studying to do, so if you wouldn't mind asking someone else--"

"Is Dalston avoiding me?"

CeeCee raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"Well, he never seems to be around when I call. It's awfully rude of him, don't you think?"


"Oh! Do you think he might be playing hard to get?"

CeeCee's stare was approximately Dea's any time Gennie brought up the topic of Dalston. A pity she hadn't happened across Lyssa or Thetis instead!

"...I'm really too busy for this right now."


March 16, 2015

In Which Searle Has to Wait

February 22, 1190

Searle had spent the past few months transfixed by Morgan's stomach. Over the past while, she'd taken to staying late at the university, claiming she wanted to get as much done as possible before her leave--and when she was home, she often napped, door shut. Lonriad had taken Searle aside and explained that it wasn't polite to stare at pregnant women's bellies while ignoring the women themselves, and that Morgan had grown a little uncomfortable. If that was the case, Searle was sorry, he guessed. Morgan hadn't wronged him.

But he'd seen pregnant women before. He hadn't seen his Aunt Maeja any differently when she'd been pregnant. If anything, he'd avoided his mother more diligently when she'd been pregnant.

Morgan, though... Morgan was different. That was odd, because she'd been more or less like most adult women who weren't his Aunt Maeja or his mother or his grandmother or the lady in silk: nice enough, but he felt neither connection or repulsion. But her baby beckoned him like a beacon and he wasn't sure why.

Maybe he'd ask the lady in silk about it. She knew lots of things, like how to call wisps of light from thin air. She'd asked about Morgan too, sort of, when she'd called a few months. She said she'd heard his cousin Lonriad had married, and she'd asked about his bride, whether or not there was a baby on the way, how healthy she seemed. If anyone knew what was so special about Morgan's baby, it would be the lady in silk.

He didn't know how to get in touch with her, though. She said he was the one who could bring her to Naroni, but he'd never managed to summon her on his own, not once in the dozen or so times he'd tried. He supposed he could write to her, but that would require knowing where she lived, or what her name was.

He guessed he'd just have to wait.


March 15, 2015

In Which Alya Offers More

January 7, 1190

"I'm glad you've managed to visit me so often." Roddie shuffled to the center of the couch and slung his arm around Alya's shoulders. "I hope your parents aren't feeling too guilty about making me head back to campus early."

"I don't think 'guilty' is the right word. They're realists." Her mother had been younger than she was when Shahira had been born, after all. "But they wish you well, and they won't have much jurisdiction once I start here anyway."

"Pity that's still nine months away. We could very well have a baby before then."

"That's got to be the worst hint I've ever heard. Besides, you know I need to get something from the clinic before we can do that."

"True. University's enough work without a baby anyway."

"Really? You and your friends never seem to be doing much when I drop by."

"Not true." He pulled her onto his lap and smirked. "We drink a lot."

"A lucky thing you're not a mean drunk, then." Nor could he hold his liquor, truth be told--but he didn't need that pointed out so soon after the New Years' fiasco. "I think we'll have more to do once I'm here too."

"Well, then." He bowed his head, his brow to hers. "I'm up for it when you are."