April 30, 2015

In Which Celina Achieves the First Fundamental

September 2, 1191

"So. Your first semester has treated you well?"

"I think so." Celina squirmed, hoping Karlspan didn't see it. She supposed there were worse things a betrothed could do than ask mundane questions, but... it was still a mundane question. She didn't want to talk about school. Everyone else already asked her enough about school! "I'm not sure I like Brother Rambert's marking style, though. He doesn't seem to take kindly to original thought."

"No, the best way to do well in Brother Rambert's classes is to write all of your essays the way you think he'd write them." Karlspan sighed. "High on himself, that one. You'd think he was regular clergy."

"Karlspan! I don't think all regular clergy members are that way."

"Not all of them, but enough of them. I don't know why you'd find the notion controversial, though; aren't some of your cousins Kemorins?"

"Yes, but they're also part Mokonri. A Mokonri knows better than to make trouble."

"But why is it making trouble, pointing out the flaws in the world?" A fair thought--and not one that had never crossed Celina's mind. But she'd just never been a rebel at heart. "Seems to me that those we call troublemakers now are the ones history will call heroes."

"Yes, I suppose there's merit to that. But not everyone has the instincts for tackling the establishment. Perhaps some of us are better off supporting from the sides."

"Yes, I think the key to the progress of civilization is full self-awareness on the part of each individual." He winked. "Perhaps you and my sister will make a good team when she gets here. She loves nothing more than ruffling feathers, but has difficulty toeing the line. You could be the one making sure she keeps her head on straight."

"I hardly think your sister is my responsibility."

"Oh, my sister is her own responsibility and wouldn't have it any other way. But all the same, you might balance her out."

"Or she might balance me out, you mean."

"Not so much. You're already balanced enough."

"Oh." She knew what the word meant in that context. "So you think I'm boring."

"Quite the contrary." He stood up, then offered a hand, pulling her up to his level. "I think you are a well of good thought, and that the world is thirsty. Just because you're not inherently anti-authoritarian doesn't mean you don't have some earth-changing idea in that beautiful brain of yours."

"Perhaps I shall write a book, then," she muttered, half-sarcastically.

"And perhaps I shall sponsor you." That... was not so sarcastic. He swept one hand up to her face and placed the tips of his fingers gently beneath her chin. "I know you're not exactly thrilled about our arrangement, and I will admit to some fault in that--I'm hardly the romantic sort, after all. But I must tell you that I don't think I could have found a better match for myself, if you don't mind me saying. I can talk freely to you, and know that you hear me, and I enjoy and learn when you talk freely to me as well. Of all the things important to a marriage, I believe that in particular is paramount."

In spite of herself, Celina let out a small smile. "It's up there for me too. Now that we're on the same page there, maybe it will be easier to work out some of the other fundamentals."

"I should hope so." He kissed her--briefly, but firmly. It was more business than pleasure, but not entirely unpleasant. "Do you think we should go eat now?"

It was getting close to the dinner hour. And perhaps they would speak more candidly in the inn, with so many others around. "I'd like that."


April 28, 2015

In Which Dalston Has to Leave

**Trigger Warning

NOTE: I almost didn't write this post. Thing is, I've been unable to get a good read on this character for years now, and when I finally figured out exactly what was up... well, frankly, it wasn't something I wanted to write about. But, especially now that he's first in line to succeed Severin as Lord Veldora, Dalston is connected enough that a sudden disappearance from the story would be a colossal loose end. And, if I thought about it... in the long run, if a serious issue like this comes up, it's better off being addressed and tackled rather than swept under the rug and ignored.

So for now, I will state outright that this is NOT a storyline about someone who is tempted to do horrible things and then does them. This is a storyline about someone who is tempted to do horrible things, but realizes that these things are horrible, and, in the end, does not give in. That said, if you'd rather give this storyline a pass, I understand completely. All of the posts in this storyline will be marked with trigger warnings, like this one is. Posts will be recapped in the warning link in what I hope will be a less upsetting format for those reading them: clear and quick, without going into any characters' heads.

That said, I will make a point to keep this arc as isolated from the rest of the story as possible (though there will have to be some intersect with other characters and arcs at some point; if this wasn't the case, I wouldn't be doing this storyline at all), so if you'd rather not have the think about this storyline at all, don't feel obliged to even look at the recaps. Your well-being is INFINITELY more important than my hit counter or my comment total, so whatever you need to do to take care of yourself, that's what you should do.

That's probably all I can say on the matter without making things worse. For those of you who do wish to continue... well, here it goes...

August 21, 1191

Gennie was chattering on about something--Dalston wasn't sure what. It wasn't that he didn't think she was intelligent enough to carry on a decent conversation, or so inconsiderate that she wouldn't choose a topic she felt would interest him. When it came to Gennie, he just never had any energy leftover for listening.

All of it went into begging himself, almost forcing himself, to like her.

What was wrong with him? She was pretty, clever, the right age... and a princess, for God's sake! How many heirs to mere lordships had a chance with a princess?

"So... what do you think?"

Shit. "Uh..." "I think you're right, Gennie," perked up Wolf from the couch--to Dalston's great relief.

"Yes, I--I think you're right too." He never would have survived his conversations with Gennie if not for Wolf's insistence on following her around like a puppy. Wolf adored Gennie. Possibly even more strongly than Gennie adored Dalston.

Why couldn't Gennie like Wolf? It wouldn't change anything for Dalston--Dalston was a lost cause--but the two of them would both be that much happier.

"So, do you want to go for a walk or something? It's been far too long since I've been to the village here."

The village. The polite thing would have been to accept, but there were just too many people in the village. And too many of them were--no. No, he couldn't risk it. "I don't know..."

"I'll go for a walk with you," Wolf offered.

Before Gennie had a chance to reply, the door opened. "Hello, cousins!"

SHIT! Why did his cousins of that age feel free to come and go as they pleased? If only they could sense that what was good for them was staying away! "Uh... hello, Alina." Where was his Aunt Vera? "Is your mother with you?"

"Yours wanted to show her a new dress or something. I got bored, so I thought I'd see if I could find anyone. Is Celina here?"

"She went for a ride with Grandmother." Worst possible timing. If his little sister was here to monopolize their guests, than Dalston didn't have to worry about slipping up and doing something unforgivable. "They didn't leave that long ago; maybe you could catch up?"

"Nah. I'll just sit here with Wolf."

She did as she promised--with no intention of leaving. "You're so strange, Dalston."

He wished he was only 'strange'.

"Oh, don't push her away, Dalston!" Gennie shot Alina a smile. In his attempt not to meet his cousin's eye, all he got from the sight of her was how soft her hair looked, how it bounced even as she sat. What the ever-loving fuck was wrong with him? "You're not bothering anyone, Alina. Besides, Dalston and I were just about to head out for a walk.

"Weren't we, Dalston?"

"Uh..." What to do? Here, there was Alina. In the village, who knew how many little girls whose soft hair he should not have been thinking about touching. God, why couldn't he be attracted to girls his own age? Hell, he'd take being attracted to boys his own age. At least boys his own age were...

Well, they weren't little kids. And Dalston wouldn't have been a monster for thinking of them that way.

"I, uh... I have to leave."


April 27, 2015

In Which Morgan Meets a Stranger in a Broken Time

July 15, 1191

Morgan had no idea what had possessed her to wander into the forest in the middle of the night with her year-old son in tow. By the time she'd realized they'd left the bedroom, she'd been surrounded by trees. At least it was a warm evening, with no need of a coat for Kay.

The eerie quiet had not been confined to the castle. No owls called from their perches, no wolves howled at the moon. Not even the chirp of a cricket or the rustle of the wind. The world was a frozen stillness, sound no exception.

"So we finally meet." That voice, in some unfathomable way, did not fit the criteria of sound. "Welcome home."

She hadn't seen the woman before she'd spoken, but the figure hadn't appeared from nowhere. She'd been waiting, and waited still--staring amongst the trees rather than at Morgan and Kay.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that the world has waited a long time for your line to return to this place." Her head didn't move, but her eyes met Morgan's. Violet, even in the night. "Do you know the significance of this forest?"

Hadn't Naroni been a no man's land? Morgan bit her lip--but let go when she caught sight of a second figure. Her husband's former ward. "Searle?"

"He can't hear you." The woman glanced back at the still, seated figure--with a thing oddly akin to fondness. "No one in this kingdom can, no one and nothing. Think of time and space as a lover's body. If one knows what secret places to touch, they are clay in one's hands."

"You... stopped time?"

"I bent it. For all the world but the two lines immune to such distortions: yours, and mine." The woman smiled--or smirked, more like. "But you didn't answer my question. What is the significance of this forest?"

Morgan shook her head. "I don't know."

"Not many do. The world is rough place--rougher once than it was now, if you believe it. Rogue angels wondered about, mercenaries of a false god while the true creator watched their chaos spread, helpless in a cage of stars. Their lies nearly drove humanity to the brink of extinction. Brother fought brother, friendships were squandered, strangers were judged. Women were vilified and men became monsters. We set the world aflame with our backstabbing and raping and killing, destroyed ourselves as thoroughly as we destroyed anyone else. We were pawns in a game of deities, but how easily we took to such vile paths was equal to knowing and willing terror. Had we succeeded in killing off our entire species, we would have been well served.

"But the caged creator could take no more. Still, the Master Architect of the Universe, Being of All Creatures, Man and Woman and Both and Neither, sits imprisoned at the origin of the universe, where all began and all will end--but the decay of the earth was enough for them to launch from their bars a single shard of star. Where do you think that shard landed?"

Forest. Trees. "Here."

"Very good. Here, exactly where you stand now." The woman stepped closer--but still maintained a distance. "You're not the first to stand there. Another woman stood there, all those years ago. One of the a precious few decent people left on the planet. The blast of the shard engulfed her but she did not perish. A wave of calm tamed the beast of a world--not permanently, but just long enough. The magic of the shard took root in this forest and this land became the fountain from which all the magic of the planet springs. The descendents of the angels were drawn to this place, though their numbers dwindled in the absence of chaos."

Absence of chaos? "This is the most chaotic place I've ever lived!"

"It is chaotic by the laws of man. By the laws of nature, it is man who is chaotic, and this land bends for no man. That was why only the Nephilim dwelt here until recently. Humanity could only dwell here under the rule of one who defies corruption--someone who is more nature than man."

"You can't mean King Roderick. Or King Ietrin."

"No. I mean your father-in-law. It's hardly a secret who's really been pulling the strings all these years--though perhaps that will change, if the royal line manages to produce someone worthy." If she had any belief as to whether or not that would happen, her face didn't say. "But the magic has been waning for many years now. When the shard struck that woman--your ancestor--pieces of it vanished within her, tucked away in her blood. Your blood. Your son's blood.

"That is why you exist. The bloodline of your ancestor had dwindled until only your biological mother remained, and she was a sickly virgin dying in a convent. Had I not called in some favors from some otherworldly friends, you never would have been born, and it would have only been a matter of time before we once again plunged ourselves into darkness."

She thought she followed--logically. But, logically... what? "I don't know if I quite understand. Who are you?"

"My line serves your line. That is all you need to know." She would never even know this woman's name. "That, and that the magic of the world--the light of the world--is strongest when you are in this kingdom. How beyond fortunate it is that you married a son of Severin, as that family will always make its home in this land. Because you are this land. You, and your son, and any other children you may have and children they may have until the creator breaks from their prison and creates the world anew.

"At least one of you must be in this kingdom at all times, for all of time. If you understand nothing else of what I told you, do you understand at least this?"

In her arms, Kay squirmed. For his sake, Morgan tried. "Yes."

"Good." The woman's hands dropped from her hips to her sides--the first they'd moved this whole time. "Now, go back to your castle. Put your son to bed and return to your husband. Expect a rough morning; the rest of the world needs to catch up to you."


April 24, 2015

In Which Kay Breaks the Quiet

July 15, 1191

Kay didn't remember climbing out of his crib. He didn't remember standing on his toy-box to reach the doorhandle. He didn't even remember waking up.

All he knew was that he needed his mama.

So he toddled over, the quickest he'd walked since he'd figured out how to walk. He was light enough that creaky floorboards that always screamed under his papa's boots didn't make a sound.

Either that, or there was no sound.


Beneath the purple blanket, his mama stirred. But his papa didn't move. He didn't even snore.

Kay's papa always snored.


"Mmm... Kay?" His mama pulled away from his papa and rose from the bed. "What are you doing up? How did you get out of the nursery?"

"Mama!" Kay fell back onto his buttocks and bounced. "Trees."



His mama picked him up, her fingers running through the ends of his hair. "What's happening, baby?"

"Why is everything so quiet?"


April 21, 2015

In Which CeeCee Keeps Mum

June 2, 1191

"Will you be staying with your mother and stepfather during the break?" CeeCee flopped back onto Farilon's couch and tried to fish a grin out of him with one of her own. It only half-worked.

"I might. It would be nice to get a little better-acquainted with my new niece."

"Oh, right. Searle's daughter." Searle Sadiel had a daughter. What a strange thought. "Yes, I think that will do you both well."

"Almost as well as you taking one of my classes next semester would," Farilon agreed as he sat down beside her.

CeeCee grimaced. It was probably best to keep mum about that for now. "Maybe..."

"I was surprised not to see you in one this term, actually. I know you're not majoring in my faculty, but my mechanics classes would complement your mathematics classes nicely. I thought you'd be interested."

"I am interested. I'm just... interested in a lot of things. I had to go with what best fit my schedule." It was true enough that it would do for now.

"Fair enough." All the same, he didn't look too happy about it--even if he did fork over the other half of that smile. "Anyway, what about you? Are you heading back home soon?"

"I'll be back and forth. I want to get a bit of a head start on some readings."

"Then maybe I'll see you in the library--steer you toward some of the books on my reading list."

"Ah, right." She wouldn't object to that. The physics texts would make for some interesting reading, even if she didn't end up getting credit for them. "Well, I should have plenty of time to check some out."


April 19, 2015

In Which Severin Is Aware of the Worst Part

May 24, 1191

The worst part of growing older, Severin was learning all too well, was not the decline of one's own body. Not for him, at least. He'd perhaps won the game of dice when it came to blood, given how long both of his parents had ended up living--hell, his mother may have still been alive had she been allowed to die of natural causes. Barring some unforeseen incident, he'd live to be a very old man.

The worst part, for him, was that not everyone around him was so fortunate.

"Dressed and out of bed, I see. Feeling better?" A little hopeful, given the past month and a half or so.

"Not particularly, no." Adonis's body agreed with a hacking cough. "But I'd rather my children and grandchildren not remember me as some bedridden invalid."

"Nothing wrong with being a bedridden invalid, but I see your point."

His old friend chuckled. "Only you would think there's nothing wrong with being a bedridden invalid."

"Perhaps, but that only means everyone else is wrong."

Adonis laughed again. There wasn't much else Severin could do aside from offering the family any help they needed--and they didn't need much, given the not-insignificant rewards of Adonis's business savvy. At least he could make him laugh. "Fair enough."

"At least let me lend you my cook for a couple of days. She's quite good."

"Thank you, but I can't keep down anything that isn't broth, and Nanalie's made sure to supply plenty.

"Just sit and chat with me a while, like old friends do. That will be enough."


April 17, 2015

In Which Renata Forgives the Lack of Qualms

May 10, 1191

"Renata!" CeeCee barely gave her a chance to stand up and meet her. Fridays saw CeeCee off to a later class schedule than Renata, Alya, and Lyssa; she claimed not to mind normally, as some extra sleep in the morning gave her more energy for a night at the inn, but today was an exception to that rule. "Happy birthday!"

"Thank you," Renata choked as her friend eased up on the hug. "And don't worry; none of the party guests have shown up yet."

"Don't Lyssa and Alya count as guests?" CeeCee mock-glared at her nieces over Renata's shoulder. "If my memory is correct, neither served the minimum planning time required of a co-host."

"We would have if someone hadn't taken issue with all of our ideas," Alya muttered, not so quietly that she could have thought CeeCee wouldn't hear.

"If you don't want me to take issue with your ideas, you might consider coming up with some that are actually decent."

"And what, pray tell," Lyssa asked, "is so less-than-decent about making it a formal?"

"Why bother with our best clothes when half the guests will end up taking them off anyway?"


"Oh, don't pretend you aren't at least a little envious of them." There was almost a sigh in that sentiment. Renata had to raise a brow at the un-CeeCee-ness of it. "Anyway, Renata: your present is in your room."

Present? "I thought I told everyone not to get me any presents."

"You did, but what sort of best friend would I be if I listened?" CeeCee winked. "You'll like it. I promise."

"I'd better."

With a smirk to her friends and an encouraging wave from Alya in turn, Renata spiraled up the staircase, two steps at a time in some cases. Scorpio House, like the other university residences, housed eight bedrooms on the top floor, essentially two squares with a room at each corner, one bathroom to two bedrooms forming parallels to the front door. The sitting room staircase emerged in the section of hall between the first four bedrooms, those of the three girls downstairs and Dea; Renata hurried along it and turned at the corner, crossing to half currently home to her and her cousin Celina. She fished the key to her room--Room Six--out of her pocket and slipped it into the lock, trying not to think about how few qualms CeeCee seemed to have about picking it.

But at the sight of what lay on the bed, that lack of qualms was instantly forgiven. "Oh my God!"

It took a conscious effort not to tear the fabric as she shed her dress with glee, flinging it to the floor and not much caring if it crumpled. The black shirt was a perfect match to the chausses she already wore, a subtle plaid pattern just visible enough to make it more interesting. The silver tunic slipped over it with a comfortable ease, and the longer red with more of it after. One belt later and she was quite possibly the most pleased she'd ever been with an outfit lacking chainmail.

"Best present ever!"

"What? We were supposed to bring presents after all?"

It was Falidor's voice. Renata grinned. "Your sister broke my rule--but I'll let her get away with it this time."


She smoothed the front of the tunic over and opened the door. "My mother would have a heart attack if she saw this."

"If that's true, then she wouldn't know style if it danced naked in front of her." But Falidor's eyes made no effort to hide his widened horizons. "You're so beautiful."

Not a lot of people told her that. But lately, she'd decided that beauty was not so much a thing that some possessed and some didn't so much as it was a thing some simply failed to see.

"I know."


April 15, 2015

In Which Lily Is Brought Closer

April 9, 1191

"You look lovely, sister." Riona was not usually one for sincere compliments, preferring only to flatter when she might gain flattery in return and keeping it to herself if genuinely impressed, but Lily knew her sister well enough to know when she spoke her mind. Riona didn't have the energy for social games these days, anyway. Her older son was quite ill, and not one of the healers she'd summoned expected he'd last the year. With the death of her daughter ten years prior, that would leave her with only one child--and for all of King Roderick's children who weren't Leara, babies were few and far between.

While 'sweet' was not an ideal word to describe Riona most of the time, Lily thought it was just that of her to show up to her wedding at all.

"Thank you. And thank you for helping me prepare."

"You're welcome." Riona sighed. Lily knew in her gut that she was about to say what they were both thinking. "I wish Mother were here."

"Father too, as long as we're dreaming," Lily agreed. Her brother Farilon would be the one giving her away. She'd hardly be the first bride to walk down the aisle an orphan, but it was a fate she wouldn't have wished on anyone. Certainly not herself.

"Maybe they are, on some other plane." She sniffed, hardly believing it herself. But for the sake of her children, perhaps Riona made more of an effort where the divine was concerned than Lily gave her credit for.

Riona reached for Lily's shoulder and rubbed. The stiff fabric of her wedding gown scratched as it folded, but Lily let it slide. "Wherever they are, I know they're proud of you. And pleased that we'll be sisters twice over now."

"True." Riona's husband Lonriad was one of Cambrin's older brothers. "That will only bring us closer."

"I should hope so. With Mona so far away, the two of us have to stick together."

Even then, she'd write Mona first thing the next morning.

For their mother's sake. "Yes."