August 31, 2015

In Which Camaline Shies from the Blunt Explanation

March 28, 1194

"Um... I did something stupid."

Understatement of the year--to the point where Camaline didn't even know where to start aside from that preface. How would Xeta even take it? Hell... how did she even say it?

Xeta, at least, merely tilted her head, a frown of slight concern on her pretty lips. "What did you do?"

God. She didn't think she'd ever had quite so much trouble answering a question in her life. "I went to see Deian."

"Deian?" That frown deepened. Obviously, Camaline had returned... well, in one piece, she supposed, if somewhat altered temporarily. God, she hoped he'd been telling the truth when he'd said 'temporary'! "Why did you want to see Deian?"

"Because... well, because I know you want another baby."

"Oh." Xeta flushed. Shouldn't have said that, maybe. She'd be blaming herself for Camaline's lack of judgment. "Cammie, I don't need another baby--certainly not if it couldn't be yours."

"Regardless, I wanted to see if there was anything that could be done."

"But surely there couldn't have been."

She ought to have thought just that before she'd gone to see that creature. Then, she wouldn't be having this conversation. "Well, it turns out there was something he could do--and of course he did it without asking me first."

"Oh?" Her wife raised an eyebrow. "What was it?"

"He, uh..." Shit. Never before had Camaline been one to shy away from the blunt explanation. She supposed there was a first for everything. "He, er... temporarily--temporarily--uh, reconfigured parts of my anatomy."

She wasn't sure whether or not she wanted that to be enough. Nonetheless, Xeta's eyes lit with realization. "Oh!"

'Oh' indeed. "Pretty much."

"Would you mind if I felt it?"

Camaline blinked. That... certainly hadn't been the first response she'd expected. "I suppose..."

Xeta lept to her feet and drew closer, reaching for the gap between Camaline's legs. An amused grin broke Xeta's face as she felt it--and, in spite of the velvet skirt and the altogether alien nature of it all, Camaline did not find the touch unpleasant.

"Well! Based on my limited experience with these, I'm inclined to say Deian was quite generous."

Beneath her skin, Camaline's flesh burned. "Uh..."

"Ah, I've made you uncomfortable. Sorry." Xeta took her by the arms and planted a kiss to her lips. That did little for the blushing. "I can't believe you did that for me."

"Well, to be fair, he didn't bother to ask before he went ahead and did it."

"Regardless, it was quite the gesture on your part to seek him out in the first place. I hope you know I never would have asked it of you."

"I know." Though, the way those blue eyes sparkled, she couldn't say she would have mind if she had. "Anyway, now that it's happened, uh... what do you think?"

Xeta stepped in again, one hand to Camaline's back, another to her hair. "I think I want to have a baby with you."


August 29, 2015

In Which Deian Casts an Old Favorite Spell

March 28, 1194

Oh, this would be fun. A human woman--noble, at least, by her cloak--with a pair of sharp violet eyes and an aura of toughness. There was no fear about her, only determination. Deian indulged himself in a smirk. He did have a soft spot for the ones who thought they could handle him. "You know, you humans were much better off back when you were afraid of us."

The woman sniffed. "I don't have time for your mind games."

"Who said anything about games?" Humans. How had they not yet figured out that life was just one giant mind game? "Now, what sort of a problem could a pretty, wealthy woman such as yourself have that she would risk coming to see me for a solution?"

She sighed. "My wife wants a baby."

Huh. Good to hear that the humans weren't limiting themselves to the opposite sex any more. "Are you sure?"

The woman nodded. "She's too considerate to say it outright, but every time the topic of anyone's baby comes up... well, I can tell. I told her I wouldn't mind if she took a man to bed, just for the sake of a baby, but she wouldn't hear of it. She said she'd never do that to me."

"Perhaps you can take a man together."

"Ugh, no." The woman sneered, disgusted. "I don't much care for men as sexual partners."

"I see." Then for all he knew, perhaps her wife shared similar sentiments. That put making another Ashe Torgleid out of her out of the question. "Well, there's just one thing I can do for you, then."

"And that would be...?"

"Here." Deian winked. This particular spell had been a favorite source of hi-jinx in his youth; he knew it so well that it took no more than a wink to cast. "You're welcome."

"What?" The woman squinted. She hadn't noticed anything--not yet.

Three... two...

Her eyes widened, no doubt at the first sense of something amiss. One hand flew to the folds of her cloak and reached. "What the hell?


That sort of outburst had likely frightened her human peers into submission in the past. Deian snorted. "Now, now--it's only temporary. Your anatomy will revert back to its usual state after a couple of months. I'm sure you'll be able to get the job done before then."

"The job?" To be fair, she was taking it better than some of the people he'd pranked as a kid. Especially better than the men. Human men often became overgrown infants at the slightest offense to their masculinity. "What is wrong with you?"

"Might I remind you that you were the one who sought me out?" They always tended to forget that. "Now, go home and make love to your wife. And if you're going on horseback, be careful; a sudden bucking motion could prove quite painful."


August 27, 2015

In Which Ricky Is Much of a Romantic

March 10, 1194

"So! What brings you to campus?" Ricky's cousin spun onto the other couch with a flash of a smile. He'd indeed called at Scorpio House for his sister--just to check up on her--and Lyssa knew it, but he saw Celina often enough that a trip out to the university would require some other purpose.

Lyssa would get a kick out of this one. A lucky thing CeeCee and Renata weren't around. "Eh... my father thought I ought to go scout out some perspective brides, so I'm humoring him."

She giggled--as he could have guessed. "Ah, Ricky! Ever the consummate bachelor, aren't you?"

"Hey, Adonis Wythleit graduated over two years before I did, and he's still not married."

"Yes, but Adonis Wythleit isn't going to be a duke one day." Lyssa winked. "That, and he has the luxury of being rather handsome. But really, I'm surprised Uncle Lorn hasn't arranged anything for you on his own."

"He says that if I'm to be duke one day, then I ought to choose my own duchess." He still thought that rather unfair to his siblings, most of whom were tidily paired up. At least he could take comfort in the fact that he'd yet to hear any of them complain about their future spouses. "It's not anyone's fault that I haven't found her yet."

"Have there at least been any close contenders?"

Ricky shook his head. "No. Well, I mean, I know many women who would certainly make fine duchesses, but I guess I'm a romantic at heart."

"So you're looking for The One." Lyssa raised a wrist to her forehead and swooned--half mocking, half sincere. "I have to say, cousin: I wouldn't have thought you much of a romantic."

"Well... at this point, maybe." He shrugged. He liked to think that when he met the right woman, he'd know it. But, he'd been wrong before. "I suppose that past a certain age, an heir can't afford to be much of a romantic."


August 25, 2015

In Which Xeta Needn't Apologize

February 27, 1194

"Feeling better?"

Xeta nodded. She was--physically. Just a nauseous spell. "Yes, thank you."

"You think you'll be all right to work tomorrow?"

"I should be, yes." She had to be. The recently-graduated Riona Sadiel had taken over her sister Hilla's old position, but they'd yet to find a new alternate teacher.

They'd need to get on that, though. Riona would be getting in a week, and after weddings came...

"You look pensive."

Shit. She'd thought she'd gotten over that. She had to be over that. "Really?"

"Yes, really." Camaline rolled her eyes and joined her on the bed. Shuffling, Xeta struggled to correct whatever vibe she'd given off. "I'm here if you want to talk about it."

"Mmm..." Xeta frowned. There were a few reasons why Camaline wouldn't want to hear it. But, if she didn't, she'd worry. Xeta didn't want that. "I was just... well, that nauseous spell just reminded me a bit of... well, morning sickness."

"Oh." Camaline--thank God!--didn't leap to accusations. They shared sheets, after all. It hadn't been long enough since Xeta's last course to expect anything, even if she had been sleeping with a man. Which--it was good to know that Camaline was sure of--she wasn't. "A nostalgic reminder?"

"A little, yes." Damn. She wouldn't trade Camaline for a man, not just so she could have another baby. But... "I guess I still have to come to terms with the fact that that's over for me."

It hit her just then that that might have rung just a little too true for Camaline. Stupid! "Sorry, I--"

"It's all right." Smiling, Camaline took Xeta by the shoulder and pulled her into a cuddle. Her closeness and warmth was enough to ease any remaining queasiness.

"There's no sense in apologizing for feelings. You've done nothing wrong."


August 23, 2015

In Which Teodrin Gets the Facts

February 6, 1194

"Let me guess: you're looking for Deian."

Was he? Deian was the most well-known of the forest-dwellers, and perhaps the one Teodrin had most expected to find. But, he'd known that Deian hadn't been the only one.

"Uh... I guess it didn't have to be him specifically."

"Good. I'm Ylwa--and I'm here because I get the sense that you don't want to be fucked with, which is what Deian does. I'll be honest with you, but not everybody likes that. Not everybody wants to hear the truth."

Teodrin swayed, pawing at the snow with the toe of his foot. He was twenty years old. He would be graduating from the university in June. He was desperate enough to seek the help of unstable humanoid cannibals where human doctors had failed. "I don't care if I like it. I need to know."

"All right, then. What seems to be the problem?"

"It's, uh..." Shit. Even to a feared creature in the heart of the forest, it hurt to say it. "...reproductive bits. They're stuck somewhere--up, somewhere."

"At your age?" Ylwa frowned--not a human frown of sympathy, but at least she didn't seem to find it humorous as he'd feared. Then again, she'd said she didn't care to fuck with him. "Hmm. Not sure what I can say about that. Mind if I... take a look?"


"Relax. I can sense the vibrations in your body with my hands. You don't have to take your clothes off--so I still pity you humans, not being able to keep warm without those wretched things."

"So... you'll just touch me, then?" He'd never much liked the idea of a naked woman touching him, but Ylwa, he could tell, had no more sexual interest in him than his cat did.

"Do you mind?" He shrugged. She placed her hands just above his pelvis and worked her way upward. "Hmm... nothing yet..."

Upward. Further out. "No... no. Oh!" Teodrin's heart skipped. But, it was premature. "No, too big. Hmm..."

She bit her lip, fingers drumming on his abdomen. Then--a light of inspiration in her eye, she drew her hands inward. "That's it!"

"What's it?"

"Well..." Ylwa stepped back and inhaled, eyes shut in mingled tact and exasperation. "Look, you humans have this unusual obsession with binary categories, so I don't know how well you're going to take this. I'm still not going to lie to you, but if you'd rather not know, here's your chance to walk away."

If she put it like that, then he was doomed to spend the rest of his life worrying even more. "I can't not know anymore."

"All right, then." She pursed her lips and looked him in the eye--at least, from what he could tell, given her lack of pupils. "I'm not really sure how to say this, but something must have gone wrong while you were growing inside your mother. Some sort of chemical imbalance in her womb, maybe. You, uh... you were supposed to be a girl."

"What?!" The FUCK?! "But I--what--I have--I mean, I'd know if--I've got--"

"A penis, yes. You've also got ovaries and a uterus. They're not of any use to you without a vagina, but that doesn't change the fact that they're there."

"Well, can you... get rid of them?" She had magic! "Switch them out for other things?"

"I could." She crossed her arms. "But I won't."

WHAT. "You have to! I can't live like this!"

"Yes, you can. There's nothing wrong with you." He doubted he'd find a single person who agreed with that statement. "Look, it's your body, and I have no qualms about helping you do what you want with it. But, you need time to think about this. I don't want to turn your ovaries into testicles just for you to come and bother me again in a year because you've realized you're not a man after all."

"But I AM a man!" He had to be! He couldn't be... nothing.

"Maybe. Gender isn't determined by parts, you know. It's in your soul, or at least the current state of it. And it's not limited to male and female. Maybe one day, you humans will understand that."

"But they don't! No one does!"

"The sad truth of your world. Maybe you would be happier with a man's anatomy--or a woman's. Or maybe you'll decide that you're fine with your body as it is. The important thing is, now you can make an informed decision. Now, run along and take the time to make it."


"Don't even. I'm not going to fill your scrotum just because the world has you believing it needs to be filled. Take a few months. Think about it. Finish your studies, graduate, figure out who you are and what you want from your body. Then, if you want me to make any adjustments--" Ylwa turned around and began to walk away. "--let me know. And don't think I won't be able to tell if you don't truly want it."


August 20, 2015

In Which Falidor Will Make It Work

January 13, 1194

Raia usually made a point to keep busy when the university wasn't in session. In all the years Falidor had known her, she'd never been one for idleness. Once Alina and Sev had grown old enough to not require her attention, she'd needed that toy-making business. Then, when she'd decided she'd prefer to make toys as a hobby, she'd needed the university. When the university was closed for breaks...

...well, she certainly didn't spend those breaks alone on the couch in their bedroom, staring at the empty hearth.

"You all right?" Falidor asked as he sat down beside her. Only one thing that might have been bothering her occurred to him. He'd been there himself once, longer ago now than he cared to admit. He'd felt so damn old.

But Raia had never complained about feeling old. She was the sort who was well aware that time marched forward and felt no need to deny it. If anything, she found comfort in her own mounting adult experience.

But this was a milestone. A big one.

"It's... it's not as daunting as it seems, you know. Being a grandparent."

Raia stirred. Nothing like the first grandchild to prove that time was, indeed, moving forward. And the grandchildren would just keep coming. Alina was happily married and would have many more children after this one. Sev planned on proposing to Rennie on her next birthday. Falidor wasn't sure if he himself would live to see his grandchildren from the younger three, but Raia almost certainly would.

"I mean--it is, I guess. But it's a good thing, really, once you get over the strangeness of it. There's no need get all pensive just because Alina's pregnant."

"It's not that Alina's pregnant."

Falidor frowned. Not much else had changed for the family in the past while. Well, maybe Raia's nephew Dalston was becoming more and more of an anxious wreck, but that boy had been an anxious wreck since infancy. Something with Riona and Isidro and their grandson, perhaps? "Then what--?"

"It's that..." She inhaled with some labor and let it out in a sigh. "...I'm also pregnant."

"Oh." Had she not wanted another baby? Privately, Falidor had entertained fantasies of one day surpassing his father-in-law in the area... but, as Raia was the one who had to bear those children, he didn't think it right to pester her. But she'd never said she didn't want any more children... "Are you sure?"

She nodded. "I called on Ardyath while you were at the keep. She confirmed it. I'm due the week after Alina."

"So our grandchild will have a little aunt or uncle."

"They will." Raia slumped. At least she didn't have the discomfort of the baby's girth yet. "I guess I'll get over it. I just didn't think this would all happen at once, you know? I didn't think my children would be having babies while I'm still having them myself."

"It is pretty odd to think about. But, it does happen. Happened to me, happened to your father, happened to Florian and Thetis and a ton of other people we know." He reached over and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "We'll make it work. We always do."

"Yes, we do." She rubbed at the side of his hand with her thumb. "Guess I'd better make the most of these months when it comes to getting used to it."


August 17, 2015

In Which Alya Is Free of the Complications

January 1, 1194

"Marry me."

"Mmm?" Alya forced herself to break away from the steady stream of incoming kisses. Of all things Roddie could have sighed between the meetings of their lips. "Are you serious?"

"You know I am. This has been a long time in the making." He swallowed--maybe a little downhearted. "Well... on my part, anyway."

"Oh, no! I didn't mean that. Of course I've thought about it." That wasn't a lie. Problem was, the main thoughts about it tended to be the complications. "Just... the legalities of it all..."

"I know. That's why I didn't ask before now." He ran his hand through her curls before lifting himself off of her. "Um... I hope you don't mind--I know we weren't telling many people--but I went to Aunt Lettie. Just to see if she knew if it would be legal."


"She said she didn't know of anything that would make it explicitly illegal." Helpful. "But I'd guess that there aren't too many precedents of a man wanting to marry his adoptive half-niece who's more of an age to be his cousin."

"No, probably not." She couldn't say she failed to understand why. It was probably akin to marrying a step-sibling--though that, she knew thanks to Sir Setran and Lady Evera, was perfectly legal.

"So, I ended up going to the queen, since no one can say no if she approves."

"Dea?" Alya sat up. It still felt odd to call a woman she'd once shared a house with 'the queen'. It also felt odd to call the queen 'Dea'. "What did she say?"

"She said that since we weren't blood-related and I wasn't some creepy old uncle figure who just wanted to get under your skirts, she sees no reason not to allow our marriage as long as you're willing. She also cited the fact that King Oswald let Jadin Andronei marry Renata Tamrion, even though he actually is her uncle. I guess 'more of an age to be cousins' and 'not old and creepy' were major factors there." He took her by the hand and pulled her to his shoulder. She had no idea how he did it, but he always smelled rather like cinnamon. "So... since we are more of an age to be cousins, it should be all right, so long as you don't secretly think I'm old and creepy."

"You're not old and creepy." Alya smirked. The thought of her parents' faces when they found out that while they'd been seeing away New Years' guests, their daughter had been getting engaged to her mother's half-brother was too priceless to let fly by unacknowledged. Even if they weren't blood-related. "And I'll definitely marry you."


August 15, 2015

In Which Camaline Accepts the Happiest Secret

December 25, 1193

"So," Camaline began as she twirled away from the candle she'd just snuffed and spun herself into Xeta's arms, "I think a nice quiet Christmas was the right choice."

It had been. Xeta's family hadn't needed the stress of some colossal event, and on her own side, the only person Camaline had felt any burning need to see on Christmas was her son; Prior had called earlier in the day and stayed for brunch.

"It was. My mother seemed at peace, which is more than I'd dared hope for this year." Xeta kissed her--quickly, but with a long, contented following moan. "I love you."

"I love you too."

"And you know that I'm in this all the way, right?"


"Us, I mean?"

Them? Had she really been doubting it? Camaline laughed. "Of course I know that! I know you wouldn't consciously string me along, or just use me to keep from getting bored while making me believe you cared for me. You're not the kind of person who would do that."

Xeta sighed--relieved this time. "I'm so glad to hear it. Still--I'd like to make you a gesture."

"What sort of gesture?" They were already living together. For a couple like them, what could have come next?

"Well, I was talking to my mother, and..." Xeta took her by the hands, her touch soft and warm as the first day Camaline had felt it. "...remember how you told me about Searle and Sparron? And Searle told me about Casimiro and Brother Sieron?"

Camaline nodded. "It does help to have a community; I think even Sparron would have had to admit that."

"Well... see, I was thinking we could go and talk to Brother Sieron." The squeeze around Camaline's hands tightened. "He is a Man of God, after all. Maybe it wouldn't be legally binding by the laws of man, but if he could help us make a commitment before God..."

Camaline's heart stopped a minute--then resumed at twice its usual speed. The laws of man had not caught up to the truth of love and human nature. It would likely be centuries before they did. But if the God of Sieron was a God of truth and love...

"Are you... asking me to marry you?"

Xeta blushed. "If you'll have me. I mean, it will have to be a secret to most people, but it will still mean something to us, and to those who do know."

It would have to be a secret.

But, it would be the happiest secret that ever was. "Let's go to Sieron tomorrow morning."