September 29, 2015

In Which Severin Suggests the New Territory

September 3, 1194

"Well, well!" Severin pulled his son in for a hug and patted him on the back. "It's about damn time you asked Renata to marry you. Here I was, thinking she'd have to ask the question herself."

"Heh." As the hug broke, Falidor grimaced. "I don't really want to go into the whole story, but technically, I think CeeCee asked us."

"In hindsight, that's even less surprising."

"Mother said the same thing." And yet--Severin knew, and he knew Nora knew--it only would have been a matter of time before Falidor asked if Renata (or CeeCee) hadn't, all jokes aside. "Anyway... we were thinking maybe some time in June? Renata's family will be in Naroni for her graduation anyway."

"I don't see why June wouldn't work. It's a not-unreasonable amount of time after CeeCee and Farilon's wedding, and certainly well before Sev and Rennie's; I don't see much risk of marriage fatigue with that spacing."

"And uh... well, we'll need a bigger place." Falidor grinned sheepishly. He'd been living in one of the family's auxiliary houses since his graduation, and it had suited him well from what Severin could see. But, a bachelor's house was not a family's house, and certainly not a knight's keep.

Certainly not two knights' keep.

"You know, I was thinking: what if you and Renata were to take a castle in Ravenhold? Poor Mernolt is the only knight there so far; Kaldar will be happy to have another two, and I'm sure Alina would convince him to give you your pick of places."

"Hmm. It's true that they're probably lonely out there--and I suppose it could only be in Farilon and my best interests, keeping enough of a distance between our wives that we can still get our own fill of them."

"Not to mention, all three of will you have careers, and Ravenhold could use Sir Falidor and Dame Renata." Veldora probably had all of the knights it needed for now, and no doubt there would be more when his grandsons finished up at the university. At least Arkon and Sevvie and Nato could inherit their fathers' castles. "I can't think of two better defenders for the domain of my eldest granddaughter."

"And your eldest great-granddaughter," Falidor reminded him--because of course he would. "I'll talk it over with Renata. She might find that exciting, such a new territory."


September 27, 2015

In Which Esela Dreads the Combined Stress

August 18, 1194

"So... it's only a few more weeks before Alina starts her leave." Esela said it mainly for the sake of something to say. Thetis was well aware of when Alina started her leave, but with the level of conversation required to distract the household these days, it was the most relevant topic not to have been exhausted.

That wouldn't last for long. "Yes, not long now."

"Will you be staying with her?"

Her mother-in-law nodded. Esela took that mostly with relief; with all this worry over Teodrin, maybe Thetis needed a change in walls.

"Perhaps I'll send Leonora along with you, in case you and Alina need help around the house."

"Oh, I doubt she'd enjoy that."

Esela doubted it too, but that was hardly her main concern. "Maybe not, but it never hurts to have an extra pair of hands around with a new baby, and Leonora's at the age now where a little extra work shouldn't be unexpected."

"Still, I'd feel better if you at least asked her to come with me rather than told her to." Thetis sighed. As far as Esela knew, the poor woman had never thought of herself a day in her life--and a missing son was how the world repaid her. "We should be fine if she chooses not to; Jothein works just downstairs, after all."

"I suppose so."

But maybe it was in Thetis's better interests if she could just focus more on her newest grandchild, without much interference from anyone else? A present and demanding baby would leave little time for thinking about Teodrin.

That, or the stress of the two combined would be too much to handle.

"Any chance that Florian might go along with you?" Her father-in-law, going by his oddly... well, not-odd behavior of late, might have needed a change too.

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt to ask." Her mother-in-law adjusted the pillow behind her back and sighed. "I'm sure the baron would be willing to give him some time."


September 24, 2015

In Which Gennie Is a Woman Scorned

August 4, 1194

"You're becoming a monk?"

Gennie didn't even remember the walk--the storm--over to Aries House. All she remembered was Thetis's casual mention of this... this... dreadful development! And her demand for clarification. And, then, she was here. In the library, at Aries House, with Dalston. Who apparently wanted to be a monk.

"What the hell? I thought you said you'd think about it!"

Surely Dea wouldn't have lied to her! It had been the first thing she'd asked of her sister since Dea had become queen. Dea had little interest in arranging marriages for Gennie or Hollie, but she'd agreed to talk to Lord Severin, and they'd concluded that they had no problems with the match so long as Dalston didn't object. Dalston--Gennie was oh too painfully aware--did not quite feel for her the way she felt for him. But, he'd still said he'd think about it.

So much for dreaming, hoping--if only for lack of any evident competition--that he'd see the light. "I'm sorry, Gennie. I did think about it, but... well, it wouldn't be fair to you."

"Oh, yes, leaving me a woman scorned is the epitome of fairness!" Gennie spat. She didn't care for spitting--even spitting words--but in that moment, she didn't care for caring. "How would marrying me be unfair to me? Don't tell me you've taken my father's view of things--that a princess ought to do better than a mere Lord Veldora!" So he'd said the one time she'd dared mention Dalston to him while he'd lived. How could Dalston prove just as despicable?

"It's not that! It's just... I couldn't make you happy. I couldn't make anyone happy."

"You could try!"

"It's more complicated than that, Gennie. My marrying you--or anyone--wouldn't be in their best interests." He sighed, with the casual gravity of someone announcing a coming rainstorm. How was he so resigned? How was he not even a little emotional about this? Even anger at her daring to question him would have been preferable! "You're a beautiful, intelligent woman. You'll find someone much worthier than me."

"But I want you, you idiot!"

"But after a few years of having me, you wouldn't. And trust me when I say I wouldn't blame you."

"Don't presume to know what I may or may not want!"

"Then please don't presume that I'll learn how to make you happy. Please believe me when I say that the kindest thing I can do is let you find someone else." He turned around and pulled back his desk chair, form to the seat and head to the table. He wouldn't even do her the courtesy of eye contact. "Please leave. You deserve someone who can love you properly."

Love you properly.

What the hell did that even mean?


September 22, 2015

In Which Lettie Agrees to Attend

July 28, 1194

"I'm glad you don't mind my showing up early."

Lettie bit her tongue as she took a seat on the other bench. She supposed she didn't mind, exactly--if she'd minded, she would have sent her children over to their father's for dinner with him rather than have him here. But none of the children were home yet. Rennie and Arkon were only a short walk away and no doubt hadn't even thought about leaving their residences yet. Alina and Severin were off with their cousins Adonis and Rio respectively, both in Veldorashire proper rather than on the university lands. They knew that their father was coming for dinner and had confirmed that they would be home on time, but Lettie hadn't counted on Searle being early.

"I don't mind. I just hope you're not too disappointed, missing that extra hour or so with them."

"Well... to be honest, I thought I'd arrive early to talk to you."

"Really?" They'd made a point to stay on as good of terms as possible since the divorce, but they hadn't had a real 'talk' since... well, probably since Jadin had died. At least this pulled her away from yet another indulgent letter to Tarien Andronei. God, what was it about her that made emotionally needy men flock like flies to honey? She knew she'd be better served to just stop responding to him, but she felt sorry for the sap.

Then again, why else had she stayed married to Searle for so long? "What about?"

"I thought I owed it to you to tell you myself: I'm getting married."

Lettie raised an eyebrow. As far as she knew, Searle hadn't shown any serious interest in anyone since Sparron. "To whom?"

"Melria Lowan--Asalaye's stepsister. It's a match of convenience for both of us, in truth, but we're on the same page."

So were we when we were married. She'd never felt the need to be the great love of Searle's life, but she had expected him to give as much as he could take. But perhaps this Melria needed less, or had more to give.

Or... well, maybe Searle had matured somewhat.

"When is the wedding?"

"In five days."

Or not. "That's... quick."

"We're both tired of living alone. And we've each had a proper wedding before." Fair enough, she supposed. There were worse reasons for marrying quickly. "It'll just be small ceremony. Immediate family, and close friends. You'll attend, won't you?"

She nodded. After all these years, 'close friend' was the best she and Searle could hope to do for each other. "Of course."

"I'm glad." A tight, but true smile broke on Searle's face. "Thank you for understanding."


September 20, 2015

In Which Melria Encounters an Acquaintance

July 25, 1194

"Melria!" Sir Searle--mostly a mere acquaintance, what with her late stepfather's ties to his family and her late stepsister's marriage to his brother--probably wouldn't have greeted her with such enthusiasm had he not heard how poorly she'd been. Though King Ietrin had treated her as well as she supposed someone like him could possibly treat another person, he had made no effort to endear himself to the point where she would mourn him, and though Queen Medea had maintained her living allowance, her ties to the former king had done nothing to quell her isolation. Not many wanted much to do with a former mistress after all.

But she would have been able to live with all of that had it not been for the death of her daughter.

Riala Wythleit, of all people, had become her most steadfast friend after all of it. Her son Falidor had been Ivy's suitor, and Riala herself had enough of a reputation that befriending a former mistress meant nothing--never mind that Melria and her husband had once been an item in their youth. Cord, as a result, was more than a little awkward around her, but Riala wouldn't put up with any protest.

Searle, come to think of it, probably got much of his news of her from Riala these days. Riala was stepdaughter to his eldest sister. "Sir Searle. I trust you are well?"

"No need to bother with the 'sir'--but yes, I've been well enough, thank you." She noticed that he didn't mention his eldest daughter's betrothal--probably because he knew full well that her own hadn't had the chance to become betrothed. "What brings you to Veldorashire? Stopping by on someone?"

"Yes, actually. First Had and Winter, and then my in-laws." All people who would help her, who'd offered her money and lodging and sanctuary--but why couldn't she take it?

Because she'd already taken enough from all of them.

"Ah, good. I saw Had's brother Congren last week; I trust Had was more pleasant?" In spite of herself, Melria managed a small grin. She'd learned from Nanalie some time back that Had had tried to strong-arm Congren into asking for her hand--but it was hardly a secret that Congren had less than no interest in marriage. For that, Melria could only be relieved. "Oh, yes. Seems that Congren got all the insufferable genes in that family."

"He said that Had wanted to set the two of you up, but he'd have none of it. Between you and me, I believe you dodged quite an arrow there."

"I agree--though, between you and me, it would be nice to marry again while I'm still young enough to possibly have more children, even if it's only for the sake of convenience." She had always wanted more, but Nedrir had died before they could make a little sibling for Ivy, and of course Ietrin hadn't managed to impregnate her. Of course... "Not that it's likely to happen, at this point."

Searle, apparently sensitive to her gloom, shook his head. "I don't think you ought to count it out just yet."


September 17, 2015

In Which Lyssa Insists on a Visit

July 9, 1194

"You're married!" Eyes wide, Renata pulled Lyssa in for a hug. The ceremony had concluded mere minutes ago, and the guests had dispersed to prepare for the reception. As for Lyssa, she'd handed Landus off to his brother and dashed away to meet Renata and CeeCee in Nora's sitting room. Perhaps she and Landus ought to have been inseparable as newlyweds, but they'd agreed beforehand that they'd have each other in Carvallon; the rest of their loved ones would remain in Naroni. "When did we get so old?"

"I know! It's so strange--but good strange." Wonderful strange!

Even if she did hope that she and Landus would return to Naroni some day.

"Even if it means I'll be leaving next week."

"But it's not as if we'll never see you again," CeeCee assured her. "There's a whole two-month break between my graduation and my wedding. We could make the trip out then."

"Yes, let's! Falidor and Roddie and Alya might want to come too."

"I don't know if we'll have enough space for so many of you!" Her aunt and uncle's old house was just a cottage, after all--not a manor. "Plus, Roddie and Alya might have a baby on the way by then; they won't want to travel."

"Yes, but you might have a baby on the way by then, and you won't want to travel back when that happens." CeeCee winked--then grimaced. "Seriously, don't have a baby just yet. I don't want to have think about us being that old."

"Especially since Alina's about to pop any day now." And to think--this would be her grandfather's second great-grandchild.

"Dear Lord, yes. I should not be a great-aunt twice over at my age. Damn older siblings, making me an aunt before I was even thought of." She rolled her eyes--fondly, but an eye roll none the less. "But congratulations anyway, my dear niece who is older than I am."

"Thank you very much, my dear aunt who is younger than I am."

However many babies she had, she didn't think she wanted to have quite so many as to invoke that situation! "But seriously: do visit before the babies take over."


September 15, 2015

In Which Renata Ponders the Quiet Ones

June 13, 1194

"Still no news?"

Octavius shook his head. Poor Florian. Poor Thetis. "We've yet to find anyone who's seen him since his graduation. Seems the boy has vanished into thin air."

"How awful." And so unlike him! Granted, Renata didn't know any of Florian and Thetis's children too well, but Teodrin had always seemed so... quiet and unassuming. Not like brash Alyssin or dazzling Alina or independent Severin. Teodrin was hardly the type to take off without warning and frighten his parents half to death.

Or was he? The quiet ones never were as predictable as they seemed.

"Indeed. It's not often that the child of a prominent family goes missing in a tight-knit little kingdom like this. Florian and Thetis would have thought they'd had their fill of this back when Severin went off to fetch Rina's horse."

"But at least Severin came back." Renata shuddered. Lettie had run off once, at twelve or thirteen or so, but it was only a day before she came back, claiming she'd just wanted to see what it was like to spend a night alone in an inn. That brief disappearance had been more than Renata ever wanted to handle as a parent again. "Who knows if Teodrin will."

Her husband nodded. So far as she knew, none of his children had ever run off--but, two of his had predeceased him. With that sort of tragedy in one's life, it was easy to assume the worst. "All we can do is hope for the best at this point."

"That, and help Florian and Thetis where we can. Perhaps we should send some of the staff over there." Between Esela's new baby and the stress of Teodrin's disappearance, she doubted Thetis had much energy left over for cooking and cleaning.

"It's worth offering, certainly. And I have no plans to take the men off alert until necessary. With any luck, maybe the boy just took off with one of the university maids for a fortnight of passion."

Again... that didn't sound much like Teodrin.

Octavius didn't seem too convinced of his own theory either. "With any luck."


September 13, 2015

In Which Teodrin Does What's for the Best

June 1, 1194

"So. You're back." Ylwa looked Teodrin up and down, as if something on his person would protest that. He hadn't had to look for her. He'd entered the forest and she'd simply appeared.

She'd known. Somehow--whether she'd placed some magic flag on him or she was simply attuned to all the beings in the universe--she'd known.

And she probably knew what he was about to say. "I've made my decision."

"I see." She looked him over again--and nodded. "Hmm. Can't say I would have done the same in your place, but it's your life, and your body. I take it you're done at that school?"

"Yes." He'd graduated that morning. He'd packed up his things and sent them home with his parents. He'd said he wanted to spend one last night at the dormitory and nearly vomited after. He hated nothing more than lying to his mother. "I'm done."

"And you have nothing lined up for afterward. No employers to deceive. Have you thought about your family?"

He had. Teodrin swallowed. He had, and he couldn't. Maybe, in another time, someone like him would be able to have a life, to live it freely. For now, that simply wasn't the case.

But the thought of his family...

"If it's easier, I can fabricate a new past for you. A new life. You won't even remember being as you are now. You wouldn't have to lie to your mother--nor would you have to tell her the truth."

But he wouldn't have a mother.

But, if she knew, perhaps he wouldn't anyway. "That might be for the best."


September 10, 2015

In Which Alina Shuts Up

May 26, 1194

"Do you think you'll start your leave about a month before again?"

Alina nodded, a gentle pat to her just-showing stomach. She'd credit the high-waisted tunic for the deceptive physique--Ellie's suggestion, based on how Lady Rona dressed when she was expecting. "Don't worry; I don't intend to leave you to fend for yourself until late August."

And she wouldn't be gone long! She loved her children, and she loved being a mother... but, she needed something for herself. Her work at the bank provided that, and by the time she'd gone back after both of her girls, she'd been half out of her mind.

"You know... I kind of think this one will be a boy."

"Oh?" Rina slouched a little. If she was resentful of having to manage the bank on her own for a while, Alina couldn't fathom why. Alina may have had a better rapport with the clients, but Rina had the sharper business sense--and even with the clients, she'd done splendidly the last two times. "Does it... feel different from the last two times?"

"No, I think Thetis and Via varied from each other more than either did from this one. It's just a feeling."

"Uh-huh." Rina picked at one of her fingernails. She never did that at the bank, but for some reason, it was a frequent habit when she made social calls. "Did you get feelings with the other two?"

"Not with Thetis--what with that being my first time and all. But I figured that Via would be a girl. Maybe you develop more of a sense with each pregnancy."

"Or maybe it's just that there aren't many possible outcomes, so any guess has a reasonable chance of being right."

Alina chortled. "Maybe. Perhaps you can verify when--"

She stopped herself at the sight of her friend's dreary eyes and wilting lips--and cursed herself. Stupid! "Oh. Oh, Rina, I'm so sorry."

"It's fine." But Rina picked at her fingernail again. God damn it, Alina! Think before you say things like that!

"You know... two and a half years of marriage isn't really all that long. Plenty of people have to try a little longer."

"We're not trying."


For all Alina knew, that was true. Or, it was just a way of telling her to shut up.

She wouldn't ask which. It wasn't her business.

"Fair enough."


September 8, 2015

In Which Severin Skips Another Heir

May 14, 1194

"My God." Every once in a while, Severin heard something to which there was no other initial response. What his grandson had just confessed was one such thing. "I... I'm very relieved that you have committed to restraining yourself."

"I have to." Dalston swallowed, a hint of a tear clinging to his eye, fighting not to fall. "I don't want to hurt anybody."

Not once in his life, Severin was sure, had Dalston ever wanted to hurt anybody. Certainly not... like that.

"So I..." His grandson choked. "I've decided to switch my focus to Pre-Asceticism."

Not a decision to be made lightly. A Theology major focusing in Pre-Asceticism was, for all intents and purposes, a novice. It was a difficult thing to turn back after that. "You're sure?"

"I'm sure. I know you're not fond of the church, but I think it's the best option. I couldn't take a wife only to deceive her through our entire marriage. I certainly shouldn't father any children. In the interests of safety, I should be removed from society at large."

"Hmm." He was probably right, and Severin was torn about whether he wanted to admit that. It wasn't like learning that Searle enjoyed the company of men, or that Thetis preferred the company of women. Men and women were, at least, adults. "I certainly don't want your life to be any more difficult than it has to be. If you believe that becoming a monk would be the right call, I'll trust your judgment. But, if you change your mind, I'll make every effort to help you keep control."

"I appreciate that, but I don't think there's anything you can do. I've already been to Aunt Aerina for, uh... libido-repressing herbs. Told her I was being distracted from my studies." Given the situation, that couldn't have been a lie. "They worked at first, but I think I'm starting to develop a tolerance."

"I see." A damn pity that was. How damn horrible it all was. "How do you wish to proceed, then? Will you announce your intention to join the church soon?"

"I think that would be for the best. Wolf might need time to adjust to being the new heir." Yes--Wolf was the one they had to worry about. "He'll make a better lord than I would have anyway."

"A different lord, at least." Though, better in the sense that he would be able to produce heirs of his own without... those particular concerns. "All right. We'll meet with him in the morning, then tell the rest of the family."

"But they don't need to know the reason, do they?"

"No. Not as long as you control yourself." There were no children on campus. There would be no young novitiates at whatever monastery Dalston chose.

Neither of them would stand for any slip-ups. "Keep controlling yourself."