November 30, 2015

In Which Adonis Is Welcome

June 12, 1196

"Thanks again for getting me this furniture. It's good to have some of this space filled up, at least."

"Oh, no trouble." Adonis gave Dora's hand a light squeeze. In truth, it had been about time he'd done some personal business with the kingdom's carpenters, and they'd all been sure to point that out. "I'm just relieved I managed to pick some patterns you like. I mean, I knew you liked yellow, but I wasn't sure about teal."

"I do like teal. It makes me think of you."

"Oh." She liked thinking of him! God, he hoped he wasn't blushing. Lucky Adwyn had inherited their mother's olive skin and hadn't even blushed at his own wedding banquet. Adonis had their father's not-so-forgiving run-of-the-mill peach. "Huh. That's... very flattering."

A touch of pink emerged on Dora's own face. That helped, he guessed. At least they matched? Shy and embarrassed together? "Oh. Well... it's very flattering that you helped me find all this furniture. I mean, you could have just easily gotten some for yourself first."

"For my room at the inn? I think Ilyda and Senwick like the current furnishings well enough."

"Wait--you don't have a house?"

Huh. Odd that that had taken so long to come up. "Well... I'm usually split between a bunch of different building sites. It just hasn't been convenient to settle somewhere permanent yet."

"Oh. Well, you're welcome to stay here any time." The touch of pink, to a wave of red. "Uh, in the spare room, I mean."

"That would be nice." He smiled. That seemed to ease her coloring somewhat.

"Thank you."


November 28, 2015

In Which Renata Is Given the Date

May 28, 1196

"Big enough to be kicking! God, what a relief." Renata beamed down at the bump of her growing great-grandchild, then met eyes with her granddaughter. She had to marvel at how calm Rina had managed to remain since she'd decided to keep the baby, even with the high risk of miscarriage, even with the increased danger to her own life.

That calm, Renata hoped, had aided in the sustenance of the child. If it had aided in the sustenance of the child, then--she prayed--it would aid in Rina's own survival when the time came.

Rina gave her stomach a rub, a soft smile on her lips. "They're a survivor, all right."


"Oh. Arydath says she keeps getting conflicting boy vibes and girl vibes, and I'm not really comfortable using 'it'. So it's a singular 'they', for now."

Renata chuckled. Rina's mother had been a twin, and her husband was a twin. And in addition to Rina's aunt and mother, Renata had also birthed triplets. "Maybe they're a pair of boy and girl twins."

"Oh, God! Severin would hit the roof.

"But, he'd manage--if only for my sake. Plus, it's not likely there will be any more after, and I'm sure Arydath would chase after him with butcher's knife if this somehow happened again."

"Woe behold the husband who invokes the wrath of Arydath. Good thing a doctor would know how to prevent a pregnancy without having to deny the pleasure."

Rina laughed. God, how good it was to hear her laughing! "I should hope so!"

Hope. Hope was everything here. For Rina's baby, Rina's life, everything. "I'm so glad things have worked out for you so far, with the rotten start you had to your adulthood, and that horrible man you had to call your father. Just... let's all do everything we can to make sure you're around to see the good things to come, all right? You and me and Severin, Nanalie and Arydath, the whole team. Let's do everything we can for the next month or so, until the baby's born."

Rina nodded. "On the twenty-first of June."

Renata tilted her head to the side. "You don't have a guess about the sex, but you're sure of the date?"

"It's the only one the makes sense." Said with a smile that Renata hoped her daughter could see from heaven. "The first day of summer. The first day of something new."


November 26, 2015

In Which Gennie Thinks Beyond the Reprieve

May 6, 1196

"Sorry, kiddo. You'll need a stronger jail cell than that if you want to hold the evil wizard count."

His toy castle of course not equipped with a stronger jail cell, Rickard stuck out his tongue. Wolf chuckled the whole while and patted the kid on the head. Wolf was good with kids--Gennie would give him that. He was good with kids, while Dalston had always been so skittish around them, practically afraid of them.

Gennie had always wanted a ton of kids. Six or seven, at least. If she were to have six or seven kids, then one of her top priorities in a man had to be excellent fatherhood potential. Wolf had that in spades. Dalston had next to none.

Why, after all this time, did that still make her so... sad?

"He really likes you." From her arms, Sparron shot Wolf a toothy little grin. Both of her brothers loved Wolf. Her new twin sisters, once they were old enough to expand their social focus beyond their mother, would probably love him too. Gennie made a point to take that as a sign in Wolf's favor, but she hated that it would have to be a conscious effort.

"What's not to like?" Wolf smirked, his eyes alight as they always were when he looked at her. If there was to be a day when she could look back with the same way, then it couldn't come soon enough. "Hmm. Maybe if we found something we could shackle the count with..."

"You could take the lace from his tunic. He's always pulling it out anyway." Eyes rolling, Gennie shook her head at the little brother on the floor; Rickard squirmed, guilty but not sorry. "It drives Mother up the wall."

"Well, we can't have that. We'll use one of my bootlaces instead. Care to help me with that, Rick?"

Eager to indulge himself with his favorite habit of tugging on strings, Rickard crawled over to Wolf's outstretched boot and got to work, laughing as the lace left each fret. In Gennie's arms, Sparron bounced with glee. He was in an odd phase where discarded shoes were more enjoyable than any toys in his nursery. Wolf, knowing this, would be quick to nudge the boot in Sparron's direction while Rickard busied himself with the lace.

"All right, all right. I'll put you down so you can play with your boot." Gennie nuzzled her brother's nose and set him on the floor. With both boys under Wolf's watchful eye, she could go and check on her mother and the twins, run and fetch anything any of them might have needed, maybe sing to babies to sleep if need be.

But then, after that reprieve, she'd have to return. If she wanted Wolf to be the one, then she had to do a better job of convincing herself.


November 24, 2015

In Which Thetis Has a Different Opinion

April 19, 1196

"Rina's taking a nap?" Thetis asked as she pulled up a seat at her son's table. Her daughter-in-law had reached the third trimester of her miraculous pregnancy with far less difficulty than Arydath had said to expect, but no matter how well Rina fared, Severin had been on edge since he'd gotten the news.

In truth, she might have found a lack of an edge more troubling--he wouldn't have been so agitated had he not cared so much about his wife, after all. But as big and grouchy as he was, he was still her baby.

Thetis hated to see her babies hurting.

"Yes." Severin rocked forward in his chair. Once, when he'd been less than a year old, he'd thrown such a violent tantrum that he'd sent his highchair crashing to the floor. "This is all my fault."

"Sweetie, you're a doctor. We both know Rina had to have had some part in it, unless you were a much worse man than you are." And after her first marriage, Thetis had prided herself on not raising boys like that. "These things happen. And Rina seems... very calm about the whole thing, since she made up her mind and got used to the idea. If she's not blaming anyone, then why should you?"

Severin was enough his father's son that she wasn't quite how he'd respond. Even considering that, though, she never would have thought to expect the answer he gave. "Because I tried to call God out on his shit."

Thetis took to massaging her own wrist beneath the table. It wouldn't be long before she had to roll her eyes at the very thought and recount the tale to a giddy Florian. But that wasn't immediate. "Sorry?"

"I went outside, I yelled at the sky, and if my math is correct, Rina would have gotten pregnant within the next few days." Eyes, shut, Severin sighed. "Careful what you wish for, I guess. Careful what you fucking wish for."

"Watch your mouth." Had he still been a child, Thetis might have swatted him across the back of the head, but she instead reached over only to rub his shoulder. A stressed adult had more cause for the occasional profanity than an unruly youth. "It's a coincidence. Odd timing. Plus, if you wished for better for Rina... I don't think God would kill her just to punish you."

"We might have different opinions on God, then."

"Maybe." She took her hand from his shoulder and brushed some of his hair back from his face. "I suppose for now, we'll just both have to hope that mine is right."


November 22, 2015

In Which Lorn Is a Grandfather

March 23, 1196

"It's natural to worry, son--but I think Celina will be fine. Her mother birthed nine babies and survived to be in that room with her right now. Her grandmothers had no problems either; one of them is still alive, and the other died of unrelated causes."

There was as much logic as could be applied to the dangers of childbirth in what Searle had to say to the nervous father-to-be, but Lorn couldn't quite manage to tell himself the same.

It was Searle's son... but it was Lorn's daughter. Thinking logically couldn't calm a man in regards to his daughter like it could with his daughter-in-law.

All he could do right now was be thankful that he and Leara had managed to get to Dovia for Celina's time. All he could do was hope that this wouldn't be the last time they saw her.

And maybe try not to flinch when his son-in-law turned to him. "Leara's births all went well?"

"Er... from what I've been told, yes." Any complications she might have encountered had never reached his ears. Maybe it was selfish, but he thought he preferred it that way. "Leara's been healthy her entire life. Same with Celina."

"So was my Aunt Ramona--but she died. My Aunt Elhina too."

There stood the limit on the logic applied to childbirth. "...That's true."

"Lorn. She's fine."

Lorn jerked his head toward the door. Ren's voice. Ren's figure.

Ren, with their newborn grandchild in her arms. "Celina did very well, and I'm sure she'll want to see you once she's had a chance to rest."

Thank God. Lorn sighed. Funny, how a person could go from being unable to stop worrying to being unable to stop smiling.

"God, I'm so relieved!" Karlspan rose from the couch, grinning like an idiot. Babies did have that affect on men. Lorn didn't doubt he'd looked twice as stupid when Celina had been born. "So this little one is...?"

"She's a girl. Celina wants to name her for her mother."

"Little Learianna. Little Learianna Minara," Karlspan cooed as Lorn and Searle shared a nod. They had a mutual granddaughter now. Odd how the world worked.

Odd... but at least his daughter had survived.

And he had a granddaughter now.

A beautiful, perfect granddaughter.


November 20, 2015

In Which Yvanette Takes an Offer

March 7, 1196

"Halfway through your first term. You're holding up a lot better than I was." Sevvie kissed Yvanette on the cheek and took a step back. They hadn't seen much of each other in February--far too hectic for a month so short. But Yvanette, at least, had a few more free afternoons in the early part of March.

She'd need those for more than Sevvie. "Uh... so, how's... how are you feeling?"

"Uh... all right." As all right as it could have been, at least. "But, you know... time and privacy and all that."

Sevvie nodded. He'd been the one to compare it some years back--disgusting as it was--to his little cousin, holding his bladder to the point where it would burst and he'd wet himself. If Yvanette didn't willingly use her powers frequently enough... well, they'd burst.

The spying game had helped in their youth, but they'd grown up since then. Nowadays, with classes and housemates and all of that, she had to retire early a couple nights a week and lounge about her room for an hour or so before bed. At least at home--at least since her parents had found out--she'd been able to roam the castle as she pleased. Her roommates probably wouldn't let a cat go prowling about the house without questioning how it got in.

"Ah, yes. I'd worried about that." Then why was that grin splitting his face in half? Sevvie had never been the sort to revel in others' misery. "But I might have a solution--for now, at least. You know that old ruined castle near the south end of Veldorashire?"

Yvanette sniffed. If they were both thinking of the same one, then this cruel joke did not suit him. "The one that all the children like to explore?"

"Liked to. See--my grandfather bought it and fenced off the area. Said it might be 'archeologically significant' one day. I think this is the sort of idea that makes everyone think he's mad, since it's pretty much an ugly old mound of crumbling rocks, but... guess who's picking up a bit of extra spending money patrolling the place on weekends?"

"The whole weekend?" If this was a joke... now it was really cruel. "You can't be serious!"

"I am, which is a pity--because who wants to go a whole weekend without any company at all?" He winked. Sevvie was not a joking winker. No--he was a serious winker. Dead serious. "It's perfect. I get someone to talk to, and you get a safe spot. Plus, you can have some of my wages if you like; I don't need the money for much."

Money, now? Yvanette had to choke back a gasp. "I can't take your money!"

"I thought you wouldn't. But... can you take the offer?"

The offer. The safe spot.

It was so much more than any amount of money she could fathom.

"You have no idea how many dull and lonely hours you've just saved me."


November 18, 2015

In Which Melria Is Informed of the Problem

February 10, 1196

Searle was a knight, and knights had castles. Castles had chapels. Weddings were typically held in chapels, and as Searle's almost-son-in-law did not have a castle, it made no sense for his daughter not to be married in his chapel, in his castle. Melria had no objection to this. However... most stepdaughters had no living mothers.

And the fact that that wasn't the case, as Rennie savored the last hour or so of morning slumber before her big afternoon and the babies napped under the eye of Avine's nurse, put Lettie with Melria until the other siblings arrived.

Lettie didn't seem to have anything against Melria, especially given that her marriage to Searle had been rooted in convenience and would likely remain as such. That didn't make sitting with her, alone, any less... strange.

"So... this must be an exciting day for you."

"For the most part, assuming I ignore the fact that I'm old enough to have a married daughter." She grimaced, as all mothers seemed to do when the first of their children married. Lettie didn't strike Melria as the type to fret much about her age, but milestones rarely managed to pass unnoticed. "My apologies on her behalf, by the way. I know she's been rather cool toward you."

Melria shrugged. "I know that stepparents are an adjustment. It took me a while to warm up to poor Adonis when my mother married him."

"You were still young then, though. Rennie's an adult now." Lettie brushed a shed hair from her shoulder and sighed. "I don't think it will be forever, though. She's bound to realize sooner or later that it's not so much you she's bothered by as it is Searle."

"Oh." Most of the children had taken Lettie's side when the marriage had collapsed--three of the four of them choosing to live with her said a lot, especially when the other had more or less stayed with his father out of pity. But, the marriage had collapsed a long time ago. "They seem to get along these days, though."

"Searle gets along with Rennie. Rennie tells herself she gets along with Searle. He's unaware, and she's too aware. It's not productive; at this point, some sort of blow-out will be required if they really want to improve things."

Melria swallowed. She supposed that made sense... maybe. The feelings needed to be out in the open. Searle more than most seemed to need some things spelt out for him. "You and Searle didn't need a blow-out, did you?"

"No, no need for that with him and me. Searle and I were always good friends." Smirking, Lettie interlocked her fingers and cracked her knuckles with a stretch of her arms. "And that was precisely the problem."


November 16, 2015

In Which Henry Does Believe

January 17, 1196

"Enough of a nap for you already, lad?" Henry chuckled as his week-old son squirmed in Dea's arms. The boy had his own green eyes, that was apparent already, though Henry had rather hoped for Dea's violet. No matter, though; no color of eye could have made the babe any less precious. "Of course. Why rest when there's work to be done and a world to be seen? Never an idle moment, just like your mother."

Dea's eyes narrowed, but the line of her lips was more admitting than annoyed. "He'd better take his idle moments while he can; there won't be many once he's king."

"A lucky thing that that won't be for many years yet." Not if Dea's health kept up its spotless record! Even the pregnancy hadn't taken much of a toll on her, at least from what Henry could have noticed--and he liked to think he'd made a point to at least try to notice. Henry himself had been somewhat sickly as a child, but adolescence had improved matters and so far, adulthood had been no trouble in that regard. Barring any unforeseen tragedies, they had a good many years together ahead of them.

With any luck, Sparron--and any future siblings who might follow--would enjoy the same strength of body.

"I should hope you're about that! I rather like living. Besides, childhood ought to be spent learning and playing and exploring--not picking apart lengthy legal documents with the lords."

"Not that you don't love yourself a nice legal document," Henry teased with a wink.

Dea smirked. Since birthing Sparron, she'd tended to the kingdom's affairs on an emergency-only basis, trusting the lords with the running of their own shires and Willott with the day-to-day workings of the castle. That arrangement would cease at the end of the month, as Dea would both need and want to resume her duties by then. Henry had every confidence in Dea's ability to balance being queen with being a mother, but it would take her some time to find the balancing method that worked for her.

Until then, Henry had no qualms about being the primary caregiver.

Newborn Sparron was sweet enough to make that job desirable, yet difficult enough to keep a father on his toes.

"I suspect he'll miss you when you return to your documents--but as a future king himself, he'll understand."

"He'll have to." Dea raised the baby to her face and kissed him on the head. "Mama has a lot of people to take care of--but I think he'll know that he's her favorite."

"Papa will be sure to reassure him of that." Henry landed a tickle on Sparron's belly, then grinned at Dea.

"Well, lass--I do believe we've made this kingdom of yours a rather fine crown prince."

No trace of doubt in her eyes, his wife nodded. "Indeed, we have."


November 14, 2015

In Which Dora Doesn't Mind as Much

January 12, 1196

"How did you manage to nab a place like this?" Adonis asked as he sat down at Dora's kitchen table, oblivious to the fact that the flowers he'd brought himself constituted the only personal touch the room contained. Though, Dora did think they made for a pretty first. Yellow and white. Her favorites. "I know people who've lived here their whole lives and end up settling for less."

"Tiada's mother found it for me. I guess being lady's maid to Lady Veldora brings some connections." Dora's own mother back in Dovia had been a lady's maid before she'd passed, but she'd never had the sort of social circle needed to find such a lovely vacant cottage. Then again, she'd only been lady's maid to a knight's wife, not an actual lady of a shire.

"So you lived with them when you first came?"

"Yes, Orrick offered a temporary room when he hired me. Before that, I was staying at the inn with my savings."

"I see." Adonis's perma-smile flashed once more. They'd encountered each other at the market that morning, and that encounter had led to a conversation, which had led to a lunch invitation. Dora had seen him in with both excitement and nervousness--she'd never quite sparked such obvious attention from a man--but something about his manner did well to assuage the anxiety. "You know, I've got to admire such spirit, moving to a new kingdom on sheer faith that everything will fall into place."

"Well, I had nothing and no one keeping me in Dovia--and I just had this nagging feeling that Naroni was the place I was supposed to be." People back in Dovia had been right, it seemed, when they'd said there was something magical about Naroni. Though, they spoke of it as a sinister magic; Dora thought it rather the opposite. "I was right. I have a great job, good friends, and a lovely home--even if I've barely had the time to furnish it beyond the essentials."

Adonis chuckled. "Well, there are only so many hours in a day--but you know, I work in close proximity with several of the local carpenters, so I can probably get you some deals on furniture if you like."

"I won't say no to that, if I plan on staying here for a while."

"Smart move--and I must say, I hope you do."

Not sure what to say to that, Dora found her cheeks warming. She hoped the blush wasn't too visible. "Ah, well... it seems likely at this point."

"Great." Adonis grinned again--how did he keep his teeth so perfect?--then glanced over to the flowers on the table. "Look, I get that this might come across as a little forward, but I'm supposed to have dinner at my parents' place tonight; any chance you'd maybe want to come along as well?"

Dora blinked. That was a little forward. And more than a little quick.

But maybe she didn't mind as much she ought to have minded. "Where do they live?"

"Veldora, so it's a bit of a ride--but, I figure we can have a nice long chat on the way."

A nice long chat. She thought she liked the sound of that. "That would be nice."

"Great." Adonis reached across the table and took her by the hand. He was an architect, not one of the laborers who took his visions from the parchment, so there wasn't a callous upon them. "I'll rent some horses after lunch and stop back here for you."