March 7, 2016

In Which Renata's Twin Is Right

December 10, 1198

"I have no idea!" But Ramona clapped her hands together in delight all the same, about two excited wriggles short of bursting into dance. Then again, in spite of being twins, they were two different people. Renata's skin crawled at the thought of not having every bit of information possible, but Ramona thrived on her capacity to be surprised--or, in some cases, to see just how well real life measured up to her fantasies. "All I know is that he asked for you personally. Not Uncle Searle, not Auntie Ren, not Karlspan or Celina--you."

"Me." Renata took the tip of her tongue between her teeth. She didn't not get along with their cousin Arkon--indeed, she found him quite interesting, even if seeing him often meant also having to see his vexing mother--but she hadn't thought they were quite so close that he'd deem to call on her, and her alone, mere days after she and Ramona had returned home for the break. "Did he say what he wanted?"

"No--but I do believe there's one obvious reason why a young lord of the most unmarried variety might call on a pretty young maiden." Ramona batted her lashes with a hummingbird mania, teasing smile curling on her lips; Renata opted to chalk that up to leftover giddiness over her own now-official betrothal.

"Ramona, I don't think Arkon is stupid enough to risk Lady Odette's wrath over someone like me."

"And why should you be a worse match than anyone else? It's not as if Lady Odette wouldn't hate any other potential daughter-in-law just as much. She hates everyone!"

"Yes, but there might be some she'd hate somewhat less." And really, kinder women then Lady Odette might have objected to the thought of Lord Beretrin and the third daughter of a disgraced knight, never mind one whose own father might as well have blamed her in his suicide note.

"Ah, you can always send the old bag back to France once you're Lady Beretrin," Ramona dismissed with a wave of her hand, never mind that Arkon wasn't nearly so cruel as to exile his own mother.

Lady Beretrin. Her aunt and uncle may have done their best to keep the more hurtful details of her father's demise under wraps, but people did talk and word did get out. Renata knew more than enough to be certain that his ghost would have a conniption at the thought. "You don't even know that's what he's here for."

"Ah, but you will soon enough--and don't think I won't expect to hear every detail once you've finished with him." As if either of them thought for a second that she wouldn't have her ear to the door the entire time. "Whatever he wants, just go in there and talk to him, will you? I want to know if I have to pester Oswald about how he'll have to pamper his wife into forgetting she's not a lady like her twin sister."

"Whatever your title, at least Oswald's mother is decent," Renata reminded her as she took hold of the handle on the study door. Oswald's mother adored Ramona and was thrilled to know she'd soon be her daughter-in-law, never mind that their father had 'condemned himself to Hell' or whatever it was Lady Odette said about him.

Renata opened the door and slipped into the study, shutting it behind her before Ramona could insult Lady Odette in Arkon's hearing.

"Cousin." She stepped away from the door and greeted him with a smile. Historically, the Mokonris looked rather like Ramona, rather like their mother: fair, soft-featured, about as close as an adult could get to 'cherubic' while still being attractive rather than grotesque. Arkon had his mother's darker skin, dark eyes, beakish nose and muddy-brown hair--but in spite of her distaste for Arkon's mother, Renata thought she preferred him as he was, even if his nose took some getting used to. He stood out among her many blond and blandly-pretty cousins, most of whom may as well have been siblings. "I was told you wanted to speak with me?"

"Yes." He grinned as she approached for a friendlier distance, but not without a second's hesitation. "I take it your studies have been going well?"

"They have, but I can't imagine why that inquiry alone would merit the ride over here."

"I suppose you're right about that." He forced out a sniff of a laugh, his face otherwise a sheepish blend of nerves and sincerity. "The truth is, actually... well, I'd like to court you."

"Court me?" Renata blinked. She may have lacked a better guess, but that hadn't meant she'd expected Ramona to be right. "Arkon, don't you think you could do better?"

"With this nose?" He chuckled--but stopped when it occurred to him that she wasn't laughing. "Oh, don't think to much about what people like my mother would say. The truth is that I'm not too good for you, and I'm going to need a clever woman with a good heart by my side if I want to keep things running smoothly in Beretrin, and you're certainly qualified there. And we've always gotten along well, and you're very pretty and you smell nice, and I know you could make me happy and I'd like to think I could make you happy too."

Renata turned her head, still not entirely convinced she was hearing him right. She'd always expected to end up marrying some gentleman knight who'd be thanking his lucky stars for an earl's niece, never mind her own father's infamous lack of love for her--and she cared more about her painting than any marriage prospects, so she'd accepted that. She hadn't figured anyone else would have other ideas.

"I... I do think we get along very well. And I suppose a courtship isn't a marriage proposal in itself, if you change your mind?"

"It isn't, no--but I don't see myself changing my mind if you don't."

His voice didn't waver, nor did his smile. He'd thought about this, probably longer and harder than she was quite ready to believe.

With that sort of thought put into it, it wouldn't have been fitting to dismiss it outright.

"Then I don't see the harm in trying."

NEXT CHAPTER:

3 comments:

Van said...

Blah. Mondays.

empireofmeliora said...

Huh, in the last picture I was reminded of Geneva for some strange reason (that is, Geneva Minara - this woman's great-aunt).

I do wonder if Ietrin ever got that stern talking to from his wife that he needed.
But how does Renata even know of the contents of her father's suicide note when Searle had ordered to forge it and - probably - throw the original to the fire? Or is that just a suspicion because she has some old memories of her father's treatment of her?

Van said...

Family resemblance wouldn't be the weirdest thing here.

Ietrin didn't leave a suicide note--just the will that Searle had rewritten and burned. But Renata remembers enough and has gleaned enough from other people to have a not-entirely-incorrect theory of what went on there. :S