April 7, 2016

In Which Lettie Ranks Her Fortunes

July 11, 1199

"Are you my mother?"

Lettie's arm froze against the surface of her desk, her back numb to the chair behind her. She'd heard someone cross paths with Arkon at the door as he'd left, but the exchange had sounded friendly enough, so she hadn't thought much of it. And there had been silence after the door had shut--so she'd figured whoever it was had just been a familiar passerby.

But Prior had lingered in the hall, apparently--probably going over all the possible ways this conversation could start. And Lettie hadn't even heard him on the stairs behind her.

She hadn't considered that this day would come. She hadn't dared think about it.

She'd just have to wing it. "What gave you that idea?"

"A while ago, my mother told me..." Prior gulped. Lettie didn't blame him. Camaline had raised him. Camaline was his mother. "She, uh... she admitted she didn't... I mean, I understand. And she's my mother! I love her more than anyone, even if she didn't--you know."

Even though she'd known it--even wanted it, really, her baby to be so thoroughly loved--Lettie's heart sank somewhat. It didn't matter. "Did she tell you it was me, then?"

"No, she didn't say. But Alina and I have the same birthday, and I was born at Sir Searle's castle." He nudged his boot against the floorboards. It probably hadn't taken him long to put those pieces together. He was his parents' son, after all.

And hers too.

"Alina's my twin sister, isn't she? She's my father's daughter."

Lettie sighed. Searle, to his credit, had loved Alina exactly as he had their other children--but good intentions did not a good father make. With Camaline, Prior had gotten the better end of the bargain there. "You haven't mentioned this to her, have you?"

"No. I thought it be should up to you, if you think she needs to know. It obviously can't be common knowledge; I haven't said a word to anyone, not even my grandfather."

His grandfather. God, Octavius had been so angry. "He knows."

"I thought he might, but I didn't know for sure. And I don't think he needs to know that I know--I don't want to compromise anything between him and Uncle Nythran, even if I doubt Uncle Nythran wants to be baron."

"That would be for the best. He, uh... he left it up to me, when he married my mother, whether or not to tell her. I haven't, though I've thought about it more than once. Lord Severin knows, as do Nanalie and Arydath, and of course Searle--and maybe Xeta?"

"Parts of it. I don't think my mother told her it was you."

Maybe that should have been a relief--but in some ways, her involvement had always felt like a detail. "I'm sorry none of us ever told you."

"It's fine. It... couldn't have been easy. And it's a big secret. I don't want to think about what people would say about you or my mother if it ever got out."

Her, Camaline. Not a word about the barony. "Not one of us deserved a boy as sweet as you."

"Aunt Lettie--"

He stopped himself, but she bade him with a raised brow. "Yes? I don't see much point in keeping anything else from you now."

"I..." She could tell from the angle of his teeth that he'd bitten his tongue. Rennie and Severin both did that too. They'd gotten the habit from her. "...I guess I just want to know why you agreed to it. I mean, you got Alina out of the whole thing, but you didn't know there'd be two of us..."

Shit. Of all the things she'd never thought she'd have to admit aloud. "I--honestly, I didn't know either, for the longest time. I actually took some preventative measures after I agreed, but they didn't work, and I think some part of me was pleased with that. It took your father a long time to warm up to me, but... I always knew, deep down, that he was a good man. He might have been the best man I ever knew. And he was a wonderful father to you, as I knew he would be." She choked, a few tears fighting to break through her lashes. Sparron may well have been her best friend at the end of his life, odd as the thought might have seemed at the time of Prior's conception. A world where such schemes could be necessary didn't deserve a man like him.

"...I knew he would be the kind of father that Searle just couldn't be."

Prior squinted, a slight sniffling sound about. Lettie thought she could make out a swell of moisture around his eyes too. "I... well, whatever the case, I... I..." He jerked his head toward the ceiling, as if gravity ever helped much. "...thank you. For... making me."

Lettie's eyelids couldn't hold any longer, a tear leaking from the corner of her eye and running down her cheek. What child thought to thank their mother for the simple act of their existence? For everyone else on the planet, there was no easier thing to take for granted. And there weren't many who might have had the right to furious about the circumstances.

In many ways, Lettie and her fellow conspirators had been so fantastically, improbably lucky.

But they'd had no fortune so fantastic and improbable as the soul their lies had produced.



Van said...

Bah. Soooo many aching muscles/assorted other tissues...

Winter said...


Prior is leaving me speechless here. He's just so *sweet*, like Lettie says. He's best of the parts of Sparron, Lettie, and Camaline.

Van said...

He really did get the best of all of them. Sparron wanted an heir, and he got the best possible one.

Ekho said...

I feel so bad for Lettie, it must have been so hard for her. I'm impressed by Prior's maturity about it all, now I'm wondering how Alina is going to process this? Maybe she'll do some soul searching and get to know her real father's family.
Oh and I think you're missing an of 'Her, Camaline. Not a word about the barony. "Not one us deserved a boy as sweet as you."'

Van said...

Definitely not a fun conversation. :S

Alina's reaction up next. ;)

Like Winter said, Prior really did get the best of all of his parents. If anything, he doesn't think about himself enough in his day-to-day life, but for this instance, that selflessness of his turned out to be for the best.

And d'oh! Thanks for the catch.