July 12, 2017

In Which Dea Urges Asking First

June 12, 1204

"That is exactly what I wished to hear. I shall begin a review of all issues I wanted to address with both Dovia and Carvallon immediately." Dea had dared hope, at least, that the upcoming nuptials between Prince Oswald and Princess Avirelle would ease the long-standing tensions between Naroni's two most significant allies, but given the current players on both sides, she wasn't about to make many assumptions. Hearing this firsthand from one of King Oswald's own sons made for a welcome bout of relief. "My best to both your nephew and his bride-to-be. I'll be unable to attend the wedding myself, but my sister Geneva and her husband will be there as my representatives--along with Celina, of course."

"Ah, yes. My stepmother. A lovely woman, but... I do still struggle to think of her as such, especially given the distance." For that, Koradril couldn't be blamed, Dea supposed. The duchess's marriage to the King of Dovia was a political arrangement, one that required her to stay in Naroni as an ambassador of all parties, more of a bridge between the two kingdoms than anyone's wife. That marriage had also happened long after Koradril might have been young enough for a stepmother to make much of an impression. "I did rather enjoy meeting her granddaughter, though--your cousin, who was here earlier."

"Camaline? Yes, I'm quite fond of her." Camaline had indeed been helpful, and quite sweet about it too. Dea just wished she could offer her something equally substantial in turn.

"I'm glad to hear it. I, uh..." Koradril swallowed, as if he might draw back the verbal stumble. It was rather unlike a prince with both formal and informal studies in governance. "Forgive me, as this is rather sudden, but it occurred to me as I spoke with Camaline that my family might still honor her betrothal in spite of my nephew's death. My Tivalia has been gone for five years now, and I had started to think about remarrying, both for my own sake and my children's. Granted, I'd understand if Camaline had no interest in an older man with children from a previous marriage, but... well, it was a thought."

"It... certainly is a thought." Dea flexed her jaw, unsure if even Camaline knew much about her own taste in men having grown up with the fixed idea of Farilon. On the surface, she found little to object to about Koradril, but simply 'not objectionable' did not an ideal husband make. "I can't claim such intimate knowledge of my cousin's heart, but she's approachable. I don't believe there would be harm in asking."

"Then I shall gather up my courage and ask." Koradril managed a wistful smile, shyer than most princes had much business in being with a foreign queen. For such a tall man, Dea found the difference in their heights held a sudden insignificance. "Do you think her parents would find the match acceptable?"

"I wouldn't worry about her parents." And not just, she wanted to say, because of who they were. "Ask Camaline herself first."

NEXT CHAPTER:

July 7, 2017

The Photofuckit Plan

So! My recent string of inactivity has me somewhat behind in internet news, so of course my initial reaction to pissed-off references to Photobucket was to shake my head and figure that they broke a tenth of their accounts again or introduced a ridiculous new interface or some other major-but-temporary fuck-up.

Obviously, that is not the case.

And, funny story... pretty sure this blog has been using Photobucket since 2009? Lucky for me, the shift doesn't appear to have rolled out to Naroni's account at the time of this late-night phone posting (and for as long as that remains true, if you want to have thirty Naroni posts open in different tabs for no reason other than to cause Photobucket some grief, hey, it's not as if I can stop you from doing so...). I also still have most-if-not-all of the images in accessible offline storage. But, it's only a matter of time, here's the plan:


  • First, change over all posts from 2017 (start with the smallest bit of work, I know).
  • Then, knock off posts by month of posting, alternating between the most and least recent, completing the job somewhere in the middle (and hopefully before summer work hours end in early September).
  • Character profile pictures, for the most part, are also story pictures; for these, it will probably be easiest to update them as I go along with other regular tweaking to that site. I'm already updating all the noble lines every week just because someone who's related to everyone had a kid, what's updating photo links on top of that?
  • I THINK most of my download preview pictures are at Imgur already, but I will comb my older posts next time I log in at the Keep, just in case.
  • Other story blogs? Honestly, since I can't even be bothered to pretend I see updates to those on the horizon, I might just make them private. I'll consider a login option if there's any interest, but I won't be bothering with the photo links.
  • That just leaves my "blog blog", which isn't a high priority since I almost never post there. But once I get the Naroni pics out of the way, I'll run through it and see if anything needs fixing.
  • If I'm forgetting anything, it's probably because it's not important. But hey, let me know on the off-chance that it is.
Project Fixing Shit will commence... probably Saturday, because it would figure that I work Friday and it would doubly figure that I'd made plans with the boyfriend (yes, that happened-- and I believe he shall henceforth be referred to as "an unwitting contributor to the decreased activity of a blog he's probably never heard of and almost definitely doesn't know is the property of the woman he's currently fucking") for after work. Weirdly, the more I think about it, the less daunting a task it seems. And that is WEIRD AS FUCK, considering that my usual response to any inconvenience is to have a complete mental breakdown. Thank you, meds.

And with that, I'll end with the likely-unoriginal observation that Photobucket might have seen more of a profit from their ad revenue if they hadn't insisted on allowing ads that took up half the screen, intruded on its interface, opened sketchy sites in new tabs, tested the dexterity of antivirus programs with drive-by download attempts, and otherwise rendered the site an unusable cesspit without the aid of your friendly neighborhood adblocker. On today's internet, if you want a blocker exemption, you've got to fucking earn it.

(And apologies for an weird formatting or typos. Again, phone... plus I need to be up in four hours, but probably wasn't going to be able to sleep without posting this, because fuck my life, I guess.)

(And yes, new Naronis will still happen as fixes go on. But now Photobucket has to share the blame for delays with work and the boyfriend! Actually, I'm just going to let it take the bulk of the blame during the fixing period, because they neither pay me nor sleep with me.)

July 3, 2017

In Which Camaline Babbles

June 12, 1204

"Oh! My apologies. The steward said that the queen was in here."

The speaker was a man Camaline didn't recognize, but the grey eyes and the firm chin betrayed him as one of the Dovian royals. He had to have been at least in his thirties, but he was still handsome enough for most expectations of a prince. She wondered if her Farilon would have aged so well, had he been allowed to do so.

Farilon's relation or not, however, it would have been horribly impolite not to respond. "She was, and she should be right back. Might I be of service in the meantime, your highness?"

"No need for such formalities from the daughter of a princess herself--at least, judging by your much prettier version of Duke Lornian's face?" The prince ventured to the center of the room and pulled her from the bench with a kiss to her hand. "I'm Koradril, King Oswald's youngest."

"Charmed. I'm Camaline--and yes, my parents are the duke and duchess."

"Ah." His eyes sparked in recognition at the sound of her name. Had they met before, in fact? Or... "Ah, yes. You were the one who was betrothed to my late nephew."

"Yes, well... why marry a prince when you can spend your summers recording the minutes of your cousin's less important appointments? Er, not that you would have come all the way from Dovia yourself for anything like that, of course. If Dea knew to expect you, she must be off fetching a proper secretary. Not sure why should would have lied to me about going to the privy, but--

"Oh. I'm just babbling now, aren't I?"

"Perhaps--but I suspect more than one brilliant observation first stemmed from a stream of babble. And now I'm even more sorry about Farilon, as we could always use more chances for brilliant observation in the Dovian court."

"Alas, if I know my own babble, I wouldn't be holding my breath." Come to think of it, she wasn't quite sure how she was breathing now. Had her body somehow missed the fact that she was making an ass of herself in front of a visiting prince?

Her mind, at least, kept up just well enough to make an escape. "Allow me to find my cousin for you. I'm sure you have something important to discuss, if you came all this way yourself."

"Actually, it was more a matter of my itching for a bit of a trip--one that I'm increasingly glad I opted to take." But, as tact dictated before a lady took her leave, he kissed her hand once more. "That said, I suppose I should talk to the queen sooner rather than later."

NEXT CHAPTER:

June 18, 2017

In Which Aspen Gets an Opening

May 6, 1204

"Uh... hello."

Aspen had forced herself through the apothecary door, but the urge to turn back remained. Speaking, particularly a greeting, was a commitment. She didn't know Aerina well, but she was kin to her in-laws and therefore not a stranger. Now that she'd spoken, she either stayed, or left with the inevitable consequence of some sort of inquiry on the healer's part.

So she could tell herself, anyway.

"Aspen?" Aerina abandoned whatever root she'd been powdering and swept away from the table. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, I suppose." She was, for now. But her daughter's sniffles and the scrapes of Nato's siblings could only sustain her for so long. If she wanted to keep herself sane--while still keeping herself alive--she needed a more reliable supply of light headaches and slight coughs and minor injuries. And she needed something to do.

"I was just wondering if... you maybe needed any help around here? On a voluntary basis, I mean. You don't have to pay me or anything."

"Free help? From a relation by marriage who's expressed no prior interest in herbs and who has a baby at home?" A little blunt, perhaps--but, Aspen supposed she got the confusion. "Not to belittle your offer, but it's quite... out of the blue."

"Yes, I, uh-- I don't know. I never really had much interest in anything, and I just sort of need something to do. Er, something that's just mine, I mean."

"That's fair." But Aerina's lip retained its skeptical clench. "I get the feeling there's more to it, though. I hope you don't mind me prying, but I don't think it's unreasonable to want to know your motives before taking you on."

It wasn't unreasonable. Aerina needed to know how she could use Aspen, how to keep subtle. Aspen needed to know that Aerina believed her, would help her. And, if anything... well, it was an opening. When it came to the less-than-believable, it was better to be asked than to announce.

"All right. So, you're probably going to think I'm crazy, but..."

NEXT CHAPTER:

June 8, 2017

In Which Agathe Asserts Her Lead

April 21, 1204

"So... talked to your brother yet?"

As she did more than she cared to these days, Agathe sighed. Her betrothed was the Duke of Luperia, a titled man who could have wed a princess if she chose, who'd instead opted for the daughter of a drunkard knight and his mad wife. Oswald made an active effort, she suspected, not to invoke the monumental difference in rank, not to press and push and otherwise take any will she flung his way and twist it into his own. It helped that they agreed on more than they didn't, which may well have been the only reason he'd ever thought her a suitable bride.

On this, though, they'd found no consensus. And she wished he'd just stop bothering her about it.

"You know I haven't." And even if she had--even if she knew how to talk to the much older, more or less estranged brother who'd lived a kingdom away for almost her entire life--they wouldn't have spoken about that. She didn't know Searle, but she knew enough. "I see no reason to parade my mother's ghost in front of him all these years after her death."

"You can't tell me you're not a little curious about that diary."

"If I was, I'd learn to read Greek." Never mind found it sooner. She'd known that her mother had kept some records of... whatever it was her mother deemed worthy of record-keeping. But she'd left her father's castle when he'd died, and her planned marriage to a man with a title and a keep of his own meant that what would have otherwise been part of her dowry was now to be gifted to some cousin or another. Her approach to her mother in life had been to stay out of her way, and there'd been no point in pursuing her after death. It had been a chance discovery by a chambermaid, this diary--not the result of any endeavor of Agathe's.

Why couldn't Oswald just leave it at that?

"But your brother can read Greek."

"My mother treated my brother like garbage. That's why he was sent out here. Even if I was curious, I wouldn't make him translate the ramblings of someone who made his life a living hell."

"But how do you know he doesn't need the closure?"

"How do you know he does?"

"I don't--which is why you need to talk to him. Not to tell him to translate it, but to ask if he'd like to. Give him the option." Oswald folded his hands and leaned forward in his seat, simultaneously humbled and certain, a duality with which Agathe was intimate of late. "He did teach himself his mother's native tongue. That has to mean something."

"Perhaps, but it might not mean what you think. And it might not mean now what it meant then." If it meant anything. If Agathe had one hope for Searle, it was that he now found meaning elsewhere. "I won't pretend to know my brother any better than I do. I'd appreciate it if you followed my lead there."

NEXT CHAPTER:

May 27, 2017

In Which Holladrin Is Not Doubted

March 14, 1204

"Holladrin! I, uh... I wasn't expecting to see you today." In truth, Farilon had good reason not to have expected her, so she'd take his surprise without question. She'd also take that undeniable smile, and hope to soon see it swell. "I thought we were still... laying low."

"I know, and we probably should for a little longer--but I just had to come and tell you something."

"A good something?"

Of course it's a good something, silly. He wasn't the only one grinning like an idiot.

"A wonderful something!" Holladrin indulged herself with a quick peck to his lips, then eased back, her hands on his shoulders. "My mother approves--of us, I mean. I didn't even know that she knew, but she approves."

"You're serious?" Not words of suspicion, but of hopeful disbelief. If he didn't trust her, those teal eyes wouldn't have hid it well. Those eyes never lied--and for her, at least, they never doubted. "I would have thought... I mean, your mother was the only one who cared at all for Danthia..."

"I think her care for Danthia became..." What had it become? Holladrin sighed. She did not want to think about her late aunt. Danthia would not ruin today for her, or for Farilon. No longer would she ruin anything for Farilon, or for Laralita and Roderick. "I don't know. When it happened, I think she was just relieved that Danthia was... out of her misery. I don't think she ever learned how to not be miserable.

"But that doesn't matter now. Wherever Danthia is--hopefully a place where she can learn to be better--she's not here. And we'll wait some time out of respect, sure, but we can be together now."

"And if your mother supports us, then what reason will anyone else have not to?"

"None that would matter, at any rate." Though, Holladrin supposed the twins might think it strange, at first--the age difference, at the very least, and her friendship with the two of them, and the fact that she was their cousin on their mother's side. But she'd worry for them later. "My mother suggested waiting until well into the summer, at least. To marry, I mean. Er, that is, if you want--"

"If I want?" A soft refrain, as if she'd told a playful joke. "Holladrin, my love: there is nothing I want more."

NEXT CHAPTER:

May 21, 2017

In Which Riona Pulls the String

March 14, 1204

"Please, Holladrin. You've escaped notice so far because everyone else is wrapped up in their own family dramas, but a mother never misses the way her daughter looks at a man--or the way a man looks at her daughter. I said nothing before because there was no need. With your Aunt Danthia dead, that has changed."

Her daughter's deer-to-the-bow look gave Riona no pleasure, but the balance of honesty and discretion was one of few maternal assets she could pride herself on. She'd never been the warmest of people, finding it easier to show affection by pulling strings in the background to make life easier for her children than by cuddling or hours of inane play, and there were days when there was guilt over it. But, Riona Sadiel didn't lie to her children, even if she sometimes had to omit the truth or hide behind cryptic wording. And Riona Sadiel let her adult children make their own decisions, and didn't pry.

Holladrin didn't need to be protected anyway, not from men. Anxious as she might have been at the moment, a clever, pretty girl from a powerful family didn't get to be her age and unmarried if she didn't know how to deal with unwanted suitors. Farilon was not unwanted. While Riona wouldn't pretend to see the appeal, he was kind and caring and loyal--somehow, he'd even managed to be that to Danthia, of all people. Not the choice she would have made for herself, but she didn't disapprove for her daughter.

But, Danthia's death hadn't been so long ago. No one missed her, and no one cared enough to bother taking her passing at more than face value, but if Farilon married so suspiciously early, either he or his new, beloved wife could raise a few eyebrows. That was a string Riona could pull.

"I think it's a fine match."

Her daughter's level of shock neither rose nor lowered, but its manifestation shifted. Where before there was fear, confusion now reigned: wide eyes squinting, quivering lip curled, tense shoulders slouched to a slight tilting of her head. "Sorry?"

"There's the age difference, sure, plus the fact that he was until recently your uncle by marriage--but, he's a stable sort, plus a marriage would renew the tie between House Andronei and the Royal Family that weakened when Farilon's brother left your Aunt Meera a widow. That, and you were adamant throughout your time at the university that you intended to return to Dovia, so on the off-chance that Queen Medea fears Farilon might make a move for her throne, I don't doubt she'd appreciate another reason for him to stay safely out of Naroni."

"From what I hear, Queen Medea isn't so paranoid, Mother--plus everyone knows Farilon has no interest in ruling. I see your point about the alliance, but Aunt Meera did give Conant three children before he died, so that bond lives on as long as they do. And surely it wouldn't seem appropriate if Farilon married again just yet! Especially if people know just how bad his marriage was."

"I didn't say that you ought to head for the chapel right this second." But, if they did head for the chapel, and Riona herself had championed that union... well, then at least any suspicion would be off of Holladrin and Farilon, and instead with the one who at least deserved it. "Give it another few months, well into the summer at least. No one should bat an eye at Farilon never marrying again, after all; he's still a young enough man, plus he couldn't be faulted for wanting an improvement on his first marriage."

"I suppose." Holladrin stood, as she often did when in need of absolute confirmation. Riona had a habit of doing the same. It was difficult to look someone in the eye from the disadvantage of a seat. "You're sure you approve, Mother?"

"You know I wouldn't have said so if I wasn't."

"Yes, but you must understand just how... well, how much of a relief it is," Holladrin finished in a please half-sigh as she stepped forth for a hug. "Thank you, Mother."

"You needn't thank me for wanting you to be happy, darling. So long as Farilon makes you happy and treats you well, why should I object?"

NEXT CHAPTER:

May 13, 2017

In Which Hollie Is Closer

February 2, 1204

"The bedroom is to your liking, I hope? I know you tend not to care much about decor or anything, but if only for the sake of comfort--"

"Shh." Hollie tapped her finger to Ricky's lips. It was sweet of him to consider such things, but as sweetness and consideration were typical of him, she doubted he could have made a bedroom unfit for her if he tried. "I'm quite happy with it. Cozy, but not cluttered--and simple, but not dull."

"Ah, good." His arm on her shoulder relaxed as she drew back her hand, though he choked out a nervous chuckle all the same. "Maybe it's good luck, a bedroom that fits the same description as one's husband?"

"You're not simple, and I'll box the ears of anyone who calls you such."

"I'm flattered that you're so eager to defend my honor." Ricky slipped his free hand beneath Hollie's knees and nudged her up to his lap. Comfortable though he'd made sure the bench was, she preferred this alternative seating.

"All those years of my nagging parents were worth it, you know. I'm sure I could have found someone who didn't make me miserable, but no one makes me happy like you do, Hollihock."

"And you likewise," she agreed, leaning inward until they were brow to brow. His eyes may well have been the only blue in the room, but there came and went a distinct second in which her whole world was that color. "Here's to all those years and then some of us figuring out how to make each other even happier."

"Each other, and ourselves from time to time. I know you're still figuring things out. If there's anything I can do to help you find yourself, know that there's nothing you can't ask of me."

"I know--but I'm a lot closer already." Closer in time, closer in space, closer in every sense including the gaps between thoughts and the strings that tied hearts together. "It helps when you have someone who will love you no matter who you are."

NEXT CHAPTER:

May 6, 2017

In Which Gennie Is Not Wolf's Mother

January 10, 1204

"And that," Wolf concluded with the help of a triumphant wave of his arm, "is how the brave prince reclaimed the Kingdom of Cake from the tyrannous grasp of the evil Lord Broccoli!"

"Yay!" Jadin bounced about in his father's non-narrative arm, the image of this Lord Broccoli's launch from the spoon catapult no doubt more prominent in his mind than any gesture from an over-dramatic nominal adult ever could be. Gennie would privately admit to some amusement from both of them.

But out of duty, she caught her husband's eye with a disapproving frown. "Great. How on earth will we make him eat his vegetables now?"

"Eh, if he's hungry enough, he'll eat anything. The challenging job will be getting me to eat my vegetables."

"Then lucky for me that I'm not your mother."

"Lucky for me, too." He winked.

That did it. She couldn't fight back that grin. "You're impossible."

"And yet, here I am." Wolf contorted his mouth into that goofy smirk, causing their son to giggle as he always did. "But in all seriousness, if you stuff me full of too many vegetables, then only you can claim responsibility for the assault of sounds and odors that leak out of my ass as a result."

"Wolf!"

"I'm serious! Imagine how it'll be if there's nothing but green on my plate the night before your sister's wedding. It may be welcome entertainment for bored children, but don't expect Hollie or Ricky to ever forgive you for such unyielding flatulence."

"You weren't even listening, were you?" Gennie stood up and walked over to her husband, wagging her finger in a mock-scolding. "It's your mother's job to make you eat your vegetables. Me? I'm only the mother of your children."

"Children?" Amused, Wolf cocked his head to the side. "Plural?"

Gennie rolled her eyes. "Eventually, I should hope."

"Interesting." Her husband shut his eyes and let out a sigh of content. It was a quiet gesture she didn't expect of him, but he made it suit him regardless. "I'm glad to hear that I've managed to win you over in regards to making babies with me."

"And why shouldn't you have? When you're not discouraging vegetables, you seem to make quite a good father."

NEXT CHAPTER:

April 29, 2017

In Which Holladrin Is Inconvenienced

December 24, 1203

"I wouldn't blame you, you know--if you didn't want to do this any more."

Of course Holladrin knew. How could she not know, when Farilon offered her that out every time they were alone? He always gave her an exit.

And, as always, she didn't care to take it. "I know it's not what either of us really wants, but I'd rather a few stolen kisses than nothing."

"But you could have so much more."

"More, perhaps--but not better. No marriage in the world is as convenient to me as all the inconveniences with you." An inconvenience, she'd learned all too well these past months, did not have to be unpleasant. "Don't worry about my needs. As for my wants, there's only one you need to worry about: you."

Farilon's blush found itself lost in the glow of the nearby fire, but Holladrin didn't need to see it to know it was there. By this point, she knew how it dilated his eyes, opened his lips. She knew even the cheek's tug of a smile before he stopped it from forming. "I don't... I mean, I'm not sure--"

A soft knock on the door cut him off. Holladrin pulled back in a practiced step while Farilon watched over her shoulder. Farilon had excused himself from the party on account of a headache. Holladrin hadn't been in need of a story, but if caught, she'd say her mother had sent her to check up on him. Her mother had seen just how 'ill' Farilon's wife was, after all, to the point of admitting upon arrival that this may not have been one of Danthia's usual ruses. Surely there would have been a chance of Farilon catching that ailment?

"Uncle Farilon? Are you in there?"

"Celina?" His niece, daughter-in-law to the hosting earl and countess. He breathed relief into her name, glad to not have to explain anything to Searle of Bandera himself.

"Yes, he's here," Holladrin answered, announcing herself before Celina could enter. "If you've come to offer him a cup of water or a cold cloth, he's just refused both from me."

"Oh. Sorry that the headache persists." In spite of believing that, Celina did slip herself through the door. "I'm sorry to disturb you, Uncle."

"It's all right. Talking with Holladrin did ease it somewhat." Farilon grimaced. "Did you need something?"

"Actually, you're needed in the entrance hall." Celina's finger caught the end of one moon-blond curl, eyes fluttered shut in a half-informed messenger's unease. "My mother-in-law asked me to fetch you. She said that your wife's maid just arrived. I didn't see her myself, but it seems she's in something of a state."

NEXT CHAPTER:

April 19, 2017

In Which Riona Is Mercy

December 24, 1203

"I'm sure my absence at the party will be noted, of course. It always is. Our peers really do have no understanding to spare for an ill woman."

"I don't know if you really understand our peers," Riona muttered, more to the hearth in front of her than to her sister. The hearth was likely the better listener anyway. Danthia was almost never ill, and a clever attention seeker would switch methods once no one without some degree of obligation bothered to investigate any feigned illness she suffered.

That, and none of their peers understood Danthia. Riona herself didn't. In another time, another place, there might have been hope for her, or at least enough of an idea of what exactly made her what she was to think that hope could exist. A bad childhood couldn't have been all of it. Even if no one truly overcame a bad childhood, they still... felt. Acknowledged others, at least as more than a means to an end. Often went out of their way, in some cases, to prevent someone else from going through what they had.

Danthia didn't. She lacked even the self-awareness to know she didn't. It must have been a lonely life, thinking no one else mattered.

Hello, my name is Mercy.

Searle and Ren were hosting this year's Christmas party. It was perfect. Searle knew everything. Searle would make sure no one else knew anything. And for once... Danthia's illness would have been real. She would have the attention she always wanted, the regret she always wanted, the validation she always wanted. Or whatever the hell else she wanted. For one shining moment, she would be a queen, queen of a thought in the minds of those who learned of her death, a queen who lay dying while no one believed her.

The real Queen of Naroni, meanwhile, would be safe from any more misguided plots, no matter how foolish and unlikely to succeed.

"I just can't believe how rude everyone is. Even my own children couldn't be bothered to kiss me good night before leaving. The girl was always a lost cause, I suppose, but Roderick? Surely I raised him better than that!"

"I'm sure you hired a nanny who did." To Danthia's credit, many of their class couldn't have claimed much better. Riona herself wasn't the most nurturing of people, and for her children's own sakes she'd brought in someone whose strengths aligned with her weaknesses. But she did believe in giving credit where credit was due.

And not one of her children had ever been a 'lost cause'. Laralita wasn't either. Nor would be, she hoped, a Danthia born a thousand years in the future.

"Your daughter is a lovely girl."

"What good is 'lovely'? An alliance? I'm not interested in compromise."

"No one is--but it's how we get by. Even animals have figured that out."

"And maybe the lack of an individual who won't compromise is why they're still animals."

"Who's to say we're not still animals, sister?" Animals may have had concepts, after all. Fear, desire. Justice. Mercy.

Hello, my name is Mercy.

"Would you care for a cup of tea before I leave? I was going to go down to kitchens anyway; after the detour, my horse deserves a nice carrot."

"Hmm. Not sure why you'd bother, but I suppose if you're going down there anyway. You'll have to get my maid to brew it, though; Farilon insisted on giving the cook the night off."

"I can brew a cup of tea myself. I'm sure you could too, if you tried."

"Why should I? That's the cook's job."

"Of course it. And you need to focus on... whatever it is you do. I won't be long."

Badly planning assassinations, pretending to be ill, manipulating in spite of the lack of ability to do so.

What a tragic existence.

Sister, my name is Mercy.

NEXT CHAPTER: