January 20, 2017

Fleeing My Homeland!

...okay, just for a couple of weeks. But in all seriousness, if Canada ends up losing its shit and pulling for one of these Trump wannabes, I don't think that would be an option based on how quickly the world is devolving at the moment and I don't even want to think about how few countries are going to be left on the reasonable list by that point. Man, I have an encyclopedia's worth of rage in me right now, but it's not the time and place.

ANYWAY. Posting to let my handful of loyal readers, plus the occasional poor soul who stumbles across this page on their quest for pornography, know that I'll be out of the country for a couple weeks starting tomorrow. I wanted to get one more post up last night, but that didn't happen, so... yeah, you get this notice instead.

Barring any unforeseen catastrophe, Naroni should resume shortly after I get back, though I wouldn't count on my ever returning to my previous posting rate. One or two a week might be the new normal from now on, especially given my work schedule and, um... this other thing I want to release in March. This other thing has nothing to do with Naroni or Sims, and I would STRONGLY prefer to keep those worlds separate to the extent that it's possible--but, if you really want to know, and if you feel we've built up a strong enough rapport that I can trust you, send me a PM via either Tumbler or PBK.

I'll have my phone with me--on airplane mode (eww, roaming fees!), but with wi-fi enabled, so I should be able to reply to any comments or messages while I'm away. I won't guarantee promptness, however.

Stay awesome while I'm gone. And if the world tries to fuck with any of you, tell it where it can stick it.

January 16, 2017

In Which Meera's Sentiment Is Reciprocated

May 17, 1203

"Meera! You're stunning! I thought you'd gone mad when I heard you let your daughter pick your dress, but I see she inherited your good taste."

Lily beamed of a sincerity that would have been baffling in itself, but Meera struggled with the thought of her very presence. A second wedding didn't merit the fanfare of the first, so she'd opted to dress herself, even if she had let Laralita choose the dress and even if she had let her eldest soon-to-be stepdaughter do her hair. More than lack of ceremony, though, she'd simply had no suitable options. She had friends, yes, but she didn't want to subject them to her bittersweet preparations. Her two living sisters were much younger half-siblings with whom she wasn't particularly close, and both were at the university in Naroni besides. Arkon's sister was also in Naroni, and his mother was dead, and her own mother had died long before even her first wedding. There was no one for whom the burden would have been appropriate.

Especially her sister-in-law from her first marriage!

"I-- I didn't even think you'd come." The invitation had been made, of course--but given her father's parade of weddings, Meera had assumed a universal understanding that the family of any previous spouse had no obligation to appear. "I'm glad you did, though. Thank you."

"I never would have missed it, Meera. Conant would have wanted you to live your life, so why should I begrudge you for doing so?" Lily's sweet smile gave no hint of any more complex feeling beneath it. She didn't resembled her brother much, but Conant's honest grins and over-simple explanations had always been similar. "Farilon and Marsden are here too, and my sisters abroad send their regards."

"That's very gracious of you all."

"Nonsense! You're still our sister, and not just because Conant would insist that it's so--though, for the record, he would." Light still on her lips and song still in her eye, Lily opened her arms for a hug; a little hesitant, a little sheepish, maybe a little embarrassed, Meera awkwardly obliged. "Never fear to ask anything of any of us, all right? We're still family. We'll always be family."

"Of course. Don't think I don't hold you as such." But what a relief it was--and what a shock it was--to find that sentiment still reciprocated. "Thank you, sister."

NEXT CHAPTER:

January 11, 2017

In Which Nato Is Caught and Released

May 5, 1203

"I, uh..."

Nato's brain fumbled about for an explanation as Lady Rona stared with an unnerving patience. He still wasn't quite sure when and how and why he'd made the decision to call on Aspen the day before. He hadn't planned on staying long, on holding her close while she let fall a few tears to his shoulder, on falling asleep fully-clothed and above the covers on a bed too small for two. He certainly hadn't planned on staying the night--and he definitely had not planned on what, if anything, he'd say to Aspen's mother if their paths crossed.

But now here he was, his escape cut short just shy of the door, cornered by Lady Rona at an hour when most of the household must have still slumbered. Aspen hadn't thought anyone would be up yet. She'd wanted Nato to leave before anyone had a chance to check up on her. Either they'd both failed to guess just how late it was, or Lady Rona had been unable to sleep and opted to go ahead with her day.

But the reasons made little difference, as the fact remained that she'd caught him now and he couldn't think of a damn thing to tell her. "...It's not what it looks like."

Aspen's mother... smirked? Most mothers didn't smirk when told that line. "I don't see why you'd be concerned about that, Nato. Given that neither of you have done much in pursuit of an annulment, no one would think much of whatever you and Aspen do when you spend the night together."

"We didn't--"

"Perhaps not, but you did spend the night together--and might I say that that was by far the longest time Aspen's been willing to spend with anyone since she graduated?"

"Um. Right. She, uh..." Nato bit his lip. Aspen must have had a hundred reasons for not having told her parents about her pregnancy yet, but he doubted that a wish for him to tell them instead was one of them. "She was caught off-guard, I guess. She had plans, and they didn't turn out, so now she needs... well, new plans."

"Which may or may not include you."

Nato dodged Lady Rona's copper gaze by fixing instead on a pair of candlesticks behind her. His own plans, if they could be called such, had been more of a means of keeping out of other people's plans. It was only a matter of time before an unlucky combination of place and people and circumstance allowed one of his fits to kill him, so he'd had no intention of being anyone's husband, anyone's father. He'd pursued knighthood in spite of his mother's fretting mainly for the hope of meeting a more dignified end before his body had him choking on his own tongue. Children came with the added concern of inheriting his condition, and the chance that their fates wouldn't take so many years to find them; childhood fits had only needed one attempt to take his father's sister, after all, his Aunt Felipa who'd never lived to be his Aunt Felipa.

Aspen would have grown up with a similar mindset. Her plan was to reduce the need for plans, to end things on her own terms. Neither of them had any ideas as to making or changing plans, with or without each other.

"I don't know if you should get your hopes up."

"Perhaps not, but if you stayed that long simply because she asked you to, then at least there are hopes that can be raised and lowered as pleased." Lady Rona raised one hand and waved it slightly, some gesture Nato was in no place to fathom. "I don't know if I even believe it myself, but something about your presence here since yesterday has had a calming effect on the air here, like Aspen's melancholy was a miasma and you dispelled it. I don't think I was the only one who felt that either."

Nato squinted. He hadn't thought Lady Rona the sort of person to misread the intangible as tangible, nor did he himself deem intangible things any more worth his time than things that didn't exist, because for all he knew, they didn't. "I don't know how a person could prove a thing like that."

"They couldn't, but that's not the thing in need of proving or disproving." Lady Rona let her hand fall back to her side, then took to the nearby couch as she nodded to the door. "I'll release you to go about your day now, but I request that you return tonight. Aspen will appreciate it."

NEXT CHAPTER:

January 8, 2017

In Which Aspen Is Alone and Not Alone

May 4, 1203

"Oh." Based on the tread from the hallway outside, Aspen had braced herself for Darry. Of the other adult males likely to be present in her childhood home--and those had been an adult male's footsteps, the floor's response had made no secret of that--her father mostly respected her need for space, and neither Medur nor any of the manservants would have any particular reason to talk to her. So, she'd risen from her bed, fully prepared to tell her brother not to bother, that they had nothing to talk about, or at least nothing that she knew how to tell him.

She hadn't considered Nato. Nato hadn't called on her since she'd returned to her parents' castle. She hadn't seen him since their morning after. She hadn't minded. She'd assumed that he, just as she did, wanted to be left alone.

But the sands in his hourglass might have run down sooner than hers had. He, after all, had had the luxury of actually being alone.

"I wasn't expecting you."

"I wouldn't have been, in your place. I wasn't expecting to be here either." His icy eyes settled on the couch behind her. Some trace of her perpetual presence in the room must have caught his eye, a clump of red hair on the fabric or a lingering indent in the cushion. She didn't mind much if he judged her for it. Before her covert excursion of a few nights prior, she'd only left to collect the occasional scraped knee or paper-cut, just enough to hold off the assault of woes and delusions. "I guess we should talk."

Aspen nodded. She didn't want to talk to anyone, but she'd have to before long, and Nato was the logical starting point. "Let's sit down."

She made for the couch, not offering him a chance to say he'd rather stand, because he probably would have. But he joined her on the couch, because it wasn't a battle worth fighting and they weren't enemies, most of the time. "I, uh... I'm surprised that you're still in Naroni, to be honest. I thought you'd have left by now."

Her toes curled within her slipper. She'd thought the same, once. She'd only returned home for a few days recovery, but that was a month ago now. "I wouldn't be of any use there now."

Nato frowned, brow furled. Confused, no doubt. He wasn't sad that she wasn't going. He might have gotten some relief if he'd swiftly become a widower, but she didn't think him cruel enough to hope for that, not given his opposition before. "Why not?"

"Because I'm pregnant."

Her fingers twitched themselves to a white-knuckled fist, as if the words hadn't been true until she'd said them. She hadn't told anyone else. The close she'd said was that she thought she might have been, when she'd stolen away to Lady Arydath in the dead of the night. Even the old woman's confirmation hadn't been quite enough, even her own recent caution in what she did or didn't take.

If the lack of visible reaction was a reaction in itself, then she'd sentenced Nato to a similar state. "Um... have you decided what...?"

She shook her head. "I don't know."

"Do your parents know?"

She shook it again. "I don't want to get their hopes up."

Sighing, Nato slumped forward, eyes shut in some form of proto-agreement. She didn't know if she liked that. Some part of her wished he'd swoop in and take charge and fix everything, just like some part of her wished he'd just go away forever. "I'll follow your lead, then."

"So you have nothing else to say?"

He must have, surely. She did, even if she didn't want to. She didn't want to say she didn't remember the night they'd made their baby, sleeping with him at all, what sex even felt like. She didn't even remember kissing him, if they'd even kissed. She'd never kissed anyone else, not expecting to live long enough to bother being interested. How many things there were to say about that--knowing what it was wake nauseous as some would-be person laid siege to her body, but not knowing what a man's lips felt like on her own. It was tragic and pathetic and the last thing she wanted to tell him, but it was a thing to say, and he must have had things to say too.

If he wanted to. "Nothing that would make a difference. I don't want to ruin your life. I'm sorry if I did already."

"You didn't ruin my life. I never really had a life." And why would she have had one? It was a fact she'd learned when she'd been very young, that her life was for everyone else. "Not one I could do much with, anyway."

He stared at her, one eye ice and the other blue fire, within an inch of her own, distant as the dimmest star. "Is there anything you want me to do?"

She shrugged. "Stay with me a while? We don't have to talk." She just didn't want to be alone, now that she'd said it.

Alone, to think about how she wasn't alone.

"All right."

NEXT CHAPTER:

January 3, 2017

In Which Aldhein Squints at a Second Gleam

April 29, 1203

"Good morning, gorgeous." Aldhein spun his wife into his arms and dipped her down for a kiss. It was a rare thing, his coming down for a bit of breakfast before she'd barricaded herself in her study for the morning, so they'd both come to welcome the rare morning greeting with a newlywed fervor.

And it was especially welcome now, given the presence of their... um, house guest. The children, at least, had bedtimes.

"Morning, handsome," Shahira obliged as the kiss ended and she stepped back to meet his eye. He knew that look. That was the look of someone very much in need of a passionate night. She was half a Kemorin, after all. "We really did have the worst timing last night."

"In our defense, you can't really plan for someone banging on the door to complain that our kids stole his bow and quiver."

"But we did try, given the hour." As she rolled her eyes, the signature creak of the front door sounded from the foyer. The children wouldn't be up for a while yet; the offender must have returned. "So much for a wake-up call on the kitchen floor."

Sure enough--

"My God. Are you two ever not touching each other?"

Annoyed, Aldhein scratched at the side of his nose as his brother-in-law, fresh from the training grounds and probably trailing dirt all over the floor barged in. The fallout from his unwitting nuptials still up in the air, Nato had thusfar avoided the prospect of settling it by bouncing from residence to residence every few days, trying to stay one step ahead of anyone who might chase him down and make him face the problem. Given that Aldhein saw Nato's parents every day and could have turned him in at will, he thought he'd been generous enough in indulging him to merit the minimum standard of visitor etiquette, but Nato apparently didn't see things that way.

Particularly if his route to the basin included a swift cut between Aldhein and Shahira with no more courtesy than a kiss to his sister's cheek. "Is he keeping you from your work, sis?"

"No, but if you're planning on recovering here for a while before heading out again, I suspect you might try." Lip between her teeth, Shahira retired to a seat at the kitchen table, probably more to distance herself from the several hours' worth of sweat housed in her brother's tunic than any actual need to sit. If one of them snapped and told him to cut them from his rotation, Aldhein wasn't sure if it spoke well or poorly of him to know that it would probably be Shahira--but, not wanting to debate his own worth as a brother-in-law or a person in general at the moment, he just sighed and joined his wife at the table.

"He'd better wash more than just his hands later. Maybe lock him in the bathroom before you leave, and make sure there's soap."

"I can hear you, you know." Nato took to scrubbing his hands with a new ferocity. "Can't a man go for a piece of bread and an apple before he takes a bath? It's not as if I plan on walking around the market smelling like this."

"No, just other people's houses." Aldhein flexed his wrists beneath the surface of the table. He'd never been a violent sort, but no one could avoid the urge to strangle another person forever. "Going to the market today, then? Instead of--oh, I don't know--talking to your wife?"

Some line of sibling loyalty crossed, Shahira kicked him under the table.

Nato, however, froze for a second before busying himself with the towel in considered defeat. "Aspen doesn't want to talk to me."

"Probably true, given that anyone I know who's had much to say about it says she's barely spoken since the wedding, but you have to talk to her at some point. If I were you, I'd rather do so of my own accord than because my parents made me."

"My parents aren't-- it's complicated, all right?" Nato whipped back around, hands dry to his standard despite the gleam of wet flesh still upon them. "I know, I know, the church says we're married because we did technically consummate it, but there's bound to be something to contradict that. Surely you can't be legally married when you're as drunk as we were. It's just a matter of time before someone manages to find grounds for an annulment."

Aldhein squinted as a second gleam--a different gleam--bounced off Nato's hand as he swatted some hair out of his eyes. Not necessarily the sort of gleam he expected to see from the finger of someone who claimed to be a bachelor.

"So you just... feel obliged to keep wearing your wedding band until that happens?"

No kick this time. No freeze. Just a startled twitch, followed by a silent glare, rooted in more emotions than Aldhein deemed worth the bother of listing.

That, and a bitter groan from Shahira. "Aldhein, go to work. Nato, take a bath--then either go to your next house, or go talk to your wife."

NEXT CHAPTER: