September 25, 2017

In Which Leara Sees Support for the Theories

November 2, 1204

While they had made arrangements for most of their children, neither Leara nor Lorn would have hesitated to break off any of those betrothals had the other party proven unsuitable: violent, ill-tempered, manipulative, neglectful, or otherwise a risk to a spouse's well-being. A dreadful marriage, indeed, did not a strong alliance make--nor would any alliance have been worth the cost of any hope for one of their children's happiness.

So far, however, their children's betrothals had proven to be, more or less, functional matches. Celina had been wary of Karlspan at first, but by the time they'd married, they'd grown quite fond of each other. Neva had grown up with Prior, and their relationship had eventually moved from friendly to affectionate. Privately, Leara didn't quite like Eliana as much as a mother-in-law ought, but it wasn't as if she was outright wicked, and she seemed to make Dalston happy enough. And of course, she couldn't have picked a better woman for Ricky than Hollie.

But if their streak of good fortune there was bound to end eventually, she was relieved to see that Koradril wasn't the one to break it. Farilon's early death had caused Camaline enough grief over her parents' political games, enough anxiety over an uncertain future. Koradril, for all Leara wouldn't have thought Camaline too keen on a widower nineteen years her senior, had both his Aunt Holladrin's steadfast goodness and his father Oswald's unfailing health. It hadn't been her chance at romance that Camaline had mourned with Farilon, after all, but her settled future.

Not that, Leara mused as she caught Camaline glancing Koradril's way yet again as he and Lorn carried on with talk of some trade route or another, romance was out of the question.

"You're rather quiet today, darling."

"Oh?" Camaline blinked, as though she herself hadn't realized this--or hadn't been overly aware of her mother's presence. "My apologies, Mother. I may have talked myself out for the day on that morning walk I took with Koradril."

"That's quite all right--though I didn't know you'd taken a morning walk."

"I didn't tell you?"

"No. I suppose that does support your theory of having talked yourself out, though." Leara smiled, as much to herself as to her daughter. The men's conversation, from what she could hear, did seem to skew in favor of Lorn's voice; perhaps Koradril had found himself in a similar condition. "That, or the theory of how little there can be to say in front of one's parents; I somehow doubt you and Koradril spoke much of trade routes."

"But why shouldn't we have spoken of trade routes, Mother?" Camaline looked over at Koradril quickly before turning back to Leara with a pink tinge to her cheeks. "A princess ought to know something of trade routes, after all."


September 6, 2017

In Which Lettie Has Enough for Now

October 30, 1204

"You know, it's funny: before I had any babies of my own, I didn't think they were that cute. They were just... red and fat and squishy. But from Rennie onward, they were adorable. Granted, I still think they're odd--what with the whole 'perpetually confused and afraid of everything' attitude--but they're cute, and so is that oddness."

As he tended to do whenever Lettie blurted out some ridiculous thought out of sheer discomfort, Abrich just smiled and nodded. She didn't think he did it to be patronizing, but she did sometimes wonder what exactly he would have said to things like that had he been a less tactful man. "I suppose confusion and fear are natural when everything is brand new."

"Maybe. Still strange to think about what must be going on in their heads, though." She gave her new little son a pat on the back. Whatever she thought of babies, she hadn't expected to still be producing them as a grandmother of eight. When she'd married Abrich, the idea for both of them had been convenience and companionship, not reproduction--they'd already had six apiece, after all. But Ramona had been born anyway, and not even a year later, this new baby was around too.

Though, she supposed that did technically fall under possible consequences of 'companionship'...

As did disclosure. Now that she knew her boy was indeed a boy, there was no sense putting off that conversation any longer. She kissed the baby before returning him to his crib, then turned back to her husband.

"So, given our culture's general hatred of bringing new names into the mix, I'd like to name him for my stepfather."

There. Start with the intent. If Abrich had questions, she'd deal with them as they went. Why couldn't her mother have married a man named practically anything else?

"Octavius?" Abrich pursed his lips--probably tallying off Lettie's children in his head. She didn't blame him for that. Everyone they knew had so many children it was impossible to remember who had just what number. "Well, I know he is my eighth, but wouldn't you feel odd about that?"

She shrugged. "Not particularly, no."

She hadn't told Abrich about Prior. Part of her wanted to--she didn't think he'd judge her for it, not when she already had a son out of wedlock that he did know about--and her own parts of that secret were inconsequential. But he'd want the whole story. That would require divulging Searle's secrets, Sparron's secrets, Camaline's secrets... no. What she could say would be insufficient, and the rest was not hers to tell.

"Really? Or is this one of your jokes--naming your seventh kid 'Eighth'?"

"It's not a joke. Like you said, he's your eighth child." But it was her suggestion. Damn. He'd want more than that. "And, Abrich, uh..."

His brows rose, eyes dilated, concerned, alarmed. She thought she could guess what he was thinking, or at least the line of thinking. It was wrong to take advantage, but she could use that.

"Alina... had a twin."

It wasn't a lie. Alina did have a twin. Abrich, from the look on his face, assumed that said twin was a stillborn--and he was sensitive enough that he wouldn't press her for more. Lettie, meanwhile, had never said that Alina's twin wasn't still alive and well and the heir to the Barony of Tetran.

It was a shitty compromise--but unlike the full truth, at least it was hers.

"So... Octavius."

She nodded. "Unless you hate it, of course."

"I don't hate it, no. It's... acknowledgment, isn't it? Of his sibling. Of your child."

"It is, yes." And, she supposed, there was one more piece of the truth she could share. "I think I need that."

And one day, perhaps--if Searle and Camaline were gone, if Prior and Alina were safe from any repercussions--she would tell him more. If she could figure out how.

But for now, the baby had his name. The name had its justification. Lettie had stated some claim to Prior, even if it wasn't complete, even if it would forever be private between herself and Abrich.

For now, that was enough.

"Thank you."