February 27, 2018

In Which Ellona Is Up in the Air

April 19, 1205

Classes had finished over an hour ago, and Ravenhold Keep was not so close to the school grounds that Ellona could dawdle much if she wanted to be home for supper. Supper, however, was not sufficient motivation to hurry.

Her malcontent was probably stupid. Yes, Rahileine--until mere days ago, her youngest and only sibling--was eight. Yes, there was a four-year gap between the two of them. But her parents were still reasonably young, and Ellona knew enough to suspect that the years between children had less to do with any biological difficulties than it did with the fact that pregnancy had not been a comfortable state for her mother, and the fact that both of them had expressed concern more than once about the kingdom's exponential population growth. They were able, healthy adults with--little as she cared to think about it--an active sex life. The eventual third child had likely been inevitable, and its being a boy had been more or less the toss of a coin.

But that toss of a coin had dispelled Ellona's future. Lady Ellona of Ravenhold might have been an improbable scenario, but until her brother's birth, it had been the foreseeable one. Her parents had talked politics with her, let her sit in on conferences, allotted her the occasional duty that came with running their shire. She liked it enough that she doubted they'd take that from her, but there'd be no practical purpose barring any deaths she didn't want to consider. She'd have to start from scratch, to figure out something else to do with her life.

What, though? Both of her grandmothers were self-made women, so that wasn't impossible. But a self-made woman needed a goal, a vision. An idea. Having grown up thinking her future had been laid out for her, Ellona had none of those.

"Huh. I didn't think anyone else was still here."

She looked up, and the long-faced, lanky scarecrow figure that was Bernver Lowan smiled back at her. She greeted him with a blink. She had nothing against Bernver, but she'd never had much to do with him either. The most they'd ever spoken must have been about borrowing a quill.

"I mean--I live near here, at least. You don't."

"I know where I live." She watched his smile twitch somewhat. Perhaps that had been a little snippy. "I needed a place to think." A place that won't one day be the domain of Lord Falidor.

"Oh. Uh, do you want me to leave, then?"

Ellona shrugged. "You can stay if you want. I don't care."

"All right." He sat down at the other side of her table. "Do you want to talk, or--?"

"I don't care." Or maybe she did. A distraction might have been nice. "What do you think you'll do when you're older?"

"Me? Huh. I guess I don't think about it that much." That wasn't surprising. Who did? Until a few days ago, she certainly hadn't. "I'll probably end up being a steward, like my father."

"Do you want to be a steward?"

"Hmm. 'Want' might not be the right word, but I can't really think of anything preferable." And that, really, was the problem. That, plus the fact that there wasn't that was preferable to being Lady Ellona of Ravenhold. "Why do you ask?"

"Because apparently a newborn is more qualified than I am to be my father's heir, so my future is a bit up in the air at the moment."

"Oh." His grin faltered. At least he knew better than to mock her for thinking her parents would never have a son, as she herself had spent the better part of a week doing. "I, uh... I don't really know what to say about that. Other than that I think you'd be a great Lady Ravenhold, that is."

She snorted. "You don't know me."

"No, but I know that you take charge on projects and that others follow your lead. That's something, at least." Again, a grin. Did his mouth even know how to frown? "If you're thinking about this, at least you know how to think about the future. Most of us don't, I think. It's just easier to assume you'll do what your parents do, and maybe that's why so many of us never bother to do anything different, even if there's nothing we'd like more anyway."

"Maybe." But she wasn't quite sure she was ready to make anything of that. "You might not think about the future much, but you have some interesting insights on the present."

"Maybe--but it's probably best to balance both, somehow." Balance--that, she could possibly do, eventually. That was the main job of a lord or lady or empress, after all, even if it was nice to have an aim for that balance. "Anyway, would you maybe like me to walk you home? If your parents ask, we can say you stayed back to tutor me in mathematics; I know my parents would say I need it."


January 5, 2018

In Which Celina Is Wasted

March 16, 1205

Was Celina a horrible mother if she wished her three-day-old baby... did more? Was a little more interesting? Surely it wasn't fair to expect much of a tiny little creature who likely still hadn't figured out just why all these shapes and colors had suddenly sprung into existence, why all these strange beings kept picking her up and speaking to her in sing-song tones, in random patterns of sounds that made no sense.

And surely it wasn't fair to Danthia based on Celina's reaction to her other children! She'd been in awe of Farr for every brief minute she'd seen him. She'd refrained from meeting Nanalie, but the very thought of her was the same. Indeed, she'd been smitten with Danthia too... but, she lived with Danthia. She'd carried Danthia. She would, Lord willing, see Danthia more days than not for at least the next couple decades. Perhaps Dani del Marinos had been right about her. Perhaps she was fickle, fleeting, easily bored.

Her love life had certainly come to prove that. Marsden was a fine lover--the best Celina had had, at least of the men she'd had as a woman, and she doubted she'd have gone through with the marriage if that hadn't been the case. But with each day and night of matrimony, it grew increasingly clear to her that no one person would ever satisfy her. She'd so far kept to her resolve of him being her only heterosexual partner, but she'd indulged in the occasional comfort of a willing housemaid, or followed up on the occasional rumor of a man who might have found her male form pleasing. Who'd known when she'd arrived in Dovia that she'd find one such man in the crown prince, of all people?

Pregnancy, alas, had kept her to one side of her sliding scale of anatomy; she may have been fickle and fleeting and easily bored, but she apparently wasn't so selfish as to risk harming the baby that way. Poor Prince Farilon was probably anxious about why Queen Medea's court hadn't sent any recent news with his favorite 'Naronian Royal Courier'. Worse yet, Celina herself... well, she did like being a woman, most of the time. But she had the rare gift of being able to switch things about! It was such a waste, not taking full advantage of every possibility!

"Ah, Danthia. There are so many things I'm not going to tell you, but let it never be said I didn't warn you that one shouldn't let one's talents lie unused."

The baby replied with a blink of disinterest as she settled into her arms. No surprise. Words, words, words. Babies didn't care about words or what they meant. No doubt Danthia didn't care so much about Celina's mouth as she did about her nipples. What an odd, likely stifling existence--not knowing much of anything, not even knowing enough to care much about not knowing, or to care much about anything at all beyond one's immediate comfort. Where did the will to live come from, when there was so relatively little to live for? Was there some innate promise of greater things to come, whispered in the womb in non-words the unborn understood?

"Well, I suppose I can at least find you baffling, and perhaps that's close enough to fascinating for now." She raised her daughter to a shoulder and rubbed her little back--and in turn, got a yawn for her troubles. "When you're old enough to find things interesting, I hope you find that interest lasts a little longer for you than it ever does for me."