• July 30, 2012 /  Memoir

    It is a saying you hear at times: wise beyond their years.  A turn of phrase for children and youths who show some modicum of sense.  And yet you never hear ‘wise at their years’.  Perhaps the reason becomes obvious when you look at those years: It isn’t saying much.

    I was certainly no paragon of the virtue at that age.  Not old enough to know the right thing to do, but far too old to listen to anyone else tell me.  I may have had two older sisters, but I can claim plenty of my poor father’s gray hairs.

    I have said before that I would write of Nicki le Vanse.  When I first met her, Nicki ab Lassider was perhaps twelve or thirteen.  Yes, ab Lassider at that time: Amdair’s little sister and his most frequent source of consternation, being her guardian in the city.  She was not a bad child, but she was a child and wise precisely at her years.  I was new in the city at the time, as were she and Amdair, and Nicki was quite excited to work with me to remedy the issue of not having a decent dress that wasn’t back in Casterlay.  I worked with her to design her perfect gown: extravagant purple and gold that would scream her nobility and, at every choice, the option that would make her seem most grown-up.  I didn’t tell her that the frills and fripperies I included catered to her youth, and, when she saw the sketches, she loved it.

    I am not a woman who is good with children.  Nicki had at least the years for a proper conversation, but if it hadn’t been Amdair that had asked, I certainly wouldn’t have volunteered to help her find her way as a productive woman of high society.  I doubt I managed to do her much good, in any case, but it wasn’t long before the situation changed, taking no few of us aback and removing any necessity of my ‘saving’ Amdair.

    To be fair, Gillian le Vanse wasn’t there to see Nicki grow so drunk she was sick on the floor of Kaemgen’s hunting lodge, and she wasn’t there to see her pick the petty fights with my cousin.  (I still cannot say whether Jei disliked her more for being a Lassider or on her own merits, but, to say the least, they did not get along.)  And Nicki could be very endearing, when she wanted something.  But that didn’t help those of us who knew her to understand why the Duchess of Tubor decided to adopt Nicki as her heir, which qualities made the self-centered teenager well suited to lead a duchy, why the cutthroat Tubori would accept a Lithmorran child, and how being ‘just adorable’ prepared her in the least.

    Perhaps she might have been a good choice who could step up and grow into the role, but Duchess Gillian hardly seemed likely to last long enough to give her the chance.  To her credit, along with her delight at suddenly being Nicki le Vanse and someone the Lithmorran court might have to watch its toes around, Nicki did put in her efforts with her tutors.  She was a gracious host when a delegation of Tubori noblemen arrived to court her.  She learned to, and did, act more lady-like.

    But in the wake of Charmaine’s death, with Gillian too feeble to be back and forth between Lithmore and Tubor, little Nicki served as her representative on the Regency Council, one vote in five that ruled the kingdom, though she was not yet sixteen.  She sided with Kaemgen as he tried to tear the kingdom apart, not because of political ideals, but because he was her friend.  I cannot think of a vote where she considered the political impact, the lasting consequences or the moral right over her personal whims.  For all that that is what one expects of a fifteen-year old girl, it is perhaps not the best quality in a regent.  I should have said more against it; the fault in a council is not in the whole but the parts that make it up.

    And she embraced the Tubori attitudes for love in marriage.  Perhaps a little more than the Tubori courting her.  It was expected that Nicki would marry a Tubori nobleman, but I do not think Ryatt le Fontaine was who they had in mind.  A Tubori Baron who dabbled with, and took over, the Brotherhood of Common Goods, I think it was obvious to everyone but love-blinded Nicki that Ryatt didn’t much like her and was just playing her for a chance at the Duchy.  And it seemed that the marriage would happen until le Fontaine instead met his death attempting to assassinate Cellan dul Ansari, then wife to the Keeper of the Seal.

    I mentioned before that I wondered why the Tubori would accept her.  In the end, it seems that they did not.  On Gillian’s death in the Harmon Plague, when we lost so many others, the Tubori refused to accept Nicki le Vanse as their new Duchess.  She had not managed to make herself one of them, a courtship with a dead traitor failing to meet their expectations of marrying one of their own.  Perhaps each imagined himself as Duke.

    I must admit to a little guilt that I was relieved, in the end.  I have not seen her since she was set aside.  I imagine she is back in Casterlay, and I wonder if she still calls herself Nicki le Vanse and if she styles herself as the rightful Duchess of Tubor, unfairly ousted by rebellious upstarts.

    But then, perhaps she has grown from all of it.  It will be a couple of years past her En Passant now.  Perhaps it has been long enough and I am unfair to remember her as she was then.  She was young then, after all.

    I do hope so.

  • June 18, 2012 /  Memoir

    If ever one doubts whether the favor they enjoy touches on how their other dealings are viewed, then finding themselves in poor graces will quickly disillusion them.

    Take for example the one-time Duchess of Farin, Paloma de Preston.  I was there at court when her place in Charmaine’s good graces was suddenly turned upon its head.

    When I first met her, she was Paloma ab Beaufort, the Baroness of Asglen.  Always sweet and gentle, if a bit of an odd duck.  And I might not have been surprised had she one day announced that a duck had called her such.  Her personifications of animals were always an interesting touch.

    An impromptu trip to Montford saw her married to Duke Jaafs de Preston in something of a rushed wedding, before they turned their horses straight around to attend the royal council.  And when she arrives back in Lithmore more than a touch too pregnant, everyone had smiled and overlooked it.  How important is such a thing?  No cause for making a stir.  She was a good woman, however feather-brained, and she was married now.

    But then, several months later, there was Charmaine in the middle of court, hollering for Jaafs’ whore and his bastard.

    It was soon after the assault on Daravi.  Lithmore had had good success overtaking what would be called Edessa.  Jaafs had spoken against the venture from the beginning, though he eventually relented and gave his vote, provided he was to lead a command of his own through the passes.

    To this day, I do not think anyone can say why he withdrew his troops from Edessa, leaving conquered keeps undefended, as he called them back to Farin, without a word to Charmaine, let alone her approval.  Whatever his reasons, the actions swiftly earned Jaafs the title of traitor, and the Council of Three were only too quick to agree.

    And changed his bride’s fortune in a moment.  Paloma made it through that time still duchess, ruling for the time on behalf of her infant, but the views of her were forever changed.

    What once was social adeptness was soon a lack of care for anything but parties.  As one of the co-rulers during the regency council, there was no patience for her oddities or lack of understanding for her own Farin people.

    But Paloma had not changed, only the world’s view of her, and its expectations.

    Her position has shifted again since, but not yet for the better, not for her.  I will not pretend against my relief when her own Council of Three determined she had not met her agreements with Charmaine to marry again and provide young Ingram with a strong Farin stepfather to raise him in Farin tradition.  A match had been considered, a young Kaerrick de Winter, but the Church would not allow it, not with his branding.

    And I have not heard of her since the new duke, a return to the de Montford line, gave word that she would not be welcome in Farin.

    I wonder at times how her tale might have been told had she never fallen from Charmaine’s good graces.

  • May 28, 2012 /  Memoir

    It is in the most troubled of times that people prove what stuff they are made of.  In adversity can we rise to the occasion, or falter.

    Paloma de Preston, the Duchess of the Farin at the time, stepped in to fill Farin’s seat on the regency council.  Gillian le Vanse, the elderly Duchess of Tubor, asked her heir, recently adopted Lithmorran ward Nicki le Vanse, to fill her seat.  I could write a chapter on each of them.  Perhaps I may, another day.  Their stories hardly end or begin here, but the measure I caught of each of them was self-serving.  Decisions were made based on friendships, or simply neglected altogether.

    And Vavard, my beloved home.  We can still not say with any certitude whether Duke Auberon dul Vericus executed his niece for patricide or assassinated the former duke and framed her for it.  I did not find him an incapable duke or ill-intentioned in any of my dealings with him, but there is little praise to be leveled, even without the questions of legitimacy.

    There are others who proved their mettle in those times, for the better, or less so.  I think, though, that the one that most sticks out in my mind, who truly blossomed in this time, is the young woman who would one day be queen.

    Before she was Queen, Royal Seneschal or even the Keeper of the Seal’s new bride, she was Cellan ab Chevalier, the timid daughter of the country count of Mont Innes.  If ever I had doubted that it was at least as much a difference from Vavard City to Lithmore City as it was from the country to the big city, meeting her would have certainly enlightened me.

    I met young Cellan freshly arrived in the city, and overwhelmed would perhaps be an understatement.  She was sweet, though, despite the shyness, and friendly.  Cecil dul Montaigne was an old family friend, which only commended her, though perhaps she relied a bit much on that old tie.  I would be glad to call her a friend from early on, discussing clothes we might put her in and such things as that.

    She certainly garnered attention.  More, I think, than she knew what to do with.  Prince Enakai for example, thought to court Cellan, and she looked to be uncertain of breathing in his presence. 

    When Cecil was granted the new-conquered March of Edessa, she married him, officially at Charmaine’s suggestion.  Many young ladies at court should have been reluctant to be tied to such a land, wartorn and precarious, but Cellan was ever content in the match.  I don’t think, then, she thought of what it meant, or that it would one day mean his life. 

    But then came Charmaine’s death, and the regency council.  And Cecil took his position within the council.  And in the turmoil of those days, the resistance against the council, the Keeper of the Seal’s new wife was a weak spot.  And a target.

    I remember clearly, early on in this time, Cellan huddled frightened beside Cecil as they stood there, speaking of spending time in Mont Innes, because this stress was too much for her.  The righteous anger that she should be submitted to it, simply for who she was married to. 

    It is true, perhaps, if one speaks in ideals; she had done nothing to deserve it.  But I was distinctly unimpressed.  That is the lot of one who dabbles in politics, and all who touch them.  She had been happy enough to see him in the position, but was now disillusioned of the political implications?  There were no attempts at her, merely talk of a threat.

    That might have been the end of it.  Cecil might have settled down, and Cellan might have been nothing more than any other dainty noblewoman, but I think there is really no sense in pretending it now, given everything.  Scant months later, I think she would have been surprised at herself, holding court amongst the city’s ladies, bravely facing what need be faced, and herself starting to politic.  Perhaps with a mix of resignation and understanding, she stepped up to the challenge, the first steps towards those later things.

    And though she may yet be delicate – she is after all a Lithmorran woman, for all my taking on the challenge to teach her Vavardi ways, on behalf of her Vavardi husband – despite that, she has found a strength as well.  And a fire, when she needs it.  The young Cellan I first met in the city would have hardly erupted on behalf of her infant twins, in protection of them against the talk of the omens, but the one she became certainly did.  And if I would not put my own force behind that issue, I can respect, and am glad to see, that she found that in her.

    And I cannot help but wonder if she would have come to it, if not for the testing of those days.

  • May 21, 2012 /  Memoir

    If she had said those words in life, the ones written in her will, none would have batted an eye.  There would have never been a question of it.  None of it the slightest stretch of the imagination to those who knew her.  But now, in her death, Charmaine ab Harmon had lost either her judgement or her strength, or so he would have us believe.

    Undue Vandagan influence.  The accusation was on many lips, Kaemgen ab Beauparlant’s chief among them.  Always charismatic, even then.

    I have said before that living with his wife’s betrayal broke Kaemgen, but in this time, in the wake of Charmaine’s death, was when I learned how deep those cracks ran.  He spoke for Charmaine as her half-brother by marriage, nevermind that those ties were cut for Aureliane’s would-be crimes.  I think that he truly believed it, that he thought he knew her better than any other.  But his protests gave lie to that fact, for all he didn’t see it.  Always they were well and truly his own concerns and never hers.

    Cecil dul Montaigne was an early friend on my arrival in Lithmore.  An unquestionably Vavardi man, I found him well-reasoned and worthy of my respect.  When I met him, he was what the sainted Cardinal Jochen ab Blackwell called his camerlengo, and in the following years he also served as Grand Inquisitor and then Cardinal himself.  When he stepped down as Cardinal, I had not thought it was something which was done, but I did not blame him for it; the weight Lithmore puts upon her Cardinals, the every detail of shameful sin which must be fought, is more than I would ever ask.

    But I digress.  Whatever I might have thought of Cecil dul Ansari, dul Montaigne before his ennoblement, others held darker views.  Cardinal Aidan Samson saw the new Marquis publicly branded for his actions when he was Cardinal. 

    And Aureliane confided to me that the branding was at Kaemgen’s urgings, based on private confessions and driven by old jealousies. 

    I think it surprised no one when Samson disappeared a short time later; Charmaine never recognized Cecil’s branding except in the most practical sense.  Only recently appointed as her Keeper of the Seal, he continued to fill that role behind the scenes as his new wife took it on officially.

    And in her final wishes, Charmaine requested that he take that mantle back up, and with it a seat on a new regency council that would rule, the first seat.  Is it any wonder that Kaemgen objected?  His gambit had failed and his enemy had suddenly become the most powerful man in the Kingdom.

    Of course he did not use those words, and, of course, the arrangement was not a standard one. 

    Ianka von Dusairus’s unborn son, the offspring of Prince Enakai, would be king, and until his majority, a regency council would rule in his place:  each of the Dukes and the Keeper of the Seal, Cecil dul Ansari.  Between them, they were to ensure that Lithmore was wisely governed, five voices to reach sensible and even decisions. 

    Kaemgen protested that Vandago was behind this.  Charmaine would not have wanted this.  We should have her son Enakai as King and it was only through their meddling that she did not declare it so. 

    No matter that she was quite clear in life that he would never inherit, after his actions at the royal summit.  And that Vandago was likely offended that neither the unborn king’s mother nor grandfather were to serve as regent.  And that Anastaci von Dusairus was soon found just as dead as Charmaine.  It was far easier to point to Charmaine’s trust of Anastaci, her Keeper’s brand, and the fact her will was changed only shortly before her death.

    We fought, Kaemgen and I, in the days following Charmaine’s death.  His words were incendiary.  The people would not stand for it.  Vandago must be stopped.  Enakai should be crowned.  But I would not listen to his madness, and it drove a wedge between us.  I would not condone war, and I told him I believed Charmaine’s wishes were her own.  And I told Cecil of his rebellion, worried for his sanity.  He saw demons everywhere, overtaken by the suspicion that had become his life.  I think he truly believed them, in the dark place that his life had become, but I would not let it influence me against Charmaine’s words, whatever friend he might once have been.

    And then he was gone, fled into hiding.

    I worried for him, but the Kingdom needed me.  They would be hard times, especially if Kaemgen incited riot, and the Regency Council was untested.  I would advise them as best I could, rising to whatever challenges would be ahead in a world without Charmaine.

  • April 18, 2012 /  Memoir

    There are those times which seem to turn your life upon its head.  Everything changes in a moment.  They can be good, and they can be bad.  But rarely is one moment so successfully both.

    I stood in the courier’s office, newly received letter in hand, not knowing what to think.  Her Majesty’s words.  I was at once profoundly honored by her words and fighting off panic at their tone.

    I read through it once again.

    M’Lady Chancellor of the Exchequer,

    I have decided to appoint you to the vacant barony of Lyndale, if you are willing to take up the mantle of Baroness in Lithmore.  Your dedication as Chancellor of the Exchequer has been noted, and appreciated, and I wish to make you more integral to the state, and to reward you and your bloodline.

    You have my full confidence to remain as Chancellor of the Exchequer for as long as you should wish it.  Please see to the realm and to her finances and well-being, and if you could see to the census, that would be greatly regarded- I have not had the time to see to and guide it in the manner that I would have wished.
     
    Charmaine.

    *Stamped with an Eagle*
    *Sealed with a Chalice*

    I have decided to appoint you to the vacant barony of Lyndale.

    It is not that I never aspired to the nobility.  Vavardi ambition is legendary after all.  But I did not expect it would just happen.  And here it was, out of nowhere, in my hand, Charmaine’s words.  Through no action of my own.  Not the culmination of any great plan.  Not bought through any great action.  Just handed to me by this simple courier.

    And she was saying goodbye.

    I refused to believe it.  She was not that ill.  No matter that she used that dreadful doctor to help her to sleep. She was not that ill.  Not that old.  She was to be married again, whenever the arrangements were made.  To a Vavardi princeling half her age.  I had made her the gown already, a regal affair worthy of her majesty.

    And the kingdom needed her still.  We were in the midst of a war in Edessa.  Her war.  Just a few years, she and Caria had promised us, and Daravi would be ours.  She wouldn’t leave us now.

    The price of my barony wouldn’t be the life of my queen, the woman I respected above all others in the kingdom, my friend.

    But even while I did not want to think it, I knew.  A comet streaked across the sky, and I knew.  All around me, the bells cried out her death, the criers shouted it out from the corners.  And there I stood in the courier, allowing myself those few moments of it feeling like a dream, because I knew.

    These would be hard times and Lithmore would need me.  It would need me to be strong, stronger than I had ever been.  I could step up or despair, and it wasn’t really any choice.

    And I would not let her down.

  • April 14, 2012 /  Memoir

    Where Charmaine was ever constancy and august splendor, Princess Aureliane mal Harmon was caprice and whim.  Ever a whirlwind.  I remember the first time I met her.  She had sent word she wished to see designs, just whatever I had on hand.  And I had rifled through my sketchbooks, pulling out six designs I thought worthy to show her.  We hit it off immediately, and she declared that she wanted them all, with different gold jewels for each.  It was obvious with that, if it had not been before, that this was a woman who lived in the moment.  And it ever was her way, both as an endearing quality and her greatest weakness.

    It was the way of her marriage as well.  Hearing of it was both a surprise and none at all.  I have written of Kaemgen ab Bretagne before, a dear and early friend in Lithmore.  I had come to visit him at his hunting lodge, the fashionable gathering spot in those days.  I knew already that Liany fancied him and he was enamoured with her, but she was recognized as a princess of the realm, for all the illegitimacy.  Even for a young Baron of Seahome, such a match is hardly a given.  Upon arrival, I was whisked off to a private corner and sworn to secrecy, until the official announcements were made and banns are posted.  The Queen had consented; Kaemgen and Liany would marry.  Further, they would establish together a new house, granted a march by the Queen to increase Kaemgen’s status to one more suitable for royal connection by marriage.  It seemed as well that Charmaine feared her half-sister’s impulsiveness; the nuptials would be promptly handled, within the bounds of propriety.

    As to be expected, the wedding was the event of the season, though I must admit, I still shake my head to myself when I recall that the reception was made a masquerade.  One simply does not make an event in which there are guests of honor a masked affair.  It entirely defeats the purpose, but one also does not refuse the Princess Aureliane.  It was a beautiful wedding with reception held aboard the Kirulean Jewel, Her Majesty’s flagship.  The happy pair began their new lives together as Kaemgen and Aureliane ab Beauparlant, Marquis and Marchioness of Avonna.  They were drunk in love and expecting a child before their return from honeymoon in Vavard.

    I believe in passion and taking moments as they come.  There is much joy to be had in this world and I see no reason to let it escape us.  However, I would draw the line at tying my happiness now to my forever.  What comes in a moment may be gone as quickly.  That was the way of it for my two friends.  In their youth and impulsiveness, it began to dawn on them that there was much they didn’t know about the other and more they weren’t prepared to accept.  Liany confided in Kaemgen things that he couldn’t handle, that soured his views on her friends.  And he reacted to this through trying to control her, refusing her their friendship, berating her her resistance against complying with it.  The happy facade grew slowly to just that as the love crumbled away from within.  They cared for one another still, but tolerating one another became quite another story, and the occasional tender moments, such as the beautiful baby shower he planned for her, weren’t enough light to illuminate the darkness that had grown.

    It did not come to a head at court, but that was where it broke open for all to see.  Charmaine was somber as she addressed us, having only just emerged from private discussion to sort out the details.  ‘What would you do with a nobleman who has made designs against the life of another?’ she asked us.  The response was immediate and vehement, but I think she knew already what she would do.  I think all were shocked at what she proceeded to tell us.  I knew things had grown bad, but even I was surprised at just how much.  Kaemgen’s contacts in the Brotherhood liked him better, it seemed, than gold, and quite a bit of it.  They had passed on word to him that Olither ab Chettle, the Count of Brune in those days, had attempted to secure a contract for the assassination of Kaemgen ab Beauparlant.  He had done so as a part of a conspiracy between himself and Princess Aureliane to remove her no longer welcome husband.  The tone of the room was palpable.  Olither would be stripped of his county, and, while her marriage would be maintained, Aureliane would no longer have the right to call herself princess.

    And so Kaemgen was left with a very pregnant wife who had tried to arrange for his assassination.  I cannot imagine living in such a state, and I think now I would mark this as the beginning of his downfall.  But as everything involving them, it did not remain the same for long.  Chettle, it seems, did not take well to being stripped of title.  He gathered what men his money would hire, with as few compunctions as possible.  I was not there for it and so will better leave it for others who were to describe, but their rampage ended within the hospital.  Chettle was dead, but not before he had slit Liany’s throat, perhaps there to stop him in a last, futile effort to redeem herself.

    And the child that she carried?  It was instead children, twins plucked from their fallen mother’s womb.  It was not certain if they would live, so early and born in such a way, but they did then, surviving as an ominous last testament to the ill-fated match.

  • March 5, 2012 /  Uncategorized

    Marisa dul Damassande, portrait by Jia Flynn! 

     

  • February 25, 2012 /  Uncategorized

    I like to think that even if she had never noticed me, I would still hold her as the ideal queen.  I remember still the first I saw her, Her Royal Majesty, Queen Charmaine ab Harmon in all her regal splendor.  I was yet Grand Magnate then, newly arrived to the city, and she held a reception at the palace.  Dignified, she seemed to demand respect by her very presence, receiving my cousin, Lassider, Bretagne – even Chettle in those days.  She offered each boons and each tried to outdo the other in the way in which acceptance of her magnanimous offer ingratiated themselves to her – to provide her wise suggestions as to a bride, to keep them in mind for a suitable position at court, to be allowed to count himself among Her Majesty’s friends.  I don’t believe anything came of it, but that is the way of court.  Well chosen words serve better than but one boon.  Offer to give and they will fall over themselves to give you all the more.  She was a master at statescraft.

    And there was dancing.  I remember asking Prince Enakai to dance.  He had just stepped into the role of Royal Seneschal, receiving the honorary title of Duke of Bren created for him.  I don’t think Charmaine was terribly pleased at it. She offered to the Lord Chettle that he might ask me for the next dance.  We didn’t know then how black his heart was, and he was surprisingly light on his feet for a man of his size.  Perhaps his eyes might rove, but I have never been a one to object to being appreciated.  There is a far cry between that and entertaining the notion.  It is strange to think how much, even in the times before they all died, favor has shifted since.  Enakai disinherited, Chettle stripped of his title, and myself in great favor.

    And the favor I enjoyed was great indeed.  I think sometimes there is no way to earn greater loyalty than to recognize and reward talent where others have not.  I believe I still have the letter in which she asked me to step down as Grand Magnate and be her Chancellor of the Exchequer.  How could I not rise to the occasion?  Proud at the trust placed in me, I suddenly found my success measured in the success of the kingdom, in Charmaine’s success.  She was glad to leave the kingdom’s finances in my hands and I was just as glad to make them thrive.

    The Royal Council in which we prepared the assault on Daravi proved an early chance to prove myself. Others went into it with their own goals, but I had in mind just for Charmaine to achieve hers.  And for her to know that I helped to make it happen.  And so we would go to war, as long as it would not mean I would later have to explain to her why the kingdom was broke.  I brought her the mercenaries, and I arranged a good deal for supplies from the merchants – better than what she had asked of me.  I engaged the other notables on their own level.  Dukes and Duchesses from each land, emissaries from the lesser lands, guild representatives.  Why should I not, after all?  I was the hand at the Queen’s purse strings and it was all on her behalf.  Wholeheartedly to her goals.

  • February 15, 2012 /  Memoir

    Lithmore is to Vavard as Arely ab Bretagne is to me.  It has been said we were both beautiful, and I shall certainly not object, but if we are in any way the same, it is surely different sides of the same coin.  Seahome’s delicate flower, you could as soon call me delicate as you might call her vivacious.  I do not believe she ever spent more than a few moments in my presence before something distressed her or she felt faint and needed to recover. 

    Kaemgen ab Bretagne was one of my earlier friends in the city.  If I have not written of him before, I shall surely do so elsewhere – he certainly had impact enough for a few words.  But for now, I write of his sister.  I remember his being so excited that I should meet her, and I remember later his asking me to confirm to others how marvellous she was.  I told them that she was everything that a delicate Lithmorran flower was expected to be.  Oh, and she was.  Demure, fragile, and with about as much personality as a limp noodle.  For some reason, they never heard what I thought behind those words.

    Amdair ab Lassider, on the other hand, was someone I felt akin with.  Becoming quickly friends, we could banter for hours at a time.  Jei hated him, of course, but Jei distrusts anyone who speaks more smoothly than he – and it doesn’t help that there was some issue between his aunt Mirielle, the Butterfly Knight, and a Lassider.  In Amdair I saw someone with the same outlook on life, enjoying it, for one, and respecting strength, accomplishment and independence.  I worked with him as Baron Casterlay, a high-ranking official of the Reeves, and Admiral of the Queen’s navy, first as Grand Magnate and then later Chancellor of the Exchequer.  As a friend too, I remember we secretly bid together on the Sea’s Flame, beating out Queen Charmaine and the Duke of Farin- if I’d never used it, I wouldn’t have regretted a silver of the coin put into that ship for the enjoyment of that bidding.  But always, he was an ally.

    I was there too when he asked Kaemgen’s permission to marry his sister.  All were taken aback, surprised.  We had had no notion that Amdair fancied Arely.  But I felt betrayed as well.  We were never lovers, Amdair and I, and I never thought to marry him.  Rather, it was a betrayal of ideals.  Had he secretly always only wanted a demure slip of a thing who needed protecting?  I was offended at the lack of taste from someone who I had thought a like mind.  And I was disgusted to see him turn into a lovesick puppy as they transformed from secret paramours to newly betrothed.  The wedding was a hurried affair, managed in the last weeks before he left for the assault on Daravi.  Neither was I invited nor did I attend.  As a wedding gift, a bottle of fine capuan and a scandalous (by Lithmorran standards) set of house silks were delivered by mail.  For some reason, I don’t expect she ever wore them, but I hoped more it made Amdair think.

    Fragile, delicate – when used with ladies, one does not often recall that they mean easily broken, but Arely ab Lassider- Arely is fragile blossom who broke.  I never visited her after word came from Casterlay that Amdair had been killed in a bandit attack.  I doubt my condolences would have eased her pain in the least.  I did hear from others that it did not go well by her. Do not define yourself by a man – even the best of men – because what are you when he is gone?  I mourned Amdair’s loss.  But from what I hear, Arely did not.  In fact, she did not acknowledge that he had died at all.  Jei reported her to be lost to eery time forgotten, living on as if she believed Amdair and her brother Kaemgen were there in the house with her.  Utterly broken, down to her mind.

    She was perhaps my antithesis, but never an antagonist – not to my mind.  It seems she did not share my view on this.  I received a messenger from Arely, who I’d all but forgotten existed.  It felt immediately wrong.  But I was invited to tea and decided it would be impolite to refuse.  She had never invited me to anything before.  I brought my bard with me, in addition to my usual attendants.  It was wrong there too, everything just a shade off of right.  But there was nothing wrong enough.  Nothing for which I could call out a widow who looked a bit like death warmed over.  Until, of course, she tried to shut me in a wardrobe and stab me, accusing -me- of stealing Amdair away from her.  Thankfully, my men were close at hand.  I escaped with my life and most of my dignity.  Perhaps a few bruises only.  And while we closed her in her suites and ran to report on the mad baroness to His Royal Majesty, she tried to burn the palace down.

    For some reason, I cannot find it in me to even pity her.  And she is who Amdair wanted?  If I am ungenerous, then let it so be.

  • February 15, 2012 /  Memoir

    We might not have been close.  Not quite ten years younger than I am, the blood ties are not really that near.  After his grandmother’s mother died, his great grandfather married again to a younger woman – my grandmother.  He is thus my half-aunt’s grandson.  But cousin really is easier to say.

    However, chance had other things in mind, it seems.  We both arrived in Lithmore about the same time, Jei and I.  Myself as the new Grand Magnate, and he only recently Count of Endridge after the death of his father.  I had met him before when he visited family in Vavard, but the age difference really seems to matter more when it puts your cousin as a less than ten year old boy.  So many years later, we fell into an easy friendship, each glad to know someone else in the big city.

    I thought it only right to speak of my cousin now, this early in my tale, because of all of my relationships in Lithmore, it has been a constant.  So many others have come and gone, but he was my first friend in the new city and counts among them still.  With ups and downs, but generally towards the stronger.

    In truth, it really needs make sense to no one but us.  I buy him tea and cake and, in return, he allows me to buy him tea and cake.  We tease one another mercilessly.  I grant as little concern to loaning him great amounts of coin as I do to putting my life in his hands.  We don’t keep secrets from one another on any great scale.  No one else seems to understand it, but it works for us.

    That is perhaps the crux of Jei.  He is a good man.  Accept that he is not any other man and you can appreciate what he is.  Those who say he has no sense of humor simply do not understand it – and I cannot blame them, for I often do not.  His methods are often not expected or appreciated, but behind them is just what he thinks right and necessary.  His wedding- my goodness, his wedding.  It seemed a farce.  Nagaita and he were trading insults- I don’t know how many times he mentioned burying her in the flower gardens now that all her gold was his.  But it wasn’t my wedding and they were happy.  And he did love her; losing her to bandits was nearly the end of him.  How any of it seemed to me or anyone else never mattered.  Jei is Jei and, I can only assume, will continue to be so. 

    And I value him and his friendship I think more than he realises.

Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer