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October 24, 2012

A New Year

Januarius 1, 356


So much has changed in the last year.  Some days I wake up and I don’t even recognize my life at first, until I think about it for awhile.


A year ago, I was still living at the Orphanage.  I didn’t have very many friends, and every time I made one something happened to take them away.  Sometimes I went out by myself, sometimes I stayed in by myself, but no matter what I did I was almost always by myself.


I went to the Almshouse one day in the summer.  I don’t even really remember why I went there, but I remember the rest of the day very well.  There was a group of children there, maybe ten of them.  They were going to the park and asked if I wanted to go with them, so I did.  It was raining like it usually is, but it didn’t matter.  I spent the whole day there with Armidian, Larysa, Emaline, Travin, Braxis, Dolly, Derren, Toz, and Baggs, and after that I just sort of became part of their group.  I started living at the Almshouse with all of them, and I don’t think anyone at the Orphanage probably even realized I was gone, since people come and go so often.


It wasn’t long after that when I met Ashe.  I think she pitied me at first.  All my clothes were old and none of them fit me right, so she gave me a brand new outfit.  Everything was made well and beautiful, and it all matched.  She helped me learn to sew better and I started working at her shop for money, the first real money I’d ever had in my life.  And she was so nice to me.  After I’d been there for awhile, it felt like I was an apprentice and a friend.


Then I joined the Knights.  It’s funny how sometimes what seems like the right decision can actually be the wrong one, and also show you that other ones are wrong.  It was good too, though, because I met Dame ab Mantiff and learned a lot about Lithmore City.  I think it also helped me when I decided to become a Reeve, because she put in a good word for me, and I already knew some things about how to fight.


Being a Reeve isn’t always like I expected it would be.  I get asked to do a lot of the paperwork because everyone thinks I’m smart, but really I have to study the laws a lot to remember them all.  Maybe it’s just because I’m not the strongest fighter…I want to get better at that, though.  Armi’s been helping me.


Armidian is the most surprising part of my life, I think.  The first day I met him, he gave me his cloak and his boots because mine were old and didn’t keep any of the rain out (I gave them back when I got new clothes, of course).  After that everyone teased me about him and said that he loved me, but I didn’t really believe them because he keeps so much to himself.  They were right, though, even if I didn’t realize it right away.  Maybe he didn’t, either.  He’s my best friend now, and even though he’s still quiet about himself sometimes, we talk about all kinds of things.  I don’t know what my life would be like without him.  I don’t really want to.


There’s Mai, too, who is almost as surprising as Armi is.  She’s the last one I met, but somehow she’s one of the most important.  When Yves mal Renarde was still Justiciar, he told me I could get extra pay with the Reeves if I adopted Mai as a dependent, so I did.  It was mostly about the money, but I also thought it would be good for her to have someone to be responsible for her, officially.  The way she disappears and “finds” things, I worry about her getting in trouble.  I don’t think she knew what to think about it at first, but lately she seems happy.  She told me she loves me the other day, and for a minute I thought I misheard her, but I didn’t.


October 1, 2012


Aprilis, 340


The last few weeks have been more difficult than I could have possibly imagined.  Moving around became difficult through Februarius, and in the last week of that month I took to my chambers.  It has been dreadfully dull, being confined to this room with little to occupy me.  The spring weather is worse than usual, but at least I would have been able to walk about the house, otherwise.  Anyway, I have been occupying myself with reading and language study, and some sewing when I feel up to it.  The baby is restless inside me; I expect it will not be long, now.


I have received only one letter since I have been here, from Father.  It says:




We hope this letter finds you in good health.  Your mother and I are at court, where all is well.  Fortunately for you, everyone believes you are ill and sends their wishes for your recovery.  I have heard no rumors containing your name.


Once you are well enough to return home, you will enact a long penance.  Provided you do well, we will allow you to return to court in time for the Yule festivities.


I have arranged for everything to be taken care of, when the time comes, and will see to it that this blemish is dealt with properly.


Your Father


It was vague, of course, in case any prying eyes may have found the opportunity to look at it before mine.  I expected nothing less of him.  Actually, to be completely honest, I had thought it would be worse, and I was thankful that this would be all.  I will do the penance gladly, and with any luck, no rumors will escape to the city when the baby comes.


Although I know this is the way it has to be, I wonder about the baby.  I dream about her, think about her all the time — I believe it is a girl, though my midwife insists it is a boy, given the positioning and other superstitions.  There is a part of me that wants her desperately.


Will she have red hair, or Father’s eyes, or mine?


I know she will be taken from me.  I will not even have the chance to hold her.  She will be given to a wet nurse, then probably taken to one of the orphanages.


Will I be out walking someday and see her on the street, and recognize her?  Will I speak to her, or will I be too much of a coward?  Will she know me?


The midwife is here now.  She is a heavyset woman with light hair and dark eyes, piggish looking, but she is rumored to be one of the best at her trade.  Despite that, I suspect she is a gossip, and the worst kind.  I hope she will not say anything to jeopardize me.  She tells me the pain I have been feeling is a sign that the baby is coming, and is preparing the birthing basin, as well as some other things.  I hate the taste of willowbark tea, but she warned me that this will be unbearable if I do not drink it, so I will force myself.


Lord, this baby will not be still.  Another reason the midwife suspects it is a boy.  My lady’s maid is helping me, bless her, I do not think I could do any of this without her here.  I hope Father will give her a raise when this is all over.  The water in the basin is barely warmed, but it comes as a relief, for I feel I am always hot, lately.


It begins here.


Even with the tea, I can feel the pain the midwife spoke of.  It courses through me like fire, blinds my eyes and my mind.  I can only see glimpses: the midwife’s face, the darkness of the room, the ceiling, my bare legs.  My lady’s maid is holding my hand, encouraging me, but there is so much pain that I can only scream and try to push this baby out of me, try until I am too exhausted to try more, and then try again.  I would curse his name, if only I knew it.


Something in me breaks suddenly, and I think I must be getting closer.  When I look to my maid, though, she looks distressed; she is talking to the midwife, but I cannot hear them for the ringing in my ears.  I try again and I can feel movement, but I cannot tell if it is me or something inside me or something else entirely.  The smell of iron fills my nose and I am blinded again, a brighter white I have never seen.




Physician’s Ledger

Name: Magdalena ab Thule

Date: Aprilis 14, 340

Cause of death: Childbirth

Notes: The baby born early this morning is illegitimate, family wishes the information to be kept private.  Public record to state cause of death as influenza.


September 21, 2012

Fall from Grace

Decembris, 339


Father was furious.


“You have made a terrible mistake, Lena, and you could lose everything because of it.”


It had been five days since I told him and Mother, and still his words echoed through my mind ceaselessly.


“Already, you have lost your innocence, your honor, and your virtue, which can never be redeemed in the eyes of the Lord.”


I suspected it in Augustus, and by Septembris, I knew.  I denied it, though, pretended it would go away, hoped and prayed that it would.  How could I be so unfortunate?  In a moment of weakness I lost my mind, I let temptation get the better of me, and now I was with child.  The Lord of the Springs was making me pay for my sin, and in the gravest way possible.


“If word of this gets to court, you will likely never be welcome there again.”


For the first few months I was able to hide it easily enough, and by the time I was truly showing it in Novembris, it was already so cold that I was covering myself in layers.  No one had noticed, though I sometimes feared my lady’s maid suspected something.  I was often sick in the morning, and when it became persistent I began to send her on early errands so she would not see or hear me vomiting.  I had also taken to dressing myself much of the time, and always wearing a loose chemise in my rooms.


“What man will marry you now?”


By the time Decembris arrived, I was forced to accept my fate, and I knew I could not keep it from my parents for much longer.  When I was not sick from the baby, I was sick over what I was going to say to them.  How could I explain this?  Nothing I could say would absolve me, even if it had happened any other way.  Day and night, I thought of different stories I could tell them, but it did not change anything.


In the end, I told them the truth.


“You have disgraced us, and you have disgraced yourself.”


Father was quiet at first, probably because he was thinking of all the ways he could shame me with his words, which he did.  He also sent a letter after the Charali encampment to release the horse breeder from business with my family.  I cannot begin to imagine what it must have said, and I do not want to.  I have not seen him since that day, and I am sure I never will again.


Mother has not said a word to me.  She excused herself from dinner and went up to her rooms, and I have hardly seen her since then.  When I went back to my rooms that night I could hear her crying, as well as every time I passed during the following day.


“I am sending you to the country immediately.”


I spent the day after my confession packing my trunks and preparing for the journey.  My lady’s maid was kind to me, at least, and I will forever be in her debt for that.  She would come with me, but the rest of the house was already staffed.  Some of the help I knew from the summers we spent there when I was a child, but others would be new.  Father had sent a letter ahead to warn them of my arrival, and to tell them of my shame.


We left early in the morning on the second day.  Neither of my parents came down to see me off.


“You will stay there for confinement and your lying in, and you will remain there indefinitely, until I send for you.”


Winter had set in early this year, which made the journey difficult.  Some of the roads were bad to begin with, and having frozen and thawed a few times already had made them rough.  Father also sent us in one of the lesser carriages, which I am sure he did on purpose, so I spent much of those two days being ill.  It was freezing in the coach, and although I lay under several blankets, my toes and fingers still went numb with cold.  When we finally arrived in the afternoon on the fourth day, for the first time since my confession I was almost happy, mostly because I was so thankful to be out of that awful carriage.


“I will tell everyone that you are ill and needed to leave the city to recover.  You will not have any visitors.”


The country house was much as I remembered it, but I had never seen it in winter.  Its grey stone facade seemed darker, almost unfriendly, the land around it brittle and dead.  I would have to learn to call it home.  Inside it was cold, despite the tapestries hung over the walls and fires lit in almost every room.  I hoped desperately that I would get used to it, at the same time reminding myself that this was penance for me.  As soon as I got up to my room that afternoon, I slept.


Morning light woke me on the fifth day, so bright it forced its way in even through the curtains.  I rose and put on a robe to curb the chill, then walked across to look out the windows.  The fields rolling into the distance behind the house were blanketed thickly with fresh snow that sparkled like tiny diamonds had been scattered across its surface.  Yesterday the land had looked so irreparable and lonely, but in just a short time, it had all had been made pure again.


The snow filled me with hope.  Perhaps everything was not as dire as it seemed to be.  Perhaps I could overcome this mistake and make a good life for myself.  Perhaps my family would forgive me and I could find my happiness again.  I resolved that I would try.


September 16, 2012

On Promises

Augustus 8, 355


One time Mai asked me why people don’t keep their promises.  I didn’t know what to say, so I told her I thought maybe promises are like wishes that people hope will come true, and they mean them when they say them, even if they can’t keep them.


I feel like I’m making a lot of promises, lately.  I think some of them are special.  I want to keep them all.


September 14, 2012

Why it Hurts

Augustus 1, 355


Is it wrong to hurt someone to help them?


We do it to each other all the time.  We hurt each other sparring so we can improve.  We burn mages to cleanse them and send them to the Lord.  We tell each other the truth, even when it’s harder to be honest, because it’s right.


I do, anyway.


He wanted to do everything for me.  I still don’t know why, but he did, and it was okay at first, but then it got hard.  I started to feel like I couldn’t do anything on my own, for myself, and it was so frustrating.  Maybe I should have just told him that, but there was hardly time with everything that’s happened in the last week.  Suddenly it was all wrong, so I ended it, because it was easier.  If I had stayed, it would have felt like a lie.


It’s better this way.  Maybe not now, but it will be.  I think he needs time to figure out what he’s doing, alone.


I do, anyway.


I tried to explain, but I don’t think he understands.  I hope someday he will.


Or at least, forgive me.


September 12, 2012

A Humble Beginning

Quintilis, 339


“Best in kingdom, aye, can be certain.”


Father favored a certain Charalin horse breeder and bought all of our stock from him.  Every few months, the man would come to our estate to check on our horses, and sometimes Father would buy a new horse, if the breeder had any especially good ones.


He was so handsome.


“I am sure he will be,” Father told him with a warm smile.  He was beginning to gray at the temples, streaks of silver threading through his pitch black hair. “I would like to have him, but in truth, we do not need another horse this summer with three new foals.”


There was a small gap in one of the stable walls where I could watch them without getting caught.  I put my face right up to the rough, aromatic wood and looked through the chink with one eye.  It made me feel risky, spying on them like that, even though my governess had gone to her room and my lessons were finished for the day.


“Aye, ‘course, sir.  Need help with the foals?” he asked Father in a rich accent, slipping his hands into the pockets of his leather breeches.  A bronze chain with shiny charms lay against his tanned collarbone where the wide neck of his tunic left his skin bare.  Even though we wear finer jewelry, someone told me that Charali who wear bronze like that are important, like Lithmorran nobles are.


My favorite thing about him, though, was his hair.  It was so red, like the prize roses in the gardens, and it was curly, tied back at his neck with a leather thong.  I had never seen anyone with hair like his; it was exotic, not like mine, plain and blonde.


“They seem healthy, but you can take a look at them if you like.  Lena would be glad to show them to you, I am sure.  I will fetch her.”


Lunare!  Father thought I was in the parlor, and now I was going to have to run back to the house or— no, maybe if I walked in the garden instead, he would see me on the way.  I turned the possibilities over in my mind as I watched Father leave the stable and move in the direction of the house.  Then, picking up my skirts, I began to run in the opposite direction, toward the gardens, hoping I would not be seen.


When I arrived in the gardens, panting from exertion, I could hear Father’s voice calling my name, except not — Lena was not my name, but it was what he called me.  Taking a deep breath, I started around the side of the house.


“Here I am, Father!  I was in the garden,” I called, smiling as he turned to look at me.


He studied my face with his wise blue eyes and asked me where my hat was.  “You are going to get too much sun,” he warned.  My cheeks must have been red.


“You worry too much,” I told him, slipping my arm through his.  “Do you need something?”


“Would you like to show the horse breeder the new foals?”


I nodded and smiled at him and said, “Yes, of course,” hoping I sounded disinterested.


“Good girl,” Father told me, brushing a hand over my hair. “You will find him in the stables.”


“Are you coming?” I asked him.


Shaking his head, Father released my arm and replied, “No, I have some letters to respond to.  Take him out to the field and then see him off after, alright?”


What a stroke of luck!  I struggled to seem impassive as I nodded and started off for the stable.  On my way there I smiled to myself, pleased at the new freedom I was enjoying.  Father never used to let me out of his sight, but now that I was a few months past my En Passant, he was allowing me to spend some time by myself.  I ran my fingers through my hair and smoothed my skirts as I approached, pausing outside for a moment to compose myself.


He was standing inside, his hands pocketed, looking over Father’s bits and bridles.  “Hello,” I called as I approached, smiling.


As he turned to me and smiled, my cheeks grew hot.  “Hello, Lady Lena.”  He greeted me in that Charalin accent, emphasizing the second half of my name instead of the first.


“Father asked me to show you the foals,” I told him, carefully folding my hands in front of me.


He smiled.  “Aye.  Three foals, a good year.”  When he stepped closer to offer me his arm, I got that lightheaded feeling I often get when my lady’s maid cinches my girdle too tight.  It is a good thing I am used to that.


I was grateful to be able to take his arm and lean against him, trying to keep my composure and breathe steadily at the same time while we walked through the garden on the way to the fields.  It was a perfect summer day: sunny but not too hot, a light breeze.  We talked about the weather and the harvest, and I told him about my studies.


“You are very accomplished woman, yes?” he asked me.  Had I impressed him?  Somehow I hoped so; it made me feel flattered.


“No more than any other noble woman my age,” I modestly replied, smiling again, or maybe still smiling.


He smiled back at me.  “And very beautiful,” he added, reaching out to tuck my hair behind my ear.


Oh, Dav, please do not let me faint!


I heard myself suggest to him, “Come this way, through the trees.”  The long way around.  Sometimes when I think back, I am not even sure why I did it.


For a few minutes, we walked through the trees bordering the field in silence.  I snuck a glance at him out of the corner of my eye, and he was looking over at me, smiling.  He stopped walking, so I paused and turned to look at him.


“I’m sorry,” he said to me, suddenly avoiding my eyes with his.  He looked embarrassed.


I watched him for a moment, then shook my head.  “Why?”


He took a step closer.  I had not even noticed how much taller he had grown since the last time I saw him – at least two heads more than me.  He was saying something, something in Charali, something I could not understand.  He brushed my hair behind my ear again.  I felt myself blushing, and then we were kissing.


I had never kissed anyone before.  It felt wonderful and dangerous. I knew my parents would be angry if they found out, but I did not want to stop, and they did not have to know, did they?  A thousand thoughts ran through my mind, and all the while we were kissing, touching, being touched.


Then we were on the ground.  I lay there in the grass, in a pile of blue damask and silk, and he brushed my hair out of my eyes and kissed my face and my neck, he was above me and with me and all around me, and I was there but not there.  I felt outside myself, flying somewhere above us, watching, like a bird.  A breeze rustled the leaves in the trees, throwing dancing spots of sunlight everywhere and bringing with it the smell of urth.


It all happened so fast I hardly realized it until afterward.


We never did see the foals that day.


I did not even know his name.