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Author Topic: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen  (Read 4666 times)

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Offline Evie

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Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« on: August 08, 2011, 09:25:30 am »
   Chapter Sixteen

   July 5, 1134
   Tre-Arilan


   Grub giggled as I whispered the final details of the plan to her.  She nodded with enthusiastic approval, the motion bobbing her deliberately lopsided braids to comical effect.  Avisa rolled her eyes at both of us, though it was clear she was having trouble stifling laughter.  There was another woman in the party.  I had no clear idea where Avisa had found her, but by the looks of her, evidently she’d been plying her trade in some back alleys of Rhemuth, and by my guess, not very successfully.  She smiled at me, proudly displaying three missing teeth.  Clearly the coin purse Avisa had given her, with the offer of filling it with more coin once our need for her assistance was over, had made her quite kindly disposed to our unusual venture.  Every so often she felt the need to fish it out of her ample cleavage to ensure it was still there.  The coin purse, that is, not her cleavage.  Given the state of her clothing, that was impossible to miss.

   “So, do you understand your part in all this?” I asked the woman.

   “Aye, luv, I'm tae marry ye.”  She gave me a bold once-over.  “Shouldnae be much of a hardship, that.”

   I rubbed the bridge of my nose, wondering if maybe I'd got in over my head again with this idea.  Avisa replied, sparing me the need to.  “You won't actually be marrying Sextus, you understand.  All we need is for his brother to think he intends to wed you, then we'll take it from there.”

   “His brother's meant tae think he'll wed me?  How are ye gonna convince him o' that?

   I buried my face in my palm.  “Look, we'll explain later.  For now, when we go in to see my brother, can you just pretend you're crazy about me and eager to become my wife?  Even though that's not going to happen.  Ever.”

   “No?”  She looked briefly disappointed, then perked back up.  “Wha' about a quick tumble, then, luv?”

   “No!” Avisa and I answered in unison.  

#

   I entered first, making a few inquiries of the first person I saw, who was our manorial steward.  He appeared happy enough to see me.

   “Will you be staying long, Sir Sextus?  Shall I have your room prepared?”

   “No need, Matthew.  I'm just paying the family a quick call.

   He smiled.  “There's a lot of that going on today.  The Ban-Tiarna and her lord are here as well for a brief visit.”

   I was surprised by that. “My sister Jashana is here?”  I stifled a smile at Matthew's order of precedence.  Ard-Tiarna Mihall of Llyr, of course, would normally have been announced first in any Court of the Eleven Kingdoms, but Matthew had served as our family's steward since our childhoods, and in a private conversation with one of the Arilan sons, strict adherence to formality evidently flew out the window.  For Matthew, at least, Jashana would always take higher precedence despite Mihall's greater rank, being family.

   “She and her husband arrived earlier this morning.”  Matthew beamed.  “Your sister is expecting an heir—or, rather, an heiress—sometime in November, and Lady Sophie has set aside a few items to pass on to her, so they've come to collect them.  They're upstairs in the solar.  I'm sure they'll be delighted to hear of your arrival, my lord.”

   “No, no, don't announce me!”  I grinned.  “I'd prefer to surprise them, if you don't mind.  No need to escort me upstairs.”

   Matthew bowed.  “As you wish, my lord.”  He withdrew, returning to his tasks.  I waited until he'd moved out of sight, then gave the signal for Grub and the hired woman to join me.  Avisa followed also, though at a slight distance, for she was going to serve as lookout until the moment was right for her to reveal herself.  “It just occurred to me that I don't know your name,” I whispered to the hired woman as she approached.  “What should I call you?”

   “It's Hortense, m'lord.”  She grinned. “I'm told it means 'garden.'”

   I stifled a laugh.  It did indeed, and judging from the reek of her perfume, she'd quite taken that to heart.  She smelled like she'd rolled in every flower bed between Rhemuth and Tre-Arilan.  “All right, Hortense, just follow me upstairs.  The situation has changed from what I expected—it seems a private meeting with my brother in his study will no longer be possible—so we might need to improvise a bit.  Just follow my lead.”  I glanced down at Grub.  Avisa had done an impressive job with preparing my child for this visit, if by 'impressive' one meant equipping the lass with worn-out boy's clothing, threadbare and dirt-stained, the tunic too short to fully cover the dingy, stained braies worn underneath, and the chausses barely long enough to tie to the fraying waistband.  One untidy braid began several inches higher on her small head than the other, and both were secured with twine, with a sad, faded ribbon threaded through one braid as if in random afterthought.  In short, Grub looked exactly as Seisyll probably expected she'd look after two months in my keeping without Sophie's patient hand-holding every moment of the day.

   At the top of the stairs, I motioned for Hortense to linger behind until I called her into the room.  I planned to make a grand entrance of it.  Flinging open the solar door, I dragged Grub in after me.  “You were right, Seisyll,” I proclaimed dramatically.  “I can't take it anymore.  It's much harder than I thought it would be, this fatherhood business, and I simply can't do it alone.”

   Every eye in the room swiveled towards me.  There was a shocked silence, then a stifled giggle from one corner and a small gasp from another.  I glanced towards the giggle first.  It was Jashana, a huge grin nearly splitting her face.  “Hello, dear brother.  Is this my niece or my nephew?”  Beside me, Grub giggled back and reflexively dropped a polite curtsey, almost spoiling the effect of appearing before my family dressed like an undomesticated street urchin, though fortunately the effect of a curtsey while wearing a short tunic and chausses was so ludicrous, the polite reverence merely heightened the overall impression instead.

   I turned towards the other corner.  Sophie sat looking stunned, one hand held loosely over her mouth, looking torn between amusement and horror.  Seisyll, recovering from his initial shock, was swiftly moving towards indignation.  He raised his brows at me.  “You surely aren't hoping to move back here, are you?  Have you lost your position at Kinlochan already?”

   “No, no, it's not that...if anything, I suppose you could say I've got a promotion of sorts....”  I suppressed a smile as a skeptical look crossed my brother's face.  “Thankfully, the increase in salary means I can afford to take a wife now.  Not that I was really looking for one, mind, but there's a daughter to think of now....”  I shrugged.  “And someone's got to keep the chit in hand while I'm hard at work.  I can't do it all myself, you know.”

   Seisyll turned a look of foreboding towards his wife before looking back at me.  “So you're hoping I can arrange something that will suit?  Perhaps introduce you to some of the knights' daughters at Court?”  He looked as if he dreaded the task, doubtless trying to figure out which knight he could most afford to risk turning into a permanent enemy by offering up his wastrel brother as a potential son-in-law.

   “No, no, saved you the trouble, picked my own woman, you see.  Hortense, darling, come meet my family!”

     Whatever coin Avisa had lavished on this woman, it was worth the expense.  Hortense sashayed in with all the brazen confidence of a woman accustomed to doing unmentionable things in unspeakable places, giving my brother a bold once-over before turning her gaze towards Michael of Llyr.  “Ooh, yummy!” she purred.

   Mihall's lips twitched and unholy mischief gleamed in his eyes.  I knew I'd be hearing about this later.  Seisyll's eyes widened, and his jaw dropped momentarily.  He collected himself with an effort.  Sophie colored and dropped the hand covering her mouth a few inches lower to press against her bodice.  I wondered if she was hoping somehow to vicariously cover Hortense's abundance of exposed cleavage with the gesture.

   “You can't...are you?...you're not....”  It was difficult to determine what Seisyll was trying to stammer out, but whatever it was, it was silenced by mute horror as Hortense stroked my arm and laid her perfume-redolent head against my shoulder.

   “I'm honored tae meet ye fine folk, sure an' I am!  I'll take good care of our sweet Sextie, really I will.  Ye can count on me tae take care o' him in every way possible.”  She batted her eyelashes up at me.  

   I grinned back.  “Indeed you do, sweeting. In every way possible.  Including that new Bremagne techni—”

   “SEXTUS!!!”  Seisyll had recovered enough to roar.    

   Jashana couldn't hold back any longer.  She burst out laughing.  “Seisyll, he's just winding you up.  He's not really intending to marry.”  She grinned at me. “Are you?”

   Hortense looked up at me for her cue.  Grub smiled winningly at Jashana.  “Oh, yes he is!”

   “Grub needs a mother,” I persisted, though now that Jashana had seen through my act, I figured the jig was nearly up anyway.

   “Grub?!” Sophie looked startled, and I suddenly realized my family had never heard me use the nickname.  Not surprising, since I'd not seen them since moving from Tre-Arilan, and my infrequent correspondence had only referred to my daughter as Amanda, if at all.

   “I'm certain she does,” Jashana said.  “But I'll also wager my last penny that Grub's future mother, whoever she might be, isn't in this room right now.”

   “No,” said a laughing voice at the doorway, “but she's about to be.”  

   I whispered my thanks to Hortense, slipping a small gold coin into her cleavage.  She retrieved it, her eyes huge, then gave it a bite to verify its authenticity and grinned, dipping into a clumsy curtsey before stepping to one side to fumble inside her bodice for her coin purse.

   “Family, may I present my affianced wife Avisa Moreau, Baroness Kinlochan?”  The door opened, and Avisa stepped in, her eyes brimming with suppressed mirth.  “Avisa, sweeting, meet the rest of my family—God help you!”

#

   “How did you know?” I asked Jashana once the surprised hubbub had died down, Hortense had been released to await our return along with the coachman, and Seisyll's color had subsided from an alarming shade of crimson to something more closely resembling his normal complexion.
 
   She laughed.  “I know you, boyo.  You may be no saint, but you've never been that undiscriminating, even as a randy youth let loose in Rhemuth for the first time!  Sweet Jesú, where did she find that perfume?”

    “What I want to know is, why the act?” Seisyll asked, still looking a bit out of sorts.  “What purpose did that serve?”

   “Forgive me, Sir Seisyll, but that was actually my idea,” Avisa told him.  

   Seisyll stared at her, surprised.  “Yours, my lady?  But...why?”

   Avisa smiled at him with a faint look of challenge in her eyes.  “Be honest, my lord.  Let's suppose Sextus had simply come home and announced to you that he intended to wed.  What sort of woman would immediately cross your mind as his most likely choice—someone closer to Hortense, or someone you'd consider perfectly respectable and suitable for a lord's wife?”

   “I....well....”  Seisyll looked at me.  “Sextus has a long record of making unfortunate choices in the past, I'm afraid.” Noticing Avisa's raised eyebrow, he hastily added, “Though I assure you that I heartily approve of his more recent choices.  They give me hope he might be learning to be more responsible.”

   “It could be he's become more responsible simply because he's been given greater opportunities in which to prove himself, and in his own way.”  Avisa squeezed my hand.  “Not to mention he's had more motivation to prove himself and his capabilities lately, whereas before, it was more to his advantage to act below everyone's expectations.  How else was the poor man to have any sense of freedom and control?”  She gave me a sympathetic smile.

   Seisyll looked baffled.  “I'm sorry, I'm afraid I'm not following you.”

   Avisa gave me an encouraging look, saying nothing more.  I sighed, hoping I could articulate my position in some way my older brother could understand.  “Look, Seis, it's like this.  Ever since Father died, we've had all sorts of expectations piled upon us.  Maybe it might have been different if we'd been older—hell, if I'd even known the man—but you were only four and I was just a few months old when you became Laird of Tre-Arilan and I became your heir apparent.  Oh, sure, we didn't have the responsibilities to go with the titles yet, but all those expectations were there, piled high on our tiny shoulders.  It was like...like we never really had a chance to be children, or at least it wasn't the sort of carefree childhood that might have made the assumption of those duties easier for us later on in life, when we were both more ready for them.”  I shrugged.  “You dealt with those pressures in your own way, and I dealt with them in mine.  I suspect your way led you to try your damnedest to be perfect, or at least as close to it as you could possibly manage,   And if you had to live up to all those expectations, then you bloody well expected everyone else around you to do the same.”

   He nodded, a glimmer of understanding beginning to dawn in his eyes.  “And your way of coping?”

   “I went the opposite route.  I figured there was no way I could live up to all those expectations and those examples held up to me—hell, I couldn't even live up to you! How was I supposed to emulate some larger-than-life, heroic example of a father who I can't even remember, but who Mother and Denis always talked up as if Jamyl Sextus Arilan had always been seated at the right hand of God?  So I didn't bother even trying.  Instead, I learned it was a lot easier just to work towards minimal expectations.  If I was going to disappoint anyway, I  might as well have my fun in doing it, and if by some chance I put forth extra effort and did well in some areas, you'd all be pleasantly surprised even if my efforts ended up falling somewhat short of perfect.”

   Seisyll was quiet for a long moment.  “I never realized you felt that way, Sextus,” he said at last.  

   “You never asked.”  I considered that for a moment.  “Though to be honest, even if you had, I probably wouldn't have owned up to it.  I was too envious of you.”

   “Of me?”  Seisyll looked startled.  “But why?  I know you never wanted to be the heir; Jesú, if I'd ever thought that, the look of stark relief on your face when I told you I had a newborn son would have disabused me of the notion in an instant!”

   “No, you're right, it was never that.  It's just...aside from a few incidents now and again, you mostly seemed to have it all figured out.  You took on full responsibility for the family as soon as you were old enough to assume a man's role, and you made it seem almost effortless.”

   “Effortless?”  Seisyll laughed.  “I felt like I was swimming upstream against a rushing current the entire time.  I still do, sometimes.  Especially when I'm dealing with you, you git!”  He grinned.  

   Sophie laughed quietly.  “Oh, I assure you Seisyll has a lot of doubts and uncertainties at times, just like anyone else. He's just more private about them.”

   Seisyll's expression softened as he glanced at his wife. “And without Sophie to help keep me sane, I'd probably have turned out to be even more of a git myself, in my own way.  As a certain obnoxious younger brother of mine once reminded me, the trait seems to run in our family.”  A wry smile softened his words.

   Jashana grinned as she looked up from straightening Grub's braids.  “In the male members, yes, it certainly does.  Thank God I'm having a daughter!”

   “I hope you can pardon our unorthodox way of announcing our betrothal,” Avisa said, addressing Seisyll once again.  “It was very important to me that you see Sextus as I do. He really isn't hopeless.  In fact, in the short time he's been a steward-in-training at my son's estate, he managed to impress all three of my senior stewards by bringing up some new ideas and methods for land and household management that they're hoping to implement next season to improve efficiency.  He’s won their respect, which is quite essential seeing as he’s going to end up being their lord now until my son reaches his majority, instead of simply being another member of my son’s extended household.”  Her eyes sparkled amusement at me.  “Which isn't to say he isn't sometimes capable of astonishing stupidity—remind me to tell you later about our recent visit to your uncle and your sister Javana—but that's not his due to any defect in his natural intelligence, nor is it his default behavior, at least not when it's in his best interests not to be a lout and a libertine.”

   “Oh, thanks sweeting! I love you too.”

   Mihall grinned.  “Get used to the backhanded compliments, Sextus.  Wives excel at that sort of thing.”


Chapter Seventeen:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=750.0
« Last Edit: August 15, 2011, 09:24:54 am by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2011, 11:17:59 am »
That was wonderful!  And not what I expected at all.  If Denis had been there, he would have seen through the ruse immediately, but its a shame he missed the dialogue between Seisyll and Sextus.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2011, 11:30:01 am »
That was wonderful!  And not what I expected at all.  If Denis had been there, he would have seen through the ruse immediately, but its a shame he missed the dialogue between Seisyll and Sextus.

Oh, you know he'll doubtless be treated to a second-hand view of it later, as witnessed through Jashana's eyes.  She would leap at the chance of sharing that moment with her dear Uncle Denis!   ;D
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2011, 11:43:51 am »
"The coin purse, that is, not her cleavage."  LOL!!!  And "yummy" at Mihall.  Fun chapter!

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2011, 03:16:32 pm »
Jashana should really have kept her mouth shut and seen how long the ruse could have been kept up.

Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2011, 04:22:30 pm »
I don't think Seisyll's heart could have taken much more.   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Alkari

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2011, 05:26:32 pm »
Yes, where did a nice lady like Avisa ever find Hortense?!  :D

LOL @ Mihall, whom I suspect has always appreciated Sextus a little more than poor Seisyll.


Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2011, 06:04:45 pm »
Hortense would have been easy to find.  Avisa just had to find some likely street corner in Rhemuth and then follow her nose.   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2011, 07:24:45 pm »
The stuff - or rather the scent! - of future Arilan family legends!   And why can I just see Grub telling Uncle Denis that she really has seen a Bird of Paradise ... ?  ;)


Offline Jerusha

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2011, 07:52:56 pm »
Priceless!  ;D
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2011, 08:51:56 pm »
I would have paid a very large amount of money to see the look on Denis' face if he had seen Hortense.  That moment would have been priceless.
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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2011, 10:11:13 pm »
"Deer Unkel Denis Six brot a Burd of PairoDice to meet Unkel Seesil but Unkel Seesil maid us taik her bak.  She wuz fun but Six sez Lady Aveesa is lots funner and doesent smel funy.  We hoap too see you agen soon.  Luv Grub."

Yeah.  I think that would bring Denis running to see what's up.   ;D
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2011, 10:55:14 am »
I don't think Seisyll's heart could have taken much more.   :D

Why Seisyll, what an interesting shade of purple you're turning.  And is that steam actually coming out of your ears?

Offline Evie

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2011, 12:56:52 pm »
Sextus would try steaming the wrinkles out of his tunic, but he's on the verge of death as it is.  :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2011, 09:58:31 am »
Is it Monday yet?   ::)

 

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* Board Stats

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* Calendar

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