Last week I didn’t post my writing sample. I really wanted to, partly because I enjoy sharing my work with others (just as I enjoy it when they share their work with me and the world) and because I would like to begin making these blog posts more consistently.
Before getting to the story, let me point out a few more writers online I have met since starting this blogging adventure. I hope to highlight at least three of four new blogs in each post as a thank you for their gift of words:
- Nick Rolynd at 30 Minute Fiction
- Linda Long at Linda Long Writes
- Miss Elsie at Bowendiaries
- The Bipolar Muse
And now for the writing sample. These two sections follow directly after the piece I posted the last time at Some Writing Because. As I noted then, this story is non-canonical to my story worlds. I wrote it far in the future as a way of testing these characters in settings that they normally would not be in, and it grew from there to a piece of pleasurable escape–two pieces actually… as in a few more posts, you may get to “choose your own” direction.
I’m look for help naming this piece. Any suggestions?
Settled on a lounge, with the pillows fluffed awkwardly by ‘Listii, Atyr felt less distressed by the situation. Not less upset, not less hurt, but…well, nothing could change the past.
‘Mara checked the clock on the mantel, very deliberately comparing the time with that of his watch.
“Two glass before he calls for the last guastu.”
Atyr paused mid-acceptance of the teacup one of the house servants held out to her. “Only two?” She tried to suppress the shiver she felt.
Even if he walked out of that room…even if he chooses to live, it’ll be months, possibly years, before that poison leaves his system. If it leaves before he dies. Dear Gods, Val, why?
On the chair across from her, ‘Listii nodded, his expression she was sure was an echo of her own. “We knew Val was feeling overwrought for sometime now, but–.”
‘Mara accepted a cup of tea from the servant himself and sat down in another chair. “Father made us swear that we would not contact you until he made his choice. He said it was no use in panicking you or making you more angry with him for what he’d done by making it seem as if he were playing sympathy games. If you wanted to stay away and not talk about it, it was fine with him.” Though it was clear her son was not trying to be judgmental, bitterness laced his normally soft burr.
Before she could speak, ‘Listii took up the thread again. “As you can guess, Val didn’t mean his choice as when he took to his meditation. And though I understand why Val wanted things the way he did, I won’t say I’m unhappy that ‘Mara chose to defy him in the end. If anything, you and Val need to clear the bad blood between you two so that he can face Death with a clear conscience. No matter what he says about feeling no guilt over his choices, I know better.”
‘Mara nodded his agreement, seconds before the teacup met his lips.
Atyr also agreed. Val had always been overly defensive when he’d had to make a bad decision from a series of bad choices. He’d often admitted that as being his greatest failing, and, in general, she’d have agreed. Although his stubborn Hastor pride had easily grown to match in the years she’d known him. “Comes from too many bad decisions,” she murmured.
She looked up from her teacup, startled. “Oh, nothing, ‘Listii.” His “Oh” and nod implied that he’d gathered her meaning anyway. She left it at that and after drinking some of the tea–siltflower and sweetroot–she sighed. “I still want to know how this started.”
‘Listii and ‘Mara exchanged glances. Then her beloved’s twin shrugged. “‘Mara, believe you know more than I do in this.”
Her son’s face remained expressionless, but he started stirring his tea slowly despite the fact that it was well sweetened and that the servants had done a fine straining job. “Originally, it had started out as a way to get Father to go to you, Mother. Not that ‘Nis hadn’t been willing for her own reasons. The fact is that if she hadn’t asked Father to fulfill her, it never would have happened. The few men that were willing to accept her as a wife despite her illness, well…”
She nodded. “I told Val years ago that he should have allowed Lan Kailiis’ son to take her hand. That young man clearly held a torch for her and would have treated her well.”
‘Mara shrugged. “I can see Father’s view as well, Mother. Any man who casts off his firstborn in anger the way he did at the very least is of questionable sense if not morals.”
Atyr scoffed. “The only thing wrong with Chadrik Andryeska is that his impulsion acts quicker than his sense at times. He’s loyal, devoted–generous to a fault. I would have been proud to have allowed him to marry my daughter. I mean, he still loves her devotedly. Or are you going to tell me he lied by saying he goes to her bier whenever he’s home for a visit and cries at her side?”
‘Listii shrugged. “I cannot vouch for the crying, but he spends more time there than most of the family does. He also petitioned for her ashes once it’s time for her Fire.”
Atyr nodded. “If that’s not love, I don’t–“
“It’s obsession, Atyr.” ‘Listii got up to pour himself some liquor from the shelf at the side of the door. “Not saying I disagree that they would have been a happy couple, but the chance for more than admiration and lust is past. Whatever he feels for her now is obsession. She’s dead, and he don’t even have memories to go on.” He quickly swallowed his shot, then poured another. “I don’t mean to say he’s wrong–or that I would–will–deny him if I become head of the Family. I’d likely give him her ring along with her remains, if the choice were mine.”
“No, Uncle,” ‘Mara disagreed. “While he’s still alive, that would simply encourage him to not seek happiness elsewhere. Father’s right about that. Father’s already spoken with Sier Kailiis. Their rings will be traded when Chadrik dies.”
Atyr felt her brow rise. “Traded? What makes this decision?”
‘Mara sighed and squirmed in his seat. “Father did agree to marry them to each other before her death. ‘Nissii didn’t want the wedding.”
“Chadrik didn’t mention this, ‘Mara.”
“Nor did Val,” ‘Listii murmured as if he’d suddenly hit upon a revelation.
“Chadrik doesn’t know, hopefully.” ‘Mara’s dark eyed gaze was set toward his tea cup as he stirred the soft pink liquid. “It goes back to why it happened in the first place. Father loved ‘Nis, would have done anything to make her happy…” He sighed. “And she knew it. And for more years than any of us wish to count, we all watched you try to dance the line between your love of Father and your ‘tianei to ki-Vestimiir. Come that visit you and Father spent at the theater…um, well, although it pleased us to no end to know you’d finally both admitted to each other how much you needed each other physically as well as mentally, it did cause problems for Father.”
“It didn’t exactly make my life easier, ‘Mara, but I’d do it again if possible. There should be nothing wrong with making love to someone that you care for as much as your father and I cared–“
“Care for,” her son corrected. “Never think that Father doesn’t love you as much now as he did then.
“And that’s why ‘Nissii used the plea that he owed her her fulfillment when we came to the conclusion it was too hard on you both to be together as much as you wanted to be. It was the only way she knew Father would be willing to touch her with anything more than parental care. You said just now what she said then, Mother, when ‘Nis told us her plan. And it’s true as well that everyone needs to be touched and loved now and then.”
“Which is why, despite my brother’s month long delay in answering her when she asked–oh, hell, say it the way he called it–when she practically begged him to give her her fulfillment, he gave in and did. Because he were lonely too and understood what she was asking too well,” ‘Listii grumbled.
‘Mara glanced at the mantle clandestinely. Nearly a glass had passed since they’d come in. He chaffed at the wait, even if it was mending a lot of rifts between his mother and he. He could have accepted the delay if he knew his father would be willing to do the same.
He had no qualms about his choice now. Until they’d sat down…no, until his mother had finally said how she’d felt, he had some. He suspected that the bad feelings had been all because they’d misunderstood each other–had been fairly convinced of it–but unless they’d been able to talk about it, there had been little he could do. Thank the Bright Mother that his uncle knew better how to talk to his mother than he did.
And that Valistii Mirniia hadn’t been too upset by his defiance of the Sier’s desire to refuse his request for the man to join them.
His mother was sitting on the lounge, still uncomfortable if one was to judge her expression. He couldn’t blame her. It was an uncomfortable discussion.
“That explains why he slept with her the first time, ‘Listii. That doesn’t explain why he kept doing so,” his mother said quietly. She was clearly forcing her voice to neutrality. Her tea cup rattled against its saucer for a second before she caught herself.
‘Listii shrugged. “You taught your daughter how to cry. Figure it out on your own. Alanissii was a lovely child–for a spoiled brat.”
‘Mara looked at his uncle sternly. “Uncle!”
The man shrugged again without any sign of apology. “She was spoiled, ‘Mara. Even your father would agree with me. I know she had a good heart and loved people without question, but she was used to your father’s doting on her. She expected it, from him, from you…”
“Can you blame her, Uncle?” he countered. “We were all she had. You know how she suffered here with her disability, with her inability to bear children. Of course we doted on her some. We doted on her just to make up for the maltreatment of others.”
“You were all overprotective, ‘Mara,” his uncle said. “I know you loved the waif–she was your sister–you damned well should have. But,” and the man turned back to face his mother, “the point is, Val got trapped by his own sympathy to the girl. They both probably thought they were helping and protecting each other at first. I know Val didn’t like what was happening though. That’s what brought this all to a head.”
“Eh?” his mother asked softly.
“I think Val was starting to realize that ‘Nissii was using him to avoid dealing with the world before we talked about his relationship with her. I know he realized it after. ‘Nis probably didn’t mean to use. She’d managed to rationalize what she was doing well enough that even Alanii could only say she believed she was the only one besides you that you make her father willing to live from day to day. She clearly believed what she was doing was right. She didn’t understand she was hurting Val so.
“The only thing was that she needed him, wanted him, physically more than he wanted a physical relationship with her. He talked enough about it. One day I suggested that if he really felt that way then he’d have to get himself free of the affair somehow. I suggested marrying her off, and of course Lan’s son came up. That he agreed as readily as he did only tells me that he’d come to realize that his ‘little girl’ wasn’t in need of being protected and coddled as she once had been. We contacted Lan within the glass. They likely had the papers drawn up in another. If Chadrik hadn’t been off-world on duty, he surely would have been welcomed into the House that evening as oath-kin.”
‘Mara watched his mother’s expression during this. Her piquant features were clearly disquieted. She’d long since set the tea cup down, empty, and was toying with the sigl ring she wore.
“Instead, Val came home and told her that he’d married her off? Told her that what they’d been doing was bothering him and it was time for her to have her own life and love?” Clearly, his mother had followed the events too well. Dear Goddess, if only that she’d been here instead of so far away.
His uncle nodded. “She, you could say, took it badly. It upset everything she thought she’d been doing for him, told her that, if anything, she’d made things worse. Within the week she killed herself.”
‘Mara watched as his mother gripped her thighs, her nails indenting the fabric in a manner that made him wince. “Killed herself? Val–you said she died in her sleep!”
Both he and his uncle nodded. ‘Mara decided it was time he spoke up again. “Yes, because she did. Poison, Mother. She took some before she slept that night and never woke up. It was painless, I’m sure of that. We only found out a few days after when we were looking through her belongings and Father found the powder.”
“Of course, that was worse for him,” his uncle said. “Val could have accepted her dying quietly in her sleep, since she’d had so many of the years that you’d both feared she would miss. But finding out she’d killed herself…. He made us swear to not speak to you about any of it until he’d had a chance to speak to you himself. Unfortunately, you found out about the affair from Alanii, although he clearly didn’t explain–“
His mother blushed, looking down, her blue eyes glistening with tears. “I wouldn’t let him. He did try to explain, several times. I was just too aware of my own loss…too aware of what I’d done wrong…and I didn’t want to rationalize, didn’t want to understand..didn’t want…”
Before he was aware of what he was doing, ‘Mara found himself moving to her side. This–this was the mother he remembered and loved. Foolish and short-tempered but never a doubt that she cared. He knelt down next to her and gathered her in his arms. “Hush, Mother, hush. You didn’t do any worse that the rest of us. We all acted stupid: Father, ‘Nissii, myself–all of us. Don’t blame yourself. It’s done. It happened fifty years ago.”
She looked up as he stroked her hair, her eyes streaked with red that made her irises glisten a brilliant green. For a bare moment, she hesitated, then with a sob of his name, pulled him closer to her and cried even more. Compared to her tears earlier, this was a cascade, the flow of the Atarin falls, though not nearly as sweet to hear. He let her cry until he heard his uncle speak softly.
“‘Mara, we have to get ready now.”
He looked up to where his uncle still sat, now holding out another handkerchief and nodded. He took the offered scrap and started patting the tears from his mother’s face gently. “Sh… Mother, we still have things to do yet. If you still need my shoulder later, it’s here. Now you need to speak with Father, before it’s too late.” He eased away so she could blow her nose, accepting the cloth back without question when she handed it to him.
She sniffed a touch, rubbing her eyes briskly with her wrists. “Thank you, ‘Mara,” she whispered, looking at him with definite gratitude. Then, sniffing again, she reached for her tea cup, pausing enough to look hopefully from him to his uncle, then back when she remembered it was empty.
He nodded and tapped the page button on his belt. Then he kissed her forehead. “You’re welcome,” he answered in another whisper before going back to his own seat.
“So what way should we do this?” she asked, still sniffling.
While he explained to the server what they needed, his uncle explained the basic plan to her.
“We hoped you would take him his last cup, Atyr. If you go within the ten minutes you’ll be able to talk enough that he can decide on his own whether he wishes to take it or not without problems…well, without problems if he chooses to continue.”
‘Mara could tell his mother wasn’t happy with the prospect of still facing Valichii Miniira’s death. Still she nodded. Gods, what else could the poor woman do? What could any of them do if they truly loved the man but accept his choice in this?
‘Mara frowned. Yet here I am violating if not the word certainly the spirit of his choice. Father didn’t want her to know and possibly live with this.
He told the server to bring the cup bearer into the lounge immediately. No, he decided, I’m right to do this. Father never wanted to be a coward, but until he faces Mother that’s what he’s acting like. And the Goddess won’t want a man to come before her without that resolution.
A few moments ticked by before his mother answered. By then the cup bearer had arrived, clearly interrupted mid-preparation. A fi-Harnii priest, he was quiet and patient as ‘Mara signaled him to come over a stand beside them.
His mother glanced sideways at the man, then nodded. “At this point, there’s no other way. I will bring Val’s last cup to him.”
The priest’s brow rose, but the man said nothing. What could he say? If the man dared argue that only religiously trained persons could bear the meditation cups, Atyriia Raenella had been Goddess trained ages ago. If the man dared argue duty, then ‘Mara would remind him that the meditation was designed to bring a man peace from all his worldly concerns and that Valichii Miniira had many concerns that needed to be resolved between his former wife and he.
His mother looked up at the priest. “If you would have the cup prepared by the door in five minutes?”
The man didn’t argue that he needed more time either. ‘Mara was glad for that. There was too little time as it was. With a polite bow, the priest excused himself to finish his preparations.
With an equally polite withdrawal, his mother rose and headed for the bath to freshen herself.
He looked to his uncle to find the man looking at him. “Do you think there is any hope, Uncle?”
His uncle threw his head back and downed the shot he’d been holding for so long. “More than when she arrived. Now it’s up to my brother.”
‘Mara sighed and rose to retrieve the bottle of whiskey from its nook by the door. Tea wasn’t going to help him through this wait.