Well, technically it’s a ROW80 check-in disguised as a post, but since most of my posts fall into that category that’s nothing new either. It’s also a writing sample… See? I HAVE been writing.
In my defense, I’ve also been spending large amounts of time enjoying good books to add to my Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge. Right now I’m over half-way through Yseult by Ruth Nestvold. I’d started it a while back and had to reread everything because of a problem with my Kindle for PC app losing all its setting and miss-syncing my books. At least I didn’t lose any of the books themselves.
Has anyone else experienced something like this? I’m not sure if it’s something I did or something with the software, so I’m certainly curious.
And final check-in point… my social media time has been sufficient. Usually it has been more than sufficient, to the point of interfering with my writing. It’s all good though. I really love the blogs I’ve visited. Indeed, my RSS feed reader is getting seriously backed up again, and trimming things is almost as painful as throwing away books.
A new caravan appeared outside the fortress walls just before the sun had reached its peak. Rumor said that these men of the Great House Jur Dai Mar had ridden for several weeks to arrive today. Not that one would have believed that given smooth glow of the men’s cheeks as they lead their dancing animals through the fortress gates and into the center by the fountain.
To Ytramli they looked fresher than many of the riders that left from the fortress itself. And they certainly showed none of the dust and grit that any other such party had shown. Instead, their gleaming bodies and white clothes were scented with spices and floral waters that he could smell even from his perch on the roof of his mother’s room several rooftops away from the courtyard itself. Their mounts, shistrii all, were frilled out, their serpentine necks like a multitude of little jewels against their feathered bodies as the creatures twisted their heads around to receive small bites of jerky and seasoned meats from their handlers. And unlike most of the caravans Ytramli had watched come into the fortress walls these men were men, not a woman, huerta or no, within their party.
There wasn’t even a Singer or representative of the Temple.
To add to this, none of the men were concerned about the fact that their skin was bared to the nooning sun. Indeed, they’d made every effort to present their bronzed and ebon bodies to the fullest view of those watching from their windows.
And especially the Queen and her daughters as they stood in the balcony just over the courtyard fountain.
For a moment Ytramli found his attention drawn away from watching the newcomers to look over at the small group around the Queen Mother. The womans’s four older daughters stood near the woman, creating an arc of shades with their clothing and colors. The youngest daughter stood well back, her body covered by black lace robes against prying eyes. Two huerta and one Singer flanked the child and the Singer was having a difficult time ensuring that the girl’s robes stayed their place as the girl tried to see in better detail what all the fuss was about.
He knew about the girl, of course. His mother had been recently returned to him after years where she’d stolen away the child. The Lost Queen some called the girl, claiming that the child was not Mother Araniia’s child but the child of the woman’s mother.
That didn’t matter so much to him. None of it mattered much to him. He just felt sorry for the child. As bright and curious, even in the near death sickly pallor she’d come back to the fortress in, the girl was already being stifled and quieted to take up the more respectable role of an acolyte for the Temple. The girl deserved better, he thought, than to be shunted off to the priesthood.
The call drifted up to him from his mother’s room below, reminding him that he should have been helping her prepare a room for the leader of the newcomers to stay in.
“Ytramli!” the woman’s voice held a deeper urgency this time that said she knew he was on the roof. She hadn’t exactly told him he couldn’t go there, but she’d not exactly wasted words on her worries for his safety or her concerns that he drop something on a passerby.
As if he were really that careless! He’d not had the heart however to tell her how foolish he considered her attitude. He’d been without her for so long—he’d been a child himself when she’d left the Great Lands to save the young princess from being taken for the Temple. A mission the Queen herself had required of the woman it seemed… He had no reason to doubt that given the courtesy he’d been given by the Queen during the over four years he’d been left without the woman who’d given him life. Nearly five years! Nearly the whole life of that young princess…
As he crawled along the roof tiles carefully to the gutter pipe that he used for his slide down when he needed to quickly escape the roof and dared not climb back up to the princesses’ waiting chambers, he considered the young girl again.
Why, he didn’t know, save that he had never been able to not think about her. He’d seen her the day his mother had left him in the care of the Queen’s courtiers and maids, still squalling and red from her birth, eyes pinched, thrashing against her nurse’s breast.
Ytramli had fallen in love with her then despite his seven years of age having made him deplore the site of most any girl he saw otherwise, even the lovely princess L’Triia that he’d found himself watching more and more of late, even thinking of the eldest princess’s black hair and dark eyes… the way she laughed as she put on her gear for her lessons with the Arms Mistress… The way she would toss her hair so that it would dance past his fingertips and he would reach out to feel it flutter across his skin…
Not realizing he’d done so, he found he’d extended a hand out from gripping the gutter to waft in the breeze and in doing so had over balanced himself enough that he lost the grip he’d held on the gutter pipe and fell, awkwardly, upside down against the clay pipe and the stone wall next to his, hitting the back of his skull as he did. The shock made him nearly lose the grip he’d barely maintained with his legs, and he slid roughly the last few feet of pipe to land on his head on the gravelly path outside his mother’s window.
This time his mother’s voice came from above him. He opened his eyes and tried looking up from where he laid crumpled on the promenade, but his head refused to allow him to do much more than glimpse the woman’s slipped feet before closing again. He tried answering her instead then, but the words were only a moan. Then the darkness of his closed eyes grew darker and darker…
He woke up later laying in his own bed. He could smell the tanned furs just enough over the more acrid odor of a medicinal tincture that was soaked into the cloth upon his forehead. That felt cold and damp and uncomfortable, and worse, didn’t seem to be at all near the too most painful spots on his head, those spots he now remembered as having banged his head against the outside wall.
He could feel the brushed linens of his bedding, warn enough that he could also now feel the straw pad of his mattress peeking through from underneath.
L’Triia’s bed didn’t have any straw in it. That he remembered well enough. Supposedly none of the princesses save the youngest, save little Atyr, had such lowly things as straw or even linen for their beds. L’Triia’s sbed had been made of feathers and pads of finely tanned leather and silk. And though he hadn’t bothered to check her comment that Araniia cared for all her daughters equally, Ytramli could not doubt that the other girls lived in the same luxury.
Even little Atyriia had such available to her… He’d actually seen the girl’s room and had stolen a night or two of sleep in the empty chamber when he though he would not get caught. The Temple Singer had refused to allow the young acolyte the luxuries of a royal bedroom, or even royal meals… Or even royal clothing. The closest concession the young child had to her birthrights was her lace covering. Her black robes that she wore outside the wall of the fortress were far less delicate.
He wondered once more how the child could even see where she was going in such things.
The rings on the curtained rod that separated his room from his mother’s shifted and he felt the closeness of his mother’s presence as she came over by his bedside. The woman’s larger body had trouble shifting in the small confines of his room, closet that it actually had been, but it wasn’t that she was extra large this time, but more that he could also sense the presence of another woman with her.
This time, he didn’t try to open his eyes. Better, he’d learned, to pretend to be unaware than to show himself too soon. There would be enough chances for his to try to look later. And given the wizened faces and scowling expressions of most of the Healers in the fortress, kindhearted as they might be most of the time, he preferred to keep his mental eyes on the vision of the two lovely princesses that he’d been thinking of.
“Are you quite sure, Mother?” his own mother’s voice quavered in the darkness that he was holding. Her voice sounded extra taut, as if she were fighting tears.
Ytramli almost opened his eyes to see if he might learn who was holding the lines of fear on his mother’s heart so harshly, but before he could do much more than twitch, the other person spoke, and he knew the Queens’s voice.
“He’s well beyond the age of most males for training, Shenta. I held my faith to your plea that he not be sent off when you were still caring for my heiress, but now that you’ve returned Atyriia to our lands before she was grown enough to resist Masorii’s call, you have betrayed my faith in you. And your son has still lain about in sloth and play, indolent as a newborn… I’ve been patient, I’ve given you time to reacquaint yourselves, and now I demand that he leave before he harms my daughters with his reckless ways. Triia especially is getting far too close to her faiis for him to be around her as much as he is. If you do not send him with the Jur Dai, then I will.”
There was a moment of awkward silence as he processed what he’d heard and his mother clearly did the same. Then his mother spoke in a voice so soft and tremulous that he wasn’t even sure it was hers. “Surely not the Jur Dai, Mother. Could we not send him to another house? Perhaps one of the ones in the cross lands? I’ve heard they are excellent.”
The Queen’s breath exploded from her in that way he’d come to know so well when she wasn’t trying to even hide her disgust. Araniia was, he’d found, an unerringly fair and patient woman, but he knew well enough that the Queen’s patience was nearing its end. “The Jur Dai are the best house in all the lands and you wish for me to violate my contract with them as our trainers for your halfbreed son? You? My own slave asks me this? Surely I give you too much leeway because you were my nurse once, woman. What reason could you possibly have for refusing the Jur Dai that could be worth my making such a request to another house?”
This time Ytramli did open his eyes. Just a crack, but clearly enough that his mother noticed. Her normally pale skin turned bright pink then paled. She shook her head and looked plaintively up to the queen. “Mother, I know I ask you a great burden, but please, any house save the Jur Dai. There are things that…” The woman’s hands wrung into her skirts until she winced and had to shake herself loose from the cloth. She swallowed and she blinked, a tear coming down her cheek.
Ytramli wondered what could be so very terrible about the Training House at Jur Dai Mar that it drove such expressions of terror from his mother. Nearly everyone else spoke as the Queen did about the place, and given what he’d seen of the men from there at their earlier arrival, he was even more curious.
And even more, he knew he wanted to be like one of them rather than the halfbreed scalawag son of the Queen’s nurse. He liked the way the whispers of those in the windows had stopped dead as the caravan had come through the gate, how words had been cut short with breaths abated so suddenly that he’d almost heard the collective gasp of all the fortresses women.
Oh, if he’d been among those men, L’Triia wouldn’t have giggled at him and then scurried off as if he were no more than a plaything to leave behind when she was tired.
That’s it for tonight. I wasn’t originally thinking of posting anything, but… Well, I think it’s good for me to get it done.