11. The Adventuring Life

For the first year of their adventures, Inglorion is simply relieved to have Sieia safely out of her parents’ house. Before long, however, he realizes that he’s entirely unfit to have complete authority over a gently-bred gray elvish girl of 13. Because his birth is illegitimate, he has no education, no profession, no station in life, and no prospects for obtaining one. Though he looks snappy in livery and can braid his hair neatly, he has no real idea of etiquette, or even table manners.

He’s bright and naturally disciplined, and at first he imagines that at least he will be able to teach his sister what she needs to know, and set her on a proper course of reading. After a few months of irregular lessons, he’s forced to confess that he’s inadequate to the task. Not only is Sieia not bookish, she’s not particularly bright. At first this is hard for Inglorion to believe. He’s a natural autodidact — curious about history, eager to read whatever literature is put before him. Collatinus passed on bits of algebra and geometry as potentially useful for navigation and calculation of trajectories, and Inglorion absorbed them easily. Even at 22, Inglorion has an extensive mental lumberyard of knowledge practical and impractical: religious lore, mastery of melee and ranged weapons, bits of botany, forestry and medicine. He’s never had instruction in music or foreign languages, but he’s been exposed to some of both in the Shelawn household. He’s quick and curious, and his lack of educational opportunities have made him even more eager to learn. 

Alas, the same is not true of Sieia. Her father is a general, and her aunt was a famous linguist and archivist, but she has inherited none of their breadth, depth and quickness of mind. She reads reluctantly and with difficulty, and never writes more than a sentence or two at a time. Even simple arithmetic seems to be entirely beyond her grasp. She takes an interest in history only insofar as it includes romantic or pathetic stories. She cannot be made to attend to even the simplest discussion of politics or ethics. She loves finery, but her taste and judgment do not extend to canvas or sculpture. Sieia learned very little when she had a governess and access to libraries and galleries. Now, living an itinerant life with her outlaw brother, she firmly declines to learn anything at all.

There are other glaring difficulties. Though Sieia is not intellectual, she’s hardly a fool. For the first several months on the road, Inglorion tries to maintain a strict separation between his womanizing and his domestic responsibilities. This proves to be impossible. Their funds are limited, so they are in close quarters. From the beginning, Sieia sees him pursuing women, and she knows perfectly well that he shares his bed with them. To make matters worse, Inglorion doesn’t have a single, special friend — he has an ever-changing, overlapping harem. Sieia isn’t just exposed to matters between men and women, she’s immersed in the habits of a young man who pursues sex constantly and usually successfully, and without regard to local habits, common decency, the bonds of marriage, or good taste. 

If asked, Inglorion would acknowledge that it’s wrong to expose his sister to his womanizing. If pressed further, he might admit that he shouldn’t pursue sex so ruthlessly, at such a high cost to her innocence and his dignity. He honestly feels that he has no choice. Sex calms him and brightens his mood, clears his head, keeps him hopeful and happy. And now, when they’re living entirely by his wits, Inglorion needs a clear head and a high heart. 

By the time Sieia is 14 or 15, Inglorion realizes that she’s received a thorough, second-hand initiation into a rake’s life, and that any attempt at reform would be painful to him and useless to her. She can tell when he’s edgy or snappish because he hasn’t gotten laid. She’ll feel relieved to see him getting over on a barmaid or sweet-talking a shepherdess. Her brother is kind, patient and tender with her, so she’s willing to sacrifice any number of parlor maids’ virtue to keep his senses in good order. His philandering is part of their adventuring life together, so he decides to settle in and enjoy it. Over the years, he occasionally has an attack of conscience when he has to face down a cuckolded husband or a jilted lover screams his sins out in the public square. He feels genuinely bad about the nun who was abruptly defrocked and turned out of her convent, though he was the last in a chain of incidents demonstrating her lack of vocation. Over the years, Sieia responds to incidents like these with such unflagging kindness and patience that he’s able to dismiss uncomfortable consequences, and see his life as a series of delicious adventures. 

The final difficulty cannot be overcome: Sieia is young, beautiful and gently bred. Her looks and natural sweetness turn heads everywhere. By nature and upbringing, she’s fitted to be a wife and mother, not a comrade-in-arms to her half-crazy Drow brother. She fills the latter role gracefully and with kindness, but Inglorion’s forced to admit that it doesn’t suit her. He’s known women who are well-adapted to the adventuring life, and who enjoy long careers as fighters or thieves. Sieia has adapted herself to the role of thief, but it doesn’t suit her. 

Over the years, he protects her innocence fanatically and, he thinks, successfully. He believes that this isn’t simple masculine possessiveness. If Sieia were inclined to dally, and had the sophistication and savvy to do it, Inglorion thinks he would permit it with good grace. However, it’s painfully clear that she has no desire for sexual or sentimental adventures, and she’s unequipped to manage them. From the first wolf whistle until he returns her to Liamelia decades later, he aggressively defends her. It often seems as if he should introduce himself by saying, “I’m Inglorion, this is my sister Sieia, and if you so much as look at her, I’ll rip your dick off.” She’s always been grateful for his protection. Far from trying to avoid his chaperonage, she ruthlessly cuts off even the mildest attempts at flirtation by saying, “If my brother could hear you say that, he would punch you out.” Inglorion has punched out scores, perhaps hundreds, of men and boys for approaching his sister. He rather enjoys the work, and acknowledges that it’s necessary. However, he knows that he can’t protect her every day for the rest of their lives. Some cad or another will slip through their defenses. He doesn’t believe that this would ruin her, but he knows that the consequences would be real and unpleasant. 

For all of these reasons, then, the adventuring life is sweet, but Inglorion, at least, knows it’s not sustainable. 

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