13. Fine Dresses and Suitors; a Home and a Husband

Inglorion finds Sieia upstairs, drowsing in front of the fire in the private parlor they share. He lies down next to her on the couch, whispering, “Hey, honey, scoot over.” She makes room, then snuggles up to him sleepily. “Honey, a traveler stopped me in the taproom just now. He had news from Liamelia.”

“Yes? What did he tell you?”

“Marcus sent him to find you. It’s very bad news. Very serious.” He quietly conveys the news of the massacre. She’s silent, stunned.

Finally she says, “I’m sorry to hear it. I’m sorry for mother, and for my aunt and uncle.”

“Marcus and his family were spared. They’re looking for you. He only got the portion of the estate that’s entailed. Your mother’s fortune is yours. I believe it’s considerable — certainly an independence. You’ll have to go back and claim it.”

“Go back to Liamelia?” She sounds puzzled. “I suppose, yes, if that’s the only way. If there’s paperwork or something.” She’s quiet, thinking. “It will give us independence. We won’t have to worry so much between jobs. If it’s enough money, we could even get a bit of property — a house or a flat. Something to use as a home base. There are places where we could buy without being citizens. You’d have to act as my agent, of course. I don’t suppose I can buy and hold property myself.” She breaks off, looks up at him. “You look sad. What are you thinking?”

“Oh, honey. It’s not that simple.”

“What do you mean?”

“All those years ago, when you ran away, I promised to take good care of you. I took you away because it was a bad place for you. I didn’t want you to grow up seeing that. It wasn’t safe — indeed, you see how it turned out, with Tereus and your mother dead, along with Lucius and Valeria, and all of their children. But I think it’s safe for you, now that Tereus is dead. Marcus is the head of the family. He’ll provide you a home, see that you find a husband.”

“But I don’t want a home and a husband.” She looks stubborn, indignant. “What makes you think I would?”

“Darling, just because you never had those things doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable and important. You were born into a certain station in life. You have wealth, and you should have an education and a normal life. You’re an heiress, and naturally you’ll marry. You’ll have your pick of husbands. Someone wealthy and powerful and handsome. You’ll have a home and children.” As he’s talking, she starts to cry. He kisses her and pets her. “Come on, you can’t tell me you enjoy this life — hand-to-mouth, unstable, dangerous. I live in fear that I’ll be killed in a fight — hit by a stray arrow or something — and you’ll be alone in the world. You know we’ve had close calls already.”

She’s sobbing now, pressing her face against his chest. He strokes her hair. “Hush, darling. I’m sorry. You know it’s true.” He can tell that she’s crying because she knows it’s true. She’s not angry, she’s sad. 

“I’ll have to live with them? Marcus and his wife?”

“I’m afraid so.”

She looks up, pleading. “I hardly know him, even though he’s my brother. I don’t like him at all.”

“He does seem like a dull dog. But he’s dutiful and proper. He won’t be unkind. It won’t be like it was before, with your father and mother.” A mutinous expression crosses her face. “Oh, darling,” he says, “He’ll be a much better brother to you then I could ever hope to be. I can barely take care of you. Good God, Sieia, picking pockets, burglary, living outside the law — it’s a terrible career for anyone. You can’t pretend you prefer it to having a home and a family of your own. That’s stupid, and you’re not stupid.”

They’re both silent for awhile. Eventually she dries her tears, says, “You’ll come with me, won’t you?” She looks so sad, so anxious.

Finally he replies in a soft, low voice: “I can escort you back to Liamelia, but I can’t stay. There’s no place for me there. Marcus won’t have me for a moment, and probably he shouldn’t.”

“But Tereus is dead now.”

“That doesn’t change my situation. He never recognized me. I’m not a Shelawn, or a citizen. I can’t own property or marry, or enroll in the university there. It might be different if I could pass for a gray elf. But I’m Drow. It’s the first thing everyone sees: my eyes, my hair.” He breaks off, because she’s starting to sniffle again.

“It’s so unfair! You’re better than any of them!”

He laughs abruptly. “Oh, honey, I hope I’m better than Tereus, but I’m no better than the others, and probably worse. I’m good enough to know that it’s wrong to keep you just because I love you and I’ll miss you.” He smiles down at her, kisses her forehead. “That’s what it is, right? You love me and you’ll miss me, and you’re afraid of the future.”

She nods. “I don’t want to live with Marcus and his wife. I don’t care about them. Marcus never cared for me when we were children. You always did.”

“He’s trying to care for you now, darling, and I think you should let him. Anyway, you’ll have many fine dresses, and plenty of suitors, and eventually you’ll be married. It’s silly to pretend you don’t want any of those things. They’re fine things, and I think you should have them.”

“But you won’t have money, or a wife, or a home.”

“Not right away, certainly. Our stations are different, my dear. They always have been. I kept you as long as I could — as long as it was helpful to you. Now you should go home.”

They stay together that night, snuggled up like when they were children, soothed by the sound of each other’s breath. It’s what they’ve done since Sieia was a little girl, in times of sorrow or fear, or when Inglorion was badly injured. It comforts them both now.

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