18. Sentimental Matters

Soundtrack: Adam Ant, Baby Let Me Scream at You

By now Inglorion and Lucia sit together at every meal, conversing in low tones. He is not consciously trying to charm her, but sometimes when he feels sad or uncertain, or misses Sieia intolerably, he tells Lucia stories of their time together. There’s much that he can’t tells her — things that she wouldn’t understand — so she comes to know an artfully edited Inglorion who is patient, kind, overflowing with noble self-sacrifice. Any other woman who knows him would go off into peals of laughter. Inglorion is all of those things at times, but he’s also the gorgeous young cad who hammers away at Artemisia, whispering fiercely, “You just don’t break, do you?” prompting her to reply, “Not yet. Keep trying.”

Because Artemisia occasionally travels to check on various ventures, there are other women. He spends most of his time with his lovely widow, however. He admires her intelligence and toughness. Though she acquired her property through marriage, she’s serious about managing it — thoughtful, savvy. She regards Inglorion with rueful amusement, seems happy with the informal nature of their connection. She always feeds him, and goes to some trouble to discover his likes and dislikes. 

He continues to record his thoughts on sentimental matters:

June 6, 17—

Leisurely lovemaking. Both of us a bit tired and lazy. Afterwards she fed me shrimp, which I disliked, and oysters, which I liked very much.

June 10, 17—

Another charming passage with Artemisia. Both of us suddenly preoccupied with seeing how many times I could bring her to climax in a single afternoon. We cheated a bit the last time — she rode me while I reclined on her feather bed. 

June 16, 17—

Sometimes it seems like too much trouble to keep up connections with Camilla and Cloelia. Artemisia is so lovely, refined and discreet, and I never tire of fucking her. I know myself, though — I’d regret it when she goes on travel for weeks on end, and I’m caught without a reliable source of sex. Given Lucius’ strictness, it’s too risky to haunt bars and dance halls. So I plug away dutifully at the two C’s every few weeks, ensuring a supply for the lean times to come.

June 18, 17—

Lucia is a funny little creature, still inclined to have a crush on me, though I give her no encouragement. Her life must be dreary if she fancies the man I seem to be: devout, domestic, tame, chaste. I’m often bruised or injured, but I don’t think she has any inkling that I got that way through combat. She probably imagines I’m a patient punching bag, or, more likely, that my wounds could only be stigmata. 

Inglorion does spend a lot of time in Lucia’s company, studying by candlelight while she busies herself with endless care of the family’s clothing and linens. He escorts her to the market, and willingly carries packages and lifts things for her. He’s accustomed to performing similar services for Sieia, and thinks little of helping Lucia out. 

He feels no suspicion, then, when Lucius Junius Brutus takes him aside for a man-to-man talk. It’s a fine Sunday morning in midsummer. Lucius keeps a little room in the armory for talks such as this. Lucius sits at his desk and Inglorion stands in front of it, on a cheap wool carpet. The dynamic is very much teacher and pupil, and it chafes Inglorion, as it always does. Inglorion resolves for the fiftieth time since his arrival in Amakir that if he’s ever in a position to have pupils or disciples, he won’t subject them to such an idiotic display of authority. Or, if he does, he’ll allow them to stand on a more tasteful carpet. 

“You’ve done well here,” Lucius begins. “You have many shortcomings, of course. You’re self-willed, reckless, impulsive. You lack patience. You’re easily angered.”

Inglorion bows his head, feeling the usual mix of shame and irritation. All of these things are true. They’ve both labored to correct Inglorion’s flaws, so far without appreciable success. He remains a brilliant fighter, tactician and strategist who is volatile, impatient, willful and reckless. 

“You have great potential, however,” Lucius continues. “Your progress has been encouraging.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“My wife tells me that you and Lucia have become very close.”

“I’m grateful to her. She’s helped me to feel at home here. She’s been like a sister to me.”

Lucius gives a small, mechanical laugh. “You’re very modest. I can assure you that Lucia doesn’t regard you as a brother.” 

“How does she regard me?”

“As a suitor. Surely you know that.” 

“Honestly, sir, I didn’t. I’m not eligible, you know. My illegitimate birth and lack of citizenship are a bar to respectable marriage. I’m half-Drow, as well. That may not matter in the wider world, but here and in Liamelia, I’m commonly regarded as a traitor or a spy.”

“I think you take too dim a view of your case. Lucia is a very good girl, but her ideas of marriage are not exalted. Your breeding and manners stand out among the young men that she meets. Her mother and I would entertain a proposal from you very favorably. She would be an asset to you, you know. She’s an excellent housekeeper — prudent, energetic. She’s had the care of her sisters and brothers, and would make a fine mother. She’s devout, kind and loyal.”

“I’ll consider what you say, sir. I had not thought seriously of marriage, for all the reasons I named. But I will give it careful consideration.”

Lucius’ expression hardens. “Let me be clear, Inglorion. If you haven’t thought of marriage before, you need to think of it now. If you don’t intend to take the matter further, your intimacy with the family cannot continue on its current footing. Lucia talks of you all the time. Your intimacy has been such that she’s expected a proposal for some weeks now.” His expression softens. “You could do much worse, you know. Her mother has been an excellent helpmeet to me — everything a wife and mother should be.”

“Thank you for telling me, sir. I have a great regard for your daughter. I’ll consider what you say very carefully.”

As Inglorion escapes to walk the streets of Amakir, his first reaction is horror. He really has seen Lucia in a purely sisterly light. If he’d had warmer feelings, he would have sweet-talked her, flattered her, tried to steal a kiss. If he weren’t so appalled, he’d find it funny. Only a slow-top would court a girl in such a staid fashion! He doesn’t intend to marry, but if he did, he’d try to give his intended a more thorough preview of the joys of married love. In any case, Lucia doesn’t really know Inglorion. He’s never discussed his past with her, and she knows nothing of his present life beyond the acceptable surface he chooses to present. 

Since he and Sieia ran away, Inglorion has sought out older, sophisticated women who have some measure of independence: widows, matrons, artists and writers, heiresses who choose not to marry. He started out of convenience, since they understand his situation and know how the game is played. Over time, he’s come to prefer their company. He appreciates women who are educated, strong-willed, well-informed about public life. Such women have independent interests, and have things to teach him. Artemisia is an ideal example. As far as he can tell, she answers to no one, and lives her life as she chooses. She’s informed about the politics of the day, and has opinions about policy matters: tariffs, monetary policy, widening the franchise. Like him, she’s self-taught, well-read and endlessly curious. If Inglorion were in a position to marry, he would naturally gravitate towards a woman like Artemisia.

He’s strongly disinclined to marry, however. Every worldly consideration is against it. A wife and children could only be a burden to him when his career is still unsettled. He’s never been in love, and can’t imagine what it would feel like. He’s never been faithful to one woman, and the idea seems distasteful now. A parcel of children, a servant or two, a wife who’s a prudent housekeeper, loyal wife and loving mother — these sound nothing short of appalling. 

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