55. Inglorion Falls in Love with Virginia

With that, Inglorion falls in love with Virginia. He does it without hesitation or consideration. There are significant barriers. He’s poorly adapted to life aboveground, while she’s never been to the Underdark, and admits that she has little ambition to go there. He could be ordered back to the Underdark at any time, and when he inherits he will be crowned, and will have to select an heir, build alliances, and continue the hard work of exploring the extent and limits of his power as Duke of Theates. He’s aware that these obstacles are real and will have to be negotiated, but the sensation of allowing himself to adore a woman entirely is so pleasant, novel and exciting that for a time he feels everything can and will be solved. 

For now, they are fast friends; she allows him every imaginable lover’s privilege; she regards him with something between tender amusement and delighted curiosity. She doesn’t seem to mind Inglorion’s peculiar habits, doesn’t repine during his frequent and unpredictable absences, and is always happy to see him when he turns up on her doorstep. Inglorion feels that Virginia is accustomed to guarding her heart, and in the natural course of events, she will come to love him as he loves her.  

The author will pause here and remind the reader that Inglorion is objectively difficult to live with. The author and reader see his idealism and good intentions, and know that he’s a devil in the sack. Many reasonable elves — Ajax, Valentine, Sieia and Collatinus, to name a few — would beg to remind us that a lovely face and a stiff prick only go so far. Inglorion is a picky eater, a blanket hog, volatile, chatty, easily bored, and accustomed to having his own way. A full chapter could profitably be devoted to Inglorion’s domestic shortcomings. Our hero dislikes bad smells and sticky surfaces, so he keeps himself and his immediate area clean. With concerted effort he can keep a small room tidy; at times he’s even gripped by a strange enthusiasm that drives him to arrange his wardrobe according to strict criteria that he can’t explain to non-Drow elves. It cannot be denied, however, that most of the time Inglorion is hopelessly messy. He has never lost the habit of shedding clothing, quills, scraps of parchment, gloves, buttons, jewelry, and impossibly fine, white hair as soon as he crosses the threshold of his home. Worse yet, he fails to see dirt, and if it’s pointed out, he doesn’t regard it as his responsibility.

Inglorion also has a childlike habit of picking up curious items throughout the day and carrying them around with him. Virginia is both mystified and charmed to discover that she’s acquired a lover who empties his pockets onto the nightstand, leaving behind a hawk’s feather, an owl pellet, a watch crystal, three lengths of silk ribbon, a note written in cypher, a pocket Latin-German dictionary, an agate that is attractive when wet, but entirely unremarkable now that it’s dry, eight rings — three quite valuable, one fashioned from copper wire — a broken monocle, a vial of mercury, the skeleton of a mouse, and a religious tract pressed upon him by an ardent cultist. She is sincerely shocked to discover that Inglorion reads several books at once, dog-ears all of them, and writes extensive marginalia in a scrawling, blotted hand.

The contents of Virginia’s bedside table never change. One can find the book she’s currently reading — she only reads one at a time, and marks her place with a bookmark — a jar of scented lotion, a pair of reading spectacles, a candle and a tinderbox. About her person, she always carries needle, thread, safety pins, a small measuring tape, a comb, nail scissors, and mints. Prior to meeting Virginia, Inglorion believed that pockets exist to store the oddities one finds or buys, a pocket knife, and a large amount of cash. The latter allows him to pay for everything on the spot, since he consistently loses merchants’ bills and rarely remembers to make payments on accounts. His pockets continue much as they always have, but he quickly comes to feel that Virginia’s should contain the necessities that he consistently forgets.

Virginia is calm and orderly by nature, which Inglorion finds comforting and deeply strange. He feels cheerful and happy in her presence, and finds it soothing to hold her hand or sit near her. Her glance, her touch and the sound of her voice delight him. Her most charming quality, however, is her kindness. Though Inglorion is voluble on the subject of pet peeves, he doesn’t discuss problems that truly pain him. His male companions experience him as relentlessly energetic, even lacking in sensibility. With Virginia, Inglorion can express his doubts and fears, and describe his visions and memories. Valentine and Aramil are forcibly reminded of a clever and overbred dog — perhaps a whippet or Italian greyhound — frisking happily around his mistress’s feet, and nestling into her lap at every opportunity. 

It’s not clear whether Virginia shares Inglorion’s sentiments, or simply permits them. They talk constantly of everything and nothing, and this draws them close. Like any young man in love, he feels constant sexual craving, and she indulges his desires. He’s deeply grateful, though he knows she would like to spend more time reading together or holding hands or sitting by her fireside alone. Inglorion feels — and he hopes he’s not deceiving himself — that their lovemaking binds them together in a way that conversation cannot. His expertise deserts him, and he’s reduced to simple adoration and passion. In these moments, he feels that surely she loves him, even if she can’t bring herself to say the words.

Despite the barriers to their marriage, Virginia’s diffidence, and his own shortcomings, Inglorion falls in love with Virginia. It’s plain to everyone that his love is fierce, deep, unshakable and reckless. He adores and craves her, and longs to protect and cherish her. Though his outer world remains much the same, his inner life swiftly reorganizes itself around Virginia and Lucius’s happiness and welfare.

The nature of his bond with Lucius becomes clear, too. From the moment Inglorion confessed his love for Virginia, Lucius began to address him as mon pére, and Inglorion reciprocated with mon fils. Lucius has the happy air of a child who has brought about his fondest wish by successfully selecting a father for himself.

From a worldly perspective, Inglorion knows he isn’t a particularly good match. A Drow marquisate is hardly a strong foundation upon which to build a gray elvish family. Inglorion is deeply happy, however. He never doubts for a moment that Virginia is the woman for him, and he longs to win her over and prove his worth.

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