56. An Extraordinary Woman

After the first few weeks of joyous optimism, Inglorion suffers creeping uncertainty. He worries that Virginia will meet someone more eligible and leave him. Virginia is not volatile or light-hearted, and seems disinclined to listen to other suitors. She’s beautiful and well-off, though, and a sensible man might try his luck, whatever her initial inclination. Inglorion begins to feel that he’d better marry Virginia as soon as can be arranged.

Inglorion has always assumed that he couldn’t legally marry a female citizen because among gray elves, a wife’s condition follows her husband’s. A male citizen can elevate a female non-citizen, and two non-citizens can marry without consequence. It stands to reason, though, that if female citizen marries a man who lacks citizenship, she loses her citizenship, and all rights pertaining to it. 

After a week of fretting over the problem in the absence of hard data, Inglorion decides to consult his brother Marcus. He sends a vague and anxious note, and receives a very proper reply inviting him to pay a morning call any Friday, when Marcus can be found at Shelawn House, attending to estate matters.

Two days later, then, Marcus’s butler shows Inglorion into the estate office. Inglorion knew the area existed, but never had occasion to enter. Walking in gives him the dreamlike sensation of discovering that his childhood home contains a small, well-appointed and entirely unfamiliar suite of rooms. 

Marcus dismisses the butler, and leads Inglorion over to a pair of armchairs by the fireplace. “Can I offer you a cup of coffee?”

“Yes, please.”

Marcus brings the coffeepot and cups over on a tray, along with a small pitcher of cream. 

Inglorion should take a moment now to prepare an elegant speech explaining his situation, but he’s entirely unequal to the task. It takes all his attention to pour a hot drink and add cream without spilling anything or knocking over crockery. He sits for a moment, sipping hot, weak coffee, striving to gather his thoughts.

Finally he says, “Some months ago, you said that I’m old enough to marry and settle down. At the time, I resented it, largely because I felt no inclination to do so. Recently I met an extraordinary woman. I want very much to marry her, and to adopt her son.” He darts a pleading glance at his older brother. If Marcus is enjoying Inglorion’s discomfiture, he hides his amusement well. Inglorion continues, “I’ve always understood that I can’t legally marry a citizen, but I don’t know the details. I want to understand my legal status better — to know if we can marry, and what the consequences might be.”

She’s not a lightskirt, at least, Marcus thinks. “Have you asked her yet?”

“Oh, no — I wanted to understand my situation fully first.”

He respects her, Marcus notes. “She’s a citizen of Liamelia?”

“Of Amakir. She holds property in both cities, and makes her home here.”

And she’s respectable. “Is her income derived from property or investments? I ask because most investments are unaffected by citizenship, but real property requires it.”

“I don’t know the details. I know she owns and manages a business, and derives some income from rents.”

Marcus thinks, She’s well above his touch, but says, “I’m familiar with the aspects of your legal status that bear on inheritance. As you know, the entail on the Shelawn fortune requires that the heir be a citizen of legitimate birth. Because our father never recognized you, you have no claim to citizenship by birth. Beyond that, even if you were awarded citizenship — by service, for example — your birth bars you from inheriting under the entail. I’m less familiar with the marriage rights of a non-citizen resident. Your status should be relatively simple, however. I can have one of my lawyers draw up a summary.”

“Please do.”

“If you were to join us tomorrow evening for dinner, I could provide it to you then.”

“Certainly,” says Inglorion mechanically. He sits there, toying with the sugar tongs.

Because he seems not to have understood, Marcus adds gently, “You’ll need to provide me with her direction. Penelope will want to pay her a morning call before sending her the invitation. It will be a small party — ourselves, Valentine, Sieia and Xardic.”

Inglorion hasn’t stuttered since childhood. It takes concerted effort to avoid doing so now. “Yes, of course. That’s very kind of you. It’s in Bruton street — quite respectable. Her name is Virginia Regina D’Arcy.”

“And her son?”

“He lives in Amakir, but is spending the holiday in her townhome. An invitation will reach him there.” To his amusement, Inglorion looks up with an earnest expression and says, “She truly is extraordinary. She’s beautiful and graceful and clever, but it’s much more than that. She’s very kind and wise. I have business to look after in Liamelia, but I came here because I couldn’t bear to be parted from her.”

“I look forward to meeting them both.”

Inglorion somewhat ruins the effect of his speech by adding, “I might as well tell you now — Lucius’s father was Drow. He’s half-Drow, like I am.”

“It’s immaterial to me,” says Marcus. “I’ll mention it to Sieia privately. If she chooses to have Valentine take Xardic’s place, that will help Penelope to make up the numbers at her table.”

Inglorion laughs. “I might have known you’d have a slick answer.”

“We do pick up a few tricks at the Foreign Office,” Marcus says. “Soft skills, you know.”

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