12. The Few Positive Duties of Fatherhood

For the second time, Tereus’s valet informs him that Lady Sieia has gone missing. This time, she’s gone to some trouble to deceive her keepers. She packed her doll and a change of clothes undetected, and left the house on foot at midday.

When the butler summons the second footman to be questioned, he’s missing, too. His livery is hanging in the servants’ quarters, but his few personal possessions are gone. The other servants are interrogated to no avail. Marcus insists on hiring the Bow Street Runners immediately; this time she’s unlikely to be found watching gophers in the park. 

As days become weeks, the search becomes more extensive and frantic. Even the Runners are unable to find any trace of their whereabouts. There’s no evidence that they traveled by ship or mail coach; inquiries are made all the way up the post road to Amakir, and far into the North Mountains. No one has seen a little redheaded girl, or a young half-Drow.

The Runners report that the footman pawned a few items of clothing soon after the ball, and that he found a renegade priest willing to take his oath. He selected the name Inglorion Fabius — in common, Fabius the Bastard. 

The most telling evidence comes from within the house. Tereus spends hours in the servants’ quarters, kitchen and stables, and smoking in the alley by the area gate. He systematically develops intelligence sources within his own household, and interrogates them with such tender care that most are flattered and pleased that the master has chosen them as a confidante and special friend during this time of trouble. 

It’s common knowledge that Fabius was a skilled swordsman literally, and in the bedroom. He sparred with the gardener weekly; the old man gave him two longswords years ago, along with a bullwhip and a longbow. Fabius also entertained a steady stream of girls in his little closet under the eaves; nicknames like meat locker and boom room are mentioned. Lady Sieia was often in his company; she positively haunted the servants’ quarters, sometimes shared his bed, and sat with him almost every day in the kitchen.

From a distance, it looks like an abduction. A randy young footman somehow made off with a rich man’s daughter. To Tereus, it’s a variation on his own boyhood: Two unhappy children planned and executed a prison break. 

Months pass. There’s no ransom note. No bodies float to the surface of Liamelia harbor. The Runners will keep searching as long as they’re paid, but without leads they’re at a loss. Lavinia comes to believe that Sieia must be dead, since she was abducted by a Drow. It’s an ancient blood libel, also applied to Jews and Gypsies. Tereus doesn’t have the energy to correct her. The truth is shameful and squalid; at least blood libel offers her a heightened sense of martyrdom. After a year, he allows her to order mourning clothes, and instructs the servants to hang the windows and doors with black crape.

Though she’s terribly distressed, in some ways, Tereus envies Lavinia.  As far as he can tell, she feels no guilt or remorse, or responsibility for her daughter’s fate. She pities herself, and is pitied; she blames the governess and nurse for carelessness, and firmly believes in the footman’s treachery. To Tereus she seems satisfied, while his discomfort only grows.

Tereus felt no personal attachment to his daughter. If it hadn’t been for her distinctive coloring, he doubts he could have picked her out of a lineup. He knew nothing of her habits or tastes, and only occasionally noticed her presence. As he learns the facts of Sieia’s girlhood, outwardly he’s unmoved. Inwardly, he’d troubled. Clearly, he should have done something more, or differently, but he has no idea what.

In that culture and era, the positive duties of fatherhood are few. Tereus sent Marcus to the same boarding school and university that he and Lucius attended, paid him a generous allowance from the estate, and would have covered any debts he had; if he’d fallen into bad company, or worn objectionable clothing, or bought an unsound horse, Tereus would have set him straight. Once Marcus’s education was complete, Tereus ensured that he had constructive work managing the estate. The duty of a father, as Tereus sees it, is to ensure that his son commands resources appropriate to his station, and that he doesn’t squander his fortune, destroy his health, or ruin his reputation. Judged by this simple standard, Tereus has done well in Marcus’s case, largely because Marcus is a sensible creature. 

Fathering a daughter should be a very simple matter indeed. He’s paid for a nurse and governess, and has hired instructors in dance, drawing and voice. In seven or eight years, Sieia would have made her social debut, obliging him to pay staggering amounts for her dresses and jewels, and only slightly smaller sums for gloves, stockings and hats. He was uniquely qualified to spot and chase off unsavory young men. Any affection, or initiation into the mysteries of womanhood, would have fallen to Lavinia’s lot. It’s become clear that his wife was unaware of her duties, and entirely unequipped to perform them. As a result, his daughter was raised by a nurse and governess that she disliked, and by the second footman. Clearly that’s unacceptable, but he’s not sure what he ought to have done differently.

Under Agamemnon’s rule, Shelawn House was entirely a bachelor establishment. Tereus doesn’t remember his mother, and there were no doting aunts or candidate stepmothers lingering about. Female servants were few. Tereus doesn’t have words to describe Agamemnon’s tastes except for clinical or legal terms; his habits were widely known, theoretically illegal, and never discussed. Any review of Agamemnon’s shortcomings as a father is confounded by the fact that, in addition to being a sodomite and an enemy to domestic life, he was a drunk and an asshole. 

None of this seems unusual to Tereus, because he has nothing to compare it to. Agamemnon had no use for women; his son had just one. Though their tastes differed, Tereus absorbed one lesson early on: That women were lesser, contemptible and largely irrelevant. He never saw his father interact with a woman of his own class, so he had only an abstract, theoretical notion of the duties of a husband and father.

For a linked table of contents, listing all of the Shelawn family adventures, click here.

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