fenella: (the real show is backstage)
[personal profile] fenella
I don't know, this might change. But...

Postcards From New Hope
(Or How to Grow a Woman from the Ground)

*

Part IV

*


Hope slips out into the night.

The streets, familiar now, hold different secrets in the dark. Her doubts are lost to the rhythm of her shoes against the cobblestone streets.

Proper young ladies don’t go galavanting on their own. Proper young ladies don’t sneak out of their brother’s houses to slip down to lower city taverns. Proper young ladies don’t conceal their identity beneath worn woolen cloaks to solicit unsavoury gossip.

Hope walks faster; it isn’t that she doesn’t know these rules or that she doesn’t care (Hope cares more than she would be willing to admit), but Hope has never been allowed the privilege of being a proper young lady, so there is no reason why should she begin to concern herself now.

Her pulse quickens when a cat darts in front of her path, and settles. Hope has lived the privileged life of a noble, certainly, and knows the comforts that her various titles provide. She knows better, though, than to naively assume that those titles will lead her to the same roads as her foster siblings. For as long as Hope can recall, there has been an invisible and yet unmistakable X above her head.

This girl has questionable pedigree (do not let your noble born children play with her), X.

Boys, you will not wed this girl, X.

This girl's mother had questionable morals (it runs in her blood you know), X.

Whisper loudly when she enters a room (she won’t notice), X.

Oh the Poor Dear, X.

How fortunate the Jesslaws took her in, what does a woman like that know about raising a daughter? X.

I heard that her father is one of those ex-convicts up in Mindelan's Bound, X.

It's worse than that, her mother had an affair with Sir Queenscove, the slut, X.

It’s clear to Hope that her mother did not wish for her to have an easy path in this world.

As for her father, Hope can only assume that he doesn’t know. She tells herself this because if, somehow, he were to know and be alive, and still didn’t care to make himself known, Hope has no desire to meet the man.

In her heart, Hope knows that this is a lie.

*


Lady Yukimi of Queenscove is the first noblewoman - Sir Keladry is the exception, of course - to live in New Hope. She is six months pregnant and hasn’t seen her husband in half that time when she appears to commission the construction of a townhome, ignoring Sir Nealan’s protests.

“I will not have our children grow up in your absence!” she argues determinedly in the foyer of the infirmary, medical clerks trying not to stare.

“And what of your obligations to the Princess?” asks Neal.

“Shinko has tasked me with participation in Her Majesty the Queen’s pet project.”

Nealan, trying to look exasperated, looks thrilled instead. “And that would be?”

“I’m opening a school, bringing literacy to the North.”

Later Sir Nealan will make wry comments about New Hope’s commoners being trouble enough without education. For now, he takes his wife into his arms and lets out the breath he didn't know he has been holding.

Shortly after the Queenscove residence is completed, other noblewomen follow suit, moving North to be with their husbands - some seasonally, others for the entire year. The sudden immigration increases the demand for merchants, artisans and strains, before breaking, the barter system which has served the refugee camp well.

Nobles settle into a life that, while having considerably less comforts than those to which they are accustomed, is extravagant compared to that of their neighbours down the hill.

Within two years of Lady Yukimi’s arrival, New Hope has tripled in size.

*


Waiting for Strahan to finish his shift serving patrons, Hope takes a seat at the bar. Her hair hangs down in a single braid, as is the style for young city women. It makes her feel ugly, having her hair unpinned, and she’s startled when a young man leans on the bar beside her.

“Hello beautiful,” says the boy. “Where’s your husband?”

Hope stares at him, wide-eyed. “I’m not married.”

“Well,” he says. “You’re too young to be here alone, and too pretty to be unmarried, at your age. Unless, maybe, you’re a whore?”

The man leers at her unkindly and Hope digs her fingernails into her palm to avoid striking him, or doing something else that she might regret later.

“You’re disgusting,” spits out Hope, when she manages to find her words. “And drunk. I pray - for her sake - that you don’t have a wife of your own.”

“Pray a little harder,” sneers the man. “And you’ll be ready for a nice life in the convent; it’s the best that you’ll ever do. Mindelan’s Hope, you don’t fool anyone. We know exactly who you are.”

Hope stares at the man’s retreating back, at a loss. The bottom of her stomach is sinking, and she can't help but wonder what has just happened. The man stumbles over to his friends, one of whom laughs, and slaps him on the back.

The elderly barman, Strahan's employer Gregor, has been hovering nearby. His eyes flash angrily, and he pushes a steaming mug towards Hope, startling her out of her thoughts.

“Carlan and his friends are a bad bunch, but he’s right that you shouldn’t be here alone.”

Hope looks the barman square in the eye. “I’m not scared by a group of mean drunks. Could I get a pint of the house ale, please?”

The barman winces, rubbing at his beard. “It’s more than a few mean drunks, and I wouldn’t serve you if I had any sense of my own.”

“You know that the reason I like you, Gregor, is because you don’t have any sense. And what do you mean it’s more?”

Gregor shrugs, almost apologetically. “Most of of us are loyal to the memory of your Ma, you know that I am. She did well by us, gave us more than we could have hoped for. But there are some that, well, the hatred runs deep.”

Hope shakes her head. “I don’t understand.”

“There are some things that no matter how much you think them through, won’t ever make much sense,” concedes Gregor. And then he nods over Hope’s shoulder and groans. “Like your friend, there, I won’t ever-”

Hope turns to look as Strahan taps the man, Carlan, on the shoulder. Carlan turns to meet Strahan’s fist before the three friends pounce, dragging Strahan downward as a chair breaks with a sharp crack!

Hope stares, appalled.

And then she sighs, springing to her feet as Gregor wades into the brawl.

*


“You idiot,” scolds Hope, pressing a tankard of cold ale against Strahan’s swelling cheekbone. “What did you think you were doing?”

Strahan winces at the cold, prods gently at the bruised corner of his mouth “Defending your honour.”

Hope laughs incredulously and Gregor makes himself busy in the kitchen, emptying crates of wine, trying very hard to appear as though he is not listening.

“I don’t have any honour,” says Hope. “Weren’t you listening?”

“Carlan is a jerk,” says Strahan. “I’ve been waiting for excuse to do that since we were six and he threw my ball into the river.”

“Well in another fifteen years, when you get the sudden urge to attack four men by yourself again, don’t do it on my account.” Hope presses the tankard into Strachan’s hand and stands back scowling, arms crossed over her chest.

Strahan eyes her warily. “You have a funny way of showing gratitude.”

Hope’s scowl deepens. “Gregor, I think I hear someone calling for you at the bar.”

“Lady Hope,” the barman protests, “I didn’t hear anything.”

“She’s right.” Strahan’s eyes are locked on Hope’s, not giving an inch. “I heard something too.”

Gregor frowns. “Alright, an old man like myself can take a hint. But you had better not finish him off, Lady. He’s fragile and I don’t want to be the one to tell Irnai that her little boy isn’t long for this realm.”

“Don’t worry,” says Hope as Gregor heads for the door and Strachan takes a seat on an upturned crate. “I’ll tell his Ma.”

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Strahan is saying angrily when the door slams shut, leaving them alone. “You’re overreacting.”

Hope glares at him. “I hate fights. People throwing punches. It’s stupid.”

Strahan gapes. “You got a few good throws in, if I recall correctly.”

“You’ve hit your head, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know what I saw. Elstrin will be limping for a month. And Carlan--"

“He was about to club you with the leg of a chair! Just because you know how to hurt someone, doesn’t mean that you should. There are better ways.”

“Like what?” snorts Strahan. “Talking was working so well for you.”

Hope motions wordlessly, frustrated. “Boys!”

“Men,” corrects Strahan, indignantly.

“See, this is why things are the way they are. Think about how many fathers and sons would be at home - instead of dead on battlefields - if people found a better way to solve their problems than hacking at each other with spears and arrows.”

Strahan exhales, lowering the tankard that he’s been holding to his head. “Oh,” he says, finally understanding, feeling a fool. He reaches for Hope and she lets him pull her down beside him, tucking her head on his shoulder, under his chin. “And mothers, right?”

There’s a beat of silence then, “It’s stupid, I know.”

“No,” says Strahan. “It’s really not.”

*


“I like being single,” says Kel.

“Mmm,” replies Dom half-heartedly. He’s reading a weapon’s inventory at her desk and she’s in the chair opposite, stewing over Yuki’s latest dinner party.

“I like the fact that I can make decisions for me, and not have to worry about how they might affect someone else’s plans.”

“I can tell,” remarks Dom absently. “You sound perfectly content.”

Kel fidgets with her hair, tying it up into a horsetail. “It’s just that...”

“You hate being the only single noblewoman in the room and can feel them judging you from beneath their perfectly coiffed lashes?” supplies Dom.

A corner of Kel’s mouth twitches upwards. “Yes. Well, not all of them. But yes.”

Dom sighs and drops the report on her desk. “And you tell yourself that you’re living a different sort of life than they are, but then you wonder why you can’t have both?”

Kel grins. “Captain, I had no idea you had such inner pain.”

“I know,” he retorts. “It’s a miracle I can make it out of bed in the morning.”

There is a reflective silence.

“Raoul and Buri used to have an agreement...” says Kel suggestively, drumming her fingers on her desk.

Dom bursts out laughing. “Love, that ship sailed a long time ago.”

“Oh come on,” says Kel, pleading. “We protect each other from judging noblewomen, keep each other from falling asleep when they coo over their darling babies...”

Dom stands up and walks around the desk, until he’s in front of Kel. Theatrically, he takes her hands in his own. “But Kel, it would all be a lie. You deserve better.”

Kel rolls her eyes. “Does this stuff actually work on women?”

“Yes, without a doubt.” Dom smiles, dropping her hands. “Besides, consider the last time that I made a move on you. You ignored me for seven months afterwards.”

“It was six and a half, you over-dramatic fool.” Kel stifles a yawn and picks up the papers that Dom has dropped.

“I had to enlist the help of my men to get you to talk to me.”

“Trick me into talking to you, you mean.”

“There may have been some trickery involved,” he concedes.

“Dom!" Kel looks up at him. "You faked your own death.”

Dom smirks. “Have you considered Eldorne?”

“What?” says Kel, not following the abrupt change of the subject.

“Have you considered,” repeats Dom, somewhat slower this time. "Eldorne?"

“Lerant?” Kel squeaks.

“No silly, the more attractive Eldorne that roams the prison tower in Corus.”

Kel punches Dom gently on the shoulder.

“Ouch! Kel! See if I ever dispense relationship advice again.”

“You call this relationship advice?”

Dom’s voice softens. “He’s crazy about you, Keladry.”

“What?” Kel's eyebrows inch upwards.

“When Lerant gives someone his love, he gives it without reservation.”

“...Huh.”

“Find something a little more eloquent to say before you talk to him, yeah?”

"Talk to him?"

"Sometime in the next five years, please."

Something else dawns on Kel. “Wait, you said that I deserve better. What about you, Dom? Are you seeing someone? Do you mean to tell me that you finally found a woman that will put up with you?”

“Charming, Sir.”

“Really, if you've found someone, you have to tell me!”

Dom saunters out of her office, flapping a hand in a way that makes him look quite a lot like Neal. “Don’t make this about me. Go talk to Eldorne, and try not to say anything hurtful!”

*


They are at the corner of Strahan’s road when a figure steps out of the fog that is rolling off the river. Hope knows who it is by the way that Strachan straightens, forgets his injuries.

“Hello Strahan,” says Jorge, calmly taking in the colourful display on his brother’s features. “Lady Hope.”

Jorge is tall, and his tan speaks of long hours spent on the river. He’s wearing the uniform of a fisherman: muddy canvas overalls, a loose shirt with short cropped sleeves and a a well-worn captain’s cap tucked under his arm.

“You should see the other guys,” says Strahan, beaming, before Jorge has a chance to ask, and Hope grins in spite of herself.

She’s a little surprised when the joke falls flat, leaving a silence that stretches echoes through the street. Hope thinks that she can hear someone singing; women, in the distance.

Jorge looks at his brother and shakes his head. “You’d better get inside and let Ma fuss. I’ll take the Lady home.”

Strahan seems about to argue, but he nods instead, shooting a smile at Hope. “I’m taking a vow of strict non-violence Hope, I promise.”

Hope laughs. “Sure, see you Strahan.”

Jorge offers an arm to Hope which she takes, timidly. When she was small, she had been in awe of this older boy. He asks her how she’s liking Mindelan’s Bound and she admits it’s a little lonely; Will has his own family now and there is no replacing the entire Jesslaw clan. Distractedly, Jorge makes a promise to take Hope to the weekend market.

Neither Hope nor Jorge looks back to see Strahan standing alone, staring after them. He looks small, standing in front of the ruins of the old schoolhouse, bruised, and unhappy.

*


A reply from Corus arrives in the form of thirteen men, mounted and sporting the insignia of The King’s Own. They make a striking image, fresh despite the long journey, laughing and talking amongst themselves as they parade through the city. They all appear younger than Kel, and at least half off them wear the traditional burnoose of the Bazhir people, tied around their waist by a green cord; the colour that in the south, is worn by shamans.

The exception is a young man who rides self-assuredly in front, as though it is his Gods’ given right, a blue cord belted casually around his burnoose.

Unlike the other captains in The Own, Jasson of Conté is a knight, a scholar and furthermore, the youngest son of Their Majesties King Jonathan and Queen Thayet.

He has, with the King’s blessing, assembled a group of young, single intellectual noblemen. Younger sons, for the most part, who have studied - and excelled - at the Royal University in Corus.

They are: architect, philosopher, lawyer, poet, engineer, geographer, historian, biologist and mathematician. Jasson has also recruited a musician, a shipbuilder and a priest of Mithros to follow his command.

These are the men of the Fourth Company. All of them are mages.

*


Part One Part Two Part Three ... and Part Five Part Six Part Seven

Date: 2009-03-22 06:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wastxd-symphony.livejournal.com
Finally! An update! ;D
I love the way you do description!! A new man seems to appear in Ke'ls life quite regularly... ;)

One question - "A reply from Corus arrives in the.." What are they replying to?

"Will has own family now"? Sounds like a lolcat. :D

Date: 2009-03-22 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyredenfers.livejournal.com
Hahaha, oops and fixed. No lolcats here!

A reply from Corus is talking about in Part Three, when Kel tells Lerant that they are going to have to ask for help. They are not equipped to self-sustain the infrastructure of a growing city on a war torn border.

Hopefully the next update won't be so long coming :D

Date: 2009-03-23 08:58 am (UTC)

Date: 2009-03-22 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] girl-called-sun.livejournal.com
With your adventures in the frozen North, I was afraid this would be on hiatus, but I am happily proven wrong.

The little one-on-one conversations (between Neal and Yuki, Strachan and Hope, and especially Kel and Dom) are wonderful. I'm getting fond of Strachan.

And I suspect the mages and Prince Jasson will be nothing but trouble.

Date: 2009-03-22 10:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyredenfers.livejournal.com
On the contrary, I have time to write for once! Though I have serious issues trying to balance description and conversation. Someday I will find a good combination of the two?

Your suspicions of Jasson and his men are not unfounded :D

Date: 2009-03-24 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anait.livejournal.com
Don't change it; I love it.

The Kel-Dom friendship is great. I also like Jasson's mages riding in because: 1) cool idea, and 2) you've already said that in the future the people of Mindelan's Bound hate mages.

Jasson, what did you do???!

Date: 2009-03-24 07:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyredenfers.livejournal.com
Hey, you! I can see you on goldenlake and want to talk to yoooouuuu.

Jasson would like to think that he's badass, but he's really not. He is competent though! I like the idea of having a company of nonwarriors that can sit around and solve the world's problems. Kind of like the U.N.!

Profile

fenella: (Default)
lyredenfers

November 2014

S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
161718 19202122
23242526272829
30      

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 06:20 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios