Title: I Caught Sight of My Reflection
Description: Drus | Drus' amazing mansion
Sven Winterborn - June 16, 2011 04:29 PM (GMT)
"Are you sure
you're alright, father?" asked Rune as they rode, side by side, across Escova. She'd been taught to ride since she was six, on the whitest pony one could buy in the islands. Now, a girl well in her teenage years, Rune rode a beautiful white mare, elegant and good-natured.
"Ru... honestly. I'm just tired. But I promised Drustan -- Lord mac Cuimh -- that I would visit him as soon as possible. Since my matters with the Council have finalised, I can spare the time to."
She wore the same expression her mother wore when a lie did not escape her.
His arrival had been noted by the servants, most of which Sven knew by name. He greeted them with a tired smile and allowed his horse to be taken away. Both he and Rune were shown into a suitably decadent waiting chamber and been given refreshments.
There they awaited the master of the house.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 19, 2011 02:57 PM (GMT)
Drus grinned when a servant came to fetch him. He had been in one of the practice rooms, blade in hand, reminding himself of the finer points of sword-play. Especially after the riot, he had promised himself he would not find himself in a situation where he felt unprepared again.
And this was as good a way as any to distract himself for a while.
The servant, announcing the arrival of Sven and Rune, was happy to see the smile on Drus's face. It wasn't there anywhere near as much as it should be. Drus strode down the hallways, footsteps echoing on the stone, and burst into the waiting chamber.
"Rune!" he all but bellowed, moving to scoop the girl up in a joyous hug, not thinking about his slightly rumpled (and sweaty) appearance, loose white cotton shirt hanging out of his britches. "You've grown girl. Grown up much too fast at that," he said with a grin.
"And you Sven," Drus turned to his friend, "You've just grown old...don't you think Rune?" he asked, giving the girl a grin.
Sven Winterborn - June 19, 2011 03:05 PM (GMT)
Rune giggled lightly as Drustan introduced himself into the room with an ample greeting to her. She was soon embraced tightly by the man, just like a good uncle would have done. Sven couldn't help but smile. His grin widened at Drus' remark.
"A bit," admitted his daughter peevishly. "But, look, uncle Drus... notice his attire? Doesn't it look strictly less... bleak?"
Sven burst into laughter at that. Under his daughter's eyes, he raised his chin high, did a remarkably un-clumsy pirouette and bowed low. Rune clapped, delighted.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 19, 2011 03:12 PM (GMT)
Drus laughed at the pirouette, shaking his head slightly. "Why Sven, I never knew you had such skills. Childhood dancing lessons I never heard about. Or maybe more recent ones, eh Rune? Dad been practicing on the quiet?"
He grinned at his friend, giving the young girl a quick wink. It was a friendly wink -- teasing Sven was a fun past time for Drus and it was even better when he could drag one of the children into it too.
"And you know what...I do believe you're right Runny," he said, pulling out the old childhood nickname from when Rune had been nothing more than a snotty nosed toddler, "Not quite on this side of cheerful but...definitely much less like depression in clothing form. I am impressed Sven...something happen I should know about?"
Sven Winterborn - June 19, 2011 03:15 PM (GMT)
As much as Sven laughed initially, his grin was dimmed to an enigmatic smile by the end of Drustan's question. He replied with a question of his own: "Is Jude around? I haven't seen that boy in ages, and neither has Rune. I was thinking the two could catch up while we do, as well."
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 19, 2011 03:23 PM (GMT)
Drus shot his friend a questioning look -- he knew when he was trying to get rid of someone. He also knew when Sven had something to tell him and wasn't being immediately forthcoming. "He sure is," he said. "Let me send for someone and they can take you to him Rune."
The servant showed up in moments to collect the young girl. "Try not to let him get you into too much trouble...or too dirty. Don't think your father would ever forgive me," laughed Drus.
It was a slightly absent minded comment as he was decidedly busy giving Sven a searching look. He wanted to know what was going on.
Sven Winterborn - June 19, 2011 03:29 PM (GMT)
Sven snorted to himself, unable to say much at first. Drus' words still charred him as incredibly ironic, though he knew nothing of Sven's current predicament.
Eventually, the Duke of Landis sighed and sat himself down.
"So. Got asked for my hand in marriage today," he said, still trying to keep the atmosphere jovial while his stomach seemed to flip with every syllable. "I should probably commend Rune's efforts -- this old duke a most comely catch make."
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 19, 2011 03:39 PM (GMT)
Drus sat as Sven did, pouring himself and his friend a goblet of wine each and taking a long drink from his.
Promptly choking as Sven got himself together enough to actually tell him what was going on. "You got...You...What?!" He asked when he was finally able to suck the oxygen back into his lungs. For some reason he had not seen himself being single for longer than Sven was.
"Who? What? Why? Congratulations!" Drus raised his glass in a quick toast, drank deeply -- minus choking -- and grinned. "Does this mean another manly party night? Involving loose women, too much alcohol and slave racing?" They weren't really slaves, more like servants. But it just didn't have the same ring to it.
And Drus had grown up a lot since then. It was fun to look back on those days occasionally however.
Sven Winterborn - June 19, 2011 03:45 PM (GMT)
Well... Drustan was taking it lightly. Not even the memory of their crazy backride racing could bring Sven to smile after that. He succumbed to a scowl and let his face be covered in his hands.
"Gods, why do I treat it like a laughing matter? I'm trying to keep it light so I don't go insane. I feel like my head's still far away, unable to process it... but my heart's been beating in my chest and making me sick, ever since this morning."
And, lords, did he feel old!
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 19, 2011 03:50 PM (GMT)
Drus sighed. He had been keeping it light for the sake of his friend, but it seemed that wasn't going to work. This man before him now, face covered by his hands, was much more like the man he had seen just after the death of his wife.
It wasn't good to see Sven return to that.
"Because you have to be able to laugh about something Sven," said Drus, "Especially proposals. Treating them like doom and gloom is rarely the socially acceptable sort of behaviour," he pointed out. "It may all seem strange now, but...it's a good thing. Surely it's a good thing."
He wanted to say all sorts of comforting things, but really...there was something even more important than that. A question he couldn't get past and couldn't ignore. "So...who is she? Who's the lucky broad? And...actually...you did say yes didn't you?"
Sven Winterborn - June 19, 2011 04:06 PM (GMT)
"I would have said no!" Sven almost bellowed back, raising his head and outright glaring at his best friend. He couldn't sit anymore. His hands were shaking.
Sven quickly sat up and started pacing around the room.
"You know... I hate this. I wish I were five. When you're five... you don't care about anything. I remember my first worry. My very first -- I was dead scared my father would die. I was afraid I'd be left all alone, with no one but Fenrys. And that was it. No... responsibility. My stomach's literally dissolving in it."
He stopped, abruptly, taking in much needed breaths of air.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 19, 2011 04:19 PM (GMT)
Drus's eyes were getting progressively wider. He did not do well with an excess of emotions at the best of times. And now was most definitely not even bordering to close on a good time. Sven was talking in damned riddles and he was left feeling confused.
"But...you didn't?" Right. That was some sort of...a hint maybe?He could piece this together.
"But you're not five Sven, and I know it is hard, and I can see you're clearly struggling with something but...there is no way to avoid responsibility, no matter how much you may want to. And there is no way to make any of this easier. Especially if you won't explain anything," he said pointedly.
"I suggest a deep breath, a drink of something alcoholic, a steeling of the nerves and an explanation. Maybe then I can...help? Or at least offer support?"
Although if he had gone and said yes to some foul evil tempered hag with warts on her nose he didn't know how he was going to make things better.
Sven Winterborn - June 19, 2011 04:29 PM (GMT)
Sven laughed. "Oooh... I'm way beyond help. If I sayyes, there's a great chance that my children will hate me for the rest of my life. If I say no, I risk..." Everything? He couldn't say that. By far too dramatic, even for him.
He felt incredibly guilty by just toying with the idea of saying 'yes' anyway... Nadya's face kept popping back and forth, in and out of focus and he felt himself crumbling onto himself.
So he just let it drop.
"Astraea asked me if I wanted to ask for her hand in marriage."
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 01:24 PM (GMT)
Drus blinked. Blinked again. Slowly lowered himself into the nearest available seat. Blinked some more. It was important to carefully measure his words right now, but on the inside it was hard to hide his enthusiasm.
"Say yes," he said bluntly. "Children won't hate you forever, you're not...disrespecting your wifes memory in any way. This isn't cheating on her. She would want you to be happy and..."
Drus paused. What he was about to say next was where he started treading on slightly more delicate ground. He lowered his voice. "Sven. You may not want it, you may have no interest in, but at the end of the day Escova is yours. It is your country. And...you're good at what you do. Your people love you. The people of this country would love you to. How could you even contemplate saying no?" he asked.
"And anyways," he tried to lighten the mood, "You get a flash of those ankles. Green with envy here," he said.
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 01:32 PM (GMT)
"I know the logical reasons, but you're also wrong. I have no interest in... ruling. I was perfectly happy with my own little corner of the world and she's now taking that away from me, but asking me to keep my disinterest.
"She doesn't want a King, Drus. She wants a puppet she can showcase to all the naysayers from Sathyr to Aer. And she found me, the fool, who's so... perfect for the job."
That alone made him want to say 'no'. He could have let her have another and watch, from the shadows, as she fought with her new 'beloved' for the throne. Sven would also, unfortunately, watch how his brother's kingdom crumbled and died in their wake.
But what if Escova needed a better ruler than Astraea?
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 02:53 PM (GMT)
"But you're no puppet Sven, you never have been, you never will be. And if you marry her you offer this country your many years experience with ruling, you offer it a chance to survive and well...look at the way things are going," he said.
"Look at the damned riot we have all just come through. This country is burning down around us and she doesn't seem to be doing a damn thing to stop it. You could change it, sort things out, fix problems, make people love you, and come up with a solution for all these refugees we have under foot."
Drus paused. He took in a deep breath. He was going about this wrong, he knew he was. Sven didn't want to rule, nothing would make him. "She's young, she's pretty. When I spoke to her she seemed interested in Jude and the other children. She has no children of her own...And at the end of the day, don't your children deserve a mother? Weren't you telling me how much the girls needed someone around who was a woman. Astraea's offering you that."
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 07:12 PM (GMT)
"We're working on it," Sven quickly said, before his friend started going off on another tangent. This one, however, was something that greatly interested him, on a deep, personal level.
"She did?" He stood up straight. "She did offer Freya a present, the last time we talked."
This was another matter entirely.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 07:20 PM (GMT)
"See," he said coaxingly, "See," he repeated. "She's," he tried not to look like he was casting around for suitable words to throw Sven's way, "clearly taking an interest in your children, and one way or another that's a good thing. She knows what it's like to be a young woman, dealing with all those young woman...changes," he pulled a slight face, "we know nothing about. That's good for the girls."
He paused. "I've tried to bring up two girls by myself. Alyss is basically a woman know. She's looking at boys. And...well...I'm sure I don't need to go into great detail about the time she started screaming in the bath that she was bleeding to death. I'd never even thought about...it was...awkward." Drus was blushing red just recalling this particular incident.
"And here you are, getting the perfect offer on a plate. Someone who can talk to them, and understand, and be the mother that they need," she said. "And...women have that whole nurturing thing going on, it's good for children," he pointed out. "They're like...plants or something. Love and care and nurturing needed for them to grow."
Oh god, he had fallen back on metaphors.
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 07:24 PM (GMT)
With an equally reddened face, Sven nodded and said: "Yes, very true, very true."
He would not be able to look his daughter in the eye that day.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 07:30 PM (GMT)
"And anyways," said Drus, trying to move on with as much haste as possible. From the color of Sven's face he had got the message and that was all they were going to say about that, "Families important. Mum, dad, children. That's how it goes, that's how it always goes."
He paused, swallowed, "If I was in you position, if I had an eligible match lined up, I would be jumping at the chance. Kids deserve a family, not a half-hearted attempt at one. And...it's hard being alone Sven. It's hard on you, and it's going to be even harder on my kids. If I could have given mine a better shot at things I would have. But...I can't change things. Not now. They're grown up and moving on. But...you have a shot at giving your children a mother, giving them the best opportunities in life with love supporting them. What could be better?"
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 07:37 PM (GMT)
Sven could understand it perfectly. It was the thought at the back of his mind... the ultimate truth.
He knew it was true.
He felt it.
"Rune's almost as old as Jude, you know. Remember? We were joking they were as good as twins when they were babies. Both with puffy blonde hair..." he smiled in sweet remembrance.
Nadya had always loved his darker hair -- it mattered very little that he had only had blond hair up until his late teens. It had grown darker afterwards, eventually settling on the matted brown he now sported. Eventually, if he had good health, it would turn white, like the rest.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 07:43 PM (GMT)
"Doesn't change the fact that she needs a mother," he said, "When they're not skinning their knees they're bleeding to death, and when they're not bleeding to death, they're on the marriage market and everything that entails."
And that topic of conversation could stop right there. Drus would lock his daughters away in very tall, very difficult to get into towers if he didn't think that would earn him a few funny looks.
"Needing a mother isn't something that just...goes away. It never just...stops," he said.
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 07:50 PM (GMT)
Sven frowned and folded his arms to his chest, letting his body, for the first time, relax and lean back against the pillow of his armchair.
"You have a point."
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 08:12 PM (GMT)
"I have a very good point," said Drus. He was pulling out all the low blows today, targeting Sven where he knew it was going to do the most good. "You know how it goes. You have kids and suddenly life stops being just about you. You have to put them first, it's just the way it goes."
He paused, leaning forwards in his seat, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands. "Put your kids first Sven. You have to do the right thing by them, regardless of anything else."
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 08:18 PM (GMT)
Sven suddenly stood up.
"Okay, okay!!" he said, raising his hands in defeat. "Gods... I didn't expect this much of a preaching." Then, unexpectedly, he laughed.
Sven found himself stretching, as if having awoken from a long slumber. "I'll get you a painting. So you can put it up anywhere and just say: 'Queen's ankles, gents. There they are. The body parts that started everything, right here on my wall'. How's that?"
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 08:31 PM (GMT)
The laughter was good to hear. Drus honestly didn't remember the last time he had heard Sven like this -- certainly it had been before his wife's death. It had to have been. He had been such a morose and grumpy bastard since then.
"Are you forgetting who you're talking to friend?" asked Drus, "Preaching might as well be my middle name." Especially when it came to something as important to him as to who was ruling his country. Not that he would tell Sven the true motivation behind the manipulation.
"And...I think that would be a marvelous thank you present," said Drus, joining in on the laughter. "Although I might have to keep it for my private viewing pleasure. The are sure to be very fine ankles..." He grinned, "And anyway, now we get the bachelor party. This is going to be fun."
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 08:37 PM (GMT)
He couldn't stop himself now. His face collapsed in a series of laughs and snorts as he desperately tried to stop himself. "Without..." he burst "the racing now... We've packed a few pounds!"
Though they could always have a day of hunting. Or... "We could go on disguise through Marithseum! Like we did when we were young! Remember Tania?" Drus had loved Tania.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 08:42 PM (GMT)
Drus was unsure as to where the laughter had come from, but he was joining in whole heartedly. It felt like old times. It felt like the way things were meant to be. It felt like everything was okay.
Sven would be married and happy. The refugees wouldn't tear the city apart. He would fix things. And Drus and Sven could be best friends, Rune and Jude could continue to hang out...It would all work out perfectly.
"We'd need like...two servants to one of us," snorted Drus. "And of course I remember Tania. She had lovely...ankles too." The shape Drus's hands made in the air was most definitely not resembling an ankle. "Lets find Tania! I could do with more ankles in my life."
"TIBBET!" he bellowed. The servant appeared quickly enough to show he had not been far away. At all. "Wine. Lots of it. And...put a smile on your face. This is a happy time. We're going to find Tania," he smirked.
The servant hurried away, shaking his head. He was used to such boisterousness in Drus's halls.
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 08:52 PM (GMT)
"As long as you find me..." He frowned in confusion. The name escaped me. "Matilda? Or was it... Margaret? Marle--" he stopped and caught the name before it was ended. Sven forced back his smile. "Melanie. Something or the other. She had nice ankles too, you know, Drus. Very nice ones."
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 24, 2011 08:58 PM (GMT)
"None as pretty as Tania's," said Drus. He gave a small sigh, the way he was mooning anyone would think that he was mooning over some long lost love, rather than a...there was no really delicate way to put this.
A brief moment of passion fueled by alcohol and the desire to see her ankles. That would do.
"I'm sure something could be arranged," he said. Tibbet returned and Drus grinned, "Maybe Tibbet here could help us. I'm sure you know some pretty girls." The grey-haired servant remained stone faced as he poured out two goblets of wine. Many years of practice had gone into this expression.
Sven Winterborn - June 24, 2011 09:07 PM (GMT)
"Drus, you're embarrassing the man." Tibbet's face was as unchanging as the stony visages of statues, in gardens. "Look at him. He's blushing, the poor man. You should apologise this instant, Milord," Sven said, as if he were talking to a petulant child.
Drustan mac Cruihm - June 27, 2011 08:25 PM (GMT)
"Positively lobster coloured," drawled Drus, grinning at his long-serving and ever-patient servant. Drus stood, taking another drink of his wine, before giving a rather large, rather inelegant, rather over-the-top bow. "Please forgive me Tibbet my dear friend. Help your self to some of the good stuff some time," he said, meaning the stores of alcohol he had.
He winked at the servant as he stood, letting him know this was all in good fun. Tibbet knew him too well to be offended. "Hey!" he said suddenly, "We've put on a few pounds, but so has Tibbet here..." He turned to the servant. "How would you feel about letting me go for a ride?"
That sounded almost filthy. "I mean...Um...MORE WINE!" Quickly. Before he sounded really stupid.
Sven Winterborn - June 28, 2011 11:15 PM (GMT)
Sven burst into laughter. He was laughing a lot today -- the Duke of Landis found the reason easily: he was nervous and desperate and completely nerve-wrecked. Laughing was just his way of release. He needed to forget about himself for a while.
"You're forgetting your age, old friend!" Sven accused, wryly. "Besides, I don't think this occasion begets such wild festivities." There would be a wedding, however. And probably a parade. Astraea would wish to show off her new king to the people of Escova.
Drustan mac Cruihm - July 1, 2011 12:41 PM (GMT)
"I never forget my age!" said Drus, "I just choose to ignore it. Just like I choose to ignore the fact my children are growing up. Jude will be a man soon." Jude already was a man, shaving at least, but Drus lived in a fuzzy cloudy place of denial. That was still, and always would be, his little boy.
"And I dunno...weddings are always a happy occasion. And the perfect excuse to go checking out...ankles," laughed Drus. "It's the right choice old friend, and that always deserves a celebration of some sort."
Sven Winterborn - July 1, 2011 03:39 PM (GMT)
Sven sighed. "Oh, I can wager quite a bit of gold Astraea would want a tournament. It was something my brother would enjoy greatly -- and the people, too. A good idea, in principle." A new king, a tournament... whatever helped boost morale.
"If she does, will you compete? How's your swordsmanship these days?" Sven took care to say it with the kind of worrisome tone of one addressing an elderly individual.
Drustan mac Cruihm - July 1, 2011 03:47 PM (GMT)
Drus grinned. He had always enjoyed tournament. The bright colors, the food, the cheering crowd. Alot of the time there was a good majority of them cheering for him -- it was a good feeling and he missed it. "A good idea in practice too," said Drus.
"How's my swordsmanship...what did you think I was doing before I arrived?" he asked, laughing and gesturing to his disheveled clothes. The sweat had dried at least but he had been working hard. "I keep it up...and anyways, don't waste your time worrying about me, old man," he said, grinning at his friend. Two years younger than Sven and milking it for all he was worth.
"But of course I will compete. Would be really happy too actually. The fitness is there, I'll just practice some of the finer points of swordplay and..." Drus was off, head filled with the idea of glory. "A tournament is always good," he said.
Sven Winterborn - July 1, 2011 03:54 PM (GMT)
Sven waved his friend's thoughts away. "Whatever you say. I was never much for blood and guts spilling. I do love the jousting tasks -- those are some fine animals the knights ride." It tore his heart to pieces when a lance pierced through them.
"I shall have to organise a hunt. Rune would greatly appreciate it." He'd long stopped trying to explain to nobles why his daughter was accompanying him. They quickly got the gist after she caught her own game. "And I'd get something I like, too."
Drustan mac Cruihm - July 1, 2011 04:00 PM (GMT)
"They certainly are," said Drus, "Goddamn fearless too. The good ones are at any rate. Drus had a few chargers in his stables. He felt only an absent attachment to them, like any attachment you feel to something that serves you well. He had another horse he road hunting who was far more of a friend to Drus. The chargers were too aloof. But fearless.
"A hunt would be good," he said, "I'll try and get Jude along for it too. You know how stubborn boys can get, but it would be good for him," said Drus. It would also be good to get Rune and Jude more acquainted with each other. Something that was going to be far easier when Sven and family moved into the castle.
Sven Winterborn - July 1, 2011 04:07 PM (GMT)
Sven laughed. "Are you trying to throw your boy at my daughter, Dru?"
Drustan mac Cruihm - July 1, 2011 04:09 PM (GMT)
"Would I do a thing like that?" Wide-eyed innocence.
Of course he was. It was a good match. It would consolidate a large amount of power, Drus and Sven had been friends for years. Rune and Jude would be a good match. Better than him marrying some floozy who was all wrong for him.