For this blog challenge post (thanks Amanda McCormick!) we were asked to pick a few elements from a dream we had and then incorporate them into a short story. All writing prompts I’ve received lately, I’ve turned into short stories that take place in the same universe as my upcoming fantasy romance novel.
My dream was about my mother. I won’t go into it, but I have a painful relationship with my mother.
It was the perfect inspiration for this story.
“Ardia takes after you because she has no gift for music,” Olivia sil Varstra complains to her husband, Prego. He peers up at her from the book he’s reading, a grimace on his face.
“What does she need music for? She’s my heir. She will inherit the preeminent estate in the kingdom. She doesn’t need to focus on music. If she wants frivolity, she can hire someone. There’s a reason we support artists in this kingdom.” He’s said his piece, engrossing himself back into his letter. After a moment he puts it aside and picks up a different document.
“She needs to be well-rounded, or she will not interest Tahm sil Aldrich.” Olivia sits down on a chaise in the center of the room. “We have a chance to merge the economic empires of the two most important estates in the kingdom. Together we’d cover two-hundred square miles of the kingdom.” She shakes her head. “No. I must insist that you write to the University and enroll her in music classes.”
Prego tosses the document he’s trying to read on the desk. “That’s enough. Her lessons in economics, statecraft, and history are well enough. The contract has been signed less than a week, and you’re already getting skittish.”
Olivia’s face sours. “You supported marrying her to sil Aldrich as much as I did. Do. I still think it is for the best. Tahm is a strapping young man. He can protect her from whatever comes.” She looks at her hands; she is not yet old enough for them to show her age, although she knows the day is coming. Still, at not yet forty, she is young enough to still appear pleasing. She decides to try a different tactic. “He won’t want to protect her if she’s boring,” she says, pouting her lips and batting her eyelashes.
Prego sighs deeply and looks at the ceiling, pleading with the Lord and Lady for the strength to persevere. “Olivia, don’t do that. As much as I value your input, I said no. She has only a year left at University, and if she wants to receive the marks that will earn the respect of her peers, she must focus.”
He pinches the bridge of his nose. “And do not tell me that I supported it. My decision to join with sil Aldrich was born of two desires: to keep her safe and to keep Tavaria safe from whatever darkness rises across the border in Amerilis. If there had been any other way, any at all, I would have preferred it. She is too young.”
Olivia scoffs, abandoning with frustration her pretense of coy persuasion. “I was fifteen when you married me. You did not think I was too young.” Her voice quivers, as if she is hurt by his double standard, but is too proud to address it outright.
Prego groans, tossing his hands in the air, reaching for some sort of divine aid that will not come. “You were not, are not an heir. Heirs typically marry at age twenty-three, as I was when I married you. You know this. You know this. And yet you harry me with your incessant nagging!”
He rises to his feet and leaves his office, ignoring Olivia’s demand that he stay and discuss their daughter’s future. She stands too but does not leave. Instead, she paces for a time, stopping every once in a while to stare out the window into the front garden, watching the grand reflecting pool ripple with the falling rain. The roses will bloom beautifully this year, she thinks to herself.
Decision made, she makes her way to the desk from which her husband departed. She finds a blank parchment and dips a quill into a bottle of ink.
Lord sil Aldrich,
What’s done is done, and I do not regret my decision to join our two great estates for the benefit of both us and all of Tavaria. With your armies and my husband’s resources, we will defend this great land from the threat in the east.
However, I must ask once again for you to alter the contract. While your brother is a fine young man, I worry that he is not the right fit for my daughter. He is a rumored playboy and a sportsman, and I worry that his attention will wander in the time after she is busy running sil Varstra and before he inherits sil Aldrich. If you will not take her hand in marriage, as I would prefer you to do, will you not at least abdicate your position so that Tahm is already made Duke before he weds Ardia? By doing so, you ensure their matrimonial bliss as they will both be far too busy to pay any attention to their significant differences.
You are a man made wise by loss and experience. I am confident you will see the wisdom in my request.
Her Grace Duchess Olivia sil Varstra
She sends the letter that day, sending her least favorite servant into the storm to find a courier in the nearest village, Losenta.
After that, Olivia is perfectly placid. She smiles at the servants, initiates lovemaking with her husband, and mostly keeps to herself. She possesses the utmost confidence that Perael sil Aldrich will acquiesce. She has never been more confident. Of course, he will agree to my terms, she thinks. I approached him with logic. Men cannot abide illogical arguments, but mine made perfect sense. He really has no choice.
The rest of the spring season passes with no response, but Olivia does not give up hope. But the smile on her face is tighter. Her lovemaking overtures become desperate. The manner in which she communicates with her servants is strained. She loses patience.
The first day of summer, three days before her daughter is to return home from University, she finally receives a response.
While I appreciate your concern for the happiness of my brother and your daughter, I must again tell you that I have no intention of marrying again. I made my decision long ago, and as long as Tahm is alive, I have no reason to reconsider it.
As for your other suggestion, I must firmly remind you, with all due respect, that sil Aldrich is my estate. It is not yours to command at will. I assumed the mantle of Duke sil Aldrich seventeen years ago, and I am most capable of deciding what is best for my estate, and what is not. Your suggestion that I abdicate in favor of my brother is, at this time, not what is best for my estate.
Again, I thank you for your concern, but it is misplaced. The marriage will take place, as planned. The moment your daughter leaves for Cantrop, I will dispatch my men to assist you in the defense of Tavaria, as agreed.
His Grace Duke Perael sil Aldrich
Without a word, Olivia tears the letter into shreds, letting them fall to the ground of her bedroom. Tears well up in her eyes as white-hot rage courses through her very bones. Blinking back the tears, she bites through the tip of her tongue as she fights the urge to scream. She grits her teeth, feeling as if her bone marrow has been replaced with acid.
When the heat of her anger passes, reduced to a persistent simmer, she sits on her bed.
Olivia is forced to consider that she is not in control. Not of sil Aldrich, whom she thought she had successfully manipulated. Not even of her husband, who more and more refuses her requests.
But she will not cry. She will never cry.