A World Engendered
Author: Raindrops on Roses
Spoilers: Kushiel's Dart
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Jacqueline Carey. So, not me.
Author's Note: I wrote this for Jay Tryfanstone for Yuletide 2006. I'm not very happy with it, but it's decent, considering I hadn't written anything since my creative writing class eight months ago.
I have never had much experience with children. An only child raised in the mountains of Siovale, I did not have many playmates. My days were spent reading the great classics of Tiberium, conjugating Caerdicci verbs and memorizing the poetic works of Terre d'Ange. I learned to ride, of course; received lessons in the courtly graces; even trained with the men-at-arms of Montrève.
My father was not unkind; he was loving, in his way, and cared for me as his only son and heir. However, as Comte de Montrève, he had business that took him away from home. Mother was affectionate, yet she did not indulge me as I discovered the parents of my peers were wont to do. She showed me that reward was gained for work done, and under her tutelage I came to love learning for its own reward. Above all, she taught me that if one followed Elua's precept, one's life would be blessed beyond compare.
When I came of age, I attended the University of Tiberium. It was exhilarating, being in such a renowned center of learning, and I threw myself into my studies. I might have lost myself in the University's grand library had I not found a new passion. The Dauphin of Terre d'Ange, Rolande de la Courcel, happened across me deep in my research one day; he was pleased to discover a fellow countryman among the melange of cultures in attendance at the University. We had spoken in the past, but not much beyond pleasantries; he had always been whisked away to greet statesmen more important than the son of a minor Siovalese lord.
I have not always been involved in politics and intrigue; at one time, my life's ambition was to devote myself to my poetry. Had I known what I would fall into when I allowed myself to be cajoled out into the bright Caerdicci sunlight, I am not certain I would have chosen the same. Who can say? I am not one to question the workings of the gods. I accepted my lord's riding invitation, and so began a slow courtship that lead to disaster, but also a passion that would fuel my life from then on.
Rolande and I were opposites in many ways. He was boisterous, passionate, and contained a streak of rash nobility that turned out to be his downfall, but charmed almost all who came in contact with him. I was no exception. The more time I spent with Rolande, the more I loved him for who his brilliance, his sheer joy of life, rather than his position as my liege-lord, the man to whom I owed my allegiance. He was meant for great things, Prince Rolande; he could have been one of the greatest rulers Terre d'Ange had ever known.
My time at the University of Tiberium was the most relaxed and idyllic of my life. Indeed, it was as close to perfect as any Siovalese-born lad can get: gaining the most esoteric knowledge by day, loving and being loved by night, the muse inspired to lofty heights and rarely quiescent. I lived a lifetime in those few short years. We finished at Tiberium and returned home. I have travelled and heard tales of far-off, exotic lands, but I have never seen or heard of any country as beautiful as my own.
Rolande was soon betrothed to one Edmée de Rocaille. Edmée was a dear childhood friend of mine; one of the few I had had. We both understood our places in our prince's life; Edmée would never have Rolande's heart fully, but would bear his children; I would never have a family of my own, but would content myself with my lord's love. My father was not pleased when he heard of our plan, and when he could not convince me to marry and sire an heir, he disowned me. I took my mother's name, Delaunay, the name of an Eisandine shepherd boy whom Elua had loved.
I believe we could have been happy, Rolande, Edmée, and I. We would have been, if not for the machinations of Isabel L'Envers. Everyone knows the story, even if it is not spoken aloud for fear of being accused of slander. Isabel cut the bootstraps of Edmée's mount before a hunt; Edmée was thrown, and died, securing Isabel's place as Rolande's wife. It all fell apart then. My poetry was the only weapon I could wield against such a crafty opposition; a weapon swiftly banned from being published, and made anathema to own. I was fortunate in that I was not banished from my homeland.
I still loved my lord; I do to this day. I watched as he wed Isabel L'Envers, as she grew heavy with child, and eventually gave birth to a girl, Ysandre. I watched, and when news came of more Skaldi attacks on the border, I rode with him to war.
The final battle, the one known to history as the Battle of the Three Princes, is a memory both of confusion and sharpness to me. Confusion, of course, as any battle is; the clash of steel on steel, the screams of horses and cries of dying men, the stench of spilled blood and gore, the brightness of the sun glinting off polished metal. Sharpness, for I remember well the pain of the loss of my lord. He rushed ahead of the standard-bearer, and was slain and lost in the confusion of battle.
Shortly after Ysandre's birth, Rolande had exacted from me an oath: to protect Ysandre, his daughter, his heir, from any and all who would attempt to harm her or usurp her rightful place. I swore this oath gladly; she was my beloved's child, and could not help who her mother was. After Rolande's death, this vow was hard to bear, and hard to uphold; I was not given much opportunity to know the child, and had to work in the shadows. I put much of what I learned at University to use, discreetly making contacts and gathering information. I grieved quietly, and was grateful for distraction.
As I have said, I have not had much experience with children. However, after Rolande's death, I found myself taking in a parentless child from Trefail, in Camlach. The boy's name was Alcuin; he was a by-blow of one of Rolande's men's trysts, and Rolande had promised to see him cared for. He was a lovely child, all long silver-white hair and great dark innocent eyes. I had already arranged to take in one child, a girl from the Night Court, named Phèdre; however, I had plans for her, and was not expecting her for some time yet. Alcuin was somewhat... else. He was intelligent and eager to learn; earnest and sweet. It was with a pang that I realized that with his beauty and near-perfect memory, Alcuin would be a perfect instrument for my plans. I did not wish to sully this child's innocence with my intrigues, but the importance of my oath to Rolande overtook all else.
Soon after, Phèdre arrived. Two children cannot possibly be more opposite. Alcuin has lived under the shadow of the Skaldi all his life, yet still remains pure and innocent. Phèdre, for all her Night Court-instilled graces and charms, is headstrong and rebellious. Perhaps it is a consequence of being marked as she is with Kushiel's Dart; I do not know. She certainly does not yield, as do those adepts of Valerian House.
I have contracted the esteemed courtesan and former adept of Cereus House, Cecilie Laveau-Perrin, to teach the children what they need to know about Naamah's arts. My plans proceed slowly, but these things cannot be rushed. When they are finished, my two adepts will have all the skills they need to assist me in my goal.
I only fear that as their prodigious minds develop, they will come to realize what I am doing. The more they know, they more they are in danger. Despite what I do, I do not wish to see anyone harmed by my actions, most especially these two children, whose safety I am responsible for.
I pray that they can forgive me, in the end.