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Unexpected News


Re: Unexpected News

Post by Vicentius on

He smiled at the touch, his eyes not leaving hers as the life within her moved. It was a strange moment and it struck him rather hard right then that he had never felt it before. He chuckled, his hand moving gently over her skin to follow the movements, and leaned in to kiss her gently.

"Well," he said, when they pulled apart, "if ever there was any doubt about whether it is our child, that should settle it. We were never content to stay where we were put either, were we?"

She fidgeted with his collar, and he leaned back, reaching up to play with strands of her hair. Motherhood suited her well, he thought, and she glowed from head to toe, positively brimming with life. She was upset, though, that much was clear, and he snuggled closer to her, his hand in hers.

"Is it? I feel strange in either garb, truth be told," he said, stroking her finger gently with his. "It has always been armour, and I have always needed it."

Pulling her hand up to his lips, he kissed each finger.

"Now, the thought of you protects me more."

Re: Unexpected News

Post by Ivone on

Ivone gave a little snort at his comment about staying put.

"No, though I think I am better at it than you." Ivone savored the gentle kisses on her fingers. Her mouth, expressive as ever, quirked up, flashing the little dimples at the corners of her mouth.

"I do prefer you sans either, truth be told." Finally, her gaze lifted to meet his. Tears glistened, unshed. She refused to send him off bawling like a fool and making him feel guilty for doing what needed to be done.

"You are too good to be true." ivone kissed him then and all their work to get him ready was made disheveled. She needed to feel him just once more, touch him, taste him...

****
Mei Ling put an arm around Ivone's shoulder as they watched Tius leave. Ivone was smiling, perfectly, a mask she knew Tius could see through, but determined to wear it nonetheless. One hand rested on the curve of her belly. The other waved to him. She saw him turn a few times to look back, until he was so far in the distance, she couldn't tell whether he turned or not.

He'd take the boat again, to save time.

When Tius was finally out of eye sight, Ivone turned to Mei Ling.

"I'm a little tired, right now. I think I will rest."

Mei Ling nodded. Xi-Ling glared at the blonde woman's back. She freely shed tears at Vi-cen's departure, but that cold, porcelain woman just smiled and waved. Xi-Ling wanted to rip Ivone's hair from her head.

***
In her room, Ivone burst into tears, face buried in a pillow to hide the sounds of her sobbing. The baby kicked, disgruntled at being squished down on. Ivone shifted, but let the tears flow. She had to get them out now, or she'd never be able to function.

Would he make it back in time for the birth? To think he might was too hope for too much. Even with boating across the large lake, he only had three and half months.

Ivone hoped that he would at least be able to come back before the child deemed him a stranger.

Assuming she survived the birth...
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Re: Unexpected News

Post by Vicentius on

She truly was a marvel, Tius thought, letting himself be swept away by the passion of the moment, aware that they would need to do the whole ritual again afterwards, but uncaring of the fact. She had enough pride for the both of them and more brains than he ever would, and he just couldn't get enough of her. Tossing his jacket aside, he took her with both hands and lost himself in her again. He moved, she moved, their child moved and all... all was right with the world.

-------------------

Parting was a strange sensation for him, not only because he was leaving a part of himself behind again, but because there was rather more ceremony involved than he was used to. He had come and gone countless times, both from home and cities across Eyropa and Tian Xia, always early, rarely tarrying, and he could not remember anyone having ever made quite so much fuss for him. Even the last time he had departed the Gardens, he had slipped out in the early hours, knowing that Xi-Ling would not let him go without a fight. They would have said goodbye, he knew, had he waited, but he wasn't family, and where he was then, it all just made him uncomfortable.

In the here and now, Tius stood on the deck, and it was as though he were watching two versions of himself waving from the shore. Ivone was a mask of control, her eyes shining, and one hand placed protectively over her abdomen, while Xi-Ling wept behind her parents. He almost smiled at the thought of them, but stopped short, setting his mind to the journey ahead. They had lingered too long still, and the weather was turning against them. The return journey would be difficult, but he took solace from the knowledge that his letters to Ivone and Xi-Ling might ease their minds.

There was a difficult time ahead of them all, he knew, but with luck the time would pass quickly, and he would be back by her side. He had to be. There was no other option.

Re: Unexpected News

Post by Ivone on

Her hip, back, and knee joints ached. By seven months, her belly was distended and the baby's movements obvious to the casual observer. The baby was bigger than it had been in her first pregnancy. Possibly because Tius was a larger man.

"Ivone-shi, you must stay in bed!"

The elderly midwife admonished her.

"I cannot sit. I must move around! I must!"

"You risk the baby and yourself!" The midwife had figured out how to get compliance from Ivone. Threaten the baby's life and Ivone became docile as a lamb.

"Please, just a walk around the garden?" Ivone had become pale and wan. Her vitality was sapped. The midwife sighed and the two women carefully negotiated the move from bed to floor. Ivone knew the woman was right. She knew she didn't have the energy or strength to walk around the garden. She just wanted to, just wanted to get out of the bed, out of the room. Walking had helped during her first pregnancy.

"Did you drink your medicine, Ivone-shi?"

"Yes, yes." Ivone had blanced. The medicine tasted foul, but the ginger tea was a pleasant reward for after. Ivone felt as if she had no room for food or any of her internal organs.

"Just a little longer, Ivone-shi..." The midwife walked slowly with Ivone, steps and pauses until they made a full circuit of the room.

"I'd like to write Tius a letter. Have any come from him?"

"I have not seen any Ivone-shi."

"Ah." Ivone gratefully sat on the edge of the bed.

"Would you ask someone to bring the materials?"

"Of course, of course. Lay back now."

The midwife felt sorry for the petite woman. No letters had come that Yo Na had seen.
"Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I'm not sure I could.
They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting."


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Re: Unexpected News

Post by Vicentius on

Things since his return had... progressed. That was about as much as Tius could really say about them. The trip back from Tian Xia had been a numbing experience initially, full of worries and frets that he had to put aside one by one as the practical concerns of travel overtook him. They made good time, all told, crossing the sea before the weather turned foul, and the land journey, along with the wagons and various burdens was well under way when the winds came. Yet his thoughts were always far behind him, and so he turned to writing once more, each thought committed to paper lest it fester and consume him, and destroyed when completed lest someone unfortunate discover it. An expensive and quite macabre hobby, he thought, all things considered, but it worked, and when they eventually wound their way across the plains, he was still relatively sane.

He wrote his first letter to her when they made the Pass. He had put it off for as long as he could, and his ramblings had petered off to the point where he felt he could write something legible, and yet he still felt inadequate and dishonest as he penned his wishes. He informed her that he was well, that the trip had been as uneventful as one could hope for, which worried him, and that Changers willing, he would make Marn in good time and be back before she knew it. He sent it back with his love, with a good caravan, and they carried on.

He sent his second letter halfway across the plains, this time informing her that their caravan was being watched, distantly. It was an unsettling feeling, and yet the attack never came. They traded some goods as they went, picking up food and supplies; the coach houses were as he remembered, and they sufficed to rest weary bones. Travelling was both easier and harder on him now that he was older, and he said as much in his letters. Perhaps it was the burden of experience; he noticed more, he expected more, he lent a hand in different places, and no doubt proved an awful headache for Jaden and his people, even as he tried to stay out of their way. Still, they all seemed happy to have him, and he could not fathom why. He said as much in his letter, and wished it to Ivone with all love and speed, trying not to imagine that small spark of life and love between them growing ever more with each day that passed.

He sent his third letter before they reached Marn, on the outskirts of Shim; a reassurance that he had, despite his paranoid fancies, made it back in one piece. This time, he broke his rule and inquired about their child, about how she felt and how they were both doing, It was a risk, he thought; it was tempting fate, but he asked anyway. He missed her terribly, and moreso every morning he awoke alone, but each day dawned, and, as he had before, he carried on. He asked about the gardens, he asked about their friends, he expressed his hope that Xi Ling was not being too critical of her, and he spoke of his fears for the return to Marn. Putting those on paper felt like a betrayal, but they were true. Sealing the letter with love and care, he sent that away too, and steeled himself to return home.

His arrival in Marn was an unremarkable flurry of activity. There was no fanfare; no celebration or cheering, but the right people were there to meet him, and that was what mattered. He saw to business first, of course, to putting away those delicate items and overseeing the trades he had only signed off on while away. Things were going nicely, it had to be said, and money was coming in. The difference was that some of it was now going in a different direction. As it was, he looked into the theater productions and the works Miss Stone was producing, certain that Ivone would want to hear about them. He looked into her business, checking the stocks and the sales, as well as passing on her new ideas to the staff. Samples were arranged and plans were drawn up. He was so exhausted by the end of the day that he barely looked at their home before he collapsed into bed.

The next day, he saw to the gardens, setting out the seedlings from Tian Xia and looking over the arrangements with a critical eye. They had been well tended, but some things needed to be changed, and he saw to it that they would be. He looked over the house, reviewed the performance of the servants, saw to the layout of the nursery for when she returned. Of course, he told nobody that was what he was doing, but he was certain that they could guess. As it was, he had no doubt he established a reputation as a brusque, demanding master, but he was content to let them work. There were not many, a butler, lady's maid and some house girls. They all came recommended, of course, and he made certain of their skill. He doubted it had endeared him to them.

The remainder of his time was reporting to Monetario, or rather to his staff. There had been movements from Raemes, and further rumblings of interest, but they had been kept at bay, and Monetario was keen to know that his time was not being wasted. The news from Tian Xia and the updates about trade from Eyropa were taken in good spirits, or at least the language used was positive, and the more... subtle... purchases were reviewed with a keen eye. The rest would need to be built upon over time. He was willing to work, and as diligent as ever, and the Family were keen to exercise their new asset. More paper and money crossed his desk in that first week than in the month before he had left, and he suspected he was being tested. He bore it as well as he could, counting the moments until he could pen his next letter to Ivone to inform her that all was well.

He did not truly worry until he returned home and found his previous letters waiting for him there. Each had been opened, but not by Ivone, and a new message was inscribed on each. We must speak.

There was only so much he could do from where he was, and each additional letter sent was returned to him in the same state, so he settled into a different kind of routine, and by the time things were balanced again, he had far too much news to relay to his by then heavily pregnant wife. The shop was secure and thriving, though he could not imagine her reacting well to giving creative leeway to the staff. Her gardens were well tended and flourishing, and he had even taken the liberty of purchasing a horse for her. Even Shen had forgiven him for his hasty departure by then, and when he set out to return to Tian Xia, he would make certain to bring those two with him.

He could only hope that his next trip was as uneventful as the first.

Re: Unexpected News

Post by Ivone on

Xi-ling tucked Ivone’s letter into the box with the others. She couldn’t bring herself to throw them away, which she knew would probably cause problems for her later. She resolved to burn the lot soon, but for now, she had to take up the pregnant woman’s slack. Yet another reason to resent Ivone.

Ivone was living the life Xi-ling had wanted. She would show Vi-cen when he returned he had made the wrong choice. He would put the blond woman away and marry her. He would!

Xi-ling slammed the box lid down and lifted it back up to its place on top of the wardrobe closet. She had to use a step stool to reach it, though she knew Vi-cen would be able to reach it easily. But… that would also mean he would have to be in her room. And if she got him that far… she would make it so he would have to marry her or risk everything he had ventured here.

For Ivone’s part, the nearer her due date, the more uncomfortable she became. At this point, it was all she could do to walk the length and breadth of her room. The baby sat heavy on her bladder and her back ached. She was tearful and not herself.
She wanted Tius. Wanted him to hold her.

“Have any letters come at all?”

Yo Na shook her head.

“The weather has been bad, I suspect the boats haven’t been crossing.”

Re: Unexpected News

Post by Vicentius on

"Very impressive. And these are the newest samples?"

Tius turned from the produce on offer, holding up two smaller vials of scent. Ivone's business had grown somewhat since she had departed for Tian Xia, though Tius had gone to some pains to ensure that it kept the same aesthetics. Ivone had quite an eye for detail when it came to personalizing a space; making it feel like a home. He did not want her to return to find her fingerprints had been wiped away by an enthusiastic manager looking to make a mark. Not that he was worried about that happening in this case, Lady Marjorie Varti had been very keen to support their vision for the business, presumably to attach herself to the clout that came with Tius' new status, but there did seem to be some genuine interest there too. At his question, she smiled and tucked a stray hair behind one pointed ear, nodding and coming forwards.

"Yes, actually. We have one other that we're still testing, but the balance isn't quite right yet. These two are ready for sale now, we just need approval."

He jotted down a note, doing some quick sums in the margins. Delays could be costly, but only if one failed to keep track. He could not afford to let things slip now more than ever, and with his every letter returning to him, it was an effort not to be distracted. He listened to his people, he did his best to separate his worries about Ivone from his business dealings, but there was only so far that could go. In the end, regardless of wishes, they were all only mortal. He took another look at the vials, gauging the clarity, then carefully uncapped one and took a gentle sniff. It was a delicate aroma of jasmine and light florals, smelling of new spring. He felt in his heart that Ivone would have more to offer on the subject than he did, but he took another sniff, letting the scent sift through his sense-memories. It did hit the right notes, but it needed something to elevate it, he felt. Lychee maybe? Bamboo water, perhaps? Taking a moment, he turned his attention to the second. That was a much more complete bouquet, subtle but still vigorous. Too much tampering there could be dangerous, but he was happy with it. He nodded and returned his attentions to Marjorie.

"This one needs something more, but this one is very intriguing."

Marjorie frowned, then leaned back, raising an eyebrow.

"You have quite a nose, Mr Morrington."

"I have an excellent memory, in fact," he said, "and an even better business partner. Would you care for a drink? Regale me with tales of this... problem scent."

They sat and chatted, because Marjorie liked to sit and chat, covering the usual problems with research and sample consistency before straying to incoming staff and individual tastes. It was an entirely new breed of conversation for Tius, whose knowledge of the finer world of perfume-making came from a number of very intense lessons from Ivone, and yet a familiar one for that same reason. He enjoyed talking business; he knew business, and it kept his mind occupied, but the new conversations were taxing in a thrilling way too. If he was to survive in the new world that he found himself in, then he needed these new experiences, and very much so. More surprisingly, he found himself engaging with Marjorie rather more than would have been the norm, and doubtless that was Ivone's doing too.

It was a pattern that repeated itself almost day after day; but he found himself smiling more and more in spite of himself. He had to catch himself. They had a child coming. Their child. The thought both terrified and amazed all at once. Their child. Who would it be? Who could it be? It was overwhelming, and he could only imagine how Ivone was feeling about the whole thing. He missed her. He went from his work, to the theater, to the shop, he spoke to officials and caravan-hands and traders, and always his mind went back to her, so far away. It was distracting, and dangerous, but he would not change it for the world.

Still he sent his letters, and still they came back to him. He was more than a little worried about that by now, and with the season turning, he was running out of time to find out what was going on there. Still, even a man with an urge to travel and see his distant wife had prior obligations, as much as he wished otherwise. Office politics and family politics crept into damned near everything now. Bitter recriminations from his father, probing questions from his mother and sisters, strained meals with his brothers, and more and more meetings with the...senior members of the family. Not Monetario, of course, he was too far up the chain, but Tius knew that the man was watching. Or perhaps waiting?

So, it was particularly surprising one day when he did get such an invitation, and found himself sitting before his new patron across an expensive and beautifully appointed desk. He did note that he was not offered any of the wine that Monetario was sipping, which could have meant any number of things. He opted to take it at face value, absorbing Monetario's blank, measuring stare calmly.

"I understand you've been busy," Monetario said, after a moment. "How go preparations for your departure?"

"Apace," Tius said, not at all surprised that Monetario was aware of them. "Though the caravan arrangements are rather harder to align."

It was true. Seasonal traffic was not predisposed towards rapid transit in any direction. Finding a route that brought him where he needed to go with the minimum of fuss was a challenge in and of itself, especially since he could not move with a single caravan as he had on the trip out. Instead, he would now need to book passage with several caravans for his own protection. He was a risk taker, certainly, but travelling alone through the Thar seemed like an extraordinarily bad plan.

"Some things cannot be rushed, no doubt."

"No doubt."

"And our contacts?"

"Waiting for me."

Monetario was very keen to exploit these new trade links to Tian Xia, and with Ivone present as an emissary, this was even more of a chance to rebuild her political clout. Aurelio had been noticeably silent since her departure, and had been spending more and more time with his betrothed at functions. Tius' interactions with the pair had been every bit as icily civil as one would expect. He wished them all the happiness in the world. He really did. Monetario frowned, taking a sip of his wine.

"Good," he said. "We expect a return on our investment. Please; give your wife our best."

Smiling, Tius bowed respectfully and left to prepare for his trip.

He only hoped that Ivone and Xi-Ling were having an easier time of it than he was.

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