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    Give me Peace

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    elanya
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    Give me Peace

    Post by elanya on 25/11/11, 01:15 am

    Give me Peace

    The amount of relief Vedran felt when Cael told him his family was safe had surprised him a little, in retrospect. Never before having felt that particular kind of stress, of concern, of apprehension for the fate of one’s offspring, for the mother of one`s son, he hadn’t recognized its intensity until it passed, leaving him feeling lightheaded. The selfish impulse to leave, to see them for himself had been very strong, but he fought it, thinking of all the families in Undertow that weren`t so lucky, and that certainly couldn`t if the immediate situation weren`t dealt with.

    He`d quickly found himself shouldering other responsibilities as well, when the first relief rations came to the subdivision only as the fighting had finally died down, wagons ringed with heaving armed guards set to protect their contents against those meant to receive them. The clerk his father had sent explained the situation calmly as locals who`d come to receive aid found it laced mistrust and condescension. There was very nearly a riot, but he stepped in, took responsibility, made promises to both sides and found himself weighed down with power and responsibility he`d never looked for.

    With emotions running so high and so much misinformation spreading through the streets, it was difficult to achieve any kind of balance. Everyone wanted more – there wasn`t any more to be had. Vedran was sure his father had calculated, somehow, exactly what was needed. It left him no wiggle room for this neighbourhood, or this gang, or this shelter. It was only fair, and not everyone seemed willing to accept that. His stress levels increased initially when Jacinthe arrived with one of the shipments, bringing with her Macen and Marys, and announced her intentions to help. She wasn’t the only one, but the only one he was married to, and he was certain she didn’t know what she was getting herself in to. But he knew he’d never be able to dissuade her, and he knew she could help. He sent her to an understaffed and suddenly overwhelmed orphanage he heard about through his teammates. When he later heard she’d taken over the nursery, he decided he could stop worrying as much. This was a boon, as he hadn’t had a chance to get away.

    When he started, he swore to himself that he would be sure to get rest, not to overwork himself needlessly. He would do a better job if his wits weren’t shattered by sleeplessness. But despite his intentions and the strict rules he set himself initially, there was always something that needed doing. Things came up at odd hours, problems with no clear solutions plagued his mind when he did force himself to lie down. Undertow had its own factions, let alone the different powers in the rest of the city who wanted a share of the credit no matter how small their contributions. It was a struggle to keep control, not for himself directly, but out of the hands of administrators who had no touch for understanding the delicacy of the situation. He’d always been in a strange position vis á vis city politics, and if this was one of the few times that that ambiguity served him, he was willing to work with it as much as possible. Sometimes, he was one of ‘us’, sometimes he was one of ‘them’ – it all depended on who he was talking to, and what they wanted.

    He was certainly not alone – it was a large project requiring a great deal of coordination. But he tried to stay close to the center, and his talent and training made him a valuable asset. Everyone was tired. Everyone worked long hours. Vedran wasn’t the only one dragged away from a few scant hours of sleep by new emergencies. But he’d insinuated himself too well, and made himself indispensable to too many people, so that problems seemed to come to him more often than not. There was too much to keep track of – too many names, faces, faction, rivalries, titles, numbers. He was talented and well trained, but this could only keep him going so long when his hours of sleep per night dipped from 6 to 4, to three or less and even none.

    In theory, he’d gone to lie down in the cot he had set up in the back of his makeshift office just after 2 am. When Kyra, one of the House Callais clerks his father had sent had come to fetch him that morning, she’d even found him in it, seemingly just waking at the disruption. If he felt like he’d barely shut his eyes, however, it might have been because of the multitude of times he’d gotten up in the night to write down some crucial seeming thought that had fired his mind just as he’d started to drift off. He stared at his notes in the morning, but couldn’t make sense of any of them.

    “The city council is now insisting that we provide accounts for all aid given to groups rather than individuals,” Kyra explained. “They’re pressuring us to create some kind of application process, to ensure that supplies are being equitably divided.”

    “What?” It took him a moment to process what she was saying. “That’s ridiculous – it’s not city supplies.”

    “No…” The elf eyed him patiently. “But they have been providing resources, and now that some of the other great houses have made contributions, token though they may be, they are claiming the right to influence how those resources ought to be employed.”

    “But we’d expected that, hadn’t we?” He rubbed his eyes, as though he could massage his brain in to better working order. “Someone was keeping track…” He hadn’t just dreamed that, had he? He tried to recall the conversation. Had it been Rorch? Cinnel? Jorsemna? Somebody else? “Or was that something…” Had he written it down? He’d taken to carrying a notebook with him as an aid to his scattered memory, but when he opened it the things inside seemed to make less and less sense. Letters danced across the page without coalescing into anything meaningful.

    “My lord?”

    “Hmm?” It was a hypnotic effect, but he’d been looking for something, hadn’t he?

    Kyra sighed, taking the book from his hands, and eying him more critically. “You had it upside down, my lord.”

    “Oh.”

    “I’ll speak to Cinnel, and see if he can direct me. You should… I would tell you to rest, but that seems… ineffective. Perhaps a walk, to clear your thoughts?”

    “Yes, a walk. That might be…refreshing.”

    “Indeed. Should I arrange an escort for you, my lord?”

    “What? No.” Even this addled, he sensed that it would be exceedingly bad form. “No. No escort, Thank you Kyra. I won’t be gone long.”

    She frowned, but nodded and bowed. As he headed out of the makeshift compound, however, she looked around for someone she could send to watch him, just in case. It wouldn’t do to have him pass out in an alley somewhere if his walk proved less than invigorating as she suspected it might.

    The air outside was bracing, and though it was no longer snowing, there was slush in the streets. The light dusting had briefly covered the unsightly scars that undertow now bore, but it wasn’t cold enough to stay frozen, and ash mingled with earth covered the ground in a cloying grey muck. Vedran knew he was lucky for his warm boots, even if he hadn’t grabbed more than the robe he’d been wearing before he set out. He wondered if perhaps he should have changed first, in to something that would have seemed a little less out of place. Tensions were still high, especially with what little information the broadsheets were circulating. Maybe he had talked down that dragon on the first day, but it seemed so long ago now, and considering all that had come afterward the victory seemed less impressive. People here had a right to be angry with those in power. There weren`t any easy promises to make, and he was warier about giving his word on how things might be done even when he wasn`t befuddled by exhaustion.

    The robe did garner him a few long looks, but he ignored any muttered comments and no one challenged him any further. If he`d seen a mirror lately he might not wonder why. The city as still a mess, but things did look better than they had even a few days after the attack. Rubble had been cleared, damaged buildings were shored up and cordoned off, and smoke rose from the chimneys of the standing buildings. It was early, but there were still work crews in the streets, and some businesses even looked to be opening up. It was something of a relief to see recovery underway, and to be able to think that maybe all his work was paying off somehow.

    With relief came release of tension, and a self-granted permission to be selfish. If he was going to steal a few moments of freedom, he wanted to see his family. He knew generally where the orphanage was, and managed to make his way there without any real incident. The door (newly replaced) was opened by a middle aged goblin who looked him up and down critically. “Who are you, and what do you want?”

    “I’m looking for the nursery?”

    “Here for the Lady, are ya?”

    “Yes!” He smiled, feeling relieved he’d at least found the right place. The goblin’s gaze looked only slightly less suspicious.

    “Awful early for visitors. Might be sleeping.”

    “It is. I know…” His brain was grinding down again in the face of this unexpected resistance, and he groped for a moment to find the magic words that might unbar this door. “But, I’m her husband.”

    “Ahh, well then.” The critical eyes looked him over again, but the door opened enough for him to come inside. “Wait here.”

    Vedran did his best to kick the slush and muck off his boots before stepping inside the entry. The goblin slipped off down a dark corridor and left him waiting for some time. It was warmer inside than out, but standing around left him still feeling chilled and he shivered. He could hear sounds if distant rooms, but though they were familiar, couldn’t place them. He wondered who was collecting supplies for the orphans, and whether they’d worked out a system for collecting for ‘groups’ of minors, or whether they should, or if the city might try to short them because of their age and vulnerability, and if there was some kind of work around. He patted down his robe before realizing that he’d somehow left his book with Kyra and frowned, wondering whether there might be anything in it that was problematic. Nothing came to mind, but that seemed a common problem for him this morning.

    About that time, the goblin returned and wave him onward. He followed down a short hallway and out into a small courtyard. The wail of a baby gave away their destination even before his guide led him to a small building across the muddy yard and its scattered singes and leafless trees. There was a small boulder lying beside the entrance – part of the debris that had come crashing into Undertow – and the upper story had suffered some structural damage. Some of the windows were boarded up, as was typical throughout this part of the city. Marys met him at the door.

    “Macen is asleep, my lord. My lady is occupied with the babies, of course, though I’m sure she will be pleased to see you.” The nurse looked tired and worn herself, though her tone of mild disapproval when it came to Vedran was well intact. He supposed it was well that Jacinthe and Macen were the focus of her love and devotion, but it did sting that she only grudgingly accepted his inclusion in the family. He sighed.

    “I won’t trouble them long, Marys.”

    “Of course not, my lord. Try not to disturb the other little ones.”
    He nodded, and she let him inside, drawing off to one side for a conversation with the goblin. She was, he could sense, not entirely comfortable with her current situation, but she was at least being mannerly. It would do, he expected.

    In his current state, it took him a moment to process what he saw beyond, that there were a few cradles, but also tables with drawers pulled from chests and dressers repurposed to serve the same end. Most of them were filled by swaddled bundles, children of a variety of races humanoid and goblinoid. He didn’t see his son among them, but his wife was sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace at the far end of the large open room. There were toys scattered around her, and she held a large screaming, squirming bundle. It wasn’t Macen – even this tired he recognized the sound of his son’s crying. His wife looked up when she heard him enter. She looked tired as well, with dark circles under her eyes, but still beautiful. Glancing behind him to see if he was accompanied, she spoke.

    “Come here.” Her tone was firm, though quiet as ever, and he found himself obeying without even thinking. “This is Seyanel. Take her and put her in an empty bed. She’s not hungry, or wet – she just won’t stop crying. I can’t make her stop. Marys says to just let her cry… I can’t make her stop. Just take her away.”

    She pressed the infant into his arms, looking away from him down to her now empty hands. “There’s always one – always something I can’t help, I can’t fix… And I feel so lost. Do you know?”

    One thing he’d learned in his few months as a father was that sometimes all a baby needed was a fresh pair of arms. The child, a bugbear he thought, settled some as he walked her over to an open spot in a drawer and re-wrapped her swaddle. When he stepped back again, a new screech erupted from one of her neighbours. He looked over to Jacinthe, who had stood up and was shaking her head. “I do,” he answered. Marys chose that moment to make her entrance, beeline-ing for the new crier.

    “Marys, will you look after them for a little while?”

    “Of course my lady.” She didn’t look up, already absorbed with the child and sighing as another started to wake and gurgle.

    “Thank you.” Jacinthe stepped towards a heavy curtain at the back of the room and motioned for Vedran to join her.

    Beyond was just another corner of the same room, though there were two pallets on the ground, loaded with thick blankets, and a high-sided chest nested with pillows where his son lay resting. Vedran crouched beside him, feeling a strong mixture of love, relief, envy, and exhaustion.

    “Come away. I don’t want you to disturb him, he’s been hard to put into trance with so many distractions.” She’d sat down on one of the pallets, and patted the open space beside her. “Come.”

    It wasn’t clear to him what all she wanted from him just then. If they had been at home, if they’d at least been really alone… But he was so tired, and his thoughts were unclear, and the sudden confusion was almost more than he could handle. She cut him off before he could find any words.

    “Don’t make me say it again.”

    He gave up thinking, and obeyed, shuffling over to where she indicated without rising. She smiled.

    “Lie down. You look awful. It’s clear that you can’t take care of yourself, my pet, so it is good that you have me, isn’t it?”

    He nodded, and she stroked his hair, speaking calmly. “Close your eyes. You’ve made yourself quite useless, you know. I’m very displeased. But what could I expect? What did you think you were doing? Did you forget that you’re mine - my pet? That that’s all you’re good for? That all you’re to do is what I tell you?”

    He didn’t have the wits to put up the little mental walls he relied on normally to be what she needed from him without sacrificing his self-respect. He already felt awful. There was a part of him, though that wished it were true, that she was the only one to whom he was beholden, that she was the only one he had to please, if he could just set everything else aside, and why not, just for now, why not let it be true, just let everything else go. He curled up more tightly beside her, hardly even aware that he was shaking. She continued to speak, calm, quiet and firm, telling him that he was pathetic, disgusting, that now she had to fix this mess he’d made of himself, and that he had better do what she said. She stroked his hair, soothingly possessive, until he fell asleep.

    A pair of House guard came by a few hours later, looking for him. She sent them away. “Lord Vedran is resting. He is not to be disturbed.” They tried to press her, but she was a lady of House Callais, and dragonmarked, and she was firm in her insistence. They left without him, and Jacinthe returned inside to check on her family. Macen had woken, and managed to pull himself up on the edge of his makeshift crib. He reached one chubby hand toward the form on the pallet.

    “Dadadadada!” He looked up to his mother with an uncertain look. She picked him up.

    “Yes, my darling, daddy is here. But daddy need his sleep. We’ll go play with the other little ones, and you can see him when he’s awake.” She kissed his cheek, looking down at her husband for a brief moment before carrying their son out of the room.

    “Dadadadada!” was the first thing Vedran heard when he woke up again later that evening. As he sat up, Macen crawled over into his lap with a wide and simple smile. Jacinthe stood watching them both in the curtained entryway, her expression calm and collected despite the circles under her eyes.

      Current date/time is 19/11/17, 06:56 am