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    Getting to know Ardith

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    Curtana
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    Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 01:13 am

    It had been several days since the Grobashka blooding ceremony, and Aleyn was feeling more or less recovered - not so much from the fight, which had gone relatively well, as from the party afterwards. So when Ardith sent a friendly little note asking to meet him at his convenience (he knew Vedran had received a similar one) it was easy enough to find a time to talk with her, fitting it in around other social events and the alchemy work he was doing to create a stockpile for the upcoming conflict.

    The morning he'd suggested was one when Vedran had another meeting scheduled. Aleyn gave him a kiss goodbye and promised he'd do his best to make friends with Ardith, and that he would tell him everything when he got back. Not long after Vedran had departed, Vinalia appeared with Macen in her arms. "Aleyn, I'm sorry to do this, but I need to go out for a little while - a friend's been taken ill, and I can't really bring Macen with me, I don't want him to get sick too. Marys is off today, and Kier's not here until the afternoon - could I possibly leave him with you for an hour or two?"

    "Of course," Aleyn said without hesitation. "It'll be fine, we'll find something fun to do, won't we, buddy?" It was probably a good idea for Ardith to meet him too, he decided, even though Vedran might have preferred to be there himself for that particular introduction.

    Smiling gratefully, Vinalia left Macen with Aleyn and departed. It wasn't much later when a servant came to announce that Prelate Ardith Aethelin had arrived to see him. Aleyn glanced in the mirror to try and straighten his hair, realized it was probably hopeless, and then hastily scooped Macen up before he could escape through the now-open door as Ardith was shown into the sitting room.

    "Hi," he said, smiling, and then realized he probably should have said something more formal, at least in front of the staff. "I mean, good morning, Prelate, thank you for coming."

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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 02:08 am

    Ardith gave an easy smile in response.

    "'Hi' is fine, as is simply 'Ardith,' if you prefer."

    Her smile grew more sympathetic.

    "I know this world isn't exactly you favorite, so dispensing with the titles seems like a good first step in making you more comfortable."

    She turned her attention to the tiny elf in Aleyn's arms.

    "And who is this little man? The esteemed Master Macen, I presume?"
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 02:17 am

    Aleyn nodded. "This is Macen, yeah. He'll be joining us today, a bit unexpectedly. I hope you don't mind. Macen, can you say hi to Ardith?"

    Macen gave a little wave, but ducked his head shyly and clung to Aleyn when Ardith smiled and waved back at him.

    "He'll warm up to you soon, I'm sure," Aleyn said, a little apologetically. "He was shy with me at first too, but he got used to me pretty fast - he's just at that age, you know?"
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 02:40 am

    Ardith smiled, giving Macen a small wave.

    "Oh, I know. I've got a lot of cousins, nieces and nephews, so I'm kind of used to this."

    She turned her attention back to Aleyn.

    "Should we stay in, or do you think he's up to a little excursion? There's a nice little park along the upper river not too far from here. I though we might go for a walk."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 02:49 am

    "Going out sounds great," Aleyn said. "Do you know if the park has d-u-c-k-s? Because those are pretty much his favourite thing ever."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 02:51 am

    "Well, that's pretty fortuitous, because they happen to be among my favorite things as well," Ardith said with a grin. "Does he have a bag or something I can grab for us?"
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 02:58 am

    Macen's ears had already perked up at the word 'park'. "Go ouside?" he said hopefully.

    "That's right, we're going out," Aleyn told him. "We just have to get your things, and make sure you're bundled up warm enough." He indicated to Ardith where she could find Macen's bag, and went himself to go through the sometimes-challenging process of putting on the little boy's coat and boots.

    Once they were ready to depart, and he had left word with the maid when they might be expected back in case Vedran or Vinalia returned and was wondering where they were, he turned to Ardith. "I think we're all set. Sorry it's kind of a process getting ready to go... but I guess if you have a big family, you already know all about that too."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 03:07 am

    "Well, my immediate family isn't especially large, just my parents and two older siblings, but my extended family...well, people with 'marks are encouraged to have a lot of children, and my grandparents certainly obliged."

    She led the way out, through the front gate, to the bustling but not crowded street, talking as she went.

    "How about you? Any siblings?"
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 03:11 am

    Aleyn let Macen get down to walk once they were out to the street, but kept a firm grip on the impatient toddler's hand to keep him from running ahead. Then he turned his attention to Ardith's question. "Oh, yes. Lots. I'm the oldest of seven - five boys, including me, and two girls. We don't have the dragonmark excuse, I think my parents just liked kids. And each other," he added with a slight smile.
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 04:01 am

    "Oh, wow, so you must have quite a bit of experience with children. I can see why you want some of your own."

    Ardith made an easy pace, leading them through towards the river.

    "So, what does your family do? I assume they aren't all adventurers..."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 04:14 am

    Aleyn chuckled. "Some have said they'd understand if I never wanted to have any at all, and maybe decided to go live in a quiet, isolated tower on my own somewhere. But I do love kids - I have two nieces and a nephew so far, and they're delightful."

    He bent down for a moment to help Macen, who had managed to slip off one of his boots and was on the verge of sticking his sock-clad foot into a puddle, before continuing.

    "My family make glass, for the most part - concentrating on specialized equipment, tubes, containers and so on, like alchemists and a few other industries use - distilling, brewing, that sort of thing. A few of them have gone into other areas, though, like I did. One of my brothers is a journalist, and my younger sister works at a bar... My youngest brother would like to be an adventurer too, someday - I guess following in my footsteps," he said with a shrug. He spoke with quiet pride of his family, even though he knew it might not sound very impressive by noble standards.

    "What about your family?" he asked. "Are others of them in the church of Erathis as well, or more involved with politics, or...?" He figured they were bound to be rich and powerful, but he didn't know all the details, even though he was fairly sure it had probably been in the files Vedran had been given.
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 05:58 am

    Ardith seemed somewhat reluctant to reply, looking a little self-conscious.

    "Not all in the Erathin temples, but, yes, my family is pretty involved in the ecclesiarchy. We're a relatively pious group all told, but that presents plenty of its own problems."

    She gave a small smile.

    "For instance, my cousin Rowena is an agent of Avandra, and my uncle Wimund, her father, is a patriarch of Asmodeus. They, uh, they don't exactly get along."

    She shrugged.

    "I hope you don't think I'm being patronizing saying this, but I don't find it terribly different than what your family, or any family, does. We all do our part so that things keep running. We've just attached a lot of rules and ceremony to what we do."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 06:10 am

    "I'm sure that's ... interesting at family gatherings," Aleyn said with an arched eyebrow.

    "And I don't think it's patronizing. I have a lot of respect for people who choose to go into the priesthood - it's important work, helping people... but it's not always a path that leads to a lot of rewards or public recognition." Well, maybe that wasn't the case for the Aethelins, he thought to himself, but still... there were far less useful things nobles could spend their time doing. "I came to it sort of later, or else I might have gone down that road myself."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 06:21 am

    "You have no idea," Ardith replied with a smirk.

    "Well, clearly that's not so much the case for my family, but that's nice of you to say. I've always felt our position means we owe a greater debt to Nerath; we start with more ink on our ledger as it were. We have a responsibility to repay that."

    Ardith gave Aleyn an inquisitive look.

    "Oh? I take it you had a particular patron in mind?"
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 06:29 am

    Well, it had been bound to come up sooner or later - he had practically asked for the question. "I follow Sehanine," he said. "Actually I was ordained earlier this year, but it's more of a side-line at this point - with so much else going on, I'm lucky if I can even make it to services." He held Macen back from dashing across the street (and in front of a carriage) when he spotted the park up ahead. "Go ahead," he told Ardith with a wry smile as they crossed the road. "You can tell me it's ironic if you want, I won't be offended."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 08:09 am

    "Not so much ironic, perhaps, as...theologically apropos. I'd have to say few people live their beliefs to the same extent," Ardith offered with a sympathetic smile.
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 02:59 pm

    "Believe me, it wasn't a theologically motivated decision," Aleyn said with a chuckle. "But I do believe the goddess put us on this path for a reason. I just can't claim to know what that reason is, unless maybe she just finds it amusing to watch us." He glanced over to Ardith, in case she was offended at his light-hearted griping. "Sorry, I don't mean to be blasphemous. I feel very blessed, actually, to have Vedran. He didn't have to decide to stay with me, after all."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 07:14 pm

    Ardith frowned, though her expression remained sympathetic.

    "Like I said, I know this is difficult for you. It can't be easy watching him go through this process. I'm not sure I could do it, were I in your position. I must seem like a terrible interloper..."

    She paused, unsure.

    "Aleyn, I'll be honest, I like Vedran, more than politically, but something tells me interfering with the love life of a priest of Sehanine is a bad idea." She gave a weak smile, trying to make it a joke. "If...if you want me to keep mine and Vedran's relationship confined to an alliance, that would be...not fine, perhaps, but conceivable at the very least."

    She looked away a moment.

    "I'm sorry, I had actually meant for us to talk about us in this meeting, but I suppose Vedran is currently the biggest thing we have in common."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 07:43 pm

    Aleyn released Macen's hand once they were safely inside the park. "Stay close, though, okay Macen?" he told him, knowing it probably wouldn't make any difference if the toddler caught a glimpse of waterfowl. Fortunately for right now he was more absorbed with poking the muddy ground with a stick he'd picked up along the way.

    Still keeping his eye on the child, Aleyn considered how to address Ardith's statement. The latter part was easier than the first - it was hard, and he still didn't know how well he'd be able to handle it.

    "Here's the thing," he began slowly. "I don't believe love can be confined like that. I think you could try it, but if you truly cared for him, it would break through eventually, and maybe in ways that are more destructive or painful for everyone involved. Jealousy, resentment, bitterness, depression, betrayal, lies... And I don't want that for him. He's gone through more than enough pain already. And I don't want it for myself either - or for you. You seem like a nice person and you don't deserve a marriage that will make you unhappy. So if we were going to do this, I'd want us to acknowledge up front that... that love is a possibility that might develop between you two, and what that would mean for all of us."

    He paused, forcing himself to look at her for a moment before turning his gaze back to Macen playing in the damp, muddy grass, getting thoroughly messy and loving every minute of it. "Vedran asked me the same thing, whether it would hurt me if he cared for his spouse too, because I think he would like to - he wants more than just a business arrangement, if he can find that. And I think as long as I know he loves me too, and feel secure with that, that would be all right. But it's not something I've tried before, and I guess I can't say for sure how I would deal with it."

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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 08:03 pm

    Ardith listened intently, a solemn look on her face.

    "I appreciate everything you just said, and it speaks well of you as a person and a representative of your faith, but you misunderstand me. When I said I would be willing to keep Vedran and my relationship strictly political, I meant that. He and I certainly have other marriage prospects. There's no reason our working together has to hinge upon a contract between us. I can't guarantee how much help I can muster from my House without something formal, but I, personally, am happy to aid your cause."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 09:27 pm

    "Oh. Oh, I see. Uh, thank you. I do appreciate that," Aleyn said, blushing with embarrassment at having misunderstood her meaning. "But..." But he has to get married anyway, and his other prospects might not be as good as you, was what he wanted to say, but that seemed impolite - to Ardith as well as to the other prospective candidates. "But I know we'd both like to... to see how things might go with you," he finished lamely.
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 11/02/13, 09:55 pm

    Ardith gave Aleyn a look of mild skepticism.

    "As you adventurers might say, I have bit better Insight than that. I doubt you particularly 'like' any of this, but I appreciate your efforts."

    She sighed, letting her gaze drift to the nearby pond and its accompanying waterfowl.

    "Still, I'll admit to being curious how this might progress as well. I think at least we could achieve some good."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 11/02/13, 10:11 pm

    "Maybe things would be different if I was a woman, or dragonmarked, or noble, or even just somebody rich or with important political connections," Aleyn said, trying not to sound bitter. "But I'm not, and we have to deal with things they way they are. This whole process terrifies me and sometimes I hate the system and the people that put all these demands on Vedran, and I wish I could just run away with him..." He shook his head, trying to clear it. "But one of the things I love about him is that he does what he thinks is right and responsible, and he wants to make the world a better place. He wants to ... to achieve some good in his life, like you said. And abandoning everything for me wouldn't help with that, and he wouldn't be... be himself if he did. So if getting married will help with those goals, then at least we can try to make it something good in and of itself while we're at it, not just a means to an end."

    He glanced over at Ardith, mustering a slight smile. "That came out a little more... unvarnished than I intended. But I guess we did say we ought to be honest with each other."
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Josh on 12/02/13, 04:04 am

    "Well, I definitely appreciate it. And, if we're being honest, I suppose I have some questions about you two, particularly in regards to what you just said."

    Ardith took a breath, apprehensive about what might come next, but she pushed on.

    "How exactly did you two get together? I mean, I understand your dislike for the system and the demands it places, but certainly you knew who Vedran was when you met him. Did you not realize what that meant for your future, at the very least after getting to know him more?"
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    Re: Getting to know Ardith

    Post by Curtana on 12/02/13, 08:32 am

    "Well... remember what I said before? I don't think these emotions are always firmly under our own control. When I first met him, he was still married. I figured it was hopeless, and I tried to set my attraction to him aside so that we could work together - although even then, I might not have joined the Thunderbolts if it had been someone other than him," he added with a little bit of a smirk.

    "But the more I got to know him as a person, not just as a pretty face, and see how unhappy he had been - and then when he moved out on his own... I thought maybe there was a chance after all. So I... let him know I was interested, I guess you could say, and waited to see what would happen. It still took a while to... go anywhere, and I didn't think it would necessarily develop into ... all of this," Aleyn said with a little wave of his hand.

    "He did tell me that someday he would have to get married again, but I - we both, at that point - thought it might be further in the future, maybe even years away. And... I suppose at some level I half-expected that after that I would lose him," he admitted. "I convinced myself that even just having him for a while would be better than... than nothing."

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