The Smallest of Details
Or, the Anti-'Focus'
K. Ryan, 2006.
Part One: Illuminated Flourishes—a beginning.
She was beautiful, right enough. A man might have wanted to go to bed with someone taller and finer, with a body more lush and a manner more bright, but hers would be the face he'd want to see on his pillow in the morning.
She was a child, when I saw her, not that I was so ancient myself. A mite with straw in her hair who'd be standing up to those big Rider fellows and the hard Rider lasses who had no time for pen pushers like me, hands on hips that would grow in time. She had to force her voice to carry. It wasn't a shouting voice. It was soft and blurred around the edges, not so different from the mothers and aunties and grandmothers in my family, who kept us humble even though their menfolk had been given quills and ink and finer manners years back. The Redferns always know where they come from.
Rumours were thick about her from the beginning. She was the girl who had spoken to the Queen and had no idea who she was. She was crazy. She talked to animals like they were people. She had no father, and never tried to hide it, her muddied, muddled birth plain in her name. She could shoot straight at a target from two-hundred paces—I never believed that one, not till I saw it for myself—and she was a mage of some strange, unknown sort. That one turned out true as well. She was a mix of high and low, talking to great folk with a village accent. I didn't see her too often, but paths crossed, and I was drawn to her, and she had a ready smile. Often wistful, as if she couldn't believe her good fortune to be in such a place, and that touched my heart.
My great grandfather had been a Perin, and he too had gone from poverty into a different world, where words and learning changed his voice and his ways, and the money he was paid for these skills kept him comfortable and able to find a wife who could give him sons that would be educated, and grandsons, all the way down to me.
Watching this girl, the Daine with straw in her hair, as she flourished like fine lettering was a wonderful thing, especially as the core of her stayed the same, even with all her adventuring. She never felt herself too good to notice me. There was a "hullo, Perin," with every pass in every corridor.
For any girl who doesn't have a rich, demanding sort of father, fourteen is a marriageable age. When Daine turned fourteen I slipped a small present under the door. It mayn't have seemed much, but I worked hard. An illuminated page, with a border of animals. That pony she was never seen without, the hounds that fawned on her; some housecats. Linnets, doves—even a few mice. She would appreciate the small details. I considered adding in her bow and the like—fletched arrows can be made very pretty with ink, but I left it out in the end. A woman in arms makes my blood chill. It's a brave thing to do, but wrong, somehow. I hate to think of any woman endangering herself that way, when she has no need to. Daine, no matter how much eerie talent she had with a bow, is no different. There are men for fighting. So, I left the page free of weapons, but I still wrote Felicitations to the prettiest savior of Pirate's Swoop in my most careful script, because, besides anything else, it was true.
When she came up to me later, thankful and blushing, I found that I was learning what it was to truly be a happy man.
Note: I've been writing on this site for years, and Focus, the Daine/Numair piece that took me years to finish, has always been my most successful piece. At least, the fic with the most readers, which is something I've always cherished and also found slightly surprising. Overall, I'm reasonably happy with the piece (I never truly like my writing after a few years have gone by) but there is one particular part of it I'd like to change if I ever went back and rewrote it. I vilified Perin the clerk a little too thoroughly. Realms of the Gods only mentions him once, and never as the sleaze/unfortunate/rapist that I have made him out to be. He is simply described as one of Daine's "more persistent swains" whose kisses she "likes well enough." A lack of passion on her part needn't signify the poor bugger's absolute repugnance. A review from one of my dearest friends, and some degree of maturation on my part, has helped me realize this. So, this four-part fic is dedicated to Lea (Alone in the Desert), who has watched me as I've grown up some, and also to anyone who has ever reviewed my work, because you all help me continue to write.
Goodness, this is ponderous! Enough, I think.