No, this isn't more DragonDays! Sorry once again... This is a short introductory story for a couple of characters I have at North Ranges Weyr PBEM, written way way back in 2005. Poor characters - DragonDays ate my fandom life, and they haven't had much (if any) attention in the last year. But even so, a few you may find it a diverting read. I've not had much time for writing new stuff recently Work. Blah!, but I had a few free moments, so I thought I'd stick this out in the open.
Ghisellind jumped back from the heavy wooden interior door with a start, as she heard a door slam violently shut within the room on the other side. Her uncle Baslef could just as easily have left through the one that Ghisellind had been listening through, which didn't bear thinking about. She lifted a hand up to her face, considering the implications. If the door hadn't ruined her face, her erstwhile relative would have done, for sure. The young girl choked back a sob, as the consequences of what she'd overheard sunk in. Her dear, dear father was barely buried, and already his brother was jostling for position in the Hold succession, confronting her mother with vicious lies. That wasn't really unexpected, although it was a little unseemly in a family such as theirs, a cadet branch of the Bitran blood. Only, it wasn't so straightforward. Ghisellind had just two cousins of the blood: Baslef's annoying, sickly son Billiom, and her second-cousin Mesellia. She had plenty more on her mother's side, certainly, but they weren't the ones that mattered. And now, it seemed that the lies weren't lies, and she didn't matter, either.
The argument had started, as most of them did, with the smallest of annoyances. Still grieving for her husband, Gillia had not been too overcome to continue the necessary preparations of her daughter's trousseau, and had been most put out to discover that her most recent order with the Hold's best seamstress had been delayed. Her subsequent confrontation with Baslef had rapidly descended into personal insults, until Baslef had taken the chance to spring his suspicions. Ghisellind was certain that Gillia had slapped him at that point, and equally certain that Baslef had used violence in return. She had listened, increasingly scared and enraged, as her mother cracked under the continued pressure, and finally admitted having taken a rider as a lover fifteen years past. With the confession he wanted, Baslef had left. Gillia still remained, weeping and wailing loudly, and breaking ornaments at irregular intervals. Ghisellind was torn: to comfort her anguished mother, who'd lied to them all for her entire life, but who had nonetheless always wanted the best for her daughter? Or to try and hold together the disintgrating pieces of her life, in whatever manner she could?
Everything was falling apart. Still weeping softly, she groaned, leaned back against the wall and slid to the floor, trying to decide on a course of action. Scarcely a month before, with the date of her wedding set, Ghisellind had believed that her life had finally become
perfect. Her father had always been full of approval for her betrothed, Stavrick of Eastmoor, but now even that happy future had been cast into doubt. With so few cousins, she'd had her choice of suitors, and Stavrick was not only the perfect man, but he genuinely loved her, too! He'd stolen enough kisses from her in quiet corners of the Hold for her to be quite sure of that. She pulled her long hair back from her face, and rested her chin in her palms. Fardles! She wasn't going to give up this easily. Her mother always said that a smart woman could make a man do anything... well, maybe it hadn't worked out for Gillia tonight, but Ghisellind could surely do better with Stavrick! Before now, Baslef had never needed the issue of Ghisellind's parentage in order to disapprove of the match... so there was no reason to think that Stavrick would suspect anything odd if she told him that Baslef wanted to stop the marriage. If she went to
Ghisellind drew in a ragged breath of air, and clambered to her feet with a renewed sense of purpose. Eastmoor had a harper, Stavrick's father had the documents approving the betrothal, and so there was nothing to stop them being married on the morrow. And with the right sacrifice, well, nothing that wouldn't have happened soon enough anyway, Stavrick would be honour-bound to take her side. Gillia would soon take back her confession, yes - and then it would just be one person's word against another! Everything could still work out, but only if she moved fast! Ghisellind reached her room at a run, swiftly changed and packed a few pieces of clothing and personal items into a
bag. She checked her appearance in her precious mirror, brushed her hair, and then stuffed those two essentials into her bag as well. Pausing only to grab her cloak from the peg beside the door and her mother's keys from the table in the hall, she raced out of her room and on to the Hold stables. This late in the day, the hold staff were nearly all at their meal, but that was what she needed. Finding her mare's tack was hard, and getting the stiff leather buckled in place even harder... but despite cracked nails and unladylike curses, she managed in the end.
The route to Eastmoor was over fairly even ground, and was barely a hour's ride in good weather. Despite the strong glare from Belior in the darkening twilight, it still took Ghisellind much longer than usual. By the time she approached the entrance to Eastmoor hold, both the waning disk of Timor and the baleful Red Star were rising abovethe horizon, and the sky was fully dark. She was cold, and her unbound hair bedraggled from her ride. Ghisellind dismounted, and hitched her mare to an adjacent fencepost, freeing up her hands for a quick tidying of her appearance. Her dark hair smoothed under control again, face composed, she collected her horse and sauntered in to the hold courtyard. Soon enough, the runner had been taken out of her hands and replaced with a steaming mug of klah, and she had both her beloved's cloak and his arms around her shoulders in comfort. Not long after that, and he'd agreed to her plans for the morning, and she'd acceded to his own for that night... Everything was going to be just right after all.
Stavrick settled in to the worn, comfy chair beside his window, and lifted a leg up on to the opposite knee. After the events of last night, he was in no hurry to expend any extra efforts getting his boots on. He looked across the room at the dark-haired girl still sound asleep in his bed, and grinned in remembrance. Who'd have thought Ghisellind could be so forward? Or that she truly did think so highly of him? He chuckled softly to himself as he tied the laces of his best boots, looking forward to finally getting one over on the girl's uncle Baslef, who'd been a thorn in the side of the Eastmoor Holders too many times in the past. There'd be no stopping Stavrick today, or any other day, now.
He was just finishing the knots on his second foot when he found himself interrupted on two fronts: his father, knocking at the door, and his bronze lizard, Bracer, squawking urgently as he fluttered around Stavrick's head. "Stantoron, sir?" he confirmed. "I'll be right out."
With a few quiet words he calmed the firelizard, and strode over to check on
his betrothed. She'd woken at the noise, unsurprisingly, and Stavrick found his heart in his mouth as he gazed down at her. Shells, she was pretty.
"Father wants me," he explained in answer to her sleepy query. "I'll send a maid with breakfast for you, but I have to go now." He kissed her quickly before she could reply, and hurried out the room, tying his own dark hair back into a tail at the nape of his neck as he left.
Stantoron's face was grim as they made their way towards the holder's office, and the older man brushed aside Stavrick's query with a quick mutter of "Not here!". Already the corridor was sparsely populated with drudges and other hold residents beginning their morning routines; whatever Stantoron wanted, he clearly meant it to be a private matter.
The Holder's office was empty of people; even the habitual presence of Stantoron's chief assistant, and the gangly lad who did runner duty for the hold. The dark board on one wall was marked up in chalk with the day's tasks for varied groups, as it always was, but it lacked the alterations it had usually obtained at this point in the morning. Something important had clearly held his father's attention until now.
"Sit down, son, and help yourself to the Klah." The older man gestured towards the steaming kettle sitting on a trivet on his desk. Instead of sitting down himself, the holder continued to pace around behind his desk, fists on hips, as if he didn't know quite where to begin. Stavrick poured himself a drink, and waited patiently for his father to gather his thoughts. Finally, Stantoron stopped pacing, and picked up on of the many sheets of
hide on his desk.
"That one the source of the trouble, then?" Stavrick asked as his father tossed him the hide.
"The source? Ha!" He sat down in his own heavily carved chair with a thump. "Read it yourself."
Stavrick unrolled the small sheet of hide, and swiftly scanned through the text. The seal was that of their Lord himself, but the handwriting belonged to someone else. It made bitter reading. 'Regretful news... Gillia... did maliciously make a cuckold of her husband... a dragonrider, name unknown, at the annual spring gather... signed confession in confirmation... all properties bequeathed to the younger sibling, Baslef... the daughter, Ghisellind, hereby disinherited from all rights and privildeges...' Despite the Klah, Stavrick felt cold, and sick to his stomach. Naturally, he felt sorry for Ghisellind, but how long had she known?
The letter finished scarcely more sympathetically. 'With our regrets, we advise Eastmoor that we will not hold you in breach of contract should you wish to break the betrothal between Stavrick and Ghisellind. In fact, it is our heartfelt wish that you do so with all haste, removing the taint from both our families. As a gesture of our good will and good faith, we offer an alternative arrangement between Billiom, son of Baslef, and either of the fair daughters of Eastmoor, Einied or Revecka. Our representative will call upon you at a convenient hour this day.'
Stavrick let out a ragged lungfull of breath as he finished. He'd known that Baslef was against the marriage, and in a strong enough position at the hold to drive Ghisellind to him last night. But this! If it were true (and if the evidence was not comprehensive enough, the will of Bitra's Lord had swung the balance irretrievably), well, Ghisellind had played him for a fool. That girl... it seemed her mother had taught her a woman's deceptions in full. Just a few hours more would have changed the situation beyond repair, and had Baslef not been so swift to obtain his Uncle's opinion on the matter, things could have been even more awkward. Even had she been innocent of this knowledge, things could never carry on as they had planned now, no matter how much Stavrick had enjoyed her company.
He met his father's eyes, angry. All their carefully laid plans in tatters, and what had promised to be a joyful union in ruins. No doubt Ghisellind had felt the same way, but the pretence had to end here and now. Feeling totally out of his depth for once, he asked, "What now?"
"You accept the truth of all this then?" his father asked, sounding a little surprised.
"Well, it explains a few things... why Ghis came here, for one. Had it just been his word against hers, well, it could have been denied, and I wouldn't be surprised if she was aiming for that option rather than simply.. relying on my honour in the matter." Truth be told, he was flattered that she believed so well of him, even if her previous enthusiasm for him was likely false. It had been a risky hand she'd played, but she'd played it well.
Unfortunate for the girl that her opponent held all the aces, but if you gambled and lost, you had to be prepared to pay the price.
"No, I don't think she was that foolish," the Holder agreed. "She would have made a good match for you, no doubt of that. But, that's in the past. What think you of the alternative?"
Stavrick considered the characters of his younger twin sisters: ladylike they may have been raised, but in terms of will power, they couldn't hold a glow to Ghisellind. Still, they were barely out of their girlhood, and time might make enough of a difference. Was it worth the risk? "Well, we've seen how cunning that side of her family can be. Do we really want to let Baslef get a finger in our business? But can we afford not to?"
"Indeed." Stantoron rocked back in his chair, and rested his feet on the table. "I'm glad you see the problem so clearly. We risk offending our Lord with a refusal, but I believe our credit is good enough to do so, today at least. At least we can put it off due to their age, incomplete schooling, late development... and as twins, it would be kindly of me to ensure they both wed close together."
Stavrick finished his Klah, wishing it had been something stronger. "And Ghisellind? What happens to her?" He didn't know how he was going to break the news... Shards, how dare she put him in this position? Stavrick couldn't have felt more confused, his high regard for the girl warring with his own sense of pride; even his guilt at betraying her trust was balanced by his growing anger at her deceptions.
"I don't know, son," Stantoron replied. "We'll know later today. Show her the letter, if you wish - I can't think of a better way of informing her of... current events, and it may help you keep less involved."
Ghisellind watched the small, mounted figure in the distance disappear beyond the hills, and shivered. If she had any say in the matter, that'd be the last time she'd ever see Baslef again. Although spitting on his grave did hold a certain appeal, she admitted to herself.
A less welcome prospect was never seeing her mother, Gillia, again. And within a few hours, well, she could say the same of Stavrick. Everything was changing, and not for the better. Some changes, though, were worse than others. The solution proposed by Baslef, if it could be called by such an innocuous word, was one future she was most glad to have sidestepped. Much as she enjoyed the prestige of her former position, she certainly wasn't prepared to go to any lengths to keep it... what she'd tried with Stavrick
had been hard enough. No, her mother was more than welcome to keep that path to herself, and Ghisellind had a feeling that neither Gillia nor Baslef would have any complaints on that score. She trembled, remembering the confrontation with Baslef earlier that day, the look in his eyes, and the utter confidence he'd had that she'd agree to it all. It would have been all too easy to give in, give up, and in her despair she'd scarcely had the will to keep fighting. But his taunts had shown her a way out, which she'd grabbed with both hands as soon as the opportunity arose.
Her father's name.
He'd used it as further proof of her mother's infidelity, the fact that she had no more ground to stand on, but it was like an anchor for her on these stormy seas of life. Broken-hearted by Stavrick's rejection, she finally had a link to someone who might care for her... and if not, he was at least a shield, an escape. And it wasn't as if bronze riders lacked prestige - surely she could huild a future of some kind, of some worth, out of such
blood ties? It was all so uncertain, but it was the first ray of hope she'd had all day. She still felt sick to her stomach, but this wasn't a chance she was willing to pass up.
When she'd stormed out of Stantoron's office, she'd had sense enough not to try and seek comfort in Stavrick's arms. That door was closed to her now, and hard as it was, she had to find another route to survival. Coldly composed, eyes red with unshed tears, she'd calmly informed him of what Baslef had suggested. He may have set her aside, but she was still certain that he was in no hurry to see her in the arms of another. Ghisellind could have laughed at how easy it was to get her way, bitter that she hadn't managed it sooner.
Now, on the narrow platform beside the Hold's fire heights, she finally had the solitude she'd desperately needed throughout the past two days. She'd needed to let go, so badly. For nearly an hour she'd let the tears flow, interspersed with the occasional hammering of her fists against the rock wall. Despite bruised hands and her increasingly dishevelled state, she felt much, much better for it. Ghisellind attempted to tidy her hair, in readiness for returning inside. Mid way through, she heard a door open behind her. Whirling round, she was unsurprised to see Stavrick, accompanied by one of the hold drudges bearing a bag.
"There's a dragon here, to take you to your father," he said slowly, brave enough to meet her eyes. "I'll accompany you as far as North Ranges... and I hope you find happiness there."
Wordlessly, Ghisellind took a last look at the familiar landscape of her Bitran home, glowing brightly in the setting sun, and followed him back inside.
Between was stranger than she'd ever imagined. Cold, dark, and yet the total absence of any sensation made it neither. In her current state of mind, Ghisellind welcomed the emptiness into her bones, part of her wishing that they'd never re-emerge. But in less time than it would have taken to breathe twice, they were back in daylight, and she was ashamed to find her arms tightly clasped around Stavrick's waist. Loosening them in a hurry, she twisted her neck to get a better view of the land below, much of which was blocked from her sight by the broad blue wings of the dragon on which they rode.
It was a weyr, that much was obvious, and greener than she'd expected for the mountainous north. It wasn't until they'd descended closer to ground level that she realised that the verdant shades were mostly due to lichen. Her new home, cold and barren. It would suit well enough. She scanned the rim, looking at the dragons perched there. More were resting on ledges of individual weyrs in the cliff faces below. Which dragon was her father's, she wondered? She had no way of knowing... but was content that her ignorance would not last much longer. Soon, the last few unhappy days and
weeks could be forgotten, as the joys of her new life unfolded.
Ghisellind felt herself pressed against Stavrick's back once again as the dragon landed in the weyr bowl, the rider having muttered something about exchanging greetings with the watch dragon. She hadn't heard it properly with the rush of air around her face, but it couldn't have been too consequential Ghisellind slithered off the dragon's back as soon as she could, with only a little assistance from T'pen.
"No need to see me inside, Stavrick, I'm sure I can find my way," Ghisellind said, anxious to forestall a prolonged goodbye. It would no doubt embarrass them both, and most likely leave her in tears. She turned to T'pen, and took his hand, leaving Stavrick stranded on the blue dragon's back. "My thanks, T'pen, for bringing me here... I will remember you well, with gratitude." She lowered her gaze, and fluttered her eyelashes at him, smiling coyly. If her mother had taught her anything, it was that practice
was never wasted.
"You can manage that bag okay?" the rider confirmed, as he remounted his dragon.
At the sound of her former lover speaking her name, Ghisellind looked up,
"Stavrick? Thank you. And, goodbye." She quickly turned, and shouldered
her bag, finding the tears filling her eyes once more. He didn't need to see them, and she didn't need to see him leave. She began to walk quickly towards the busiest cavern entrance, hoping that she could find someone soon who could help her track down what was left of her family.
AN: Of course, things are never easy in life, especially when an author wants to make a character suffer. For starters, Ghisellind's assumption that her mother wouldn't dally with anyone of lower rank than a bronze rider is sadly, quite flawed! B'nerrid was, in fact, a bluerider known for his womanising ways. And "was" is very much the operative word in his case, as he died from a bad threadscoring a few turns beforehand. Ghisellind has a lot of adapting to do at this point, and she'll either start growing up, or start growing very bitter indeed. As her story is currently on hiatus anyway, I'll leave things here, and let the reader decide on whichever future they want to imagine for her.