Simple Needs, Complex Plans

Journal entry from Gwenn…

In my search for a minstrel, I ended up meeting Lord Marco. And losing all chance of keeping my identity secret from the Governess of Sava.

Not that I’d done such a great job of it in the first place. Apparently, she knew my mother. It was nice to hear that Mother and Father were a love match, though. I never knew.

I guess Tristram didn’t know my real name. I’d borrowed the most recent copy of Lineages from Lady Venadi. Fascinating what’s happened since I left. I showed the book to Tristram, with Rob’s and my entries in it.

I thought I was getting used to the idea of Rob’s death, and I was. But seeing it in the book, in black and white… “b. 1263, d. 1288.” Hurt.

But seeing my own name there… “b. 1272, d. 1288.” Three weeks after my birthday, no less.

I’m dead. I should get the Lineages from three years ago and read our obituaries, but I feel that might be too morbid. What would they say about Gweneffylasse Jader?

A charming, modest girl, full of bright promise, her life cut short by the cruel hand of fate.

That’s what they always say about unmarried women when they die unexpectedly. “Charming,” “modest,” and “promise.” Charming means she wasn’t a hideous wretch– I’ve read such things about girls who were utter horrors to everyone around them, but as long as her face is fair enough, she’s “charming.” Modest means they were publicly still untouched. Publicly– she can be the biggest tease at court, but if no one caught her, then she’s “modest.” And “full of promise” means she hasn’t done anything yet.

I think my mother’s obituary called her charming and modest, too, for all she’d been married over 15 years by then.

The worst part is, it’s all true. By the time of my reported death, I hadn’t done anything, not really. I knew people, and I knew things. But I hadn’t really done anything, not ever. I’m passably pretty, and I’ve already written about my lack of experience in those areas of life. I was sixteen years old– who ever does anything when they’re sixteen?

For a few moments yesterday, fencing with Marco, trying on the dress, I remembered what it was like to be that girl. The girl who’d done nothing except flirt with boys and gossip with (and about) girls. The girl with a famous ancestor and a quietly diminishing house. The girl who was waiting, and learning, preparing for the day when she’d counsel a smart, strong man as he navigated the waters of the Assembly. I am sure the fencing lessons were just Rob’s way to connect with the baby sister he’d been saddled with. Fariga teaching me all those other tricks… well, she did always keep those lessons on the sly.

When I showed the book to Tristram… he fell to one knee.

What did he want me to do? Knight him? Take his weapon into my service? He’s already a soldier in my army– I can’t have him swearing fealty to me. As Lady Jader, I’m just a girl who has done nothing in her life. Lady Jader does not yet deserve his loyalty. Lady Jader is a dead girl.

Dear gods.

I probably have a grave somewhere.

I’m musing and muddling about things that have little to no relevance to the tasks at hand, though.

We were ambushed at midnight, a trap laid by someone Ordune thought he could trust. What an utter mess. We barely defeated Monsignor Valera and her lackeys, finally capturing one who we may come to regret later. Ordune’s contact, Louis, slipped away, which led to Ordune, Tris, and me tracking him through the streets to catch him just before he got to the gates. Quick thinking on Tristram’s part, really– pretending to be the fellow’s nephew.

We questioned him and then, because I cannot be looking over my shoulder every step– and I do think he’s slippery as an eel– I had Tris tattoo him with arcane reagents. A permanent tattoo from the rebellion, making it unlikely he can ever go to the Regency and sell us out again. I am sure if he’d known the true price on our heads (5 pp, instead of 1 pp for just any member of the rebellion), even the tattoo would not have deterred him. It was the only thing keeping me from telling him he’d tangled with the Harriers and lost.

It was a form of justice, and I felt good about it. Until we returned to the inn and found the Firiel had questioned our other prisoner, Dalen, an ordinary soldier conscripted up from the Regency to defend Monsignore Valera. With a kid brother and father back home. She extracted from him a promise to go away and work in the mines in Wulthros.

Firiel pleaded to spare him, to let him go. I asked her why.

“Because someone, on either side of this conflict, has to show some mercy, Gwenn.”

I nearly dropped my bow. Instead, I gave him paper and a pen and had him write a letter home, to be delivered if we ever cross through Copperton. It’s the least we can do– he’s going to be known as a deserter or a failure in the official rolls. The least we can do is make it known to his family that he was just a young man doing what he had to.

If we come out the other side of this alive and able to make real changes…. well, there may be justice in the world for people like Dalen, then. And mercy for men like Louis, too.

We learned, from Louis and a letter to Valera, that there is indeed a prison in Vilneris, housing other rebels and many druids. It’s a trap, though– Louis said as much– so we’ll have to go with stealth and cleverness, or risk being captured ourselves.

And with half of our silver safely converted into spendable funds, we should return to Aethmell and Toad Hollow soon to help the folk there rebuild. Besides, there are some mercenaries to be dealt with around Everwood, I suspect.

It’ll be a shame if we must go before Lord Marco’s coming of age party. I’d like to meet the lesser nobles of my generation. We need allies. We need people who are as hungry for change as we are.

And… I may need to dance in a pretty dress with a young lord whose eyes turn red with fire when he looks at me. …I might need that.