Love is War 03:00:01:04
– 03:00:01:04 –
Deeam Wsael, the Apparent of House Wynn, studied the ballroom around him with his usual aloof demeanor. He had made a study of contented stoicism, achieving in that air a perfection that all his House strove for. He was a good man, strong and graceful, his deep baritone a voice sought for song, his strong arm and amhr sought out on the battlefield, his warm presence sought out by the romantically inclined of both genders. The rigors of the world seemed too small for him in the eyes of everyone else, but he accepted all that came his way with an easy grace. Many sought his ear and consul, knowing that he was to be the Duke of House Wynn, and likely the Freyr of all Midgard thereafter.
He scanned those that had risen to this occasion, a celebration to mark the reclamation of Ashaewulo’sabberkena just a few seasons past. The combined forces of Houses Gebo and Hagalaz had used the worst defeat the Vanir people had ever suffered in that valley to springboard themselves to ever greater victories. Their revenge now assured Vanir dominance over that complete area of land. He was told that the thanks fell to a number of generals and heroes, though a very brave few – the ones he trusted the most – whispered that all that had been won could be laid at the feet of a single woman.
That woman in question was easy to spot; she kept towards the back walls, thinking herself out of sight but merely being out of place. She looked uncomfortable in the dress uniform of a soldier, her hair a tangled and barely woven mess. She had added a strange glove to her ensemble in a style Deeam did not recognize. A single cup was held in one hand, untouched, while she looked at the various people around her with a bewildered smile. This was not a noble who was happy to be here, Deeam realized, not a person who was used to dealing with other people.
Another noble hovered around the woman, keeping everyone else at bay. A young man that Deeam recognized, one of the up-and-comers from House Jera who had been given Ashaewulo’sabberkena in the past and lost it with the disgraced Hekro Gherlid. Unlike the Golden Champion, this young man had found himself a captive of the Coeecians, surviving his time with them somehow. There was still a shine to him, a touch of some grace that Deeam recognized, like calling to like.
“What was her name again?” he asked.
“Do you mean the boy? He’s Figo, son of someone, born of House Jera.” Deeam turned to find the speaker, River Megru of House Mannaz, smiling. The other man was older, bigger, a harpist and something of a rake, his reputation as a genius matched only by his reputation for breaking hearts. He was currently sprawled in a chair, his fingers roaming over the strings of a large harp. “Ah, but your pronoun was feminine. That implies your curiosity is focused on the woman currently trying to avoid contact with everyone else. That would be Lady Veskur, daughter of someone, born of House Wyrd. She’s the one no one wants to credit with saving the day.”
“Thank you. Informative as always. Perhaps you might tell me why not?”
“Well, she’s crazy.” River sniffed, strumming his instrument as he took stock of the room. Deeam had never met anyone better at reading or riling a crowd. “Not much of a people person, not much of a leader, not really much of anything. And, also, House Wyrd. Do you know them? No? They’re one of those minor Houses that never seem to do anything. The rest of us keep hoping they’ll die out. We’d be better off without them.”
“There’s warmth in your voice when you speak of her.”
“I think it would be fun to settle her nerves.” River grinned, plucking a few more strings. “I’ve met her a few times. She’s got her own little hovel up in the north, lives there with a single servant. He’s fun. She reminds me of what I might have been like at her age if I’d been a reclusive little shit.”
“And so you have a soft spot for her.”
“You could say that.” River sighed, a look of frustration crossing his features – Deeam had watched River in the past and been amazed at his ability to insult people into doing what he wanted, but he knew from that expression that his favored method of influence had meant nothing to the woman they were both watching. He ran a hand through his hair and let out a long sigh. “I don’t get her, but she’s a good head if you ever want to discuss theory of any kind. There’s little else to her. She’s no Golden Champion. How’s Hekro recovering, by the way?”
“Lucky to be alive. Sahr Erison is seeing to her healing.”
“I’ve heard even Sahr can’t heal all her wounds.”
“Four seasons past and she’s still in intense care.”
“Give her to me. I’ll see her healthy again.”
“I’m sure you would,” Deeam chuckled, shaking his head and hoping that River would take the hint. “What can you tell me about Figo?”
“He still has all his teeth.” River shrugged. “To be honest? Afore Figo tied himself to her, I thought our dear Lady Wyrd preferred the company of her own gender, or maybe her letters and books.”
“Charming. Anything of actual interest you feel like sharing?”
“Not especially. I’ll be checking the youth at House Raido next, seeing if there’s anyone there worth noting, but I doubt it.” River glanced around. Deeam knew that expression, knew that the man had already decided who he would be insulting into bed that night. “I’ll get back to you. Oh, and your betrothed is here.”
Deeam looked around the room, trying to spot the mysterious woman that he was set to wed, caught sight of her. Those of her House dressed like no one else among the Vanir nation, every inch of her and her line covered in dark violet and blue fabrics. The nobles of House Pethro had shared a long association with a distant nation that always covered themselves thusly when dealing with outsiders; Pethro and her descendants had adopted the behavior. Many thought it was a restrictive practice, but Deeam knew better. He’d had taken the time to learn about the ways and customs of the woman that he was to marry.
He had initially been insulted when he had discovered that the real reason that the nobles of Pethro kept themselves so covered was spiritual hygiene, an insult that had been mollified when he came to understand that those same nobles considered him spiritually pure; it was the reason they wanted one of theirs to marry him.
Glow Packrt was her name. He could feel her eyes on him, could see that brief moment of stillness as she took in all that he was, feeling her approval wash over him. They walked towards one another, locking arms as the assembled nobility muttered and whispered.
Most of them did not approve, Deeam knew, but none of them mattered. The marriage was arranged and the two of them had discovered a passion for one another.
“I missed you.”
“Missed you, too.”
He felt her fingers, her naked fingers, touch his and knew that there was no higher compliment that she could give him at that moment. He smiled, transcendent, the two of them making their way through the crowd. They moved with slow confidence, taking their time, pausing to dance when River stepped up to the podium to play his harp and sing, even Deeam even joined the rake from Mannuz on stage for a song or two. With two exceptions, there was not a single person he did not talk to in the early or mid-evening.
It was not until late evening that he finally managed to corner that final pair, but he had kept an eye on them all night.
“Good evening.” Deeam knew what to expect from them from what he had observed over the course of the night; Figo would take point, all smiles and friendliness, while Wyrd would stay behind and join the conversation as necessary. “I’m glad the two of you could make it.”
“Why?” Wyrd asked. It wasn’t a challenge, Deeam realized, but an honest question.
“He’s being polite,” Figo answered, rolling his eyes from Deeam to Veskur, his smile one of genuine affection. “It’s considered a good way to strike up a conversation with people you don’t know that well.”
“Oh.” Wyrd blinked, considering, then held out her ungloved hand with stiff politeness. “I’m glad the two of us could make it, too.” Deeam took her hand. She looked tall and frail but there was a manic strength to her, more a product of will than body.
“I hear you won back Ashaewulo’sabberkena for us,” Deeam said. Figo paled at the mention of the valley, but given what had befallen him at that place this was hardly surprising; Wyrd’s quick refusal, on the other hand, was.
“I just applied certain theories into practice that had been tested elsewhere.” She shrugged, looking pleased with herself. “The armies were the ones that actually fought. The generals and things. I just used Science.”
“What kind of science?” Deeam asked. Wyrd turned nervous and looked to Figo, who gave her a slight nod and him a quick wink.
“Okay. Okay.” Wyrd took a deep breath. “Current theory holds that everything is made up of energy that vibrates at different speeds in order to become different kinds of energy. This variation of vibratory speed results in different forms and a multiplicity of those forms. Holding those forms apart from one another requires a borderline structure, which I call rune structure.
“These structures funnel that core energy in different patterns, allowing it to interact with other forms in a set series of ways that are, potentially, infinite in their number. However, while the possible interactions are probably limitless, the circuits that the energies travel along are not, and, with the proper application of science and knowledge, one can make that energy travel in pre-determined ways. An application of this process of will over other is found in the common sciences.
“However, the common sciences are barbaric for the most part and the similarities between what our people do and, say the Coeecians and their rituals are matters of detail rather than knowledge. This is troublesome, as it implies that we are no more advanced than the Coeecians, or any of the other people that exist outside of Midgard. I believed that this fault was a matter of thought rather than a concrete rule, and so began studying these core energies, their applications, patterns, and behaviors.
“I discovered methods of solidifying the structures those energies traveled through into solid and definitive shapes that could not be broken. Common ritual searches through a plethora of possibilities and tries to bring the desired outcome to reality. By applying a solid form to one choice and only that choice, the scientist can destroy all other possibilities by creating a feedback loop from one undesirable possibility to the next, thus eliminating even the chance of those possibilities ever coming into being.”
“I see,” said Deeam, though he truly didn’t. Figo caught his eye and gave him a sympathetic smile as the Lady Wyrd, smiling and relaxed for the first time since he’d seen her, continued.
“This glove is a tool that allows those energies to be channeled in ways that I see fit,” she said, holding up her glove for his inspection. It looked like there were bits of wood woven into the fabric, and a blank disc was held suspended on the back of her hand. “It’s a circuit that summons forth whatever outcome I desire with respect to certain affinities while destroying any other outcome that might exist in any given action.
“For example, the structures that create living as opposed to unliving things have core behaviors and patterns with respect to the potential that they have as achieved through the applied chemical processes that we call birth. Different organisms of the same species possess different capabilities with respect to skills and ambitions, to say nothing of personality. Through the application of the equations and mechanisms that I have invented, one can influence, change, or define what those capabilities are and the tier at which they exist.”
“Interesting,” said Deeam, interrupting when Wyrd finally paused for breath. “There are other people that I still wish to speak with, but I would like to know more.” Deeam said this last only when he caught sight of the disappointment that festered in the woman’s eyes.
“I was planning to return home tomorrow to continue my work, but I could postpone.” Wyrd licked her lips, looking around nervously. Figo squeezed her hand. “Your Majesty.”
“That will be quite alright,” Deeam answered, nodding his head. “And, please, call me Deeam. I wouldn’t want to keep you from your studies but I cannot, regrettably, come to you. Why don’t I send someone your way who you can talk to at length?”
“The Lady Wyrd is uncomfortable with people she does not know in her home,” Figo said, a note of protectiveness in his voice.
“I can be mindful of that.” Deeam glanced around the room, caught sight of a certain rake and smiled. “I believe you know River Megru?”
“He is a passing friend, yes.” Wyrd glanced through the crowd, then bowed her head, her breathing unsteady.
“Why don’t I send him to you?” Deeam was pleased at Wyrd’s wordless response, though he noticed that Figo was less than happy at the suggestion. “You and he can discuss your theories at length. I believe he must make a stop at House Raido, then Isz, but I can have him veer north thereafter. I cannot imagine him taking longer than a season or two.”
“That will do, yes.” Lady Wyrd forced a smile. “I would be delighted.”
“Would you mind if I borrowed Lord Figo for a moment?” Deeam asked. Lord and Lady looked at one another. “It’s nothing of consequence. I just need to know some things about her House. I can leave you my betrothed as company, and it will only take a few moments.” Wyrd seemed uncomfortable with the idea until Glow brought up something having to do with the transference of energies, and then the two of them became consumed with their exchange of theory.
“Is she stable?” Deeam asked, as soon as he and Figo were out of earshot.
“Mostly,” Figo said, looking back at where the Ladies were talking. Deeam recognized the look of Figo, his sense of ownership when it came to the Good Lady Wyrd. “You can see why the others don’t like giving her accolades, though, right?”
“Yes,” Deeam said, studying the woman from a distance. “She’ll never be the type to rally the troops, will she? Never be social or comfortable around others.”
“She could be, she just doesn’t care to,” Figo shrugged, running a hand through his hair. “There’s passion there. Her House is thrilled that she’s let me into her home and that she seems to have taken an interest in me.”
“Do you care for her?”
“She saved my life.”
“But do you care for her?”
“She…,” Figo paused, considered the question. “There’s a surprising depth of passion in her, a hunger that I know she’s shared with no one else. She’s strange, brilliant.” Figo’s cheeks went red, his eyes distant. It was answer enough.
“Her glove… is it a simple mechanism or is there some trick to it?”
“I’m not certain. She keeps it to herself, though she’s told me she’ll make me one.”
“Figure out how it works,” Deeam said, looking around. “If one person wielding such a weapon can turn the tide of battle so simply, imagine what it would be like if all the nobility had such power? It would end violence among us.”
“Do you think so?”
“I know so.”
“I’ll do it.”
Deeam and Figo circled back to where Wyrd and Glow were still talking, the two Ladies discussing the applications of some form of what Deeam assumed was alchemy. Wyrd seemed excited again, her eyes bright as she smiled and admitted she knew nothing of what Glow was saying but that she would be eager to learn. Figo joined Wyrd and took her by the hand, leading her away, explaining that he and Glow would want to spend some time alone together, and the bewildered Lady followed her better half.
“What do you think of her?” Deeam asked his lover, but only once he was certain the other two were out of earshot but still within his sight. He could see how the two of them balanced each other, both of them naive in so many ways; Figo was as much diplomat as soldier, and his Lady would need both in the days to come. Still it was clear that Figo had been wounded by his time with the Coeecians – his savior was the perfect distraction, a rock upon which Figo could rebuild his world.
He thought that they complimented one another beautifully.
“She’s utterly mad.” Glow whispered. She was covered head-to-toe in the custom of her House, which made reading her expression impossible, but Deeam could see that she was shaking. “I am certain she knew nothing of the Lemurian concept of the soul, but the moment I began describing the basics she grasped it and started making sense of things that even I had trouble with. Have you heard the tales of her wondrous glove?”
“If anyone were capable of making such a weapon it would be she,” Glow whispered. “I’m not sure if her findings are a good thing or not. Did you hear what she plans on titling her application of Science?”
“Ethcinos. It’s a verb in the old Darroken tongue.”
“What does it mean?”
Neither of them took note of the winged guest who sipped at Deeam’s finest wines.
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