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The sun rose as it always did, slowly mustering what strength it could to burn off of the fog that always seeped through the Twelveswood back then. Can still sometimes see it if the seasons are just right, though nowadays it ain't as reliable as it used to be. Seems sometimes that's true about a lotta things. A young man in love notices lots of things when his spirits're up; Bird songs and wind calls and the scent of early morn and the sorta thing you don't pay any mind to. Dappled shade and the feel of something big on the horizon. World's a big place and people are just actors in it.


The sun came up, not that anyone could know for half a bell past rising. Grey clouds blanketed the sky, heavy still with rain despite the torrent that fell upon the Shroud. Traveling into Gridania had been a saturated mess despite the canopy, with random buckets of rain collecting on leaves before making their way in great splashes all at once. On top of it all, the noise of insects and sleepiness added to the feeling of going someplace unwelcoming. Both travelers had grown up in the Shroud so they could walk without fear of reprisal, but neither one had spoken for malms. Nothing else to say on the subject, so the buzzing of the bugs made for tedious peace, the calm surface of a pond teeming with eels. The tangle of trees made the world feel very, very small.



Breakfast came as it always did, messy and slow to come together. Not all of the time spent practicing being man and wife meant someone took to the more mundane duties expected therein. Working on the family was more important than learning how to take care of one, and that's a trap or a lesson not everyone's lucky enough to learn before they're forced to. Still, eggs get cracked and cakes get flapped and bacon gets cooked and its a normal enough kind of serenity to let the light into the world. After breakfast there's another run at the family, and then its off to the races.


One of the things he tried to learn once he decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with that woman was how to take care of her proper. Despite the distance between them - another night of fighting over the same old - he held up his end of the bargain. No more would she go hungry for the sake of appearances, especially not now that she's got a man who'll treat her right. The trick with that is that you rarely get a proper stovetop to work with on the trails. Setting up a cookfire seemed like a step backwards, and so as he mixed and remixed and cut and cracked and worked, he tried to think on what he could say to try and bridge the distance. Sneaking into her room with platter in hand, though, showed she was already gone for the day. He set the tray on the bed anyway. It was the thought that counted.


Business in Gridania went as it always has, boring if you don't live there and bustling if you do. Folks had already done their morning exercises, all in place before the sun was just starting to really get to his work for the day. Even the most loving couples need to split their time between work and pleasure and they weren't any different. She had family that didn't care much for him, and he had dice to roll that didn't much like them either. It weren't that odd for a traveler to go gambling with the layabouts, but word of mouth was what brought in the proper business. Gridania was all work in the daytime, but come sundown it was all play.


The flyers and banners did a fine enough job of drawing attention but the real pulse of the world will always run through back alleys and shady corners. He knew that because she had shown him, and now that she was off doing the real work that meant the rest of it fell on him. It was the benefit of being the downtrodden; No one gives a look past the grimy clothes and rumpled people wearing them. The dice were just formality, really. Who and when and where and how much was the real reason to crawl through the mud.


Lunch happened as it always seemed to, a quick spot of respite at a cozy little inn. There wasn't need or inclination to inspect their bed service but the moments spent in company were always so wonderful, neither one minded keeping a bit of hunger for after dinner. Brief, but necessary, with promises of being reunited before too long.


Flowers led up as they always were supposed to. Somewhere between lunch bell and dinner bell, though, she'd taken ill. He didn't know, though he was always the one who was late. The roses were clipped around the same time she passed on, not that he knew. The stage was set but the light in him had gone out, extinguished like a guttering candle in high winds.


And that was all there was to it.

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"Weren't always about 'happily ever after' y'know. Ever heard that story 'bout the princess and the ball? She had a bunch'a suitors chasin' after her, and she met her handsome prince at a fancy dinner jus' at the las' minute. Happily ever after, they say. True story, they say. Well bits of it're true, but it ain't the happy endin' y'all've heard. Girl got it in her fool head to dash off to the unknown, takin' as much cash as she could to slip away. Them suitors weren't jus' blind snobby princes, either. I'll spare th' politics of it all, but the long an' short of it is that if she weren't tryin' to woo the Traders, she ain't never had no happy endin' of any sort."

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Ain't like the heroes always make it out ahead, neither. You ever heard the one about the shinin' prince who saved the queen of another region from the dungeon? It happened, in a way, but not in the way that story tells. Oh, sure sure, she really did go missin' and he really did go save her. She weren't kidnapped, though, and the whole thing was just political maneuverin' so she could make a claim on his throne and crown, too. Poor sod probly' didn't die fast, neither.


I ain't mean to be so depressin' but the stories we tell ourselves to feel good? Usually a whole sack'a lies meant to distract us from the really, really bad."

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