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A Cold Home [Closed][OOC comments welcome]


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((Um, so... I've never done anything like this before, like forum RP or story stuff or anything. At this point already I feel as if I've already cocked the whole thing up, but what the hell, right? At the very least I can supply a few good laughs. Like most homo sapiens, I get a bit nervous at the thought of others reading my writing, but I would appreciate feedback, mostly the negative-yet-constructive kind, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers.


Anyway, the background for this story was left somewhat vague on purpose, just know that this is Edda in her boring as FUG home but... it's different... I guess??????? Free shrugs over here ladies, I could do this all night. This is the part where I scurry off into the darkness and pretend I never posted this for a few hours. Wheeeee!))





It was, perhaps, unreasonable to expect anything but clement weather in Summerford. Aside from the occasional storm clouds and regular yet short-lived rainstorms that drifted in from across the sea, it was a rather fair part of Eorzea, if only slightly less than it had been before the Calamity. It had been scarcely a bell since the sun had been fully in the sky, and the morning clouds had already begun their journey across the Strait of Merlthor. There was a chorus of birds from the garden outside, and the sounds of retainers beginning their routine began to echo throughout the building. It was a gorgeous day, and yet Edda was nothing short of wretched.


She awoke to the sound of M’jhimei entering her room with fresh clothes and a washbowl as she did every sun for as long as Edda could remember. The wood floor was cold from the previous night, and Edda shivered as she made her way over to wash and allow M’jhimei to dress her. They exchanged not a word, a recent development after Edda’s sudden return home. Perhaps borne out of her own stubbornness, or her father’s orders to her retainers –whatever they were- Edda sat in silence as M’jhimei brushed and styled her hair. After inspecting herself in the mirror with great apathy, Edda made her way down to the dining hall where breakfast awaited, along with her father.


Her father Eamon sat at the head of a table that could seat thirty, and made no outward note of her arrival in the room. He was a sharp looking man, with slicked back hair and narrow, appraising eyes that never seemed to look anything but disinterested. Edda sat to his right in silence as she began to eat her breakfast – poached dodo eggs, perch, and toast with apples and cheese. Eamon poured over whatever news and mail had come in that morning, and opted to ignore Edda until she had nearly finished her meal.


“Settling in?” He asked, setting his papers aside. Had it been asked by anyone else, Edda would have thought it a flippant remark, but her father was always serious.


 Edda delayed her answer by taking a drink of orange juice. “Nothing has changed here.”


“Is there any reason it might?”


“No,” Edda replied quickly, and her mind drifted to a few trunks of her unpacked luggage, still sitting in the front hall.


Eamon studied her for a moment, a faint smile on his lips. “Are you really so angry with me?”


“I am not angry.” A lie.


“Well, whatever it is, I would suggest you get over it quickly. It’s bad enough with one child moping about the house every sun. I daresay your mother has gotten her way for far too long.”


“Where is mother, by the way?” Edda had noticed her absence at breakfast, but it was not unusual for her to take breakfast in bed sometimes, as Ennis did.


“Gone to Gridania, early this morning.” Faucillien, Chief Retainer to the family, began serving tea. “That dreadful Aunt of hers finally passed away. A living relic, she was. May Thal keep her soul close or some such, though I wouldn’t blame him should he want to send her back.”


Edda only met her Great Aunt when she was still nursing, and has no recollection of the woman at all. “You didn’t see her very often,” Edda said plainly, but her tone was not accusatory.


“Three times,” Eamon said. “And trust me, the first time was more than enough. I’ll be content to never receive a letter from her again.” Faucillien cracked a smile as he stood with his back to the wall, but it went unnoticed. Leaning forward slightly, Eamon softened his voice as he spoke to Edda. “When you are older, you will come to understand that your extended family will not always be your closest allies, if they could even be called allies at all.”


Edda smiled an appeasing smile at her father. “I shall endeavor to not trust the family of my future husband, then. Although I hope to have the grace to pay my respects at their burials, when the time comes to do so.”


Eamon smiled back as he sipped his tea, his eyebrows quirked in amusement. “Are you sure those Raven fellows didn’t switch you out for a look-alike at Moraby? Such lip, and so early. Or have you been taking lessons from your dear sister?”


“I see no cause in hiding my thoughts from you. Did you not say earlier that it was impossible to keep secrets from you?” Edda pursed her lips at the memory of his hand around her wrist and a cold slap across her cheek. He had not been in the wrong, but the easiness of his cruelty and the bitterness of her defeat sat heavy in her heart.


“I did say that, yes. If you must spit vitriol to someone then, I suppose it must be me. Do be sure to not allow any of our guests to see it, however. The Sidney family is visiting this evening, as I’m sure you remember.”


“Always thinking of the family, aren’t you.”


“Yes,” Eamon said. His expression grew serious. “Such is the burden of my position, Edda – a burden you shall one day bear. You’ve no time to be out playing commoner with whatever filth you kept for company. You were only let out there due to your mother’s insistence, and the Twelve know Ennis is at least tolerable when you’re out of the house… But in lieu of your recent actions, it’s apparent that enough is enough.”


Edda frowned, a familiar stinging sensation rising to the back of her eyes. “And what would you know of it?”


Eamon had always been quick to play his seniority. “A great deal more than you,” he said, ending the conversation. He rose from his chair and handed the papers at the table to Faucillien. He would take them to her father’s office, which had been locked shut ever since Edda had been caught sifting through his private documents several suns ago. “Remember, dinner with the Sidneys. I will have a dress picked out for you.” And with that, he left.


With her father and Faucillien gone from the dining hall, a few retainers entered the room to begin clearing the table. Despite being the heir to the business and fortune of her family, Edda had limited power at home, the word of her father presiding over all business and household conduct. She was allowed a degree of selfishness, but anything going against Eamon’s word was a futile venture. It was his name on the gil, and that was where power lie, a lesson Edda had been remiss in remembering.


Edda excused herself from the table and made her way to the South Wing of the manor, where her room was. As she passed through the main hall and into the second parlor, she stopped at seeing Ennis descend the staircase at the beginning of the wing.


“Finished breakfast already, have we?” Ennis approached Edda quickly, her usual fake smile plastered on her face. Ennis was Edda’s younger sister by two cycles. Born premature, Ennis was a weak and unhealthy girl, although her attitude and mannerisms more than made up for her inherent frailty. She was smaller than Edda in every regard and looked more like their father between the two, with short hair and sharp eyes that never seemed to focus on one thing for very long.


“So it would seem,” Edda replied. Every social interaction was a game to Ennis, having been deprived of it even more than Edda had been growing up. It was always a mystery what goal Ennis would have when speaking with Edda, and she was careful enough to never reveal her hand. Talking to her was a chore. Still, Edda smiled at Ennis as she came to stand in front of her. “And I imagine you have as well?”


“Oh, yes,” Ennis said. “Dreadful, really. I keep telling father how tired I’ve grown of fish for breakfast. Healthy or not, a little bit of variety never hurt anyone. Would you not agree, dear sister?”


Edda had barely opened her mouth before Ennis continued on. “Perhaps I’ve been playing the wrong angle. Do you think mother would agree with me? She has more control over the kitchen stock than anyone here, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a change in the menu. But she’s off to Gridania now, to bury the corpse of our dearly departed Aunt Meera. Pity. In any case, how are you? You’ve been home for nearly what, eight suns now? And yet it seems we’ve hardly seen each other except at dinner, and you know father won’t let me say much at the table. Will you not call on me?”


For a girl with chronically weak lungs, Ennis had a talent for prattling on about nothing for bells on end. Edda knew better than to dig much at the earlier parts of her spiel. “I’m sorry, Ennis,” Edda said, not at all meaning it. “I’ve been keeping to myself. I do like some space to collect my thoughts.”


Ennis scoffed and made a face. She was very expressive, although how much of it was an act, Edda did not know. “You’ve had time alone to collect your thoughts for almost twenty cycles now. Don’t tell me your pretend adventure with the rabble outside has jumbled your mind so terribly.”


Edda made sure to not show reaction to Ennis’ apparent bait, but she could feel tenseness in her own jaw before she spoke. “It would be difficult to explain.” Vagueness was the fastest route to annoying Ennis, although Edda had no desire to quarrel with her.


“You were not gone for that long. It wouldn’t be very difficult, I just think you don’t want to tell me about it at all. At least father gave me some measure of an idea. An incident with bird-like fellows and your subsequent adventures with your pet Hellsguard, yes?”


“That is a rather concise way of putting it.”


“Let’s not sweat the details, dearest. I can imagine hearing everything would bore me straight to tears. You’re not that interesting, although you’ve seemed to pick up a few quirks from life in the gutter.” Edda had to wonder if Ennis truly saw things in such extremes. If it wasn’t the lavish and clean interior of a manor, was everything else the dirty, shady alleyways of Pearl Lane? There was little point in asking, because Ennis would deny it, or not answer at all. She was intelligent with both books and people, but her views of the world were painted with a thin sheen of ignorance. The same, of course, could be said about Edda, despite her desire to shed this fact.


“I have, perhaps,” Edda agreed in an attempt to pacify her. “You seem largely the same since last we spoke, however. Are you still terrorizing the gardeners?”


Ennis wrinkles her nose at the accusation. “Don’t be silly. Father hired a whole new batch of them from that little colony to the south, but I’m sure those unruly ex-pirates only have experience trimming heads from necks, not the branches off bushes. I tried only once to give them constructive criticism-“ Edda could feel pangs of sympathy. “-But to little avail. I’ve bothered father to hire some field hands from Gridania instead – no doubt they’ll set things to rights. He won’t listen now, but I’ll wear him down eventually.”


“I’m sure you will…” It was Ennis’ greatest talent, after all. “You never go to the gardens though, so why let it bother you so much?”


“I can see them from my window,” Ennis replied, as if it were the most obvious answer. “Don’t try and say I’m out of my element, because you know full well I could say the very same to you. Living in a house full of killers, drunks and whores? I know mother planted the idea in your head, but could you have not picked a better location?”


Edda blinked at the apparent types of people living at The Still Shore, if that was indeed what Ennis was referring to. “I don’t recall ever encountering those types while I stayed there. Perhaps you are mistaken.”


“Oh, yes, I’m sure the official Maelstrom record for them is very flattering. But I did my research when father had those officers over for dinner one moon past, and from what I’ve heard some rather colorful types live under that roof. I know you had two of your retainers with you, and your Hellsguard, but I was truly worried for your well-being there.”


The conversation had begun to wear on Edda at this point, her expression sobering at Ennis’ thinly-veiled accusations, though they were not directed at her. It was true that Edda had always been quite the odd one out, but she had never felt outright unwanted, let alone unsafe. “They must have been some rather embellished stories, then. I can assure you nothing was out of sorts there.” This was of course, entirely false. There never seemed to be a shortage of incidents or strange fellows skulking about the house, from the dusty miqo’te that spoke in riddles to the ever aggravating three-eyed freak. “Or are you simply curious, Ennis? If you want to know so badly, all you had to do was ask.”


“Ridiculous. Curious? Me?” Ennis scowled and clicked her tongue. “You must think yourself above me even more so now, now that you’ve been outside – as if that was some great accomplishment to begin with. Do you intend to lord it over me?  Try and regale me with tales of what I’m missing?”


It was no secret that Ennis harbored immense disdain for the outdoors, a trait in which Edda played no small part. Having been confined to the house due to her health for most of her life, Ennis grew to despise the very thought of going outside. She had not always felt this way, and perhaps forced herself to in order to bury the self-pity she had for her own situation. It was not something Edda could hold against her, knowing that she herself could have ended up with the very same attitude.


“I have no intention to do any of that, Ennis. I do not regret my decision to leave, however, and I’m glad I did. It was a good experience.”


Ennis went from looking annoyed to placid very quickly. “What a lukewarm thing to say. So have you resigned yourself to your fate here now? You seem very passive.”


Edda looked to the ground for a moment, and frowned. “…I would still like to leave,” she begins. “I will hope that father can see past his own anger and prejudices and change his mind.” It was not an easy thing to admit, nor something she would like to, but lying to Ennis was futile.


“He’s forbidden you from sending any letters, has he not? At least I heard a few retainers whispering about it. Rather iron-fisted of him, no? But you know how stubborn he is – I doubt he’ll change his mind. So what, you intend to just sit around the house long enough, hoping your fairytale friends notice and seek you out?”


Edda’s frown deepened at this. ‘Friends’ was not a word Edda was sure she could use. If she were prompted she may say as such, but having lived in isolation for much of her life, the word carried a different weight to her than it did to the average person. She had acted in a manner that was friendly, at least how she had been taught to do so. But that was never enough, and for all she knew, she had gone about it all wrong. It would be presumptuous of Edda to believe anyone would seek her out, even if the notion of it made her heart sink in longing. She thought of Iron, and those that she might dare to think would call her a friend, and felt like crying.


“…I hope that this is something that will be resolved, given time.” Edda choose her words carefully and looked Ennis dead in the eye.


There was a pregnant pause in the conversation, a rarity with Ennis. Her eyes darted around the room for a moment, before she settled at staring between Edda’s collarbones. “You are so horribly boring sometimes.” She looked up at Edda almost cautiously, before her usual smile appeared on her face. “Exactly as I expected. I’m sure you like to think differently, but you are still the selfsame sister I know and love. You can still read and write unlike the unwashed masses, your hair is still impeccable and your breasts are still distracting. Can you still play? Oh, you must play with me sister, it’s been too long.”


Ennis motioned to the instruments in the room, the largest collection of them in the second parlor. There was a piano, a harpsichord, a harp, a cello, and two violins alongside an assortment of flutes in a large closet in the corner. There was scarcely room for any furniture, and the room had fallen into disuse after a third harpsichord was lifted to the study near Ennis’ room and Edda had completed her lessons. Still, the room was kept in impeccable shape and the instruments were well cared for. Ennis walked over to the harpsichord excitedly and pointed at the piano, looking between it and Edda with pretend vigor.


“I don’t,” Edda started. “I’m not really in the mood.”


Ennis was already sitting at this point, and gave Edda a rather befuddled look. “Who said anything about the mood? It’s only music.”


As if anyone could argue with that. Edda sighed and took a seat in front of the piano. She lifted the fallboard and looked over to Ennis. The two only knew one duet. Ennis had not desired to learn more than one, her passion for music not falling beyond the realm of putting on a show for guests. She had always been talented at the keyboard, but it was Edda’s initial love for music that caused Ennis not care for it as deeply as she might have. She still practiced the bare minimum, but it was just another game for her. Ennis met Edda’s gaze and winked – or at least attempted to – and turned back to the keys in front of her. Edda rolled her eyes, and started to play.




Ennis finished the duet with a flourish, before clapping wildly. “Oh, excellent, you’re just as good as I remember!” She continued clapping, to the point where it felt patronizing. Edda stood and lowered the fallboard back over the keys. Ennis rose to meet her, and took Edda’s hands in her own. “Shall we have some tea and cakes on the back veranda?” That was as far as Ennis was willing to go outside. “I’m still feeling a bit peckish after such a boring breakfast. I feel as if we have a lot to catch up on, you and I.”


If she meant it, it would be quite the difference from her previous words. “Alright,” Edda agreed. She had no excuse prepared, and spending time with Ennis for the next few bells would prepare her for dinner with the Sidneys. Ennis smiled brightly, and for a second Edda felt like smiling back. Edda had not seen a real smile on Ennis’ face for a very long time, even before the Calamity. The moment passed, and Edda allowed Ennis to drag her to the garden nestled between the two wings of the house.


(To be... Continued?) :chocobo:

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OOC Comments:


This was an amazing read. A lovely amount of detail with a hint of vagueness to let the mind wander. Much to your possible dismay, I'm not capable of giving any type of negative criticism. It was well-worded, thought out, and coherent. The story flowed easily and it gave a wonderful peek into Edda's family life and motivations. I can honestly say I want to see more of the social interactions. 



Definitely looking forwards to any/all continuations.

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((Er, I wrote more... Christ, I've forgotten how mortifying this could be. Harsh feedback is still the best, please don't let the Garlean set the precedent.))




The main garden was a rather private area, cut off from prying eyes from the outside, however rare it was for strangers to get so close to the manor. A large fountain decorated the center of it, and the arrangements of plants never stayed the same for very long. The garden had seen varying levels of use throughout the many generations of Eglantines. Edda and her brother had spent time there often, but after his death she came to avoid it. Ennis and Eamon had no great love of it. Edda’s mother, Marian, spent the most time on it, ordering native flowers and shrubs from Gridania to be planted within, so that it might remind her of home.


Edda and Ennis entered the garden through the main study. The room bordered the garden, and let out onto a veranda through several triple hung windows. There were a few small garden tables and chairs that sat overlooking the garden, sitting comfortably under the shade of the porch roof. The sun was higher in the sky now, but the morning air was cooled by the breeze from the Western Indigo Deep.


Ennis motioned to her retainer Lauda, who always kept within earshot of Ennis should anything happen to her. She disappeared back into the study to make for the kitchens, and the two sisters took a seat at one of the tables. There were still a few workers in the gardens, and Edda and Ennis watched them work in silence for a short while.


“See what I mean?” Ennis leaned in slightly to whisper. She nodded to an uncharacteristically short Sea Wolf, who seemed to be struggling with the thorns on a large bush.


Lauda returned with a tray of tea and petit fours. “I’m not sure you could do any better, Ennis,” Edda remarked dryly.


“Oh, that isn’t the point. It’s not my job to tend to the garden. But if I were being paid to do so, I would hope to do a good job.”


Edda bit into a petit four and decided not to pursue the subject at hand. A wise decision apparently, as Ennis smiled at Edda as she added sugar to her tea. “So,” Ennis continued. “Why not tell me about some of those commoners you met?”


“I thought you said you weren’t interested. What were the words you used? ‘Bore me to tears,’ or something along those lines?”


“I didn’t say that!” Ennis feigned an offended look. “I’m merely wondering how you managed to get along with the sort of rabble that are out there, that’s all. I find it shocking that anyone had the patience to withstand your company for any extended period of time. I hear those adventurer types can be as quick to kill you as they are to even look at you.”


“You will find such stories to be greatly exaggerated.” Edda finished off a second petit four without even realizing it, and gave Ennis a disapproving look. “I know you’re not the type to believe everything you hear. Do try not to get so caught up in your own fantasies.”


Ennis glared at Edda over her cup of tea, and downed some of it rather quickly. It was unwise of her to drink so fast, but Edda held her tongue. “Prove me wrong, then.” Edda looked out to the garden and inhaled to speak before Ennis interrupted her. “And not about that Hellsguard of yours, please. I’ve heard enough deriding statements from father to last me a lifetime.”


It would seem Ennis’ proclivity for reading the thoughts of others had increased, and Edda furrowed her brows in frustration. Where to start? “Well, there was the mercenary woman who loved to dye her hair and could read and write, though it’s been some time since I last saw her. There was the hat-loving bard with rather alarming aim, the Duskwight fellow who sold blank books for whatever cause, and the young lalafell from The Still Shore who charmed me into buying her an assortment of cakes from the Bismarck...”


Ennis frowned at the brief descriptions, and shot Edda a distrustful glare. “Are you sure you’re not making this up? I don’t believe such characters could all gather together and manage to get along at all. Do they even have names?” It was of little doubt that the idea of a mercenary being literate or a Duskwight knowing what a book even looked like was incomprehensible to Ennis.


It was a tad dramatic, but Edda sighed in exasperation. “Of course they have names, Ennis. Don’t be ridiculous. And no, I’m not making this up – they are but a few examples. And if anything, they were rather tame compared to that band of murderers that turned to black ooze and managed to come back from being killed.”


“Yes, yes, father told me all about that. Maybe not all of it, but enough to know something nefarious was at play. Rather silly of you, involving yourself in something so dangerous.”


Edda shifted in her seat, the discomfort of the memory not one she would like to dwell on. “It was not voluntary.”


In what appeared to be a rare act of kindness, Ennis did not press the subject. “Was there anyone else interesting?”


After taking a moment to think and dwell in self-doubt, Edda began to speak slowly. “…You know of the Rochesters, rights?”


Ennis scowled for a moment. “The merchant family from Ul’dah?”


“Yes, the very same. I met their daughter.”


“The one that was kidnapped?” Ennis looked utterly bewildered.


“Yes. Well, that was the story, and I’m not quite sure it’s true.” A pause. “I’m still not entirely sure what the actual story was, but yes, I met her.”


“Hmph.” Ennis leaned back in her chair and nibbled on a cake. “Well that must have been quite nice,” she said dryly. “A brief respite of nobility and grace in that dump of a city, I’m sure.”


“It managed to grow on me,” Edda said, and it was the truth. The weather in Thanalan was still a point of contention for her, but once the charms of the city came out of the woodwork, they were not lost on her.


“Oh, I’m sure,” Ennis drawled. Her voice dripped with sarcasm and a sly smile blossomed on her face.


Choosing to ignore the sudden change in Ennis’ manner, Edda busied herself with the food on the table. The two sat in silence for a while, snacking on the remaining sweets and finishing their tea. The temperature had begun to warm, and though it was not very far from Mist, the smell of the air in Summerford was entirely different. It had been some time since Edda had sat and enjoyed the garden, not since before the death of her elder brother. The two had spent time here frequently. The garden had been much more magnificent during that time – wisteria vines wrapped around the edge of the veranda, and trumpet vine on the pillars that supported them. Rows of carnations and sweet briar encircled the fountain with towering rose bushes in every color imaginable that enclosed the pathways within. It was a funny thing, to feel nostalgia for a sight that was so familiar and always close at hand. And though she still longed to explore the world that had only just been open to her, Edda felt at peace here, knowing that even if she never truly belonged anywhere else, she would always have this place.


Enough time had passed that the workers in the garden finished, and left to tend to the shrubs and plants on the rest of the grounds. Ennis coughed lightly and sat upright, the same sly grin returning to her face. “So, tell me dear sister,” she began. “Aside from the encounters you mention, did you have any special encounters whilst you stayed in Ul’dah?” Ennis knew her sister well enough to know the meaning would be lost on her.


“What do you mean?” Edda frowned. “I had just told you, did I not? Surely you don’t mean to hear all of them.”


“Oh.” Ennis’ expression quickly soured, and she sighed. “Did you really not learn a thing while you were there? Surely you cannot be so dense as all that.”


“What are you talking about, Ennis?”


“I’m asking if you enjoyed the primal company of men – or women, you know I’m not one to spill secrets or mete out judgments – when you were abroad?”


Were it not for Ennis’ use of the word ‘primal,’ the meaning behind her words might have still been lost on Edda. But it was able to suffice, and a sharp hue of red colored her cheeks. She looked a mix between angry and scandalized, as if the very idea was as condemning as the action. “Of course not!” Edda put a hand to her chest, her heart beating wildly at the abruptness of Ennis’ question.


“Hm, so, still utterly kissless, are you? What a shame.”


Edda glared, her face still red. “Oh, because you aren’t?”


“At least I have an excuse.” She paused. “…Are you sure? At least not a little?”


“Yes!” Edda had begun to cool off, but her face was still an attractive shade of pink. “What a thing to ask… What brought that on?”


“Curiosity,” Ennis said and shrugged. There seemed to be more at hand than she was letting on. “It is a bit surprising, though. Quite unlike you.”


Edda had the grace to look offended, even though she knew Ennis was pulling at strings to get a rise out of her. “If anything, I’d say it would be unlike me to do otherwise. Surely you know me better than that.”


“Regrettably,” Ennis remarked. “That is of course not to say that you sought it out, but… even your dreadful lack of self-awareness couldn’t protect you from the depravity of men, especially the types to be found in Ul’dah. And I won’t believe you if you insist you didn’t attract any sort of attention like that.”


“But I didn’t,” Edda insisted, and it was true.


“Of course not.” Ennis rolled her eyes. “Somehow I’m not quite sure you’re telling the truth. Even if you dressed yourself in rags, a young pretty thing such as yourself might still be found attractive. In fact, you could even wear a mask.” Her eyes drifted towards Edda’s chest. “Such useless sacks of fat speak loud enough to overpower whatever myriad of flaws you may possess, at least to those looking only for fun.”


“Don’t tease me, Ennis, it’s unbecoming of you. In any case, I was not,” Edda frowned and blushed once more, and her expression grew quite cross. “…Propositioned. And even if I were, would it matter? I’d have no part in such things.”


“Yes, yes, ever the saint. But you’ve been trying to learn just a little, have you not? About that wondrous world between the sheets, as they say. No doubt you’re old enough to learn, I can’t blame you.”


Edda looked utterly confused. “What are you saying?”


“Oh, don’t play dumb. Really, there’s no harm in it!” Ennis laughed softly, and smiled a suspiciously knowing smile.


“I’ve no time to play mind games with you.”


“Don’t be like that, darling,” Ennis said through fits of laughter, and waved Lauda over. She whispered something into her retainer’s ear, who promptly scurried off into the house. “It’s alright; I’ll help you to the very best of my abilities. It’s precious to see you trying so hard, but I do think you’re going about it all the wrong way.”


Knowing that silent treatment or lashing out had no effect on her, Edda did her best to stare placidly at Ennis from across the table. She waited for Ennis’ laughter to subside before speaking to her. “It must be very exciting for you,” she said. It was a vague remark, the kind Ennis hated.


“Believe me, it is.”


It was then Lauda returned through a window, and presented Ennis with a small book. Edda recognized it instantaneously, and her heart sank. She watched as Ennis accepted the book, the cold sensation of dread and sadness spreading from her sternum to fill her lungs and sit in her belly. It was the book of poetry Natalie had bequeathed her before her sudden passing. Edda had not yet opened it, the lingering guilt of her death stopping her from doing so. However selfish of her it was to blame herself, there was a small degree of truth in her fault – one she would never allow herself to forget.


“I took the liberty of going through your luggage,” Ennis began. She flipped through the pages of the book idly, glancing between it and Edda. “And imagine my surprise to find something so bawdy in your belongings. I had thought it some sort of mistake at first; it was so uncharacteristic of you. Perhaps I was mistaken though, hm?”


Edda’s throat was dry. Watching her sister page through it so flippantly filled her with muted anger, and Edda clenched her fists in her lap. “And how uncharacteristic of you to sift through my belongings without my permission. I’ve met mercenaries that had better manners.”


“Well, if it wasn’t in your room, I’d say it’s completely fair of me. And what else is there to do here, truly?” Ennis smiled and closed the book. “But enough of that, have you learned anything insightful from here?”


Edda clenched her teeth before speaking. “I have yet to read it.”


“Of course you haven’t,” Ennis said. She was clearly unconvinced. “Which poem is your favorite? I haven’t finished it yet, but there was one that stood out…” Ennis turned in her seat to rest the book on the table, and began slowly leafing through the pages. Edda watched in perfect silence, her knuckles white. “Ah, here it is.” Ennis cleared her throat dramatically and began to read:


“There once was a sailor from Aleport,

Whose manhood was just ever so short,

But milk him all night,

And do it just right,

And the Seaman could fill half a quart!”


Ennis laughed and Edda flushed heavily, out of both embarrassment and anger. After her laughter subsided, Ennis continued to browse the book. “And there was another one, a sonnet on the forbidden passion between a Sea Wolf and Dunesfolk…” She giggled to herself, and that was enough. Edda reached across the table and snatched the book right out of her sister’s hands. She set the book in her lap and smoothed over the cover absently.


“I think that’s enough,” Edda said coolly. Even with the book back in her possession, it was not enough to quell the rising irritation she felt.


Even if she had tried, Ennis’ strength was not enough to stop Edda to taking the book from her. Ennis sighed and leaned back in her chair. “You’re no fun. Still, I didn’t expect you to be reading such tripe. Or have your tastes always been so banal?”


“It is not mine.” A half-truth.


“Which explains why it was with your luggage.”


“It was a gift.”


“They must have not known you very well, to get you something like that. Do you even know what ‘manhood’ means? Still, I’d love to contact whoever decided to give you this, of all things. They must been quite a piece of work.”


“I’m afraid they passed away.” Edda spoke calmly, though she felt anything but.


“Pity,” Ennis said. “Seems to be the common story over on the mainland. What happened, bar fight gone south? Mugged? The clap?”


“It is unseemly to speak ill of the dead, Ennis.” Edda frowned at her sister and gripped the book tightly. Her tone was even and measured, but any warmth it might have previously had was gone.


Ennis looked bewildered for a moment and sputtered, before giving Edda an incredulous look. “Bold words, coming from you.”


“Do not start with that,” Edda warned. It was too late, however, and Ennis gave a nasty sneer.


“Always with the high and mighty act. You’re just so flawless, aren’t you? But I’ll hear no lectures about respect for the dead, not from you.”


“Stop it, Ennis.”


“Oh, what? Still pretending to mourn the loss of our dearest brother, even after you sent him to his death?”


The two were past the point of civility at this point. “You know that was not the way of things, and yet you still persist! If you must despise me, then do so, but pinning the blame on others will do nothing to assuage you.” Edda rose from her seat, holding the book with one hand at her side.


“Running away, are you? You never were one for seeing the truth.” Ennis looked up at her from her seat. Aside from the nasty expression on her face, she otherwise appeared calm.


“I don’t have the patience to deal with you when you are like this.” Edda stared down at her sister with a cold look. “You are speaking out of place. I suggest you return to your room.”


“So now you decide to act as the proper heir and throw your weight around? Don’t make me laugh. All the fake tears you cried could never mask the fact that you never wanted this.”


Edda’s nostrils flared and she looked away sharply. “Lauda,” she called out. “Please escort my sister back to her room. She’s had enough excitement for one sun.”


The retainer hurried over to Ennis’ side to help her up. She swatted Lauda’s hands away and stood on her own, glaring at Edda all the while. “Don’t run away from it. Don’t pretend it isn’t true.”


Edda turned to look at Ennis. Her accusations were harsh but Edda could not deny the sliver of truth therein. Ennis had loved their brother a great deal, and perhaps she was not wrong in her way of dealing with her grief. Yet the hate that seethed from her sister now sat within Edda’s heart like a glacier. Confronted with the reality of it, Edda wanted to scream until there was no more breath in her lungs. But Edda’s face remained stony and composed – a side effect of many years of training. “You are not the only one,” Edda began, “that grieves for him.” She spoke slowly, but could not fully mask the wavering of her voice.


Ennis’ face grew even darker as Lauda stood nervously behind her. “Ha! Don’t make me laugh. You may have grieved for him, but we both know what you truly lost that night was your only ticket out of here.”


Edda did not hesitate before she reached out and slapped her sister. There was nothing to be said. She brushed past the two to make her way back to her room and ignored the stinging sensation behind her eyes.



((To Be Continued?)) :chocobo:

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((Er, I wrote more... Christ, I've forgotten how mortifying this could be. Harsh feedback is still the best, please don't let the Garlean set the precedent.))




After taking a moment to think and dwell in self-doubt, Edda began to speak slowly. “…You know of the Rochesters, rights?”


Another great post. I'm really enjoying the story so far. No harsh feedback to give. 


But look! I can nitpick for you! I found an extra "s" so you can feel as if your writing isn't already awesome. 


-The Garlean

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  • 3 months later...

A dress for the evening had already been set aside for her when Edda returned to her room. There was a small note from her father beside it, reading:


“For dinner. Don’t be late.”


Edda set the note on top of the dress, and went to sit on the sill of the bay window in her room. There was an excellent view of Limsa Lominsa from this window, and she had spent many bells watching ships come and go since she was a young girl. The city was not very far, and yet it had always been out of reach to her. Edda had only the vaguest memory of it, when she and her family had taken an airship to Gridania to visit her mother’s family. She had only just turned four, and it was the last time she was permitted off of the grounds.


Edda rest her chin in her hands and stared out at the familiar sight of the city. It was calming, and yet it was not enough to shake the jumble of emotions Edda felt from her encounter with Ennis. The stinging behind her eyes had lessened, and the sickening wash of cold she felt in her chest had begun to fade away. She had vowed not to cry once she had returned home, not even in the privacy of her own room. She knew her parents would expect it, and Ennis would delight in it. There was no need to give them the satisfaction.


It was a simple task for Edda to nip her emotions in the bud. The ability to do so had been drilled in to her not moons after the Calamity. “If anyone must see your true face, let it be those who will forget you,” Eamon said to her. It might have been a horrible thing for a parent to say to their child, yet Edda had known that her direct family was exempt from this rule. She had always confided in her family – her brother and mother foremost – but after the Calamity, the gulf that formed between them seemed insurmountable.


Thinking such thoughts sent Edda’s mind to wander to a dark place, and so she imagined the cityscape before her. It had not been so long since she had been there herself, and Edda closed her eyes to visualize the beautiful white stone against the ocean and the bustle and smell of the Bismark.


Behind her, a pile of unopened presents piled up on a sofa; gifts from her mother and father since she returned home, displays of wealth and a cold, faraway love. Perhaps it was in their hope that if they filled her room with what most reminded her of home, she could not bear the thought of ever leaving. All the portraits of her brother had been taken down for storage, and the memory of his smile, that which truly reminded her of home, began to fade on the waves of the Rhotano Sea.




Precisely one bell before dinner, M’jhimei arrived in Edda’s room, as silently as she had left in the morning. She helped fit Edda’s dress, lacing up the back with cold, deft hands. It seemed she had gotten much faster since Edda had been home. In what would normally take a full bell, M’jhimei had finished dressing Edda and styled her hair in half the amount of time. Taking her leave without a word, Edda was left to wait in her room, staring in the mirror at her vanity, playing with her now loose hair.


It seemed to take a great deal of time, sitting there in silence, and Edda nearly jumped when there was a knock at her door. It was Noirterel, her chief retainer.


“My Lady,” he bowed shortly to her, staying as close to the wall as possible. “Your father wishes for you to wait down in the parlor with him.”


Edda stood and approached Noirterel. He stood tall, even for an Elezen, and never seemed to have even one hair out of place. Though he had served Edda since she was ten, she had not seen him much since her return home. It was of little doubt Faucillien had been keeping him, though to what end Edda did not know.


“I am sure he is fine by himself,” Edda said, and looked up at the man. He gave a curt nod. Though Eamon was still in charge, he would not argue. “I have not seen you much recently. Have you been keeping busy?”


“Not so busy as I had been before we returned.”


“I suppose.” Edda smoothed her dress, not quite comfortable in its constraint. “I am thankful for your assistance out there. Pray do not think otherwise.”


“Not at all. It was an honor.” He paused. “You should know the staff here was quite pleased to hear of your return.”


“Is that so? I imagine Ennis is a bit more bold when I am not here. That must have been quite trying.”


“Just so,” Noirterel said, and gave Edda a small smile – a rarity on his normally stony face.


“Perhaps when I next leave you should direct the staff to make themselves more scarce in her usual haunts.”


Noirterel hesitated and the corners of his mouth twitched down. “…Should that day arrive, I will be sure to do so.”


“’Should?’ You seem assured that it would not. Did my father say something to you?” Edda kept her voice calm, despite the cold sting that began to settle in her chest.


“Only that your place is here, My Lady,” he said. Noirterel was always professional, but in that instance he seemed to look everywhere but her face.


“Of course he would. Of course. Though I would not expect you – most of all, you – to agree.” Edda put a hand to her chest, her heart beating rapidly. It was unnatural for her to be so affected by such words, and the fear itself scared her. She had always known it was only natural to return tools to the shed where they belonged, and yet now the very thought sent shivers down her spine. There was a long silence, and Noirterel kept his gaze towards the floor. “Is no one on my side, Noirterel?”


“I am on your side, My Lady.” He still did not look at her. “I only wish what is best for you.”


“And who decides that?”


Noirterel pursed his lips, and gave Edda a short bow. He opened the door and stepped out of the way in perfect silence. In doing so he had said enough, and Edda said no more, dropping her hand from her chest and brushing past Noirterel to head to the front parlor.


Eamon was, as always, impeccably dressed. He stood when Edda entered, and came to give her the family hug – lightly grasping her upper arms with his hands, keeping his body at arm’s length. “You look lovely,” he said, and released her. Edda looked over his shoulder to see Ennis sitting on the far side of the room, arms folded and legs crossed. Whatever mark Edda might have left on her face was now faded, only to be replaced by a sour expression. Catching Edda’s gaze, Ennis looked over and sneered.


“Yes, lovely,” she chimed in. “If only those gargantuan sacks of fat weren’t constantly trying to escape from whatever dress you choose for her.”


“Be quiet, Ennis,” Eamon snapped over his shoulder, and that was that. Ennis huffed a sigh and turned to look out the window. “Remember, the Sidneys are only just coming out of mourning,” he continued coolly. Eamon slipped his index finger down the front of Edda’s dress, pinching the fabric with his thumb and hiking it up. “I expect you both to be on your best behavior, and please, for Nymeia’s sake, do not bring up their children.” Eamon continued his nitpicking as he spoke, turning Edda around by her shoulders and raising the back hem of her dress before tightening the binding. “No snide remarks, no jokes, no interrupting-“ He took a step back from Edda to admire his work. “In fact, Ennis, it would be better if you did not speak at all.”


Ennis said nothing, quietly acquiescing to the order. It was not an uncommon one, and it was in these moments that Edda felt truly sorry for her sister. There was little doubt that Ennis was loved by their parents, but her natural wit and intelligence were nothing more than ornaments for the youngest child, doomed to always be overshadowed.


Edda turned back around to face her father when the sound of the front door opening drifted into the room. “That must be them,” Eamon said quickly. He reached up to cup Edda’s cheek with his hand. “Don’t forget to smile, now.” There was a tightening in his grip then, his fingers digging in behind her ear, the base of his thumb pulling at her cheek, as if to create a smile on his own. Eamon looked at her for a moment longer before pulling away and heading out into the hall.


The Sidneys were the closest neighbors of the Eglantines in terms of wealth and respectability. They owned many old orange farms just north of Red Rooster Stead, and though they were not the largest fields, the unique taste from their older strain of trees was a highly desired commodity on the main land. Their business had been largely unaffected by the Calamity, though they had received some heat for using the disaster as an opportunity to raise their prices.


“Ah, there he is,” Oswald Sidney said, as Eamon made his way to greet him at the door. Oswald was a short, gelatinous man that took great pride in his tremendous black beard, despite having no hair to speak of on his head. He had a red face and a laugh that could be heard three rooms away. Oswald drew Eamon in to a rather violent hug as they greeted each other. It was not something Eamon liked at all.


After being released from the shorter man’s clutches, Eamon turned to the woman beside Oswald, and gave her a deep bow. “Lady Patrice.” Said woman returned the bow, albeit awkwardly. Patrice Sidney stood almost a full head taller than her husband. She was a frail, gaunt looking woman with a constant look of worry in her eyes. Her gaze drifted to Edda and her sister and gave them a small bow before being ushered into the dining room by Eamon.


Edda took her seat at the large table to the right of her father. It was a normal proceeding, and Edda could feel the discontent Ennis exuded as she sat beside her. The Sidneys were here for their father, and so Ennis and Edda sat in prefect silence, pretending to listen to the two men complain about Ul’dah and Ishgard. This continued well into the main course. It was a fragile conversation from the sounds of it, though that was to be expected.


Six moons ago the Sidneys eldest son Osment fell to his death after riding his prize chocobo off a cliff. He was a dull, spoiled child that enjoyed picking the leaves off the heads of young mandragoras with his sausage-like fingers. Edda had never liked him, but he had been the same age as her brother and with their close proximity, Osment had been a frequent visitor during her childhood. The two were hardly friends, but the close relation pleased Eamon, and it was no secret that he considered Osment as a husband for Edda. “He is stupid, and will be easy to control,” he had once said. Needless to say the news of his death came as a sigh of relief to Edda, though she half suspected the shape of Osment’s mature face became displeasing enough for even Eamon to reconsider inviting him into the family.


It was when dessert was brought out – a chocolate and rolanberry tart – that Patrice turned her attention away from the men and addressed Edda.


“I’ve heard that you’ve been spending some time out of the house, Edda. Is that true?”


Edda looked up at the woman with a small smile on her face. “Yes, it is true. Just a personal foray into the wider world.”


Patrice chewed a piece of her tart with quick, forceful bites – her eyes wide and unblinking. “Personal!” The woman let out a sharp ‘hmph’ that sounded like the cry of a dodo. “The city is no place for a young woman such as yourself.”


“I would agree,” Edda replied, still smiling. “Though I usually had a retainer or two accompanying me, so it was not as bad as I expected. It was exciting, really.”


“Not too dangerous, I hope?”


“Not at all,” Edda lied, and was surprised at how easy it sounded. She could feel her father’s eyes on her for a moment before he turned back to Oswald, and the tart tasted like ash on her tongue.


“The last time I was in the city was summers ago,” Patrice commented, as if someone had asked. Edda found it hard to imagine her wandering the streets, and perhaps that perpetual look of fear in her countenance came from such a trip. “It was all very – very busy. And loud. I don’t know how you could stand it.” She laughed nervously.


“I admit it took some getting used to.”


That was not quite the answer Patrice may have wanted, and she ducked her chin in towards her throat. She eyed Edda for a long moment, her eyebrows raised, the loose skin of her jowls sinking into her throat. “Would you go back, then?”


It was a pointed question and Edda found she could not answer it so readily. There was a sinking feeling in her chest and she suddenly felt far away, as if her spirit was drifting out of the room, out of the manor. It was in that moment that Edda remembered things she had already began to forget – the smell of the ocean, the stinging taste of anger, the sharp pain of steel. Her body felt heavy and the words of her father sounded muddled and distant. There were faces she missed, she remembered, those that she would hold dear if she could, and those that she might never see again if she could help it. It was a familiar sadness, but with something now missing, it was more severe than it had been for so many long cycles.


The sound of Patrice’s fork dropping onto her plate was enough to snap Edda back to attention. The older woman still wore a skeptical expression, and Edda could only wonder as to what she looked like in the woman’s eyes.


“I would, yes,” Edda answered slowly. She forced a smile and looking squarely into Patrice’s eyes. “For however long.”


Patrice quirked her eyebrows and leaned back in her chair, Noirterel reaching in to clear her plate. “I see,” she said shortly, her lips puckering closed before she gave Edda a wide, close-lipped smile. “I am sure your father is glad to have you back. No doubt you would not cause him to miss you so terribly again.”


“No, I would not,” Edda said quietly. “There is no doubt.”


That was the end of the conversation. Edda sunk back into her chair and left her rolanberry tart unfinished. It was unusual for her, and she could feel Noirterel’s gaze boring into the back of her skull as he cleared her plate. There was a silence the enveloped the table then, and Edda knew her careless comment would bring consequences. The fear of that felt as far away as she had been moments ago, and Edda drifted through the rest of the evening.




The icy shroud that had enveloped the manor the day Edda’s brother died returned soon after the Sidneys left. Guests had come much more frequently before then, and it was little wonder why. The Eglantine manor was a large, sprawling structure, and company had helped fill the house with light and laughter. The guest wing was now largely abandoned – the rooms and halls only kept nice and neat for the sake of appearance. Many of the rooms had not been used in many cycles.


After dinner Edda took to wandering the halls (one sharp look from her father was enough to send her on her way), and it was in the guest’s quarters she noticed light coming from the crack underneath one of the doors. She had heard no word from her father on anyone staying. It was a strange sight, and Edda hesitated outside of the room. Should she knock? Though there was light, there was no sound coming from the other side. Nothing good comes of curiosity, she reminded herself, and made her way back to her room.


Upon entering her room, Edda found Ennis sitting in front of her vanity.


“This is not your room, Ennis,” Edda reminded her. Their eyes met in the mirror of her vanity, and Ennis smiled slowly.


“Fortunately,” Ennis said. “What a clutter you have in here. I took the liberty of opening your presents for you.” Edda looked over towards her sofa to see Ennis had been telling the truth. Wrapping paper and box lids were strewn about, the contents of each gift piled haphazardly on the arm of the sofa. “Mostly clothes,” Ennis continued. “When will father learn? You barely wear half of what you already own.”


“What are you doing here.” It was not a question, and Edda could not be bothered to force a smile.


“Only repaying your kindness from earlier, dear sister.” Ennis stood from the vanity, and turned to face Edda fully. “How righteous of you, to set me straight so dramatically. You really are taking your new position quite seriously! I’m sure if father had been there he would have given you a medal.”


Her words dripped with poison, and Ennis’ earlier accusation came to the forefront of Edda’s mind. “And if our dear Esmond had seen it, I am sure he would have done the same,” Edda replied evenly, her face expressionless as she looked on at her sister. It hurt even now to say his name so casually – even more so in such a cruel manner.


“Don’t say his name,” Ennis spat out quickly. “You, of all people. It is no wonder that mother and father, that anyone holds no love for you. Were all that cruelty to be bled out of you.”


It was easy enough to not react to Ennis’ words, but there was nothing to assuage the sting carried by them. The thin layer of ice that composed Edda’s heart felt more brittle than it had in a long time. There was palpable ire in Ennis’ eyes, and though it was not the first time she had spoken as such, Edda could not repel her anger even now. Edda cast her gaze downward as she spoke, her voice quiet. “Do not say that, Ennis.”


“I hate you,” Ennis replied. The words came too easily.


“I know.” Edda looked back at her sister across the room, her small hands clenched into fists at her sides.


“And do you hate me?”


A favorite question of Ennis. The answer remained unchanged. “No. I do not hate anyone.”


“Ever the saint. Such a carefully constructed little world you live in – how I would love to watch it crumble all around you. Will you continue to lie to yourself, even as you watch it happen?”


Ennis held up one of her hands and uncurled her fist. In her palm was a simple bracelet of tiny pearls. Edda recognized it instantly, despite having countless others like it. Her brother had made it for her before he left, mere suns before fire rained down from the sky and the color of the outside world felt farther away than it ever had. She remembered the smile on his face and the timbre of his voice as he held her hands in his and said goodbye. How was it that Ennis had it now, an item so precious she kept it locked away? That she would steal away the key to seek out Edda’s treasures on her own. When was it that the hate her sister carried had grown so monstrous?


Edda could feel the color in her face drain, and the emotion she so carefully kept tucked away bloomed on her face in an instant. “What are you doing?” Her voice shook as she spoke, and perhaps it was exactly this kind of fear, this vulnerability, that Ennis so desperately wanted.


Ennis took the bracelet and held it up with two hands, holding it firmly, for her sister to see. Edda reached out a hand towards her, but she was too far, and it was not enough. “Ennis, don’t-“


The string holding the pearls together snapped easily enough. Ennis tore with enough force that half the pearls flew across the room in every direction, ricocheting off the walls and furniture. Ennis wrung out the band after, dropping the remaining pearls to the floor, and finally discarded the broken band at her feet.


“Do you hate me?” Ennis repeated. She sneered, almost triumphant, before brushing past Edda and out of the room.


It took Edda minutes of standing still before she fell to her knees in front of the small collection of pearls that had not been scattered. With shaky hands she began to gather them off the floor, one by one. Her room was now quite dark, and there was a futility in her actions that even she recognized. Edda could not recall how many pearls were on the bracelet, but she began counting the ones she held in her palm. She would find them all. She could not rest before she did. She must.


Edda had gathered her 15th pearl when the brunt of Ennis’ rage hit her. It was a cold, hollow feeling, and Edda grabbed at her chest, the pearls she had managed to collect falling once more to the floor. There was little she could do to prevent such words from nestling into her heart as the truth. The evidence was all around her – the indifference in her gifts, the avoidance of her retainers, the anger of her sister, and even her own fading memories, no matter how dear they were to her. How wretched she was, how cold she felt. What love she had hoped to give, to receive, to bask in – it seemed only impossible now. The bitter defeat from her father, and the separation of those she might one day call friends formed around her like ice. No matter how much she longed for warmth, the coldness of her home settled around her, and though no tears came, she wept openly into her hands.




Several suns passed before Edda left her room. Each pearl had been found and placed back in her drawer, the key discarded. Though she had managed to return each and every one, a chill settled in her heart that night. It was a dull, piercing pain, and not even the warmth of the sun in the garden could heal it.


Edda felt she would grow used to it, unnatural as it was. But her heart still yearned for the larger world, and when she was approached by the guest behind the door as she sat in the garden, she did not need to think twice. She was gone three suns later, without a word.

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It had been three and half moons after Edda stole away from the manor that one night. Edda arrived to the front gates empty handed at just past noon, her head held high. The guards stationed at the gates were confused at first, as she bore no items to prove her identity, but the knowledge that the eldest Eglantine child was out and about on her own and quite safe was enough for the guards to let her inside.


Though she bore herself with the rigid grace she had been trained to, each step she took was mired with hesitation. This is where she belonged, but not where she wanted to be. Why had she even come here? A pit of ice sat heavy in her core; a sense of dread of meeting her father overwhelmed her. Why was she here? An expression full of hate and frustration snapped to the forefront of her mind. There was no greater sadness than the feeling of being so utterly unwanted, but Edda had already caused him enough suffering, and there was little else she could do than oblige him in his wishes that she return home. It was the right thing to do, she knew, but such knowledge did nothing to allay the sharp reality of her rejection.


Faucillien stood ready by the front door, no doubt having been alerted of her presence over linkshell. “Lord Eamon will see you in his study,” he said, and gave her a deep bow.


Edda did not respond and entered the house. Her father’s study was on the second floor, in the wing opposite hers. It was not a grand room, nor particularly comfortable, but Eamon spent most of his time there, reviewing business and finances, and reading and writing missives of all sorts. Though no sensitive information was kept in his study, everyone save Eamon and Faucillien were barred entry unless they were personally invited. Edda had only been inside a handful of times, and each occurrence had been for matters most grave. The room itself was enough to cause Edda anxiety inasmuch as seeing her father did.


Eamon was seated at his desk when Edda entered, rubbing his temples as he poured over a letter. “Edda,” he said rather calmly. He rose from his chair and walked over to embrace her, clasping her upper arms lightly, before cupping her neck with one hand. “You look well.”


“Father,” was all Edda could manage to choke out. It was futile to try and suppress the inherent fear she held for this man.


He inspected her face very closely for a long moment, smiling to himself as he did. “I have been told you’ve been through much,” he said, patting her neck affectionately. “Yet I see no signs of wear, no scars… You did well.”


Edda gave him a weak smile in response. Her father did not want his daughters to bear any scars, and all the training she had received in conjury had been for the sake of making sure she could heal herself of them. Though she had managed to erase the would-be scars on her lips, she dare not mention the small, circular wound on her back where an arrow had pierced her.


“Tell me,” Eamon continued. He removed his hands from her and took a step back. “How was it to live without any assistance for as long as you did?”


“It was a refreshing experience,” Edda responded. She kept her voice as nonchalant as she could.


“Refreshing,” he repeated. “No one to cook for you, to clean for you, make your bed, draw your bath, dress you – and you say it was refreshing?”


“I do not think you give me enough credit, father. I am able to look after myself.”


Eamon chuckled to himself, and leaned back on his desk with folded arms. “And when did my daughter become so capable?”


It was a clear taunt. Edda clasped her hands in front of her and focused her gaze on her father’s chin. “Perhaps I always have been.”


“Ah,” Eamon said. “Then forgive me, I had scarcely realized how very independent you were. Mayhap we ought to send your retainers away then – no doubt they are only a nuisance to you.”


This was a test – and a very obvious one at that. And yet it was clear that there was no wrong or right answer in this case. Edda had already passed, because she was here, yet she had already failed, by speaking up for herself. There was no greater pleasure than mind games for a family that spent most of its time locked away in a solitary manor. It had grown wearisome.


“Only if you truly believe that’s best, father,” Edda answered coolly. Even now she still found it hard to look him in the eye.


“Your confidence is inspiring. Were that I only more confident in your ability to make sound decisions.” She did not respond to this, and merely waited for him to continue. “Stealing away with a stranger, and guest of this house, only to end up in danger once more? You do your family a great disservice.”


“What matters is that I am here now, does it not?”


“It would.” Eamon licked his lips and Edda could feel his gaze going right through her. “If I could trust that you would not be so foolhardy again.”


“I only acted as such because I was so certain you intended to lock me away again! I believed I had a way out, so surely you understand why I took it.” Edda glared at her father, though her voice was pleading. It was always a futile thing, to argue with him.  The fear of doing so had not faded, but she was no longer a child.


“We do not trust Ishgardians in this house,” Eamon said with a slow smile.


“I didn’t-“


“You did, and saw what came of it.” Eamon spoke quickly and harshly, and pushed off the desk. He walked back over to Edda and cupped her face in his palm, his thumb tracing over the skin beneath her lower lip. “Such pain that must have been. Losing sleep, rarely going out, always looking over your shoulder…”


“Have you been watching me, father?”


Eamon tilted Edda’s chin up towards him, forcing her to look at him. “Of course I have been. It would be foolish of me not to, and it is only natural that I watch over my eldest daughter’s wellbeing.” He withdrew his hand and stayed close to Edda. “I was always ready to have you whisked away at a moment’s notice. I must say, it was disheartening, with each morsel of information I received on you, how much you placed yourself in the hands of those plebeians.”


Edda blinked, and glanced down once more towards the floor. “You do not know them,” she said quietly. Perhaps it was true that she was naïve, but there was no part of Edda that felt the stock she put in others was misplaced, or ever a ruinous thing.


“I do not have to know them to know that they should not be trusted.” He paused, and Edda could feel her father’s gaze on her, his sharp eyes darting over her expression and posture as if she were a tome to be deciphered. “You were kind to them, and I could not fault you for that,” he continued. “Charity is the duty of the rich – but you showed them too much of you. It is enough that you smile at them, and please them with gifts, but they need not see you, Edda. When you show them your fear, your pain, what it is that makes you happy – you show them only weakness. And it is through that weakness that they will take advantage of you, wittingly, unwittingly, and steal from you what it is that makes you.”


There was little Edda could do to refute him. Even if in her heart of hearts she knew he was wrong, it was difficult to try otherwise. Each facet of her that was so carefully constructed, so perfectly built by herself and her father, each one formed a purpose, and the pain of dismantling them and breaking past them was too much to bear. It was a trial, being so forthright, and each tear she shed, each word spoken in anger – all of it she felt only towards herself, her inability to be honest. She knew it was improper to take out her failings on others, yet the pain of removing her glass exterior was overwhelming, and each time she had tried, what was it she had to offer? There was an ugliness inside of her, her mutilated self, shredded and marred in order to fashion something much more delicate in its place. She wanted to be seen, she did not want to be seen. So often her true self was goaded out of her, but what was there to come of it? No sooner than she had begun to be able to bear the ache of stepping out of her cell, that self had been forgotten and so easily discarded. She did not have the strength to hold on to it. There was no worth in the ego of a person so easily consigned to oblivion.


“Do you not trust me, father?” Edda asked softly. There was a tightening in her throat. Eamon was silent for a long moment, and so Edda rephrased: “Who is it you do trust, father?”


“I trust my family,” Eamon said evenly. There was a coldness to his voice. “I trust myself, your mother. I trusted your brother, and I still trust you. Only my family, Edda – as you must, and will.”


He did not mention Ennis directly, and this came as no surprise to Edda. Finding her voice, Edda squeezed her hands still clasped in front of her. “If you truly meant what you said, you would have enough faith in allowing me my own choices.”


“You know that is not true,” Eamon said. “I know you are not daft, Edda – but you are different, and you must understand this.”


“I am not so different as you would have me believe.”


“But you are. And all the conviction I could place on your shoulders would not be enough to shield you from those who would harm you.”


“You are being paranoid, father,” Edda pleaded. “I will be perfectly safe. I can take of myself. You know this, you have seen it.”


“Have I? You have already come to harm before, Edda.” He was not wrong, and Edda pursed her lips in response, the memory of a needle moving through her a constant background in her mind, and always at the forefront of her dreams. “What am I to do if anything were to happen to you? Do you think Ennis could so easily take your place?”


Edda did not have a rebuttal, for her father was right. Though Ennis was sharp and diligent, her health was a constant concern, and it was unlikely she would ever bear children. Even if she could, Edda would not wish the strain on her sister, no matter the poison that lay between them. “I…” She hung her head. There was no logic in her desire for freedom, and so she could not topple him.


“There is no other place for you but here,” Eamon said softly, and it sounded like kindness.


Edda’s throat constricted into a tight knot, and every ounce of her felt like crying. It would be an honest display, for her father could see her; and yet ever since her brother died all the affection and love he had shown for that side of her had all but vanished, her tears meaning little to him. “All I ever sought outside was happiness,” Edda said slowly, choking out each word as her throat allowed her. “Have you so little love for me that you would deprive me of something so simple? Or was only Esmond worthy of your confidence and affection?”


Eamon reached forward and took Edda’s hands into his own and squeezed them gently. Such warmth was a rare comfort from him, and Edda felt weaker still. “I do love you, Edda. It is my greatest wish that you grow into the happy, healthy woman you were meant to be. You will be an excellent Head, and a wonderful wife and mother. I only want what is best for you.”


Edda looked up at her father now, her eyes red and glossy with unshed tears. “And how is it that you and everyone else knows what is best for my happiness?”


“Give your father a bit more credit,” Eamon said, and he smiled down at her. “I understand your frustrations – I was much the same when I was your age. But give it time, my dear. That is all I ask.” He raised her hands up to hold between them, and squeezed them once more. And again. And Edda watched his face change quickly, from a gentle warmth to a caustic concern, and felt her heart grow cold.


Eamon laid Edda’s hands out flat in front of him, and inspected them carefully. “Where is your ring, Edda?”


It was such an item that it could not be missed. It was a thick, platinum ring, the family crest and logo carved in the sides, with her middle initial engraved on the inside. Adorned at the top were tiny diamonds encircling a rather large and pure emerald. Each future head of the family received theirs on their 16th nameday, as her brother did before her. A year after his death Edda received her own, and had not removed it since.


“I lost it,” Edda lied. In truth she had given it to the Garlean, in hopes that should she never be free again, that she would not be so easily forgotten, and hoped that at least her spirit and memory would be able to be preserved outside of the ancient walls of the manor. She was not foolish enough to cling to the hope that he would remember, or even keep the ring: its worth more than enough to see him safely back to his home country. There had been a freedom and happiness that she did not expect in giving it away, as the ring was as much herself as her own mind and body were. It was done on impulse, but there was no part of her that regretted it.


“You lost it,” Eamon repeated. He looked at Edda, his eyes searching her face, his expression a stone mask.


“I lost it,” Edda said once more. The fear of his reaction had grown enough that it had numbed her to it.


Eamon released her hands and turned from her. He walked back to the desk where he began removing his own rings – his signet ring, his wedding band, and two other trophies of business – and set them on the desk. The study became perfectly still and silent as he did this. His anger was palpable, so much so that words did not need to be said. Edda knew perfectly well how grave the situation was. Only five rings had ever been made, the emeralds cut from the same gem, the purest and largest found in the outer reaches of Vylbrand generations ago. On occasion they would be melted down and repurposed for the next head of the family, and receiving them was as much of an honor as it was a ritual. They could not be replaced, the sentimental value, the display of wealth, the rich history in them: they were a priceless family heirloom.


Eamon sighed as he set the last ring down on the desk, before he turned back to Edda and strode over to her in two quick steps. Unflinchingly, he rose his right hand and struck her – hard- with the back of his hand. Edda’s head snapped to the side before he struck her again with his left hand. It was forceful, and Edda could feel the corner of her lip split against her teeth.


They stood like that for a long moment. Edda listened to her father breathe from the exertion of hitting her, her head turned to one side, the taste of iron leaking from her mouth to her chin. She dare not look at him. After a while he turned away, wiping the tops of his hands off with a handkerchief, and slipping his rings back on his fingers.


“Go clean yourself up.” His voice was sharp and frigid.


Edda did not waste any time in leaving. She ducked her head as she left and made her way through the halls back to her room. It was shameful, to be so cowed by her father. She walked briskly, eyes set on the floor, the patterns in the wood quickly becoming blurred. To make it back to her room, and not run into Ennis, so she could be alone. Noirterel stood by her door, ever faithful, and opened it for her, his face painted with a mix of pity and concern. She did not look him in the eye, nor speak, and slammed the door shut behind her.

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