Tea Parties and Lady’s Keep

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The Ninth of Ivaris, Sixteen Seventy-Four

It would seem that I am destined to be held in a near constant state of barely controlled fury. Whatever God, Spirit, or Demon that has designed this, I would kindly ask that they let loose your talons and depart before I raze my lands, salt the earth, and walk naked into the sea.

Two days ago a woman appeared on my doorstep as if spun up from the ether. She claims to be my aunt, I have never met her nor even heard of her. A woman named Cossett, that is not a family name and is no where in Father’s records as a name from either branch. Uncle has not questioned her and acts as if she is in fact a relation. He has even gone so far to give her leave to utilize Mother’s Bower. He hasn’t even allowed me in the Bower let alone a servant to dust and air the room. If it were my choice this woman would be gone. Actually, no, that is a lie. Given half a chance I would take her before a firing squad of no less than ten men.

I am sure that sounds like an exceptionally severe response but this woman is acting above her station and violating my house. I might have be dissuaded from my intense ire had she been more respectful to the possessions that were once my Mothers enjoyment. The action that pushed me from bare annoyance to a hair’s breadth from white eyed frenzy was when she was removing articles from the bower. I awoke to the crashing sound of a gilt porcelain ballerina being hurled with grotesque force from the bower to impact the far wall of the solar. A porcelain figurine worth ten or twelve times that of the gown she wore no doubt.

I must assume that Cossett had no malicious intent in her actions but the detritus littering the floor of the solar from her onslaught was uncalled for. She is a guest, one I have now found will be staying here in my house indefinitely. I can scarcely remember Mother’s and Father’s faces, I was under the assumption that all of the painting were locked up in the attic; I now know that to be yet another expeditious lie that has fallen from Uncle’s silver tongue. Sitting buried beneath a newly stained gown was a painting. The broken remains of a bottle of perfume lay across a large tear that split the canvas in two, the couple torn asunder by this careless woman. The oils of the perfume eroded at the paint causing the image to blur with each passing moment. I was six when it was painted, Mother and Father sat for days while the painter worked. Mother talked about how I would be old enough to join them in the next painting. It was started a week before Father fell ill, a month later and he was dead.

It has been my “responsibility” to see to our guest. I have spent the better portion of the last few days attending to her and keeping her entertained. I have spent the greater portion of yesterday keeping her busy. That involved drinking the atrocious tea she’d brought with her, she claims that the tea is made from an exotic flower that blooms once every six years, and I can speak with the dead. How is it possible for something to taste bitter and sour and as if it was steeped in sea water? Whilst drinking this “exotic” brew we sat in the parlour and played game after game of Lady’s Keep as she nattered on about nothing of actual substance. So far the most interesting thing about her is the set of cards she insisted on using for Lady’s Keep they were hand painted with gilded edges, she claims they are from yet another exotic country she couldn’t pronounce.

Cossett really is terrible at the game, she’s only won three hands and each of those are the tea boy’s fault. He kept spilling the tea, not actually his fault if I were to be completely honest. Her skirts and train were extremely long, anyone would trip over them. Hell, I’ve tripped over them twice and I was walking beside her at the time. He is only twelve and has only recently been sent to work here. As a distraction I would allow her to win, each instance gave the boy enough time to make an attempt at cleaning the mess and to disappear while she gloated over her win.

It appears that she will be here for quite a while. Tomorrow a whole host of servants are scheduled to arrive sometime in the midmorning. A housekeeper, Mrs. Argall has been acting as one after Uncle fired the last; Three lady’s maids, four footmen, three chambermaids, two parlor maids, three laundry maids, and half dozen house maids. Why she requires such a tremendous staff is beyond me. Our house staff is quite sizable, numbering twenty-four, I could understand a lady’s maid or two and a laundry maid. The circus she brings will nearly double our staff, no doubt they will be paid with Father’s money. No one person requires twenty-one people to see to their needs. Honestly we could probably make due with a fourth of our staff if hard pressed, sure some rooms would be left to gather dust but Uncle and I only use a small portion of the estate.

Old oil paintings and devilish perfume. What is it that dances beneath the moon?

Royal Swain

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The Tenth of Ivaris, Sixteen Seventy-Four, The Royal Palace

Oh how I rue the freedoms of the press. I woke this morning not to the vapid machinations of courtiers but to a derogatory article painting the front page of The Fair Clarion. This rag of a newspaper has had the impudence to published the name of Father’s Royal Swain. Words cannot accurately express the fury that is coursing akin to fire through my veins. By iron and flame! This is a violation. The name of Father’s Swain should have only been revealed ten years after both of them had expired. Rupert is a kind man, he has no need for such publicity. I can only hope that he and his family can weather this storm of public interest. Theoretically I could have the source hanged for treason, that is if the Clarion would reveal said sources.

I have insured that the name of Mother’s Swain will not be publicized. It cost a small fortune and was seventeen hours of negotiations but it is done. I have personally burned all but personal correspondence between Swain and Royal. I can only assume that someone had gotten hold of a scrap of correspondence as the only others who knew the names of the Swains are the head of The Royal Guard and the head Archivist. I know that neither of them have revealed the name nor location of the Swain. I have never known a more fiercely loyal pair; I have given them my blessing if they so wish to wed, as my Father did before me. I have even offered to officiate the wedding if they cannot find a priest that is willing. I know of a few priests that look down upon same sex pairings, especially if neither of the pair is a Child of the Starry Heavens. Even fewer stipulate that such pairs must include a Child of Venus.

I have written to Rupert to apologize for this invasion of his privacy and reassured him that he will continue to receive the tax benefits that he has enjoyed since he became Father’s Swain. That is the custom, Father once In jest referred to it as war or hazard pay. The Swain will retain the tax benefits of their position even if the Royal they served dies. I have yet to choose my own Swain, I had thought to choose Rupert’s son, Jake, it is not uncommon for Royal and Swain to have known each other since childhood. Sadly with the media attention they are receiving Jake would most likely be a poor choice. This scandal of sorts has no doubt permanently changed their social standing and would make him a poor Swain.

The Swain’s sole duty is to remind the Royal of the plight of the common man. It is all too common for those of the peerage to forget the common man’s struggles and trials. As they, especially the second and third sons and daughters, tend to dwell in the lap of luxury. Often becoming favored pets and infrequently becoming consorts of courtiers. An interesting thought since Renee has attempted to foist his sons and daughters upon me, at most I would take one of them for a quiet dalliance. If I had an heir I would do so now, they are quite pretty and I could have a different one in my bed each night.

Having a Swain went in vogue for a short time once Father had chosen one, many of the lords took one from his example. I wish their children followed in their footsteps. The whole idea of a Royal Swain is archaic but Grandfather had taken leave of his senses and had sparked two wars in a bid for land. Wars we are still feeling the shock waves of. To be so disconnected from the people should preclude one from ruling.

The Swain enjoys quite a few privileges. As I said before they enjoy a reduction in their taxes, the reduction could be as little as five percent to twenty percent. Anything more and they would not represent the common man. They correspond regularly with their Royal and act as an advisor. I remember Father sending for Rupert quite frequently when I was a child. I also remember visiting his family. Father, Mother, and I spent a week sequestered with them. I enjoyed it, we were treated like anyone else. We were treated like equals, no one deferred to our wishes. To my five year-old self It was quite a shock but an experience well needed, it helped ensure that I did not end up a spoiled brat. The Swain serves to remind the Royal that we are all mortal, we are all the same.

I must pen a response to the Fair Clarion before I retire. I daren’t think they will print a retraction but one can always hope. Isn’t there a tribal saying, Hope springs eternal from the veins of ones enemies? I should perish the thought, more so since this will enter into the archives after my death.

Evandrus, Son of Iron-Banded Mars, Crown Prince.

The Fair ClarionA newspaper with a highly regarded standing. The name simply means Beautiful Trumpet.

By Iron and Flame: An exclamation much like a christian might say Jesus Christ.

Of Harlots In A Nunnery

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The Ninth of Ivaris, Sixteen Seventy-Four, Jarrow, The Chapel of the Order of Pity and Piety

Abbess Almere,

Another of them have fallen pregnant. Mark my words because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; The whores never listen, never have and never will. I fear that Madra will have to make her special brew yet again. This is worse than when the boy, Theo, got the new initiate pregnant; he’s lucky she paid for his ‘service’. The whores are always making a fuss and making it more difficult for honest folk. That is why our Glorious Fire declared that the Children of the Cold Distant Heavens are ours. Ours to enjoy at any rate.

This pregnancy couldn’t come at a worse time, as you very well know the High Prelate of Righteous Fire has planned a visit. More of an inspection if my intuition is to be believed. It may do well to turn her out to be quite honest, more so if she insists on keeping the bastard. Selfish bird, we cannot allow a Child of Venus to raise a child. Just think of the poison and inclinations they might inherit. She has never been a top earner, she complains endlessly, and is woefully captious of her clientele. If it comes to it we may secret her among those who are currently pregnant. She is far from showing but I assume he will spare them only a cursory glance before moving on. One would think that after all we have done for her she would keep her head down and out of trouble. Vapid and dull pretty thing. I really do not understand the allure men and women have for these things, these cheap simpering whores hold no charm for me.

With the introduction of our Chapel into Jarrow’s community the orphanages has flourished, quickly doubling in population and in funding. I have taken your advice and offered the services of the Venus-Born we shelter to those able to pay and whom have barren wives or are barren themselves to serve as surrogates. I find it quite interesting how many men are unable to rise to the occasion with their wives but frequent us nearly weekly. I would like the chapel to be a bit bigger, there are but two dormitories and if given half a chance I would split these whores along the gender lines to dissuade such play. I have begun to believe that some of the Children of Venus are fornicating amongst themselves, the last three babes born have bore Theo’s burnished gold hair. It is a minor annoyance since these babes have been adopted quite quickly, Theo is of quite good stock and is quite comely for a breeding stallion. The only apparent problem might come at a later time if such children are revealed to be Children of the Cold and Distant Stars. Twice damned with a sire and dame that are cursed as such. No doubt he wishes to sample the delights of the other harlots.

I really must thank you for informing me of the Prelate’s predilections and proclivities. No doubt he wishes to sample the delights of the other harlots. I will do my best to press the more, how would you say, robust and vigorous to the forefront. I have heard of the fracas in the Lighthurst where he last called on the Order, how the young man was left lame after an hours play. One would think that the Cold and Distant Heavens would make their children more durable, more well able to take a few light blows. With bones that break like a birds we have to be a bit more selective of the clients we allow more than an hour with one of the whores. Even more selective of the ones who endeavor to enjoy the Venus-Born in their own home for a night.

The Shinning Lord shall reach his apex in an hour and I really must rouse the acolytes who will see to the ritual cleansing of the harlots for the Prelate. The screaming and squealing alone will take an hour, they act like pampered pets assuming their bath water will be warm without any work. I might just have Madra secret some of her brew into the pregnant whore’s cup tonight, that would solve many a problem I think.

I am most assured that this letter will find you well,
Priestess Hieda Vorla

Almere is pronounced Al-mu-ray.

Hieda is pronounced exactly as Ida.

Jarrow is pronounced exactly as Yarrow.