Foxes and Honeyvine

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The Eighth of Ara, Sixteen Seventy-Four.

I spent much of the morning lounging on a blanket in a pool of sunshine. I’d set up camp beside a rather tiny creek that wound through a copse of trees. Leaving the horse hobbled near the stream I started up a bit of exploring. My prize was a thicket of bright red raspberries, just ripe with the vaguest sour notes. While munching one the fruit I then noticed it, a sickly sweet scent hung in the air. And really I couldn’t help but to investigate it. I can’t even begin to describe my delight when I chanced upon a tree wreathed in a colony of Honeyvine.

Honeyvine is rare this far north, it usually enjoys a much warmer climate. I’ve never seen one in person, only in photographs and illustrations. Had it not been for the amber honey that wept from deep within it’s center, at a glance I might have mistaken it for Vinia’s Trumpet.

Honeyvine blossoms are notoriously difficult to preserve once they’ve started to produce honey. If I could, I would have dried and pressed one of the flowers to save in this journal, but that would have just made a sticky mess. Had I happened upon this colony in the middle of the spring, I could have caught some of the flowers right after they’d unfurled, before they’d started to produce their honey. I will just have to commit the taste to memory for who knows when I will find them again. Sweeter than bee’s honey, lighter too. With bright floral notes. And, it’s just like it was written in mother’s horticulture book, if you eat a whole flower it will leave your whole mouth tingling.
Paired with the honey all of the foodstuffs Tam had procured was leaps and bounds better. Well save for the cheese, mold right through. But the Rahsere wine became more than palatable. I will have to tell Evandrus, if I ever do hear from him again. I’m sure he’d like to know how to salvage it if Uncle, or some other courtier, decides to send more.

It was well into the afternoon once I’d emptied the hamper of foot, wishing to try everything with a touch of honeyvine. Save for the aforementioned honeyvine my day was unremarkable. I dozed and read my penny book with Tayn Keep visible through the tree branches. I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful it was to get away from the estate. Let alone to get away from the Mourners of Ara. Elation and joy. To feel the sun’s warmth on my skin and the cool wind in my hair as I rode out. A powerful beast between my thighs as it thundered away from the estate, my gilded cage. I rode the mare hard, harder than I should. She is older, infrequently is she put through her paces. I must remember to tell the grooms to take extra care of her.

A devilish thought of excess ceased me. I couldn’t just pass my chance up, I emptied the jam jar and cleaned it in the creek. After all it would be an exotic present for Evandrus and give me reason to get rid of more of the Rahsere wine. I do hope the honey acts as a preservative, it would be a nice surprise for him. When did he and I get caught up in this gift giving dance?

It would not take an Alazian fortune teller to predict Uncle’s response to my disappearance; Though I believe I could make a career of it. After all it’s not magic, just cold reading. I could hear them about an hour after I’d collected some of the honey. The thick sound of hooves on the road. I can only assume a messenger headed toward Tayn Keep.

Twenty minutes later men had mounted horses and the hunt was on. And who was hunted? Well, me of course! They blundered through the brush, voices calling my name only to be drown out by the barking of dogs. Uncle had pulled out all the stops it seems.
What I found most interesting was how early the search had been mounted. I had expected it to start much later, nearer to sunset. It is most curious. Uncle rarely calls on me and it is the same with Cossett. The servants, save for Tam, know to steer clear of my rooms while I still occupy them. With the addition of Cossett’s staff few of the servants interact with me at all anymore.

In truth I did not leave the estate with much guile. I left in plain view, I did not order Tam to bring the horse to some deserted entrance. Anyone could have told our dear uncle but, I can’t help feeling that the staff would not have told him directly. And if they had, would they have not spoken right away? I don’t believe the staff would report on my movements.

But there is still Tam. It would have been cunning of him to betray me later. To play act the worried but loyal servant reluctant to divulge his master’s secrets. Timid and meek, wishing only for his master’s safety. And in the process ingratiating himself with the man who holds the purse strings. Or perhaps he spends his few free hours fawning over the bitch Cossett. Maybe he whispered his secret into her ear as a bit of pillow talk and she in turn whispered it into the Lord Regent’s.

This little foray has done little to solve the question of Tam’s loyalty. How could I be so blind to think him loyal in the brief time it took for him to gather the supplies and see to the mare? Still no answered and always more questions. How was my escape found? Has my valet betrayed my loyalty or has he been seduced? Did Uncle get a while hair and decide to call upon me? Maybe Cossett called intent on holding me captive in the solar forcing me to play Lady’s Keep all day. Some days I wish for the beginning of Tal. Of being locked up in my room and worrying about motorcars.

I was found not long after their search started. Next time I must try a different locale, much farther from Tayn Keep, and some kind of perfume. Something exotic, something I’d never wear. I’ll have to make sure to keep it hidden.

I returned to the estate not under my own power but, by a contingent of fifteen men. Once Uncle saw me, his face was the exact colour of the raspberries I chanced upon. The lecture that followed was grueling. I am still exhausted from it now, a day later. After all of that adventure, well, I think I might retire and spend the day in bed.

Fickle flowers and choking ivy. Which shall win?

 

Honeyvine: Honeyvine is an exotic flowering vine native to warmer, moister climates. The flowers are large, brilliant trumpets in deep orange hues. It begins to produce honey in mid to late spring and continues until the last few days of summer. Honeyvine tends to grow in colonies, preferring to grow along the ground but occasionally will grow up vertical objects. In the earliest stages of growth the flowers can be mistaken for Vinia’s Trumpet.

Vinia’s Trumpet: Vinia’s trumpet, known as Bastard Honeyvine, usually grows in bunches of three to five. Unlike Honeyvine, Vinia’s Trumpet is a flowering shrub with flowers in varying shades of orange. At a glance it can be mistakenly identified as Honeyvine.

Captain Strana and The Tennec

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Evandrus, Son of Mars, Crown Prince.

Aboard the Silver Alaphina on the Crystal Tides, Bound for Striecial,

The Eighth of Ara, Sixteen Seventy-Four.

We rendezvoused with the Strieciallan vessels Tennec, Lash, Kore, and Nellenair early this morning. I was quite surprised to see the flotilla the Strieciallan council sent as our escort. I have heard rumor of some enemy that stalks their waters but I have never given any true credence to it. Rumors are just that, rumors.

The captain of the Tennec was kind enough to come aboard and speak to me briefly. I had heard the occasional story of Captain Strana of the Tennec, though I’d never known she was a woman. And I must say that I was momentarily surprised to find she was a woman. It is a common superstition that woman are exceedingly bad luck on a ship at sea.
This woman was the feared Captain Strana, with a soul of steel and a heart of fire. I would not say that she was an exceptionally beautiful woman. With her strong features and her blonde hair pulled back it gave an illusion of severity to her features. Her eyes held a wicked savageness in the morning light and even on a foreign vessel she walked with an air of command.

After our introductions I suggested that we retired to my cabin. The cabin that once had been the cabin of the Alaphina’s captain. Only the best for royalty; I find that beyond tedious. I could just as well made due with standard crew quarters. Captain Strana was quick to laugh and started cracking jokes from the moment she and I were alone. I dare say she lightened my spirits. The transformation she underwent was uncanny. Once she stepped over that threshold and all eyes were off of her she seemed to relax. It was almost like a new woman say before me.

In a hushed voice, as if she expected eavesdroppers, she began to explain the armada that was our escort. It seems that the fear of an attack was a very real one. She insisted that the armada will be escorting the Silver Alaphina back to our waters after our business has concluded. I cannot say that I took offense at that. If I might have her to gladden my spirits then I welcome the company.

It seems that the rumors of the Strieciallan war are true, to an extent. They are at war with a cult, a cult named The Children of The Leviathan. I have never heard of a cult by that name, though the rumors have been understandably vague. I had thought that since I have heard little of them, that they are a young cult. As she began to describe the cult and it’s actions I found myself holding my breath and, a shock to myself, praying. If Striecial, the heart of magic, fears this cult I cannot begin to grasp the threat they pose.

I have been told that they have been dealing with The Children of The Leviathan for decades. Striecial is to the south and west of the continent. Captain Strana intimates that the cult is even farther to the south, a small chain of islands. So rarely do our trade routes go so far south. When they do they usually hug the coastline, doing trade all along the way. Yet all sailors have those stories. Of horrific sea monsters, the stories of fisher wives. But to my knowledge that is all they are, stories. No vessels have reported such creatures in our waters. Nor have any vessels been lost at sea, they usually show up a month later with a hold full of exotic spices and wares.

It was late into the night when Captain Strana returned to her ship with promises that we would make landfall in the morning. Maybe we’ll see some magic in the morning. I find that I cannot wait to see the famed Strieciallan Sorcery at work. Besides the solemn topic of conversation she was as sparkling conversationalist. I did enjoy her company. I believe Saphir would quite enjoy her company as well. I find myself hoping that one day I might introduce the pair.

 

The Tennec: Pronounced Ten – Neck. The vessel captained by Strana.

The Nellenair: Pronounced like Helen – Air. A Strieciallan vessel tasked as a foreign escort.

The Children of The Leviathan:  An unknown oceanic cult that has plagued Striecial for decades. Their origins and reasons behind the war are unknown.

 

Daring Mischief, or, The Great Escape.

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The Seventh of Ara, Sixteen Seventy-Four.

Uncle is sorely cross with me. I had grown frustrated at my isolation and  tired of the Mourners presence. I found myself fantasizing about having the assassinated, I just had to be rid of them. And I was in luck, I had a willing accomplice. Tam., I believe Uncle rues the day Cossett sent him into my service. In part this was a test of his loyalty. And I would say that young, simple Tam passed with flying colours. It seems I do have one ally in this house.

At their morning prayers I had had enough. Their wailing cries continue from dawn till dusk, I cannot fathom how they continue day in and day out. Do they mourn in shifts? Surely their voices grow tired. I have not seen them since that first day. The three of them seem content to sit in their shared guest suite and scream and wail.

They rise with the sun during Ara. Their wailing begins not long after. Though their screams usually stop once the Shining Lord is high in the sky. Some find themselves so wrapped with grief that they might just burst into tears at any time. These Mourners of Ara are of that sort. Their grief weighs upon them and they force us to suffer along with them. Many people emulate them and their mourning customs, even going so far as to hire them for funerals. That is a ghastly thought.

For once I find myself wishing we lived in the old holding across the way, Tayn Keep. It was the Seat of my Great-Grandfather, and his father before him and so on since we became landed gentry. Tayn Keep sits just at the waters edge, it is quite beautiful. If we had been there then the mourners would be bundled up in the chapel. Grandmother never cared much for religion. Oh she knew all of the passages by heart, but she never trusted priests. She’d always say, “Why do you need a priest to read to you when you’ve got two good eyes of your own?” I love that woman. It is because of this that there is no chapel on the estate. Grandmother had it built to her exacting specifications.

Tayn Keep is now a garrison for the King’s Navy. It was a strategic move on my grandmother’s part. With the King’s Navy patrolling all along our coast we’ve never been safer. The last raid was when my father was a small child. Such safety from hasty made investment. Pure luck.

I haven’t seen Tayn Keep since before Kyran was fostered. I was instantly set upon with a desire to see it. To watch the sea and the ships rolling on the waves. If Tam hadn’t slipped into my sitting room while I was sequestered in memory I wouldn’t have even thought of it. I watched Tam as he arraigned the morning meal before me. I studied him. His dark hair, his cunning green eyes so like the bow he’d arrived in, the corded muscles of his arms. I wondered how I could entice him into my plan.

It occurred to me that Tam has had no time to go and drink in a pub or court a lovely girl. Uncle so rarely gives the staff time off, usually one day a season once they’ve been here for a year. Otherwise it’s a spare hour of afternoon, if they even get that. Unless they’ve been with his for five years, then it’s once a month. But Tam is my servant, I decide when he works. Let Uncle chew on that.

I sent him off to Mrs. Argall to beg a small picnic for two, telling him to lie if asked. I told him that if anyone should ask that I’d given him the day and he’s planned to spend it with a nice young lady. Our cook likes him, he’s quiet and she thinks he’s pretty to look at. He didn’t have any trouble, though I’m sure the maids will be moaning about this girl of his. I also directed him to have my horse saddled and ready. I dressed quickly in a pair of trousers, stiff riding boots, and a grey linen shirt.

Tam returned with the basket and a look of confusion on his face. As of late it is seldom that I rise out of bed without prompting. With Ara I have taken to brooding for long hours beneath my coverlet. Only rising once the Mourners has finished their rituals and broken their fast at sunset. The less I see of them the better.

I pulled a few notes from a box hidden in my desk and pressed them into his hands. Five pounds, about a sixth of his yearly wages. I took the basket from him. I then shooed him off telling him he should enjoy the day and return before curfew. I set upon the basket with abandon. Cheese, apples, half a loaf of coarse brown bread, and half a bottle of Rahsere wine. Good strong fair and more than enough for myself alone. While Tam was away I’d also gathered a few things for my outing. Two blankets, the latest penny book, a pen, and this diary of course. As an after thought I also tossed in the jars of jam leftover from breakfast.

Oh how I relish being free this day. There is nothing the wind on my face and smell of the salt air. I wish I could just float away on the winds.

Seat: The Seat, or County Seat,  is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish.

Tayn Keep: Pronounced like Stain, without the ‘s’ sound.