Break Down Here

I’d sure hate to break down here, nothing up ahead or in the rear view mirror. Out in the middle of nowhere knowing, I’m in trouble if these wheels stop rolling. God help me keep me moving somehow. Don’t let me start wishing I was with him now. I’ve made it this far without crying a single tear I’d sure hate to break down here.

Seryl 14th, 1513 – Carico Estate, River Sulis, Lothianshire, Albion

The new maid, Mrs. Hearst’s niece, ducked her head and looked to the side, she was taller than Elizabet–who wasn’t?–but between the ducked head and the hunched shoulders and slouched posture she didn’t seem it. “No, m’lady. I haven’t seen Lord Joshua.” Her tone was deferential and–almost scared. Like I’d blame her for the fact that I seem to have misplaced my brother. Maybe Fern thought that Elizabet would. She didn’t think her father was that unreasonable and he was by far the most unreasonable person in the entire household from pot boy straight on up.


“That’s just like brothers. They’re always around when you don’t want them and not around when you do.” She shook her head. Fern raised her head slightly, a small smile poking at the corner of her lips. “You have brothers, right? Isn’t that just like them?”

“Aye, m’lady.” Fern said.

“How many?” Elizabet asked, curiously. Fern blinked at her. “How many brothers do you have?”

“Oh, I have three, m’lady.” Fern said. When Elizabet nodded encouragingly, she continued. “All younger.”

“Miss them?” Elizabet pressed. Fern nodded again.

“Oscar an’ Ham a lot. Hamilton, it’s a family name, m’lady.” She added in a hurry. “Parnell not so much.”


“Ah, one of those brothers that the best part of knowing him is missing him when he’s gone, eh?” Fern giggled behind her hand. “I have some extended family like that.” Fern looked down the long hall toward the green door the separated “upstairs” from “downstairs” and Elizabet realized that she was probably keeping the other girl from something. Niece or no niece, the housekeeper would come down hard on the girl for any perceived slacking.

“I should probably go find my brother.” She told Fern.

“‘m Sorry I couldn’t be more help, m’lady.” Fern told her, though she ducked her head and shoulders a little, at least she wasn’t looking like a whipped dog as she had when Elizabet had first stopped her.

“Salright.” Elizabet told her with a smile. “It’s not your fault that my brother is good at disappearing.” That would be my father’s fault. She thought as the girl curtsied and hurried off down the hall. Though if Fern hadn’t seen him, there was one place he might be. Mrs. Hearst wouldn’t have sent anyone into that room to light the lamps, normally there wouldn’t be anyone in it. She quickly turned the corner to the smaller, but no less opulent door set there.


A brazier was lit here, wouldn’t do for the family to stub their toes getting to the lamp, after all. But that was about all the stock that Elizabet took of the room. She wanted to get in and out of it as quickly as possible. It was like all the time that Cox spent in the room had somehow permeated it with something it couldn’t be too healthy to expose yourself to.


Up the spiral marble stair, her soft slippers seeming to call to the empty walls by the way they echoed as she climbed. The furniture in the antechamber was opulent, if a touch dated, she’d been told it was a holdover from when her grandfather had been baron of River Sulis. It was the same furniture that resided in Madame Cox’s parlor. Except of course it seemed welcome and right in place in Madame Cox’s parlor, here it seemed rather like one of the aged courtiers who played chess in the gardens at Camelot, old, tired, still good for stiff formality, but not so good for much else.

And of course there was a painting of some relative stuck on the wall to watch disapprovingly. Like there was practically anywhere in the house. Every room had to have some solemn portrait staring at every move you made, unblinking in their disapproval.

Whomever had come up with the idea that decorating with portraits was a wonderful plan was obviously a sadist.


She didn’t linger, lest the portrait of great aunt somebody-or-other get the idea that she was being idle. Sure, it was silly and superstitious, but a little silliness never hurt anyone. Elizabet pushed open the door to her father’s office to be greeted by warm light and the glint of her brother’s hair as he stared at a set of papers in front of him. Fingers curled about his chin, a slight slouch of shoulders and a haunted expression that she’d lay a year’s pocket money had nothing to do with those papers.

He looked up and smiled at her, an honest smile, true and a little sweet, though it flickered a little at the edges.

“What are you doing in here.” Elizabet asked. She hated this room most of all. It was like most rooms decorated by someone of Orkney descent, dark wood, fabric that looked like it had been dyed using blood, carvings and all the trappings of opulence abounding. But that wasn’t why she hated it. It was her father’s room. More than his bedchamber, which she wasn’t even sure what looked like, she never went in there, this was where her father held court.

Where edicts and demands were handed down. If it would have changed anything, Elizabet would have burned the entire room. But it wouldn’t, nothing would change until Jayson was gone from all their lives.

Normally Josh felt the same way about this room and avoided it with the same passion Elizabet did. It was strange to see Josh at the desk that her father normally sat at. Though there was no doubt that Josh was their father’s son, the wide upswept eyes and line of the jaw were identical, there was no mistaking Josh for Jayson.

And it was the one prayer that Elizabet voiced often, that her brother would continue to be exactly as he was and never develop the aura of “this man is crazy” that their father exuded with every breath.


“Father said that I should tend to dispatches and such in here.” Josh shrugged, his broad shoulders rising and falling in almost furtive movement.

“What father doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Elizabet pointed out.

“Not worried about it hurting him, Bet.” Josh said, pinning her in place with slate eyes. “I will be baron some day, I’ll have to get used to this office sometime.”

“No, you won’t.” Elizabet told him.

“This room has served as the office for the baron since the estate was built, it was specifically designed to be the office of the Baron.”


“Oh, sure, physically, these four walls will be here when you’re baron. But this office won’t. I know you, Josh, and would be heartfully disappointed in you if you didn’t gut everything out of this office when you inherit it.”

“Except the jar on the console.” He jerked his head behind him. “I couldn’t get rid of Great Uncle Victor.” Elizabet looked past Josh then back at her brother’s face.

“I don’t really think that’s Great Uncle Victor.” She said. Though she wasn’t convinced. She couldn’t put it past her father to use the ashes of some dead relative as a bookend.

Josh also looked over his shoulder at the jar. “Well, there is the ashes of someone in that jar. And what if it is Great-Uncle Victor? You can’t just give away a relative. No matter how creepy it is…” Josh shuddered.


“We’ll put the jar down in the crypt and if it is him, he and Grandfather can battle it out in the afterlife, and if it’s just fireplace ashes that Jayson uses to scare people, he can explain why there’s a dead tree interred in the family crypt.” Elizabet told him. Josh almost smiled.

“So, that’s why I’m here. Why are you here?” Josh asked.

“Looking for you. What’s got you worried?” Elizabet asked as Josh’s eyes flickered down to the papers in front of him. There was a chance it was a stall tactic, but there was also a chance that there really was something there too.

“You ever heard of a Madame Bones?” Josh asked.

“No.” Elizabet peered over the top of the page. “Who is that–other than a person descended from someone with a really poor taste in surnames–or someone crazy?”

“I don’t know either. Though what I do know about her, I’d lean more toward the latter. I think it might be an assumed name. She’s apparently a gypsy witch. I’ve got a report on her from Guardsman Rose. She’s ostensibly a bookseller, though there’s more than a few rumors that’s not all she sells. She’s got a shop down in Dead Man’s Alley.”


“Cheery place, that.” It was Elizabet’s turn to shudder. She’d been there only once and had had nightmares for months. She still sometimes had nightmares about it. There was something wrong there. You could feel it in the very ground. Josh nodded. “Well–I’ve never heard of her, but I know someone you might ask.”

“Oh?” Josh asked, finger sliding over the wood of the table.

“Darin.” Something like pain briefly surfaced in Josh’s eyes. “He’s down not far from there, and you know him, people talk and he listens.”

“Aye.” Josh stared at his hands. Yep. That’s just what I thought, Elizabet thought to herself. “He might know.”


“Although he hasn’t been around so much recently. Still comes for tutoring, but not so much beyond that.” Elizabet pressed. The problem with trying to talk about anything involving her brother and how he might feel was that you had to come at it more than a bit circumspectly. You had to trap him into admitting he felt it before you could even talk about it.

“Aye, I know.” Josh was meeting her eyes, but the way they twitched away told her more than words ever could’ve.

“What in Wright’s name made you convince yourself you needed a poetry tutor in the first place?” Elizabet asked him after a moment. “Josh, you love books and poetry almost as much as Marianne does.”

“It was a reason to get Darin to come around more, alright? I–like him… I mean, I realized that he was someone who would be a good friend.”

“I know.” Elizabet said and watched her brother sigh. “But I think it’s more than that.”

“It can’t be more than that, Bet! I can’t–I can’t.”

“C’mon, Josh, stop doing the old Lord of the Manor bit, so if you like him in a you wanna–”


“Bet!” Josh was blushed so hard his face looked slightly purpled. “I can’t like him like that, and it has nothing to do with Remi’s it’s a mortal sin to want to–to make love to another man sort of way. Darin doesn’t have parents that Jayson won’t want to piss off. He’s not safe. He can’t protect himself from–from our father.”

“And with anyone else, I might agree. But I honestly think that Darin would spit in the eye of the Grim for someone he cares about. And despite all his protests I think he cares about you.” Elizabet told him. “And if the Grim doesn’t scare him, I highly doubt our father would even make him blink.”

“He doesn’t like me like that.”

“And you know this because you’ve talked about it?” Elizabet asked blandly. And if they have talked about it, I’ll eat my riding boots–after I’ve walked through the corrals.

“No–but I am pretty sure that he likes girls, Bet. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not one.”


“I dunno, you’re a little muscular, but plenty pretty enough.” Elizabet batted her lashes at her brother. Unfortunately instead of making him laugh, he surged up out of the chair and walked over to the fireplace staring for a long moment into the mirror above it.

“Would you want to tell Vivi or Marianne that you liked them?” He muttered at the mantle.

“If I liked them, it’d be better to tell them than live forever knowing I didn’t have the courage to do it.”


“Yeah, well, Darin’s not the only one who would spit in the eye of the Grim. I’m not like you, Bet. I can’t be fearless. I don’t know how.” Josh said, wrenching Elizabet’s heart in her chest. She wished he could. Her father shouldn’t be able to keep Josh on the ground. He didn’t deserve that victory.

“Josh, if you want to suffer in noble silence, I’ll think you’re an idiot, but I will accept that. If I have to. But you cannot do what you normally do when you don’t know what to do.” Elizabet paused for a moment wondering if that made sense and shrugged before continuing.


“Have you looked at Darin, I mean really looked? He is looking so much better than when we first met at the Guardstation. His skin doesn’t look two sizes too small, you can no longer shave with his cheekbones, he looks like he slept sometime this year, you know why that is?”

“I know.” Josh murmured. “And I thought of that.”

“So what are you going to do?” Elizabet asked. Josh shrugged.

“…Suffer in noble silence–but keep being a friend.” Josh said after a long moment.


“That’s my big brother.” Elizabet said, giving him a quick hug. Jayson can’t have your heart, Josh, he can’t break your spirit. It’s what makes you who you are. It’s what’ll make River Sulis a better place when you’re baron. And I will personally cut his heart out if he tries. She thought to herself as they both turned to leave the study. He might have won a few battles, but damn it, I am winning the Wright be damned war.

6 thoughts on “Break Down Here

  1. … You know, I really wouldn’t want to be Jayson just about now. Nope nope nope. Something tells me that even though Bet is only twelve and probably prone to all the foibles of twelve (like thinking you’re immortal and all that), when she decides she will win the war, she will win. The. War.

    And I’m not sure she would show any quarter to the loser.

    But yeah. It’s sad that Josh feels that he has no chance with Darin, and never will have a chance. And maybe he’s right. Maybe Darin is 100% straight. But he could very well be wrong; Darin’s sexuality may not be set in stone like that.

    Josh is never going to know unless he tries.

    But I’m glad he wants to continue being Darin’s friend — and making sure Darin gets fed — either way.

    1. Yeah, Bet sorta does seem like she could get it done. I’ve wondered a lot if Jayson ever realizes the tiger he has by the tail. And why would she show quarter to Jayson, what quarter has he shown either of his kids? (Except of course that Elizabet is better than Jayson is. But still, it’d probably be minimal. This war is over screwing with Josh’s head. Jayson could stop the war at any time if he so chose. He won’t choose, so why should Elizabet show him much sympathy?)

      I think part of it is how Josh feels about himself in general. Of course he’d fall in love with someone… and it’d be someone he couldn’t be with. And I don’t think, other than what the outward trappings are (the wealth, the prestige, etc.) Josh sees any reason anyone would want to be with him. And as most of those are negated by them not being able to openly be together, why would someone like Darin want to put up with the mass of screwed up that is Josh?

      And he is not just saying that he’s worried about what Jayson would do if he found out about Darin. As you commented the other day when we were chatting, Jayson is the sort of guy who would murder his son’s puppy if it would get the correct response out of said son.

      There is a very real sense of ant (Darin) and boot (Jayson) there. However, I think that Jayson would find that much more difficult than Josh thinks it would be. All in all, he very well may be selling Darin short. It wouldn’t be the first time.

      Yeah. Josh, when he’s not trying to prove something, is so soft-hearted as to be gooey. He’s not going to turn his back on Darin.

      Thanks, Morgaine!

  2. Oh Josh… even if Darin does like girls, that doesn’t mean he can’t like boys as well. Or that gender even factors into his being attracted to someone. ;)

    Elizabet is so wise. And her care for her brother’s well-being is so obvious. She’ll give him advice, but she’ll stand by him if he doesn’t follow it, because she knows his heart and what she sees is good.

    Yeah, I’m thinking Jayson’s in for it if Elizabet decides that enough is enough…

    1. Ah, but in Albion the concept of bisexual is still a couple centuries off. Most of the people doing it aren’t talking about it. To Josh, it’s a pretty black and white thing. Either you like girls or you like boys. You can’t like both. Or even that if someone usually likes girls, they couldn’t see something in a boy. That there are whole miles of gray between black and white.

      Elizabet is definitely wise. I wish I’d been half as smart at twelve as she is. But then again, the wisdom has come at a price that’s pretty dear as we’ll find out in the arc that starts up end of Ververe. But yeah. She knows his heart is in the right place.

      Jayson may find for all his trying to be clever, he missed something with his daughter…

      Thanks, Van!

  3. River Sulis: where even the hired help could be eye candy.

    Bet’s observations about the blood-dyed fabric in Orkney-descent rooms was spot on. Well, at least so far as a certain wizard and his beloved mother are concerned. It’s an ominously gorgeous room, but I can see why Bet and/or Josh would want to gut it after Jayson dies. And if Jayson knows what’s good for him, he might want to make that soon. Bet will lay waste to him given time and knowledge. (I met still bet on her at twelve.)

    Josh is doing the noble part of the noble silence well. It would be easy for someone else to feel entitled to bully Darin into what he wants given their stations. Between this and the incident at the heinous brothel, Josh is looking like he’d make a very good baron. And maybe he’ll wind up with a wife who isn’t bothered by Josh’s poetry lessons, if Darin turns out to be so inclined.

    1. *blushes* It’s my default templates. I made them myself in the style and proportion I prefer. With the right skintone, face shaping cosmetics, and hairstyle, yeah. My game is full of people who’re terribly pretty.

      Yeah, I mean granted we’ve only seen a couple of generations of Orkneys (And the youngest set is a little young for decorating many rooms.) But I still, somehow doubt the Orkney family will ever shit rainbows and decorate in blonde woods…

      For all that Jayson is a jerk and I kinda wish he could die, like, tomorrow, (spoiler: It’s not tomorrow.) I do rather like how his study turned out. It has the right balance of creepy, ominous, and …pretty. But considering everything that Elizabet and Josh have had to deal with in this room, I know they will be happier with everything “Jayson” out the door. Whichever of them inherits the barony and thus the study.

      Well, Bet learned how to not play fair at the hands of a master (her father) so it would only be fair if she used what he taught her to destroy him. But there are a lot of things that could yet kill Jayson or he could, you know, get a visitation from three ghosts and wake up a changed man.

      I think if there is one thing that Josh knows after sixteen years with his father, it’s you can’t force someone to love you. He could order Darin to his bed and there isn’t a lot that Darin being a lowborn orphan could do about it. But while that might sate any lust Josh has, it’s not going to make Darin love him. In fact it’ll probably just make Darin hate him.

      And that’s the last thing that Josh wants. But I think that Josh also sees, unlike, say Bors and Elyan, that being a nobleman is a lot more than being born into a titled family. If he can do something to change things for the better, if he has the resources and the ability, it’s his responsibility to do something.

      Likewise, he also understands that just because he can do something, especially if it’s something that is selfish that only really benefits him, it doesn’t follow that he should do it. There’s that whole power/responsibility thing that some of his ancestors (Like more than a couple of those currently alive in 1015.) just don’t.

      As for his future wife, well that’s a long way down the road and we shall have to see when we get there. (He’s only sixteen and will be going to Camford and not getting married until he gets back.)

      Thanks, Winter!

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