Everybody Loves A Clown

Look a little closer, inside I’m dyin’. It’s not easy to be in love, you see, when you’re a clown like me.

Tyves 10th, 1513 – Fitz-Chivalry estate, River Sulis, Lothianshire, Albion


“Leo wrote me again.” Caroline fluttered her lashes at Marianne who tried not to cringe. Sunday tea was the worst, being that Sunday was the seventh day, it was Fitz-Chivalry family law that they would all gather for tea. There was no excuse good enough to get out of it, no company to be invited unless said company was staying at the estate with them, which happened about once every blue moon. They were expected to have a couple of cousins come in for Elizabet’s birthday, but that was still a month away.

So today it was just family and it had been and was going to continue to be one of those teas.

“Yes, Caroline, we heard.” Brandon said, throwing a flickery sort of smile across the table at Marianne, who swirled the last bit of tea in her cup.

“Well, Marianne hadn’t heard she wasn’t here when the letter arrived, can’t I share my good news with my favorite sister?” Elizabet would have been brave enough to point out that Marianne was hardly Caroline’s favorite sister. Vivianne would have pointed out that surely Julia already knew, or pouted because Leo bothered to write her at all. Marianne just looked at the lemon slices on the tea plate and peered around the flowers as if looking for the sugar bowl.

“Ah-ah-ah.” Caroline said primly. “You haven’t enough tea left in your cup to even dissolve a second lump and you certainly do not need another lump of sugar. After all, Elizabet’s birthday party is in less than a month and mother doesn’t need to be constantly running to the tailor to have waist let out. Nor will the maids thank you for needing a winch to lace your corset tight.”


“Caroline.” Brandon rolled his eyes.

“Well, if our sister would just watch the amount of sweets she eats, I wouldn’t have to remind her about fitting into her undergarments at tea and you wouldn’t have to hear about her unmentionables.” Caroline said in dulcet tones.

“I was objecting to you “reminding” her of anything at all.” Brandon told her in a blunt, irritated tone. “If she’d like a second cup of tea, or another lump, it’s none of your business. I put twice the cream and sugar into my tea that Marianne did and you didn’t say a word.”

“It’s different for boys. You have your arms practice and your rugby games and your riding to work off that cream and sugar. All Marianne has is her riding three times a week and the walk to the Finessa’s estate for lessons and the walk to the Carico’s estate for lessons.” She shook her head. “And besides, Marianne needs to work on looking her best. She is going to beĀ fifteen at the end of the month.”

“Um, so?” Brandon asked.

“So? She’s fifteen and father hasn’t so much as fielded a nibble of interest in a betrothal in three years of looking.” Marianne ducked her head and looked at the pink table linens as if there were some sort of mystery held there with-in.


“How do you know father hasn’t had any nibbles, Caroline, you know he doesn’t talk with us about things that do not concern us personally.” Brandon pointed out. “He hasn’t told me, so I’m pretty damned sure that he hasn’t told you.”

“With the way Marianne is? You’d be able to tell if she’d had good news.” Caroline said shooting a look at Marianne who was chasing a sandwich crumb around the saucer. “See.”

“Maybe she just doesn’t appreciate us talking about her like she isn’t here.” Brandon sighed. “For which I apologize, Marianne.”

“Oh, you don’t need to apologize for that, Brandon. Marianne wouldn’t have anything to add to the conversation even if we tried to to include her. I don’t know what she’s been doing during her deportment lessons. Or maybe that awful Elizabet is just taking up too much of the teacher’s time.” Caroline sniffed. Elizabet isn’t awful. Marianne thought at her sister. She’s far nicer than you are. At least she saves her cruel jibes for people who deserve it.


“One of the things they teach us in deportment lessons is how not to dominate a conversation and one of the others is how impolite it is to gossip. So far Mother hasn’t had to have a single one of my dresses let out at the waist.” Marianne said. And thought hard at her sister and I can still lace my stays tighter than you can.

“That’s because I’m hear to remind you, like a good big sister should.” Caroline said it with the air of someone patting a dog that had done an amusing trick on the head. Inwardly Marianne snarled and some part of her that had probably spent too much time with Elizabet was throwing itself at the bars of the cage that her mother, her deportment lessons, and that cursed shyness built around her, wanting to say something mean or awful, to make Caroline cringe and hurt.

“Honestly, Caroline, if you’re a “good big sister”, I’d hate to see a shabby one.” Brandon grumbled.

“What is that supposed to mean, Brandon?” Caroline gasped. “Name one shabby thing that I’ve ever done to you!”

“You haven’t ever done anything particularly shabby to me–or to Edmund. But that doesn’t make you a good big sister. I don’t have to listen to you under anyone’s definition of hierarchy. But I’ve seen you do plenty of shabby things to Julia and Marianne.” Brandon said.

“Like what?” Caroline gasped.

“Like embarrass them, harass them, make snide comments, you’re constantly poking Marianne about not being betrothed, engaged, or spoken for. Well I’m almost two years older than Marianne is, and I’m not betrothed, engaged, or spoken for.” Brandon pointed out.


“That is different.” Caroline replied huffily. Before Brandon could roll his eyes and ask how so, she continued. “You’ll be going to Camford and no one will expect you to marry until you graduate. With my dowry and your Camford fees, and no estate, yet, to replenish them, there certainly won’t be the money to send her–” Caroline poked a finger toward Marianne. “To Camford. And even if Father is granted an estate and there is the money to send her to Camford, if she hasn’t at least had a few suitors by then, everyone will assume that she’s a terrible bluestocking. Which is a fine reputation to have when you’re at university.”

Brandon looked at Marianne and she shrugged.

“I am just trying to look out for Marianne. You know that books don’t teach you any sort of sense, Brandon.” Caroline addressed the comment to Brandon, but her eyes were on Marianne. “All they do is stuff your head with candy floss and make you into a ninny.” Marianne bit hard on the inside of her cheek.

Out of the black darkness came the harps of the holy llamas, proclaiming the presence of the Lord Wright, or rather the bells of the cathedral, chiming the None, signalling the time for Marianne’s escape.


“Brandon, Caroline, excuse me, I have–a test to study for tomorrow.” She flashed Brandon an apologetic smile and pushed her chair back from the table.

“Marianne, where are you going?” Her mother asked as she passed their table to head out the garden door–she knew she should’ve used the library door. Oh well, too late now.

“The bells just rang the none, I have an exam to study for tomorrow.” She offered with a flickery, forced smile.


“It’s alright, Marianne, study hard.” Henry interjected before Katherine could do more than start to say Marianne’s name.

“Henry, she’s obviously upset.” Katherine told him before she was barely two steps away from the table.

“I know. And if she’s upset the last thing she needs is to be called out for it in front of an audience.” Henry said.

“We’re all family here.” Katherine objected.

“It isn’t as if family can never say anything that upsets you. Half the disputes I hear about when I’m at court are dealing with brothers who did something to their brothers to cause a grievance. The last two emperors in Reme were taken off the throne by their families.” Henry ticked off before Marianne got far enough out the door to let it shut behind her. She took a deep breath to walk decorously across the courtyard. A Fitz-Chivalry, a Gwynedd, a Reman lady, none of them, ran from the room in tears. No matter what was said to them.


Still, by the time she reached the top of the tall stone stairs that lead up to the second floor of the estate, she was going far faster than a well-bred noble should ever go. She didn’t even pause inside the door before turning and heading up the stone stairwell into her own bedroom.

She flung herself onto her bed, but refused to cry. Caroline and her pettiness, and that was all it was, Elizabet told her so, Vivi told her so, even Mistress Cox had said that Caroline was petty, none of it was worth her tears.


A few moments later she heard the garden door shut firmly and pushed herself to the edge of the bed. She didn’t want to hear the lecture that would surely follow if her mother came into her room and she had her slippers on the edge of the bed.

And it would be her mother, the heels on Katherine’s slippers clacked as she made her way up the stairs and a moment later her head appeared just over the white parquet.


“Marianne, you should be less hard on your sister.” Of course the first words out of Katherine’s mouth would be why Caroline was right and Marianne was wrong. “Come, sit, a daughter of the Gwynedds does not entertain sitting on her bed like a common girl without a whit of manners.” Marianne slid off the bed and walked over to one of the white chairs in front of her bookcase.


Her mother sat with head up, neck arched proudly, just like Marianne’s deportment teacher told them to, spine and shoulders just barely rested against the back of the chair. Was being a proper Gwynedd lady really all about carrying a deportment teacher around in your head all the time? No one would accuse the baroness of being anything but a lady, still she didn’t sit there like she had a book perched on her head and a ruler tied to her spine.

“Your sister, Marianne, is just trying to educate you. To remind you that eyes are on us all the time. From taking another lump at tea or the thick cut slice of ham for your sandwich, one needs to remember we are being watched. And we more than most of noble blood. Your father is close to being granted an estate, if we show common blood or course manner it may never occur.” Marianne frowned just slightly. From what she had learned in her Governance courses that table manners had less than nothing to do with how one was granted lands or a title.

Katherine didn’t even notice. She just continued on. “I did the same thing for my sisters when we were younger.” A traitorous voice in Marianne’s head said and that’s probably why Aunt Anne and Aunt Emma won’t talk with you now.


Her mother sighed. “You have always been of less stern demeanor than Caroline and so I have more concern with you, Marianne. I have never doubted that Caroline was a true daughter of my house. There is much of your father, however, in you. The Fitz-Chivalries have many virtues. But I am not certain that what virtues they possess will serve you well in this world.” Katherine said, pursing her lips slightly.

“Still, it is not too late for you to adopt more of the virtues of my house.” Katherine stood up, still with that internal deportment teacher nipping at her heels, her heels clacking at an exactly precise staccato as she descended.

She looked at the windows for a long moment, wishing that they were of clear glaze, so she could see out. The problem with her room, she decided, as she heard the door shut below, was that it was basically a trap. There was no way to get out of it once someone else was in it, without seeming dreadfully rude–and anyone who would make her feel trapped in the room would never forgive her being rude.

So what she needed was an “away” some place she could go and her mother and Caroline wouldn’t follow to tell her that she was sulking. Thought was parent to deed and her slippers were padding–not clacking–toward the stairs before she was even finished with the thought.


It was still the warm, pleasant afternoon it had been, her siblings banished to the courtyard to enjoy the summer sunlight. Marianne paused for just a second in the sunlight when she saw Caroline’s horrid white and green damask train that clashed awfully with the pink gingham sash she’d chosen to go with it. And my mother thinks that she’s a picture of virtue.

“Caroline, what sorts of dances do you think Lady Elizabet will have at her birthday celebration?” Julia asked, a shade too loudly, after her eyes touched on Marianne. Was Julia trying to–distract Caroline from noticing her? Well, whether that was the intention or not, it was succeeding and Marianne slipped past through the garden before anyone else even noticed she was there.


Her feet carried her, enjoying the sun on her shoulders and back, to the Library. She found her way toward a book of Geoffry Chausseur’s poems. She liked this one, it was poems about youth and the shivery-yet-warm feeling of being near someone who caused that frisson that was part lust-part interest-part something that might be something more around the one you liked.

She liked all of Geoffry’s poems, actually, but this book, so far, was one of her favorites. Somehow she wondered–thought–perhaps that he would have understood a lot of this. The poem that she had left off on, however, instead of drawing her in like usual was turning her thoughts outward, it was about seeing and noticing and the offer of friendship in the strangest of places.


And as her eyes danced over the letters, a flash of movement caught her attention from over the corner of the book. It was Vivianne’s brother, Severus, a book not unlike hers in his hands, though he’d just shut the cover with a soft, hushed thump. She turned her attention back to the line of text which seemed to shift and dance under her eyes.

“The poems of Geoffry Chausseur, huh? Is this the book of naughty ones?” Marianne blinked as his warm brown eyes met hers, she hadn’t noticed him move to the seat right next to her.


“N-naughty ones?” Marianne stammered out.

“It is! It is!” Severus chuckled as Marianne flushed red as the eagle on the Orkney crest. “You’re blushing.”

“How do you know that I’m not blush-blushing because you even suggested that there are naughty poems?” Marianne asked as she fanned her heated cheeks with her hands.

“‘Cause unlike your sister, you have more brains than a bag of rocks. You’re at the library all the time. In everybody’s library. Ours, the Carico’s, the Academy’s, here,” Marianne blinked. How did he know that she spent so much time in the library? Did he notice that? She didn’t think it was so obvious…? “If you’re not with Vivi and Elizabet at some party, you’re in the library, it’s the first place your brother sends anyone to look for you. Vivi too.” Severus continued. Oh, her brother and friend, of course. He knew Brandon. He, obviously, knew his own sister. She could’ve told you where you were most likely to find Vivi or Brandon at a party too.

“Well, books are nicer–if you don’t like the book, you can just close it and find another one.” She explained.


“If it’s not being too forward of me–and–er–knowing that my definition of “forward” is a bit… more than most peoples.” He bit his lip and rubbed the back of his neck. “Are you–is everything alright?”

“Oh, just.” Marianne tried to think of a way to explain without sounding like she was whining and making a big deal out of nothing.

“Marianne–if you don’t want to tell me, you’re welcome to go tell me to jump into the river. Hey, I’m the one with no manners who is prying.” Severus pushed his hair off his forehead where it promptly fell right back into place. She wondered, for just a brief moment, what his hair felt like. It was the same color–almost–as hers, but more touched by the sun.


“You have manners.” Marianne protested.

“Not enough to not be talkin’ in the library.” He winked at her. “We probably shouldn’t sit and talk in the library. Could I ask you to trust my intentions and walk with me over to the Shrine of St. Betsy? Last thing my Sunday needs is a grouchy old monk stumping over here to yell about the sanctity of books or some such rot. My luck it’d be Brother Loki and I see enough of him during in the week.” Marianne smiled and nodded, getting to her feet. He blinked for a moment before bouncing to his feet as if he really hadn’t expected her to do it.

“I–I didn’t actually think you’d trust me.” He said as they approached the gates of the garden that served as a shrine to the patron saint of housekeepers and children in trouble. There was the hospital, where actual work was done, but every city in Lothianshire had a garden dedicated to St. Betsy.


“Why wouldn’t I? My brother would skewer you if so much as thought about doing something–untoward. Not to mention what your sister would do to whatever was left. Plus this is the shrine of St. Betsy and she’s known for helping people in trouble.” Marianne pointed out.

“True. You know what this is?” He jerked his head at the little stone and wood building by the stairs into the gardens.

“It’s some sort of Sminese shrine isn’t it?”

“Wishing shrine. The Sminese put them out in parks, if you toss a copper in and make a wish on it, they say if you wish hard enough as you toss your copper, it’ll come true.” Severus shifted from one foot to the other like he was nervous.

“Oh.” Marianne said, right now she wished she hadn’t left all her pocket money in her purse at home.

“You wanna try it?” Severus asked.

“Well–kinda. But I can’t, I left all my pocket money at home.” Marianne said.


“Well, far be it for me to leave a damsel in distress wanting for something.” He fished a copper out of his belt pouch and handed it to her.

“I couldn’t take your pocket money!” Marianne protested.

“You can owe me, I just get to name my price.” He batted his lashes at her with a smirk.

“You can name your price, but what you’ll get is one copper.” Marianne told him.

“Well, what if my price is for you to not sound like your sister with something uncomfortable stuffed up your arse.” Severus stuck his tongue out at her.


“Really, it’s your pocket money, shouldn’t you be making the wish.” Marianne asked even as her feet took her to the front of the shrine.

“My wish is for you to make a wish and tell me if it comes true or not.” Marianne blushed as his warm brown eyes seemed to be a little warmer. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as she flipped the bright coin into the air. I wish–oh there were all sorts of things that she could wish–I wish somebody’d like me. She seemed to hear a chuckle and not so much words in her head as an impression, something floating to the surface. If you only knew.

She heard the coin hit the stone bowl that held the other coins, but other than that fleeting impression, nothing.

“Well, it hasn’t worked yet.” Marianne reported faithfully to Severus as they walked up the stairs.

“It’s a shrine, maybe it takes time.” Severus said. “Although–did you hear anything?”

“Not hear–more like…”


“… Got an impression.” They said in unison. “So you’ve tried it.” Marianne said triumphantly.

“Aye. On a dare, once.” Severus shrugged.

“Did–your wish come true?”

“Not…” He seemed to lean a little closer to her. Close enough she could pick out golden flickers in his irises. “Yet.” She felt her breath catch, her eyes widening. And even as she was swaying a little closer to the fire in Severus’ eyes, he turned and the spell was broken. “Brandon, I don’t suppose you have that assignment we’re supposed to do for Loki’s class done yet…?”

Oh, bother and last seasons slippers. Marianne thought to herself as Elizabet often said when she was trying hard not to use course language. Was he–did he? Was it all in her head? And yet she couldn’t be sure that she was mad at Brandon because she didn’t know what that fire in Severus’ eyes meant–or if she wanted to chase it–or if chasing it was like chasing the white stag, something she’d chase forever and never catch.


Brandon and Severus chatted for a minute longer, Severus leaving with some sort of naughty joke that only made passing sense to Marianne and then he skated around Marianne’s brother and was gone with nothing more than a nod in her direction.

“What you two talking about?” Brandon asked as Severus went through the arches at the front of the garden.

“Oh–just the wishing shrine.” Marianne said.

“I’m sorry about Caroline.” Brandon said.


“Well, Elizabet says she’s not my fault–and that means she’s not your fault either and we shouldn’t be sorry over things that aren’t our fault.”

“Wise woman, your Elizabet.” Brandon chuckled.


“Aye that.” Marianne agreed, even as they walked out of the garden and her eyes caught on the wishing shrine again.

4 thoughts on “Everybody Loves A Clown

  1. Oh, indeed, Marianne, if you only knew. Lots of people like you! Your brothers like you! Your little sister appears to like you! Your father likes you, Vivi likes you, and most importantly, ELIZABET likes you, which I would say is a harbinger of good for your future.

    … And let me see … I think there might be somebody else … his name starts with an S …

    Still, I have to say, as much as I was happy throughout the beginning of this post with Brandon for standing up for Marianne (and HOW APPROPRIATE that Brandon is Marianne’s special protector! All she needs is a Willoughby to annoy her …), I kind of wanted to hit him with a wet noodle at the end. Way to ruin the moment, Brandon!

    But I have every hope that there will be other moments. As long as we keep Katherine and Caroline out of the room.

    … Oh, and Katherine? I don’t know where you’re getting your ideas about Gwynedd women from. Because I know the original ones, and the only one who would care as much about posture as you do would be Dindrane. And Dindrane would only care about it insofar as it increased blood flow to her brain. (And maybe, with her kids, she wouldn’t want their spines getting out of whack. But beyond that, she wouldn’t give a hoot.)

    One last thing. That voice, that impression … was it the Demigoddess, or was it the Chipmunk? ;)

    1. Well, the emphasis on like was actually supposed to echo back on the “liking” someone that she was talking about with Geoffry’s poems. As in she was kinda wishing she had a sweetheart if for no other reason than because she’s tired of Caroline lording Leo over her head.

      But, yes, she does have all those people who like her and they’re nothing to sneeze at.

      No plans, right now, for a Willoughby to annoy her. But I will keep in mind that you want one. Still, Brandon does need to work on his timing. Or maybe not… I mean after all, Marianne might kinda want someone (Severus) to like her, but she’s not really sure she’s ready for it.

      Oh, I’m sure there’ll be other moments. Severus has a huge-ass crush on Marianne, her brother appearing at one inopportune moment is not going to make that crush go away.

      The whole thing about Katherine and Caroline being “true Gwynedds” was mostly meant in irony, because being intellectual, good-hearted, and doing the right thing because it is right is pretty much the core of the original Gwynedd family. At least on some level, for all of them, they have some or all of those traits. But Katherine is the product of her mother who is a lot like Caroline is. (And she wasn’t even a Gwynedd.)

      The impression was the Chipmunk. She hangs around in shrines and wishing wells. And the rule of thumb will be if it’s a clear sort of vision or clear speech, it’s probably a visitation from the Demigoddess. If it’s an impression of something, it’s probably the Chipmunk, who is less powerful, but more intrusive than the Demigoddess. ;-)

      Thanks, Morgaine!

  2. Are all reincarnations in Boys of Summer limited to people using the same Sim as their Albion counterpart? Because if not, I’d like to put some money on Caroline being a reborn Babette…

    (Frankly, I suspect the only reason she pesters Marianne is because she’s jealous of her, though she’s probably not self-aware enough to realize it. Brandon obviously prefers Marianne, and I suspect Henry does too, and I’m sure the younger children will once they’ve matured enough to read people accurately. And while we haven’t seen Leo much, his interactions seem quite routine and ho-hum in regards to arranged marital prospects, so who knows if he has any real feelings for Caroline–and meanwhile, Severus is fairly obviously dead gone on Marianne. And Marianne has good friends! Does Caroline have any, or at least any who aren’t more of a “posse”? The only person who prefers Caroline to Marianne at this point is her mother, and frankly, Katherine seems like the sort of person whose opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.)

    I really hope that one day, Marianne finds it in herself to call her mother and sister out. I think Katherine needs that prod about why her sisters don’t talk to her. Caroline definitely needs that prod about Marianne getting her laces tighter than she does, even with cream and sugar.

    And yeah, I think if any of the original Gwynedd ladies can hear Katherine just now, they’re rolling on their clouds laughing, and maybe wondering if the midwife pulled a switch. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Katherine comes from the Aglovale/Babette line?

    Loved the library, and the wishing shrine at the end! :)

    (Though, oh, Brandon–I like you, but you need to work on your timing!)

    1. You have pretty much hit the nail on the head, Van. People do prefer Marianne to Caroline and Caroline doesn’t know why. Not being self-aware enough to see that she’s reaping what she’s sowing, she just continues to sow unkindness and gossip and petty cruelty.

      Caroline does have friends, at least on paper, (as I haven’t wanted to make the sims yet, though I will and we’ll see some of them at Elizabet’s birthday event) but they’re more a posse than the real friendships that Marianne shares with Elizabet and Vivianne. They’d all pretty much cut their friends to the bone for an advantage and someone gets thrown in front of a bus on average of once a month.

      Marianne should sometimes say those things she’s holding back. I am sure that it has never occurred to Katherine that the constant being on their cases is why her sisters won’t speak to her. (Or if it has occurred to her, she dismissed it within a half-heartbeat of thinking it.) As for Caroline and the laces, she could use to hear it, but I’m not sure she’d really listen to it.

      Yes. She is a direct descendant of Babette and Aglovale. I see the original noble lines having sometimes had their cadet branches twined back around them, so there’s probably more Gwynedd in them than just that, but Katherine definitely shows what branch she came off.

      Yup, yup he does. Thanks, Van!

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