Aden of Aden
I did as my father commanded. It helped that he told me he would care for our mounts, as it allowed me to quickly obey and let me know just how serious he recognized my need to restore my relationship with my mother. I saw her look up when I entered the kitchen, then as if surprised it had not been my father that walked in she had an odd expression on her face.
“Mother,” I said, “I might not be a princess, but I would like to be the mother of princesses. Father said that I would need to go to Thiminy to accomplish that.”
She returned to making a blackberry pie as she replied, “You father is a knight of the land, Aden. You should know that he has a residence there, as we go to the royal castle a number of times during the year. The only problem with your plan is that King Terish and Queen Straekin are often traveling.”
“If they are gone, could I summon you and have you teach me?”
She locked her gaze upon me. I saw the movement of the other ladies in the kitchen also stop. There was a moment of silence, then finally my mother replied to me.
“Yes, Aden, I will. I know, of course, but I’m scared.”
“I won’t make it my decision, Mother. I don’t know why you picked the man you did. Father tried to explain, but he kept saying it was your decision. Mother, I will allow you to help me. However bad your decision was, I trust you learned from it.”
“No, Aden.” She moved to hug me, then tugged to get me to start helping her with the pie as she explained. “It is not my decision or anyone else’s. My mother’s fault was in being extremely happy with Therlik. Honestly, I was pleased with him as well. What failed me was my heart, Aden. I let my heart decide, and it chose very poorly. I can be cold, Aden, and I do not want you to see me like that. When you are listening to your heart, I will be afraid. I would rather not be around you then. However, Aden, do not think my distance is to deny my love or trust in you. No one believed me when I mentioned the problems with my first husband. Aden, I cannot help you with your decision, but I will listen to you and believe you afterward.”
Understanding the type of decision I would have to make, I asked, “Even if I move far away?”
“Aden, come with me.”
Mother commanded some of our servants to finish her pie. She then had me follow her into the house. Of course I went after her. I had grown up doing things with her while listening to her speak to me. It had been a wonderful childhood, and I was not ready for it to end. Mother brought me into her own bedroom. She and mother Mersidda had their own rooms, although both usually spent time assuring father’s room would speak of their presence there. Mother commanded a servant to leave, then had me close the door while she went to her desk.
She pulled out a folder made from fine silk from the back of a lower drawer. She did not explain what the packet held. I watched as she simply set the folder in my hands, then commanded me to read the contents.
Before I could say anything, she then added, “I will speak to your father about your decision. He visits the royal castle regularly, so surely has facts to help advance things properly. Until then, prepare yourself. If you want something to talk about, I just gave it to you.”
I opened the folder to see letters, then looked to my mother to ask, “You will talk about this?”
“Honestly, I am wondering if you will.”
“Mother, I spent my whole life talking with you. Why would I stop?”
“Because I stopped. That is where my mother failed, Aden. She stopped listening to me. Aden, I will never stop listening to you. I raised you to have this moment with you. You now need to go somewhere I did not go. Wherever you end up however, I promise I will be listening for your voice.”
I rushed to my room to store the collection of letters away. Only now coming to my years as a woman did I have any real privacy, as my bothersome younger half-sister was still in the nursery. Eniyer, my older half-sister had married less than a year ago so had gone to start her new life with the oldest son of a human gentry living in the mountains claimed by the dwarves. Having the room to myself, I gathered things without any fear of another claiming them. Feeling that I would be able to read the letters in peace, I rushed from my room when the bell for supper rang out.
No mention of my situation occurred during the meal. Of course the matter was between me and my mother, and most accepted that our topics would not be discussed openly. While my father had been included in the situation, he was also protective of the relationship between my mother and me. He did speak of what he had been doing, and had us practice our use of the dwarf language as he related a conversation with a group of artisans of that race. After the meal, I was free to return to my own situation with no one knowing what that was.
There was a large tree out near some fields where Lord Rebitten grew oats. It was far enough from the house for what radiation from my magic light box could be seen around the trunk would probably not be noticed. Considering most of my siblings were still young and restricted to the nursery, I did not expect to be bothered. I thus settled against the trunk of the tree and read the letters mother had given me.
I heard movement, and saw Agrell sitting next to me. He had height just as father did, and was working to gain the muscle. Everyone said that he looked like our mother. While I had her name, most spoke of seeing a mix of the traits of my parents in me. Since Agrell was my brother, I did not get upset at his presence.
He said, “You were crying, Aden. You don’t cry.”
I explained, “Mother gave me some letters, Agrell. You could probably be allowed to read them, as they are from mother’s family. Most are from her father, but a couple are from her older brother.”
“Did someone die?”
“No, Agrell.” I began crying, and found my brother to offer me a handkerchief to wipe my eyes. “They are all apologies. Every letter, Agrell. Every letter has an apology. They are sorry for what happened to mother, and sorry for her coming to be the wife, and not the only wife, of father. Mother won’t talk to me because she does not want me to end up like her.”
“You and mother always talk.”
“That’s why I am crying, Agrell.”
“Oh.” I was grateful that he did try to understand. “But mother is happy here.”
“They mention reading letters from her where she speaks so well of her life here, but then they start apologizing all over again.”
“Oh. So, what are you going to do?”
“I am going to Thiminy to learn how to get a landed noble as a husband. I will become the mother of princesses.”
He went silent for a short period before asking, “Can you learn that in Thiminy?”
“Where else would I go for that?”
“I don’t know, but King Terish goes all sorts of places.” Agrell then moved to hug me before asking, “Aden, do those letters speak of why none of those people, the family of mother, never came to visit?”
“No. That topic does not come up at all.”
“You find a husband from somewhere that I would want to visit, Aden. You can do that. I’m stuck, Aden. Father’s not a landed noble. I will not inherit a title. I do have some clout to becoming a knight myself, but I will have to earn it just like father did. Even if I do, I will be here. You however can gain a man with a castle, and serfs, and power. Do that, Aden. Give me somewhere to go. Give me a challenge to equal. At least, continue to give me my sister that does not cry.”
I tried to smile as I said, “You mean give you a reason to write apologies to me on why you haven’t visited?”
“Better than apologies for you being in a place of lesser status. I am going to be writing to you of Thiminy, Aden. You know this place. Make me want to know about the land you find yourself living in.”
“That sounds like a challenge for me.”
“Our lives are going to be so different, Aden. Still, no reason to stop being related to each other. You keep sending me letters challenging me, and I will do what I can to send you letters challenging you. A lot better than apologies.”
I handed him back his handkerchief while saying, “And should our children read them they should not cry.”
“Well, not unless it is speaking of someone dying.”
I thanked Agrell for his time, then started gathering my stuff together. He mentioned having a couple of chores left to do before being able to truly relax. I assured him that I could carry the things back, then started to return to the house.
Mother Mersidda was visible sitting in a parlor, but it was the voice of father that commanded, “Aden, I hope that I am presenting you with no problems in telling you to prepare to leave for Thiminy.”
I moved into the room to see father working with a dwarf musical instrument. Mother was also seated, so I assumed the two wives had been listening to something he felt would entertain them. Since he had not played it for us at supper, I assumed it was one of the more bawdy tunes the soldiers would come back from the bars singing. As if he needed to explain himself, father set down the music instrument to speak to me.
“When I made my regular report to my superiors, I mentioned your decision. It seems that both are in Thiminy at the moment. One of their plans is being put into action. I am going to have to make my own appearance in a week or so, but Queen Straekin said that it would be best for you to go on to their castle. How soon could you be ready?”
I answered, “I would just have to pack, Father.”
My mother replied, “You can leave tomorrow, Aden. You have some good dresses, but Queen Straekin will probably provide you with a whole new wardrobe.”
“Will that be necessary?”
“Aden, our king and queen are powerful people. As small as Thiminy is, it has a reputation vaster than any other. People risk their lives to cross the desert to come here. Because of the fame of this land, your father was summoned to a distant land where he won the grace of Mersidda and me. I believe you are not aware of what all you will be prepared for. A new wardrobe is probably the most minor change that will come to you.”
I curtsied, then said, “I will see in what condition I am when you arrive, Father.”
Mother Mersidda said, “We are not that far away, Aden.”
Those words had me think of something, but I first looked around to assure things were truly private before saying, “Mother, I read the letters. Don’t you ever write a letter like that to me. You’ve done your best. Don’t you ever feel a need to write a letter like that.”
My mother replied, “Aden, I told you that they did not listen to me. I promise you that you will always find me listening to you, and believing you.”
“Then I am ready. It’s not my heart I fear, but my future. If your life has shown me anything, it is that the future can be good. However bad the moment is, the future can be good. You keep reminding me of those words, but do not ever apologize.”
My mother shot from her seat to hug me. We cried for a moment, then assured each other that we would not stop talking to each other. My mother then assured my father that I would be ready to leave tomorrow, and with Mother Mersidda saying she would also help me pack I found myself realizing that my life was about to change.
And Aden finds an unexpected question and answer.