January 15th, 2011
|08:48 am - More Joy Days: Day #3, Post #1, the conclusion of the Stonewoods story|
Hullo on this fine weekend! More joy, more joy!
I'll do my nonfiction requests later today, but this post is the last of the three requests from mamculuna , janus_74 , and ljrags (who asked for 'emeralds'). This is not quite that... but close. ;-)
They sit by the fire and drink Morgan's best wine (darkest crimson, rich, blessed for depth) from the cellar. Alice thinks of times gone by, of fire and Morgan's wine and yet different snowlight, a different world. Rhys still smells of that world -- his boots and cloak a Guild-man's disguise, the leather tie in his hair a mark of his status in the court she and Morgan fled.
During lulls in the conversation he looks around at the things of this world, television and music system and all, and frowns. But he says nothing, and Morgan and Alice allow him his silence.
It is when Morgan has gone into the kitchen to collect food to accompany the second bottle that Rhys speaks. Turning his glass around, he murmurs, "I have missed you both, you know."
"Have you?" Alice smiles. "One wouldn't have thought so -- the way you've always dug at Morgan, tested him." Hurt him with lies and betrayals, in the Guild and out. Taunted him with glimpses of affection, then withheld them at a whim.
"Simple envy," Rhys says airily, as if to pretend he's not speaking solid truth. "Brother mine has always had the damnedest luck."
Alice remembers the night-run through the snow. She remembers one of her aunt's assassins on the docks as she and Morgan moved toward their ship and freedom. She remembers Morgan's stumble when the cursed knife went into his side, she remembers the blast of his retaliatory spell and her own furious rush, sword out.
Blood on the white-capped waves as the assassin fell, and Morgan's wounded smile into her eyes.
"Damnedest luck, indeed," she says, and finishes her wine.
"Too smart for his own good," Rhys says, and then, "That of course reminds me of my errand! Beg pardon, true Queen...." He leans over, near overbalancing, and starts to rummage in the depths of his discarded cloak.
Morgan comes back just as she suppresses the beginning of tears. He's carrying a cherrywood tray of nuts and his best bread and slivers of cheese -- this world's approximation of the good meals they all shared over the sea. "Here, to soak up some of that wine," he begins, and then, "What in wood and word are you doing, you ridiculous fool?"
"Collecting the gift, idiot." Rhys bounds up with a grace Alice recognizes as peculiarly Wood, a wind-shivered dance of limbs. He takes the second bottle off the tray and puts in its place a leather pouch. "Trade, good for good."
For a moment Morgan just stands there, holding the tray -- but Alice can see the strength of his grip, the tension in his fingers. Then he smiles at her and sets the tray on the ottoman before her. "My heart, the gift is for you."
She stares at the small, brown bag. The cord that secures it is raveling at the ends. The leather is scarred, old, once well-cared-for but now needing attention. (Rhys, she thinks in passing, is not a good steward of anything.)
She doesn't know what it is, but she has a sudden heartbreaking suspicion.
"I think," Rhys announces, "that I shall survey the snow again, as I shall be leaving after this bottle..."
"What?" Morgan says. "You're not staying?"
"No, I shan't be staying tonight. This is not a place for a proper Guild-man, even if proper in name only." Rhys smiles, just as if he had not sliced at his brother and himself with one knife-sharp sentence.
Alice would correct him for that discourtesy, except the bag still rests on the tray, and she can't think of anything else. Rhys gets up and goes into the dining room. It is Morgan and Alice alone by the fire, with his gift between them.
"My heart, it is not designed to make you sad," he says softly.
His care for her is warmth indeed, and strength. It's enough to give her a true smile, to give her fingers steadiness as she pulls at that old cord and spills the contents of the bag onto the tray.
A greenstone, depthless as the power of a Guild-man and thus the symbol for that mage's circle. Morgan's greenstone, given to him by his father when he earned his place in the Guild.
His hand covers hers. "I left it when we ran, but I told Rhys that should we be...gone... the length of time set down in the Chronicle, I would need it back. For you." His smile is true, too, if touched with grief.
Alice Stonewood knows exactly what he's telling her. No one on earth can take away Morgan Stonewood's power, but those across the sea can erase his name from the histories and the circle.
He is a Guild-man no longer.
As if reading her mind, he says, "I haven't been one since the day we crossed the river together. Your man now, your man alone."
She interlaces their fingers as they've interlaced their names and lives. "You are your own man too, Morgan Stonewood. Greater by far than any mere Guild-man."
His smile goes sideways. "Then why are you crying?" he says, and thumbs away a drop of salt.
"How dare you say I'm crying, my heart," she says, and it comes out in the voice of a true Queen indeed, and he laughs, tired and real. Then she picks up the greenstone, green as any emerald, and kisses it. "I shall hold and honor your stone indeed, as is only right."
This, she thinks, is simply a renewal of a vow she made long ago. But it's well worth saying again.
And then he's kissing her, wild as the first day he kissed her, and she knows more than ever she made the right choice.
"Oh for the love of hedge and tree, would you two stop that?" Rhys says from nearby. "It's sick-making, truly it is. You're too old for that."
"Don't listen to him," Alice whispers, and then takes Morgan's mouth again before blood can be shed.
Once a queen, once a Guild-man. Together, the Stonewoods.
More joy to all!
Thank you thank you, C, for your reading and commenting -- I send joy and hugs back to you. :-)
Wonderful :) I love reading about the Stonewoods and their past.
I'm so glad it pleased, T!
Joy and thanks sent your way. :-)
|Date:||January 15th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)|| |
Oooh, I've got tears in my eyes. This was sublimely lovely.
What a lovely thing to say, A. Thank you thank you for reading, and more joy to you today!
|Date:||January 15th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)|| |
Happy! Happy! Contented! :)
Always enjoy your writing. Thank you for the moment of joy and fun!
I'm so glad the tweak of your prompt was close enough!
Thank you thank you for reading, and more joy to you and yours today. :-)
Sad and sweet. A past that promises a future.
Thanks for all the joy, so well done. Hoping there will be no end of Stonewood tales.
Thank you, mamculuna
, for reading, for kind words, and for giving me joy -- more joy right back at you! :-)
|Date:||January 15th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)|| |
Thank you, L. [beams] More joy to you!
Thank you, Stevie. Thank you twice, with more joy. :-)
More of the Stonewoods is joy indeed. A little tearfl here too.
::salutes you with the proper vintage::
I'm so glad you find the Stonewoods to be a joyful thing. :-) Thank you, ALH -- your comments are a joy too!
[hugs and good cheer]
Thank you, S, thank you so much. More joy to you, without ending!