Books, Family, and Protestation of Love...
Books, Family, and Protestation of Love…
Location: House Chantris Library in Chantris Manor (Amber)
Date: August 20th, 14 (OOC Year 2017)
Summary: Veronica invites Iolion to the Chantris Library after finding potential evidence of his parentage. She also discusses an item of Mon magic she is considering looking for and he declares his love for her.
Characters: Iolion and Veronica
NPCs: Alfred Butler (the butler of Chantris Manor)

Veronica has been doing a lot of research in the Chantris library lately and, having found information to help both of her primary lines of research, she calls for Alfred. When the butler arrives she hands him a note she has sealed in an envelope.

"Alfred," she says to him, "Please have this delivered to Princess Deirdre's son Iolion. When he arrives have him brought to me here or in my chambers if I have left the library." She then forestalls his response by adding, "I don't care if you have instructions otherwise. This is personal business that involves him directly and this room is the best place to relay it to him."

The butler nods and leaves to follow the directions given him. While she waits, Veronica reads from a thick tomb. Sometime later Alfred personally escorts Iolion into the room and clears his throat.

"Lord Iolion to see you Lady Veronica," he says before quickly stepping out. He does not say that the rest of the staff has been told to stay out of the room for now so as to avoid any hint of their involvement in this skirting of the Duchesses decision about the Princess' son.

Without closing the book in her lap, Veronica looks up and smiles. She indicates a chair paired with her's, on the other side of a small, circular table that stands between them, as she says, "Please join me, Iolion."

Iolion was a bit surprised to receive the summons from the courier, but still — when the courier found him in his preferred coffee shop, Iolion studied Veronica's Trump for a moment as if contemplating whether that would be a correct thing to do. Ultimately he decided no: if she's doing it this way there must be a reason for it. And so, giving the runner a good tip for his services, he set off in a run for Chantris. After all: whether it's a summons or not …

… she wants to see him.

*Wants* to see him.

That's the sort of thing that warms the heart of a man who finds himself mighty confused by how a woman's got him chasing his own tail.

In short order he arrives at Chantris and takes a few moments to comport himself before entering and asking to be taken to Veronica. In time, he's there in the library, more than a bit confused as to why he's being taken to a place that's off-limits for him, but not dumb enough as to ask questions. Once before Veronica he greets her with a polite nod and a smile that, although professional, holds the hint of warmth, like a spring breeze in the tail end of winter. "Veronica. It's always a pleasure."

"I hope you don't mind my not standing," Veronica says with a nod to the large book in her lap. "Please sit," she says with another wave at the previously indicated chair. As her hand passes over the table an observant man like Iolion will notice another book on it with a folded piece of black paper laying on top of it, a piece of paper Iolion cannot help but recognize even without seeing the silver script he can predict he would find were he to unfold it.

"Thank you for being so quick to come, I think I found something that you will find important," she explains.

He takes the indicated seat, of course. He has the good sense not to appear over-eager, nor to let his eyes linger on the invitation. It was left out in the expectation he'd notice it, of course; he noticed it; to linger on it would … just be gauche. "Most things are important, coming from you," he offers with a tone of gentleness: not wishy-washy nor milquetoasty, but simply stating a truth which does not to be underlined, shouted, or elaborated.

Veronica picks the book, and the note on top of it, up from the table. The note is quickly returned to the table before she holds the book out to Iolion. "I'd like to start with the matter that I believe you will find the most important topic I wanted to discuss with you," she says as she obviously expects him to take the book from her.

He accepts the book, of course, without any commentary or dashing commentary. (Okay, fine: commentary that's dashing in his own mind.) Instead, he simply accepts the offered codex, then sets it down on the table and begins to open it to wherever the bookmark in it is placed. "What precisely am I looking for, Veronica?"

The first bookmark opens the book to the first page. It identifies the book as the personal journal of one Gallenus Chantris, volume number fifteen.

Veronica grins a the question and says, "Look at the pages I've bookmarked. I wouldn't want to taint this by spoiling the act of discovery for you." She then sits back expectantly watching him as he flips to the next page.

At the next bookmark Gallenus' careful script talks about the two great loves of his life: his wife Grace and "the sun that brightens his days and nights when she visits him." The second person isn't identified on the page nor is the paragraph great poetry but had obviously been in a nostalgic mood that day around 50 BC (five years before Iolion was born).

"'The sun which brightens my days and nights'. So… someone noble-born, someone he shouldn't be associating with but is. Someone with enough stature that keeping things as 'dirty little secrets' seemed reasonable." He gives a grimace as he reads it, then looks over to her for a moment to make eye contact, to hold it. "It's never reasonable. People deserve better than to be made into secrets." Then, looking back down towards the book: "I've never heard of this fellow. But that's unsurprising, given how poorly I'm integrated into the family. Gallenus Chantris. All right. And what's the next milestone in my journey through the stacks?"

Veronica chuckles and nods. "Good deductions there, uncle," she says with a wink and nods at the book as there are additional bookmarks.

At the next page, close to the end of the book, there is an entry dated more than four years later. In this one, Gallenus writes "I still love the sun and I hope she will forgive me should she ever find out that her sister stole my affections from her last night. May the unicorn forgive me but I think I love them both."

After letting him read that she says, "There's one more entry that matters."

This next entry, dated more than a year after the previous one and in this one he speaks of the heart break he felt upon "the moon's" return to court after a long absence and her not giving him the time of day any more.

He reads it in silence for a moment, then gently pushes the book away from him as if it were a live grenade. "That is a man not long for this world. Or any world, for that matter. Flora still holds grudges over Deirdre stealing her boyfriends from over a century before Beatrix was born. So, this … the timeline … we have …" He mulls it over for a little bit, measuring the angles, contemplating. Then: "While I am immensely fond of you," accompanied by eye contact that's impossible to read, "I cannot help but think you have discovered a bomb that I was looking for. I … am immensely grateful, I am, but … I also fear for you. Flora may … react very badly to this revelation should it ever become public. And Deirdre would react very badly to either of us knowing it, because she would know how awful Flora's wrath might be. Thank you, Veronica. But … I fear we've found a bomb."

Veronica nods. "True, but I was looking for mentions of your mother being associated with members of the house and this was the only one I found," she explains. "Also, please understand… for a personal journal to be in the library the author has to be dead."

"That explains Deirdre declaring him to be dead," Iolion answers with a slight grimace. "So. This is … the Old Man, then. Still as much of a cipher as he was before, but … Gallenus Chantris." He studies the book for a while, his expression suggesting that on some level he feels like it should be more significant to him: this is the journal of the father he never knew, the father that was hidden from him. But … "It's weird," he finally says as he closes the book and slides it back over towards her. "I spent so many years wanting to know who he was. I was expecting … something. But in the end, it's just a name. Maybe it'll hit me later, I don't know. But. I don't know. It's … very confusing right now." A pause, and then — "I mean, even more confusing than it normally is being around you. So what does that make us?"

Veronica watches is reaction and shows compassion in her expression before saying, "We are third cousins as Chantrises if this is your father. His son Drake and I are for sure at least…" and she watches for a reaction to /that/ bomb.

"Long-lived folk have many children. The family trees get … weird. You and I are more second cousins than great-uncle and great-niece. My only sister is Beatrix; I have no brothers. I do not know your grandfather Mordred; I hold him neither fraternal love nor animosity. Likewise for this … this Drake fellow. I do not know him. He is not my brother. Perhaps in time that will change. Perhaps not. But … I also can't really go to him and say, hey, sport, guess what?, not without setting off this bomb we've - - you've - - discovered."

He sighs and places his head in his hands, clearly more stressed out over these revelations than he fully understands. "I'm building a … a proper relationship of siblings with Igraine. Slowly. Only a few bricks have been made in the edifice, but she wishes to build one, as do I. Beatrix and I are thick as thieves. And you … I'm not even going to go there. But Drake? I don't know him. He's not my brother, in any sense that matters. And I … just … can't handle that right now."

"I'm sorry to have made your life more complicated, Iolion," Veronica says with compassion. Then, in an effort to change the subject, she asks, "Would you like to hear about my other discovery here," she taps the book in her lap, "or should we discuss the invitation first instead?" She tilts her head toward the black paper as she mentions it.

"In the hopes that the last will be the best, let's talk now about your other discovery." Smiling but beleaguered, he holds onto his good cheer like a drowning man clings to driftwood: without it, he knows he'll be lost.

"I found mention of an intriguing item in this text about Montevalno," Veronica explains. "It's a coat that is mentioned in a few stories and is associated with Artists from Calestrina, spies from a number of principalities and is tied to rumors of at least one assassin. The stories discuss it helping its owner blend into crowds by changing its appearance as well as helping hide items from curious eyes," she explains excitedly.

Her excitement is a balm for his worries; it doesn't make them less, but it helps him not pay so much attention to them. It's one of the neat things nobody ever talks about in human relationships: getting tangled in another person's happiness is a pretty good way to ditch your own miseries for a while. "Please tell me your next words are, 'Come with me?'" he opines, smiling a bit, a note of hope in his voice.

Veronica's laughter crinkles around her eyes as well as being voiced. She nods as she speaks. "I'm going to have to do some additional research before I'm ready to actually hit the field, but yes. I'd love for you to go with me when I head out to retrieve it," she says.

"You and me." He says it simply, as if it's a truth to be accepted rather than a proposition to be debated, before reaching over towards her. He stops halfway there, his hand out, palm up, as if waiting for (expecting? hoping?) she reciprocates. "This is already good news, Veronica. Already. Thank you. And the final thing?"

Veronica, not being familiar with the gesture stares awkwardly at the raised palm and frowns. "Not sure what you are expecting of me there, Iolion," she says, not addressing the question yet.

"Where I'm from it's an invitation for someone else to clasp your hand — to share the human touch, whether for a moment or an evening. An invitation to just — to touch, to be known, to feel. It doesn't mean we're getting married, just … shared humanity. You can hold hands with lots of people. There's no sense of exclusivity."

The hand is grasped and squeezed and then, when he releases her hand Veronica playfully smacks his. "You really can be a jerk some times you know," she says with a smirk before turning to the next subject by asking, "So… what happened to me not being permitted at Moon Court events, Mister Master of Ceremonies?"

"And you can be … really infuriating, too." He gives a small smile — not the pride of someone who's seeing another as a conquest, but more like the relief of someone who's one step closer to peace. "But we're good together, I think. When we're not … being jerks or infuriating. We can work on it." Then, almost offhandedly: "And Aunt Vi wants to meet you. Just saying. About you not being permitted at the Moon Court … well. Mom has her ideas of how it should be run. I have my ideas. And if Mom's not going to run it, then … she's left it to me. And I say you're welcome there."

Veronica's right eyebrow rises in curiosity and she simply stares at Iolion for a bit before asking, "And what about your mother's ire?" referencing their previous conversation on this topic, "You're willing to risk it now?"

He gives his head a shake. "I don't plan on flaunting anything in front of her. If she chooses not to see, then … she chooses not to see; and that's on her. If she chooses to see, then … she chooses to see; and that's still on her. What I told you before, Veronica, was that it was a pretty big decision to make. I didn't say I wasn't in the process of making it. I … I don't know how we'll make it work, let me be frank. I don't. But we can at least stumble forwards together, yes? And … part of that stumbling forwards means making sure you get invited to these things."

He gives a faint sigh - - not a sad or self-defeating thing, much more an expression of … resigned amusement, really. "What can I say? I've fallen for you. It's the sort of thing that's been known to happen. And it's not … some childish infatuation, it's not limerance writ large. It's something where I've got a good idea of the troubles ahead, and … yeah. This is the right thing for me to do, Veronica. I just hope it's the right thing for you, too."

Veronica smiles softly and tilts her head to one side. She opens her mouth to speak and then closes it and tilts her head to the other side. After another false start she finally, quietly, says, "You are dear to me also, Iolion," but she doesn't not return the L-word and her expression shows concern that she may have hurt her cousin/friend/uncle with that omission.

His smile takes a slight turn for the wan, but the man has also developed reserves of good cheer over the span of his life: and if he's taken a skewer through the heart, well, it's not as if it wasn't a possibility he was reconciled to. "It's not something you say to get a response from someone," he says after a few seconds, still smiling: even here, bleeding from a shishkebab, he has the good sense to keep it discreet and to do his best to shield her from being hurt in turn. "The only people who say it expecting something are ones you're too good for. It's something you say … something I say … because it's something the other person has a right to hear. You have a right to hear someone you respect tell you that you're lovable. You have a right to hear that someone tell you I know it from direct, personal experience. You have a right to hear that someone loves you. Don't … don't waste any time feeling bad about how you feel, or don't feel. Or the words you say, or don't say. It was never about those things. Isn't about those things."

Veronica smiles warmly at the follow up. Her reply is obviously meant to be heartwarming. "Thank you, Iolion," she says graciously, "I appreciate it. I return your love as well as you are, as I said, dear to me."

He's silent then, but retains his smile. He's heard what's said. He's also heard what she has been too kind to say. For a few moments he just breathes, and strangely enough, he doesn't look anything like a man wrecked. Skewered. Bleeding. But still standing, and with the quiet pride that says he's lived how he chose to live, and he's pleased with the choices he's made.

"Do you know why I love poetry so much?" he inquires in a good-spirited tone. "It's because when you memorize it, when you study it, when you feel it … you learn where it came from and why. And then, when you find yourself in that spot, you … already have your words made for you. More eloquent words than you could yourself reach for." And then:

"Suddenly the night has grown colder
The god of love, preparing to depart
Alexandra hoisted on his shoulder
They slip between the sentries of the heart.
Upheld by the simplicities of pleasure
They gain the light, they formlessly entwine
And radiant beyond your widest measure
They fall among the voices and the wine.

It's not a trick, your senses all deceiving
Some fitful dream the morning will exhaust
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving,
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost.

Even though she sleeps upon your satin
Even though she wakes you with a kiss
Do not say the moment was imagined
Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for this to happen
Go firmly to the window. Drink it in.
Exquisite music, Alexandra laughing —
Your first commitments tangible again.

And you who had the honor of her evening,
And by that honor had your own restored —
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Alexandra leaving with her lord.

Even though she sleeps upon your satin
Even though she wakes you with a kiss
Do not say the moment was imagined
Do not stoop to strategies like this.

As someone long prepared for the occasion
In full command of every plan you wrecked
Do not choose a coward's explanation
That hides behind the cause and the effect.

And you who were bewildered by a meaning
Whose code was broken, crucifix uncrossed
Say goodbye to Alexandra leaving
Then say goodbye to Alexandra lost."

And then he's rising, coming around the table, and leaning over Veronica - - not for a passionate embrace, but for something even rarer in Amber: a guileless and simple kiss to her forehead. "Goodbye, Alexandra leaving. Goodbye, Alexandra lost. Thank you for the journey. It was - - will always be - - special to me."

And then he's straightening up, smiling at Veronica, and…

- - turning - -

… heading towards the exit.

She sits there for a moment in stunned silence and then stands so quickly that the book nearly falls from her lap… but she catches it and having done so practically slams it into the chair behind her. "That… what the hells do you mean by that?!" she says sounding both hurt and angry, perhaps betrayed by her heart as well as Iolion's response. "I… are you trying to manipulate me into saying something I don't feel like I should….?" she doesn't say right now, but an observant person with linguistic skills might catch the meaning despite that… unless his mind was so bogged down in his own emotional tangle to prevent it. She seems done speaking for the moment however and just stares at his back… or the door if he had already begun closing it when she started speaking.

He stops in the doorway, then turns around with a - - it isn't confusion on his face, or irritation, or anything else like that. It's peace. It's the look of someone who has finally lived up to the Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi, and the Highest Rule:

"Do what thy manhood bids thee do,
from none but self-expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies
who makes and keeps his self-made laws."

There's a kind of serenity that comes from doing as one's conscience demands. It very often upends the serenity of others around, though.

"You said, 'I appreciate it.' You said I'm dear to you. I get it. I've been turned down by women before, Veronica. When I was younger I took it very badly. But neither of us are kids any more. There are standard phrases that are used. 'You know you're dear to me.' 'I don't know what I'd do without you.' 'I don't ever want to hurt you.' 'You're the finest man I know.' They're the standard things. There's always a silent 'but' attached, and it's always: 'but no.' I get that, Veronica. I accept it. I'm dear to you. But no. I accept it. And I wish you peace."

"You can be a total ass, Iolion," Veronica says as the heated anger she was expressing moments ago melts away into a simmering chill. "I said /thank you/ and that you are important to me. How can you say you love me and think I'd ever treat you like those /girls/ who played with you that way? Do you really think of me that way? If so, please let me know what I ever did to give you that impression. I really want to know." Somewhere during this her hands went to her hip putting her in that classic 'angry woman' pose which, on her in this moment, seems as natural as white on rice and a perfect complement for the angry side of neutral expression on her face.

His expression is shifting to that of a dog who's heard a strange new sound and is trying to determine whether this noise belongs to the class of SQUIRRELS! or things other than squirrels. It isn't necessarily a bad look: in a certain light, it might in fact be a hopeful sign. SQUIRREL!, or … not-squirrel? Fido isn't wagging his tail furiously just yet: there have been many false alarms, and many times the owner just pretended to throw the ball.

SQUIRREL! or not-squirrel. These are very important questions for a dog.

Or a man, for that matter, especially if he's pretty much reduced to running on canine instinct at the time.

"You said, 'you are, as I said, dear to me.' That's what that phrase means. It means 'but no'. And I did … exactly what I'm supposed to do. Take my licking, smile, walk away, don't tell anyone what happened, remember how fortunate I was in the first place to even be in the running. You played the 'you're dear to me' card. So I did. What I'm supposed to do. And you're angry."

Clearly, Fido is having a hard time. Did Owner throw the ball? There is no ball downrange. He looked! He's a Good Boy! Good Boys look! There is no ball downrange! Ball is still in Owner's hand! Why is Owner angry at him?

Veronica allows the pain her inner turmoil is causing her to show in her expression as she crosses her arms across her chest… this is not the traditional Lecturing Woman(tm) arms cross but the unisex Hugging Oneself Defensively(tm) arm cross. In a small, defeated voice she says, "But I never said no… that was you… after you pulled the rug out from under me." She pauses and then, in the same quite voice that might require some strain to hear, adds, "Maybe leaving is the best idea," before she sits down back down in the chair and turns sideways to look at the fireplace instead of the doorway.

/blood makes noise it's ringing in my ears
and I can't really hear you in the thickening of fear/

Maybe on some level he can hear her words. Maybe on some level he's capable of processing this. Maybe on some level he's got the right poem for the occasion, the right bon mot, the proper elegance of fashion. Maybe Mr. Taiji sent him off with a change of perspective. Maybe he's able to think.

And maybe King Oberon runs in his blood.

Maybe none of that matters right now.

Maybe all that matters is the pounding of blood in his veins, the hum of it as it pulses through his ears. Maybe all that matters is bad old King Oberon slowly waking up from his slumber deep in his grandson's soul. The whispered /might I be of assistance, nephew?/ isn't spoken aloud: it's a shadow leftover from a dead man, a bad and wicked tyrant who, for all his faults, knew one thing better than anyone who has ever walked in all of Shadow:

How to cut through the bullshit with a battle-axe.

He barely has time to will, yes, before he's marching over towards Veronica with precise, swift strides: a soldier's walk, a tyrant's, a madman's. And he's /fast/, almost as fast as a horse at full gallop, and she's only a few feet away.

He has a special dispensation from Original Sin.

He doesn't tackle her. He doesn't lunge for her, doesn't haul her off. Doesn't lift her up and throw her down on the table, none of that: it's just that one moment he's across the room and in an eye blink he's right there in front of her, deep within her personal space, his eyes on hers with the fury of a mad god and the intensity of a psychopath.

But if, for a moment, he's tapping into the Blood of Oberon, never let it be said that he is Oberon. It isn't Oberon's hands that are cradling her jaw, not Oberon's hands that are keeping her looking square at him. Those are Iolion's hands. Oberon isn't laying hands on a conquest: Iolion is placing his hands on his love. The madman is in his eyes, but the man rules the madman.

"You," he reminds her in a voice so dark and rich it ought be bottled and poured as after-dinner brandy, "are too good a person to sound so defeated. By anyone. Especially by me."

There's no defeat in the eyes staring back at Iolion. No, Veronica's eyes are sad… and not in the puppy-dog fashion. Then she speaks and her voice supports her words in a way that may cut Iolion worse than the anger could have earlier because her excitement earlier is gone… at least for the moment. "I'm tired, Iolion," she simply says.

Opportunity! the madman cackles. Capitalize!

No, the man says back. Restraint.

Slowly, the fury and the beyond-sanity in his eyes melts a bit to reveal some of the Iolion she knows. His response to her is simple: to nod, then to press a kiss to her forehead as tenderly as he would to a child. He gathers her up in his arms, holding her safely in her moment of vulnerability - - and not heeding any of that madman's exhortations to make the most of it.

"I'll take you to bed," he tells her quietly. He doesn't clarify the sense in which he means that: Oberon would mean it one way, the man would mean it another. He just … trusts that Veronica will hear which one is running the show.

A slow shaking of the head comes before Veronica softly says, "No, Iolion. I appreciate the offer but I'd like to stay here by the fire for now." She pauses and asks, "But if you would please have Alfred bring me some tea…?" And it is handled in a way where it doesn't sound like a dismissal (although it clearly is) and her wan smile is a clear indication that she appreciated the spirit of the offer.

Oberon wouldn't brook the disagreement; the man respects her agency. He gives a serious nod to this, then seals it with another kiss to her forehead. "I love you." The three words, delivered simply, without apology or equivocation. Small words, but nothing in the world is larger.

Then, after walking with her to the fire and waiting for her to get comfortable by it, he turns to leave the library. On the way out, he signals to Alfred. The two gentlemen are going to have a brief conversation, it seems, and shortly, she will have her tea.

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