Vignette: Polite Enquiries

Who: Isolwyn, Zinovia, Zaimika
Where: Silverfield Hold
What: Isolwyn decides to find out whether it was Zinovia who ordered the attack on C’aol.


She doubted that he would see it as anything but unwelcome interference, but the thought had been nagging at her ever since C’aol had suggested that Lady Silverfield was responsible for the scars he’d been left with and a fear for his life, when, in her experience, very little else seemed to faze him. Isolwyn would have preferred to have Eosyth by her side for what she was to do, yet her being on the Sands made it an impossibility that she would have to live with. She had gone through all the proper channels, careful to be more considerate than she might otherwise have been, given that Silverfield Hold was not in Fort’s territory and thus a visit could not be excused away with matters of politics, and had encountered no resistance to her request.
Rather than ask one of Fort’s own bronzeriders to accompany her and start unwanted rumours, she enquired after her cousin’s willingness to accompany her to Silverfield and found he was primarily willing to help her because he knew all too well the kind of words that might be thrown around if she didn’t. No-one remotely connected to Fort’s Blood grew up without an understanding of the importance and danger of rumours.

While he waited in the courtyard with his bronze, she forged ahead to Silverfield’s entrance hall, the gift she had brought tucked under one arm. She couldn’t quite anticipate how C’aol might feel about her bringing a present for his child, but the fact of the matter was that it would seem like a bribe if she gave something to the Lady of the Hold and then set in on her line of questioning, and it was rude to turn up with nothing at all. Therefore, the child was the safest option. She was well aware that there were two of them, close in age, but the other was not her concern and not the heir, besides.

And it was the girl she couldn’t look away from when Lady Silverfield and her daughter arrived to greet her. The girl who had her father’s eyes and made her heart constrict for what she had so recently decided against. Following an exchange of the usual pleasantries, she held out the gift to Zinovia rather than Zaimika, letting her mother have the first and final say as to whether it was acceptable. She watched as Zinovia knelt beside her daughter and showed her the little music box and how to wind it, the dancer who would move across the mirrored surface within something pointed out and left to Zaimika to figure out.

“What do you say, Zaimika?”

The girl looked up at her mother, clutching the music box to her chest, before turning her focus to Isolwyn. “Thank you, Weyrwoman,” she said politely, dipping into a shallow curtsey. A few seconds more found Zaimika running off, followed by a nanny, while Zinovia directed her guest forward into one of the Hold’s many parlours.

“I admit I wasn’t sure what to make of your communication,” Zinovia confessed, sitting down in one of the chairs before the hearth. “We only really have one thing in common, Blood aside, and I’m sure you can’t mean to discuss that.”

Isolwyn sat herself in the chair opposite. “Actually, I think you will have to forgive me for what I’m here to ask you.”

“In that case, I’ll hope that you’re simply concerned about any provision for any children you may bear your Weyrleader and how Zaimika’s existence stands to impact what they stand to gain from their potential father.”

“No, I—“

Stubbornly sticking to a mannerly avoidance, Zinovia stated, “Zaimika is legally mine. Her sire plays no role in her financial worth or training as my heir. He has no say in her future whatsoever; that is what was arranged in the wake of his injuries. He is not contracted to provide me with any further children.”

“Lady Silverfield, I assure you, I would never be so crass as to turn up on your doorstep and enquire as to the raising of your child.” Isolwyn pressed her lips into a thin line, “However, what I have to ask you certain does exist in the same vein as crass.”

After less than a moment’s silence, Zinovia asked, “Does he hurt you?”

Isolwyn arched a brow. “Did he hurt //you//?”

Without hesitation, a, “Yes,” was supplied.

“Was it against your will? All of it, I mean.”

Zinovia propped an elbow on the arm of her chair and stared into the flames. “…I’m going to assume that you have reason to enquire because his dragon flies yours and that puts you in the path of intimacy with him. And because you are a fellow woman, I will tell you.”

Rather than correct her assumptions of unwillingness, Isolwyn quite literally bit her tongue.

“The contract between C’aol and I was signed in the early months of my weyrlinghood because the Conclave demanded I produce heirs in a set time to secure my Hold. He was Blooded and seemed like the best choice I could entertain at the time, his being a rider allowing me to keep any unwanted connections and suggestions of long-term relationships from the thoughts of Lords and their heirs.”

“So you were willing, as far as any legality is concerned.”

“…I was ‘willing’ because I required heirs and having my children long before I wished to was something I had to do for the good of my people. I couldn’t turn them over to someone who didn’t understand them or the Land.”

“That still doesn’t mean—“

“No, it doesn’t. Zaimika was conceived when Daeserath caught Yukijiath in her maiden flight. He hurt me. It was… brutal, for want of a better word. But there was pleasure in it, because it was a flight, and flights make us want and enjoy all sorts of things we don’t usually do. I left that bed with injuries that needed a Healer’s attention, but not before I goaded him into having sex with me again. I thought if I could get it over with in the one encounter, the more times we… The greater the chance of my falling pregnant.”

“You invited him the second time, then.”

“Zaimika was not conceived through rape. What a burden to land a child with. I enjoyed the second time as I had the first; he even made sure of it, in his own way. I can’t say I would choose to bed him again over the sire of my second child, but it was what it was.”

“And that was it? Your first and last times with him were violent and left you hurting?”

Zinovia sighed. “It left me hurting and… irritated that I’d enjoyed it, but hopeful that I would conceive, and that was what I had to focus on.” She closed her eyes for a moment before confessing, “He took my virginity long before the flight. I knew I had to sleep with someone before she flew and that I would end up with him anyway if it took us months to conceive, so…”

Isolwyn coloured to hear a measure of her own reasoning for letting the man she was now in love with be the first to bed her.

“…And that had been violent too, but I provoked him to get it over with, as I did later. He wasn’t kind or gentle or affectionate, though I think he tried beforehand to make sure it wasn’t unnecessarily painful. I think maybe he just liked the power and playing was his way of exerting it.”

“You’re still angry,” Isolwyn surmised, still unable to conceal her blush.

“No.” Zinovia shook her head. “I conceived a child. It was what I needed it to be, all of it. I was… anxious after her birth that he would interfere and want a hand in deciding her future, which is why I asked that he sign away any rights to paternal involvement in that respect. I was angry then that my encounters with him had been violent and focused on his gratification and that the Conclave had put me in a position where I had to endure sleeping with someone I didn’t love or care for as a means to an end. That, in bed with him, I had had no control. He suggested that he make sleeping with me again a condition for relinquishing Zaimika, which would have been against my will, but I would have done it, if I had to. I don’t bear him ill-will. I invited him into Zaimika’s life, after all. He’s her father; I can’t wish for him to suffer.”

Silence.

“Does he force you?” the Lady Holder questioned, as if it were no more than an offer of tea.

“No,” Isolwyn responded, without deflection this time.

“Hurt you?”

“Yes. Mostly when I ask him to. And you can judge me for that all you like, but it sounds like you enjoyed it too.”

“I don’t think a woman who takes her wife’s twin to bed is truly in a position to judge.”

So, the rumours were true. Interesting. But it was time to deploy her lies to cover the true reason behind her enquiries, the sting of recent weeks making it too easy to appear discomforted. “So, you say you bear him no ill-will, despite the circumstances of your past involvement… Am I to assume that this would remain the same if he were to sire children that would be your Zaimika’s half-siblings? That you would not view them as a threat to her?”

“If they were to one day attempt to leverage that relationship against her, then there would be a significant problem, but since I can assume you mean yourself to be the mother of these supposed children, your Blood by far outranks mine. Connections to Zaimika would surely be a last resort on the list of links to exploit.” Zinovia smirked. “I wouldn’t be jealous of his fathering children with another woman. I love my daughter. I have nothing to gain from being at odds with C’aol or feeling… much of anything at all about him.”

It was almost funny to play demure and bashful to another woman when it had been one of her tactics with the sillier boys who had been desperate for her to love them.

Still, she departed Silverfield Hold certain of one thing.

It hadn’t been Zinovia who had encouraged the attack on C’aol.

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