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Author: rustydragonfly
Challenge: Pineapple 25 (I suppose you're wondering why I've called you here today), Fudge Ripple 24 (complacence), Soft Serve 21/50 (Blueberry Yogurt 3: a secret)
Toppings: gummy bunnies (origfic_bingo October card: history)
Extras: malt (fudge ripple PFaH: Rosa : sneaking into the building)
Wordcount: 1326
Rating: all ages. Contains a brief mention of racism.
Story: Manifestations
Summary: Rosa reveals a secret to Jen - but before that, Ardea reveals another.
Notes: Arc 9 continues again. Things are slotting into place and I wouldn't blame anyone for feeling a bit lost here, so if there is anything I can do to make things easier, please tell me and I will do my best.

There be stuff about Rosa back here!



Jen supposed he shouldn’t be hungry after Dhaymin stormed off, but he had been taught not to dismiss good food for frivolous reasons. Whether or not imprisonment and an argument with his brother counted as frivolity he didn’t know, but he couldn’t deny that he was still hungry. As he pushed Dhaymin’s chair back into place and pulled out one of his own, he felt his hands tremble. He’d have said it was from the events of the past day, if his last meal hadn’t been since the previous night. While the delayed breakfast before him was not the most flavourful meal he’d eaten in his life, he hardly cared when he felt his stomach fill up and warmth spreading through his body, while he gulped down cups of pine tea without a care for the heat.

It was only when he’d eaten his fill and turned back to the door Dhaymin had vanished through (would he calm himself and apologise, Jen wondered, or would he do well to stay out of his way until then?) that Jen heard the jingle of keys in a lock. He dusted the crumbs from his shirt and got to his feet, for while he didn’t know who he was expecting to walk through that door - Ardea or Iktin, probably - it paid to look presentable. City people liked that.

He certainly hadn’t been expecting Rosa.

“Jen?” The door closed behind her, and he realised she wasn’t carrying keys. She fidgeted with her fingers, looking all around the dim room. Jen stood by the table and hoped that whatever he wanted, it would be a brief visit. “Are you fine in here?” she said.

“Yes.”

“You’re... sure?”

“Yes.”

She looked around again. “If that’s what you say...”

“If you’ve come here for something, get it over with,” said Jen. Two arguments were in one afternoon weren’t worth considering, and after what she’d done in the forest... well, he wasn’t going to think of that until he decided how he felt about it.

She walked over to the furthest corner and gestured for him to follow. “Here,” she said, in a low whisper. Jen joined her.

“What?” he said.

“I need to talk about last night.”

“Oh,” Jen said, keeping his voice as quiet as he good given the subject. “You mean when you shot at me?”

“Yes.” She looked up - she was much shorter than he was - and met his gaze. “I shot to miss.”

-

When she was finished, Iktin met her and led her away. She didn’t tell him what they’d said, only that she’d enquired about Jen’s well-being. Here and now was only a detail. She was too busy thinking of the events of the previous morning.

-

“And Rosa, was it? Could you stay for a moment? I’d like to talk, if you can.”

“Yes,” she said. She could already see what Jen had done. It was something she’d learnt a long time ago, something Jen had almost certainly done to win his life. Feed the suspicious, give them what they want, and they’ll back off. She thought she’d left all that behind.

“I understand that you had some involvement with those two. Did you know about Jen’s situation?”

Rosa glanced around the chamber. “No, Lord Ardea.”

She didn’t tell him what she thought of it.

“Do you know why I’m asking?”

“No, Lord Ardea.”

He smiled, as she watched him in his seat. “I’m concerned about you. I suppose this is a bad time, but I should tell you I’ve known who you are since you arrived.”

The door was behind her, and she and Ardea were alone. If she moved quickly, he might not know she was one until it was too late. All she needed was to pick up Cinn, and..

..and Jen must have thought of this too, and, through the haze of sleeplessness, come to the same conclusion. She didn’t move, and didn’t protest. She didn’t ask “How could you know that?” or “You’re wrong.” She forced down every urge to run, and smiled, though there was nobody to see.

“Please don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ve met your family. I’m under the assumption that you left for a reason, and as such, I’m not interested in returning you.”

And, if she thought back, she could remember a day back in Fellstar Peak, when a strange Luccani man climbed the mountain to ascend to the seat of Kastek under her father’s blessing, and how her family performed the rites as they should, though they whispered and shook their heads and thought he couldn’t know... “I left with their blessing,” she said, and that was not a lie, if she said nothing about the gun, or the hunting dogs, or the garden with its peach tree that never bore any peaches.

“Rosa,” he said, “if you don’t believe me, and you think I would send you back, would I not have done so by now?”

“You might have your reasons.”

“My reasons,” Ardea said, “are that I tasked myself long ago to ensure the well-being of Kastek. One of you is an oddity. Three of you might be a pattern. Could you come over here?” He held out his arm. “I’m afraid I don’t find it as easy to get up as I used to.”

She obeyed, stepping forward to let him take her arm and lever himself up against her weight. His hands felt thin under her sleeve. “Is that better?” she asked.

“Yes, it is. Now, there is another reason I can’t just throw you out. When you arrived, you gave me some of your coins, remember?”

“Stake money,” she said. It was an unusual concept, and one that her mother and aunts would surely mumble about amongst themselves when they sat down to discuss the events of the outside world. She thought back again, to that day in Fellstar, her father proclaiming him the guardian and ruler of Kastek, and wondered if he’d remembered her. But he couldn’t - she’d been hidden away beside the rest of her family, and there was no way he could have seen her. But a man like Ardea surely heard everything, sooner or later, and some of those mumblings and whispers must have reached his ears in the end, if only from his comment about leaving for a reason. He spoke to her as if he knew what it was. But a good guess would get you close, she thought.

“Yes. And as long as I have that money, you belong under Kastek’s protection as well as its rule. As do they.”

“You could take it back.”

“I could, but there are some things that I don’t know.” With his free hand, as he steadied himself against her, he fished into a deep pocket somewhere in his robe, and opened his palm to reveal three coins. “These are the coins they gave me. Do you know what they are?”

Rosa stared. They were no coins that she had ever seen. They bore no denomination, not even an inscription that might have let her guess where they came from. The only design she could make out was a faint branching design, like an ancient cobweb stretched and deformed into an interweaving, organic texture, and there was no pattern she could discern, though each one appeared the same. “No,” she said.

“These are the coins given to me by the brothers.”

“They’re not Rhusavi.”

“No,” Ardea said. “Do you understand now? The daughter of a great house shows up in my city and will not give her true nature, and that is a strange thing. Two brothers ask for shelter from the winter and one is tarnished, two strange things. But when they give me coins that nobody can decipher, that is a pattern. You see, Rosa Jakinto, I would not fault you for running away. These affairs of ruling become more complex year on year.”

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
bookblather
Feb. 1st, 2013 06:51 am (UTC)
Oooh, the plot thickens deliciously. Can't wait for more!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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