31 May, 2011

Cousin of the Crown, Chapter Eight

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day Holiday.  I was thinking about all that Memorial Day means yesterday.  Not only to celebrate and honor those fallen in the line of duty, protecting my and others' freedoms, but all of my predecessors that made the wonderful life I live possible.  The thought struck me most yesterday when I was jogging.

I was running along some streets in my home town, wearing just t-shirt and running shorts.  Just think of the freedoms I was exercising during that half and hour.  The freedom to go where I wish, when I wish.  The freedom to wear what I want, when I want.  The confidence that I was relatively safe, that I had the right to defend myself and call for law enforcement should it be necessary.  Even the fact that I was showing my calves and arms is something that not every person in the world has the right to do.

And, of course, freedom of expression through speaking, writing, art, media and thought.  So, as a writer, musician and a person who thinks on occasion, this is for every single person who has worked and sacrificed to make my life possible.  I hope I can continue to improve our world and ensure my children have the freedoms I have enjoyed.


Cousin of the Crown

Chapter Eight

By: Elisabeth Treble

The malcontent between Terran and Gulin simmered after that.  I pained me to see it, to know that they had loved each other.  It helped to shore up my resolve which had been slowly and steadily eroding under Terran’s eyes and hands in the grand hall.  I had even thought of where we could meet, flushing as it crossed my mind.  I avoided that part of the palace like it was infested with snakes.  I would not let Lahdel and I fall victim to what Terran and Gulin had.  Even if Gulin didn’t realize what it was.

I threw myself back into the company.  If I wasn’t lead, I sang chorus.  If vocal exhaustion forced me out of that, I would work long into the night on costumes, sets, anything to keep me out of the palace and away from the princes.  I felt bad for Lahdel, left alone.

She came sometimes to watch me work.  But her heart wasn’t in it.  She was falling under the same depression I was.  Lonely, heartsick, homesick.

Terran stood one day at breakfast.

We all looked to him, our little family party, the king and queen, Henry, Gulin, Lahdel and I.  Terran stared at the far wall.

“I am leaving.” He said firmly.  “Father,” he made a little nod to the king.  “Needs someone to go to Dyyfed.  I have offered.”

I put my hands in my lap to hide their shaking.

“It is my place.” Gulin countered, his voice as cool and distant as Terran’s.  “Your place is here.  With your wife.”

Terran’s eyes flicked to Lahdel.  “I must beg your leave, Lahdel.” He said formally.  “I feel it must be me.  This treaty is most important.”

“Of course,” Lahdel said with admirable composure.

“You could always go with.”  I couldn’t believe it was my voice, but it was.

“Oh, no,” Lahdel said, smiling.  “I would be such a nuisance.  Go, Terran, and come home quickly.  You will not have time to pamper me.  And I do so hate sailing.”

We all laughed, falsely and shortly.

And just like that he was leaving.  The next day he stood by a horse, ready for the short ride down to the ship set aside for his voyage.  Lahdel and I watched as he spoke with a few men, leaving last minute instructions.  He came over to us and I faded back.

I stared at the ground as he talked with Lahdel.  I didn’t hear what he said, for which I was grateful.

“Lady Alea.”

I hitched a smile on my face.  “Safe journey, your highness.”

“I will miss you.”

“And I you, Prince Terran.”

He lifted my hand and kissed it, his eyes on mine.  I drew my fingers back carefully, so they wouldn’t tremble and give me away.

“Don’t work too hard.” He said, a smile on his lips, the first I had seen in weeks.  How could he let his control go now?

“I won’t,” I promised.

“Will you sing for me when I return?”

I blinked, my heart searing in my chest, clawing to get out.  “Of course.  I will always sing for you.”

He nodded and went to his horse.  Lahdel came and gripped my hand.

We stood and watched as he rode out the main gate and down the approach, finally turning and disappearing behind a low wall.  Lahdel sighed, squeezing my fingers.  I helped her inside, taking her upstairs to rest.

He was gone.  I felt oddly relieved.  I knew I was safe from acting on my wicked impulses.  At least until he got back.

Then everything went to pieces.

It was two weeks after Terran’s departure when Lahdel put her fork down suddenly, pushing away from the breakfast table.  I jumped up and hurried after her as she ran from the room.  She dashed out into a garden, her face in her hands.  I sighed, steeling myself to comfort her.  I did not expect to find her throwing up into a bed of flowers.

“Lahdel!” I exclaimed, rushing to her.  “Lahdel, whatever is the matter?”

“I’m sick,” she said pathetically, her skin beaded with sweat.

“Come, dear one.” I urged her, dipping my hand in the cool water of the pond and wiping it across her face.  “Let’s get you upstairs.”

She was trembling, her lips dead white.  The maids and I got her settled, propping her up and giving her cool water to drink.  She smiled weakly at me.

“Don’t worry so, Alea,” she said, squeezing my hand.  “I’ll be well…soon.  You’ll see.”

I canceled my appearances for the next week, calling in my understudies.  Lahdel urged me to go, but I refused to leave her.  She was already so weak and pale.  If she did not heal quickly, she would do herself real harm.

“How is she?”  Gulin asked softly.

I blinked awake, dozing as I sat by her bed.  She was sleeping well, but she continued to bring up anything we gave her.

“Better, I suppose.” I said, yawning.  “She hasn’t had much of a fever, which is a blessing.”

“Yes,” he said, his eyes on Lahdel’s face.  “But is she recovering?”

I shook my head, bewildered.  “Every time I think she’s better, she gets sick again.”

“And how are you?”

I smiled.  “Fine.  Just tired.  She frets; it is like trying to keep a monkey in bed.”

“I can spell you,” Gulin offered.  “You need to get out.  The sun has been shining, but you’ve missed it.”

I laughed softly.  “Tomorrow, then, you can come and try to keep her amused.  You are so very good at it.”

His eyes narrowed.  “What do you mean?”

“She likes you, Gulin.” I said, laughing at him now.  “Couldn’t you tell?”

He blushed and looked away.  “Do you need anything more tonight?”

“No, thank you.”

He left, shutting the door softly.

Another week wore away.  She was still ill, better, but not able to eat more than a few sketchy mouthfuls each day.

“I don’t understand,” I said, growling with frustration.  “What is wrong with you?”

Lahdel flushed.

“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that!” I scolded her.  “Buck up, you silly goose!”

She didn’t look up.  “Could I speak with you, Alea?”

The room went still, the already quiet tasks of her attendants silencing.  Then they stood and left, dipping little curtsies.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, moving to sit on her bed.

She took a deep shuddering breath.  “Alea.”


Slowly, she leaned forward until her forehead was pressing into my shoulder.  “Alea, promise me you won’t hate me.”

“What?!” I squawked.  “Lahdel!”

“Promise, Alea.  Swear you’ll still love me.”

“Of course I love you.” I told her, grabbing her arms and giving her a shake.  Resentment sparked inside me.  Hadn’t I proved my love for her?  Hadn’t I proven I would put her happiness above my own, above the man I loved?  She couldn’t know, but it still made me seethe.  I thrust it back.  “Lahdel, tell me what is wrong.”

She didn’t answer, her breaths grating.  “Alea, I have done something terrible.”

“How terrible?” I asked, snorting.

“I…I am pregnant.”

My nails bit into her arms before I could control myself.  “That’s wonderful news!” My voice said lightly, exultant.  “Lahdel, why-”

“It isn’t Terran’s.”

It isn’t Terran’s.

To this day I cannot describe what I felt in those moments, what an overwhelming rush of relief and fury, of desperate hope and shame.  I pushed her away, holding her at arm’s length.  My fingers had left marks in her skin, so tightly had I gripped her.

“Whose is it?”

“Can you not guess?”

I snatched my hands away.  She put her face in her own hands.  I stood; the floor felt very far away, remote

Gulin’s head snapped around as I slapped him, my palm stinging with the force of my blow.  The room went silent around us.

“Alea!” he exclaimed, appalled.  “What-?” he choked off, seeing the answer in my eyes.  He closed his mouth, setting his teeth.  He jerked a nod, admitting it to me.  I left, not seeing anything, not seeing the dozens of courtiers staring after me as I stormed from the grand hall.

Lahdel was still sitting in her bed, her head in her hands.

“What are you going to do?” I asked finally.

“I don’t know.” She said.  She wasn’t weeping.  If she had cried I would have struck her.  “No one knows, but you and…”

I took a deep breath.  “You have ruined everything.”

She nodded.  “Terran will know.  He has never touched me.  He didn’t even kiss me at the wedding.  He never wanted me!  I don’t know why!”

“Because he wants me!” I snarled, my voice harsh.  She jerked her head up.  “You selfish chit!  What have you done?”


I squeezed my eyes shut, shutting out the image of her white face, her horrified gasp.

“Alea?” she breathed.  “What do you mean?”

I met her eyes defiantly.  “Terran does not want you.  He loves me.”

“That’s impossible!”

I did hit her then, leaping across the room to smack her.  She stared at me, her mouth open, her hand over her red cheek.  “Alea!”

“Terran is mine!” I hissed at her.  “How dare you lie to him?  Do you know what he’s given up for you?  His own brother?  How dare you betray him?”

“And what about you?” she cried, pushing at me.  “What have you done?  How long, Alea?  How long have you lied to me?”

I was panting, my vision going fuzzy.  I forced myself calm, the urge to scream and laugh bubbling up, smothering every other feeling.

Lahdel was screaming, hysterical.  “That’s why he never came to me!  It’s your fault!  How long?  How dare you come to me and comfort me, when all along you were-were-!”  She choked, sobbing into her hands.

I glared at her.  “I have not betrayed you, Lahdel.  Terran and I were never together.  Because of you.”

She shrank away as I hammered at her, my voice hard and merciless.  “Because of you, Lahdel.  I stepped aside; I gave up everything I wanted, so you could marry Terran, because it was my duty, your duty, his duty!  You broke my heart!  It was killing me, knowing why he was hurting you.  And now you-” I couldn’t say it.  I broke off, whirling away.

Gulin was in the doorway, looking in on us, a scowl twisting his face.

“Is it true?  Terran wants you?”

“Yes.” I said, sneering at him.  “And I love him.”

Gulin closed his eyes for a moment, and then shut the door behind him.  “Alea-”

“What are you going to do?” I demanded.  “What were you planning on telling him?”

Gulin didn’t answer, but looked to Lahdel.  “Lahdel?”

She shook her head, shuddering.  “I cannot hide it anymore.”

He nodded.  “We have to tell my parents.”

“No!” Lahdel gasped.  “No, we can’t!  Please, Gulin!”

He spoke slowly.  “We’ll tell them it is Terran’s.”

“Absolutely not!”

Gulin turned to me.  “Alea, it is the only way.”

“I will not-”

“Alea.” He said sternly, looking so much like his brother I bit my tongue.  “It must be thought Terran’s.  You know why.”

“You should have thought of that before.” I snapped back.  Lahdel flinched; I ignored her small whimper of protest.

“Do not blame Gulin,” she pleaded.  “Alea, please-”

“I can and I will blame Gulin.  And you, you self-centered-”

“And what about my brother?” Gulin snarled, advancing on me.  “What blame do you lay at his feet?”

“He has done nothing!  We have done nothing!”

“Liar!” He shouted, deafening in the bedroom.  “Do not lie, Alea.  I saw how he looked at you!  How he touched you!”

“You knew?” Lahdel demanded, moving to grip Gulin’s arm.  “You knew he loved Alea?”

“I should have known.” Gulin spat.  “I should have seen it.”  He gripped his hair in his hands.  “Good God, what have I done?”

My fury dimmed as he sank to sit on Lahdel’s bed.  She pressed against him, crying, pleading with him.  He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, still staring blankly at the floor.  I backed away, then turned and fled to my own room.

I could hear them talking.  Their voices twined around each other, whispering, hissing through my chaotic thoughts.  I tried to think, to figure out what to do, but the only thing I could focus on was my own heartbeat and his name, over and over.

Terran.  Terran.  Terran.

What was I going to do?  What would I tell him?

Rage and joy surged within me, leaving me gasping.  And fear, deep, cold, petrifying fear.  It was over now.  Terran would never accept the child as his.  He would never lie about it.  He would break the marriage and send Lahdel home in disgrace.  It was only a matter of weeks.  Weeks, and then we could be together.  Until our peoples ripped each other apart.

I got up, weak, but determined.  I knew what had to happen.

Gulin was still sitting on her bed, her head resting in his lap.

“Tell your parents it is Terran’s.” I said hollowly.  He watched me with blank eyes.  “When he comes home, we will decide what to do then.”

Gulin nodded slowly.  “Alea.”


His face tightened.  “I am sorry.”

I turned away, disgusted.  Lahdel was still crying, hiding her face.

“I’m going to bed.” I said over my shoulder.  “Do not bother me until morning.”

I lay still in the darkness.  I heard Gulin leave.  Lahdel cried for hours, until her voice broke and she fell asleep.

Finally, mercifully, darkness pulled me under and I slept as well.

27 May, 2011

Sci-fi Kick

So, I've been on a bit of a science fiction kick lately.  I've been watching silly sci-fi stuff on Netflix.  I've been reading sci-fi stuff.  So, naturally, I've started writing a sci-fi space-opera sort of thing.

I love it.  It's super fun.  I get to make stuff up.  Sci-fi is "supposed" (note sarcastic quotes) to be based in science, but if it's ten thousand years in the future and in another solar system, who's to say it isn't science?

So what makes science fiction different from magic-type fairy-tales?  I'll give you a hint.


Of all the reading I do, I have discovered that most stories involving either a cowboy/girl, a space-man/woman, a prince/-cess, or a knight-in-shining-armor/er...can't think of a fem version of knight..., are the same story.  That's why they're so awesome.  It's all about a hero and a villain.  If that villain happens to be a fifty-foot tentacled space invader as opposed to a fire breathing dragon, well...

E. T.

25 May, 2011

Cousin of the Crown

It seems I always have an excuse for why this is late, so I will simply say sorry and move on.  Here it is.  Tell me, if you have the time, what do you think of Terran and Gulin?  Henry is pretty much a minor character and I don't care much about him anymore, other than as fluffy bits to fill up their world.  I know what is going to happen between these two brothers, but I want to know what your thoughts are.

E. T.

Cousin of the Crown

Chapter Seven

By: Elisabeth Treble

Gulin came back.

I had hardly noticed he was gone, so absorbed in my own life, in Lahdel’s.

“Lady Alea,” he said, bowing to me.

“Gulin,” I cried, going to him.  It soothed my heart to see him, even if his eyes were the same color as Terran’s.  Just not as serious or steady.  How could I have ever thought them similar?  His hand was stiff as I grasped it.

“Please, Gulin,” I begged, with more feeling than I meant to show.  He looked to me, surprised.  “Please, do not be angry with me.”

“I can’t be angry with you,” he said low and tense.  “That is the problem.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said tartly.  “I am hardly worthy of a prince.  Haven’t you heard?  I’m a famous actress, now.”

He smiled, his stern expression easing.  “I had heard.  Congratulations.”  He kissed my hand.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

“Welcome home, brother.”  Gulin shot his older sibling a startled glance as Terran stepped up beside us.  There was nothing nice in Terran’s tone, steely and keen, like a knife.

“Terran,” Gulin said, dropping my hand to shake his.  “Sorry to have left you so long.”

Terran blinked and smiled, suddenly easy again.  “How were the mountains?”

“Snowy.” Gulin said, making a face.

Terran laughed and clapped Gulin on the back.  “Tell me.”

They went off together, slipping through the crowd with their heads together.  I went to the wall and sank to a chair.  I was never a fainter, but I came close then, breathing quickly, the room echoing very far away.

I forced myself to my feet and went back to Lahdel.  She was laughing, the most sincere laugh I’d heard since I came back.  Gulin was describing getting stuck in a snow drift while surveying their mountain mines.  I joined in, ribbing him mercilessly.  Terran was out dancing.

He came back for Lahdel.  He always did, dancing at least once with her each time, no matter how casual the setting.

Gulin fell silent as we sat together.

“Alea,” he began.

“Please, Gulin.” I interrupted.  “Please?”

He sighed.  “I’d hoped you would change your mind.”

“I am sorry.” I said.  “I just can’t.”  I couldn’t stop loving Terran.  I had been trying.

Gulin smiled at me.  “Friends, then?”

I nodded.  “Always.”

“You would have liked Glenshire.” He said after a moment.  “It was cold.”

I laughed.  “But I love the sun!”

“Yes, but not the heat, I think.  Didn’t you grow up in the back hills somewhere in Talin?”

“They are not the back hills!” I protested.  “There are at least two estates even further out than my father’s.”

“Close enough.” He grinned at me, the last of the anger fading from his eyes.  I breathed a quiet sigh.  He hadn’t loved me, not like his brother.  Not the all-consuming, self-destructive force that kept Terran’s jaw set, his shoulders stiff.  I feared for him, so tightly he was wound.  He looked desperate most mornings, like he was barely holding onto himself.

“How do you like being our own prima donna?” Gulin asked, jerking my thoughts away from his brother.

“Very well.” I said.  “Though, I am getting tired of young men yodeling in the garden under my window every night.”

Gulin snorted.  “Poor Alea, loved and admired by everyone.”

I blushed.  “You know what I mean.”

He searched my face suddenly.  “You look thinner.  Are you unwell?”

There was an involuntary edge in my voice as I said, “You’ve been away from court too long.  You’ve lost your touch for flattery.”

He was taken aback.  “No, no, I meant…” His eyes narrowed.  “Alea.” He warned.

I smirked and turned away.  He swore grumpily, giving me a rueful smile.

“Alea, you are beautiful.  You know this.”

I shrugged.  “Lahdel says I look pale as well.  Maybe I should have gone with you.  I could use some sun.”

“It is odd to see you not either burned or tanned,” Gulin teased.  “Too many nights on stage, I suppose.  When are you singing again?  I’d like to come see you.”

“Lady Alea.”

We both jumped.

“Prince Terran,” I said, nodding to him.

“Dance with me.”

I counted five eternal seconds before my lips moved, making the shape of smile.  “Of course.  If you would excuse me, Prince Gulin.”

The younger man’s face was set, but his voice was easy enough.  “We’ll speak more later.”

Terran’s hand and mine barely touched, like we were each straining not to actually feel the other.  His other hand was light on my waist, not resting there, but hovering.

“Are you having a pleasant evening?” he asked quietly.


“Are you happy Gulin is home?”

I looked up to his face then.  His eyes were blank, like they always were.  “I missed him.”  I admitted.  “He makes me laugh.”

Terran grunted and the music started.

“You were lovely last night,” he said after a few minutes.  “But doesn’t your voice get tired, singing all the time?”

“Sometimes,” I said.  “It depends on the role.”

“I see.”

I hesitated an instant.  “How are you?  Really?”

He moved his eyes from his stare over my shoulder to meet mine.  “How do you think?”  His hands did touch me then, pressing into me for an instant before he eased away.  I shivered and he felt it.


“Don’t!” I whispered fiercely.  “Don’t say my name like that!”

He nodded.  “I won’t.”

We danced in silence until it was over.

“Please don’t do this again.” I said as he bowed to me.  I was trembling, my legs week.  Being so near him for so long was crushing my resolve, my determination to be good.

“I’ll try.” He said.  He handed me off and disappeared into the crowd.

He didn’t try hard enough.

He claimed a dance from me, too, usually the one right after Lahdel.  I grew calloused to it, going so far as to be able to talk with him in a normal voice.  It would look odd if we danced several times a week and never said a word to each other.

Having Gulin home was a blessing.  Henry had never cared much for me or Lahdel and had no time for us.  Gulin would come and spend his mornings with us in Lahdel’s solarium, keeping us laughing.  Some of the stress weighing down on her lifted, and consequentially from me as well.  If he wouldn’t have taken it the wrong way, I would have kissed him.

Terran never came.

It was late in an afternoon, the days just starting to lengthen again, when I chanced upon the two of them talking.  Arguing, in low, tense tones.  I stilled, my heart hammering.  It was a quiet wing of the palace, where I knew Terran came to work when he was upset.

“What is going on?” Gulin demanded, his voice rising.

I cringed.  I knew what this was about.  Gulin had to have noticed, to have heard the whispers.

“Leave it.” Terran warned, his voice as cold as his brother’s was heated.


“It does not concern you.”

“It damn well does!” Gulin snarled.  “She’s my sister, now, Terran.  What are you thinking?”

Something heavy slammed, like a book hitting a table.  “Gulin!”


I closed my eyes.  Just say it, I pleaded silently, not knowing why.   Just let it out, tell him.  Explain.

“Go away.” Terrsn said finally.

“She knows.  Everyone knows.”

“Knows what?” He was wary, now.

“That you won’t have her.  You don’t even share a room!  How could you think no one would guess?  It’s crushing her, Terran.  She was never very strong, not like her cousin.  You have to have her sometime!  Why do you wait?  Think what you’re doing to her, to Alea!”

“Do not dare to direct me, Gulin.”  Mentioning me was a mistake.  I shuddered at Terran’s tone.  Get out.”

I ducked into an empty room until Gulin had stormed by.  I followed silently, slipping into a garden, still trembling.

I was too distraught to hear Gulin’s steps until he snapped my name.


I jumped, staring up at him.

“What the hell is going on?” he snarled at me.

I was a coward.  I knew it and I was not ashamed.  Faced with the same question, I couldn’t make myself tell him.  Couldn’t tell him how I loved his brother.  So instead I asked, “What do you mean?”

“You know what I mean!” Gulin snapped.  “Terran and Lahdel!”

I hushed him.

“We’re alone, I checked.” He bit out.  “Tell me what’s going on!”

I winced.  “Lahdel says…” I shrugged helplessly.

Gulin swore then, his fists on his hips.  “Who is it?”

I couldn’t lie, so I said nothing.  He shot me a hard look.  “You know, don’t you!”

I shook my head frantically.

“Don’t lie to me, Alea!”

“I’m not!” I shouted back, jumping to my feet.  “I tried to reason with him!  He is acting crazy!”  He was. I was.  We were both out of our minds.

“He’s a fool.” Gulin growled.  “Talin could annul it.  It would ruin everything.”

I gasped as he said my deepest, darkest wish aloud.  More than anything, I wanted my king to lose his patience, to grow furious with the shame heaped on his daughter and take her back.  It would be terrible for everyone, for every single citizen and soldier dragged into it.  I didn’t care.

Gulin sighed suddenly, rubbing his face.  “I’m sorry, Alea.  I shouldn’t be angry with you.”

“Its alright.” I said shakily.  I sank back to the bench.  “The stress…”

Gulin nodded.  “I imagine.”

I bowed my head, breathing deeply to calm my stomach.  I still couldn’t eat.  Terran’s abrupt attention was not making it easier to deal with.

“You don’t sing tonight?”

I shook my head.  “No.  We have two weeks pause.”

“You need to rest.”  Gulin’s hand lifted my chin, his fingers gentle.  “Really, Alea.  You look terrible.”

I believed him.  “I am tired.”

“Go to bed.” He said.  “I’ll sit with Lahdel tonight.”

“Would you?” I asked.  “She likes you.  You make her laugh.”

“Something I assume she has not done much of lately.”

I had to smile.  “She knows all my jokes already.”

Gulin chuckled.  “Go on.  Before I have to rewrite my love songs to include the shadows under your eyes.”

I made a face and left, leaving him in the garden.

It was well I wasn’t at dinner.  Terran punched Gulin in the face.

Lahdel told me about it when she came up, her eyes wide.  She had soup staining her dress.

“And then Gulin jumped up and shoved Terran over the table.  Everyone was screaming.  The guards had to pull them apart.”  She was bouncing in her chair, biting her lip.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” I said, grumpy.  I had actually been asleep, for once dropping off effortlessly.  “Just a disagreement.”

“The king lectured them in front of the entire assembly.” Lahdel continued, her color coming and going by turns.  “It was terrible.  They wouldn’t say what they were fighting over.”

Me. Laid my head down, miserable.  They are fighting over me.  The egomaniac thought made me flush from my hair to my toes.  But it was true.  They were fighting because of me.  And I couldn’t leave again.  I couldn’t leave Lahdel here to face it all by herself.

The urge to tell her was almost overwhelming.  I lifted my head again, looking at her as she stared out the dark window, her brow furrowed.

“I hope he is alright,” she said softly.

I sighed, turning my face away.  I couldn’t.  She was my sister, a woman I loved, that I had cared for.  It would crush her.  She was already thin and pale, both of us reduced by the situation.  There would be no way to fix what would break between us.  It would only make it worse.

And she would send me away and I would never see him again.

She left soon after, leaving me alone with my jealousy and selfishness.  I huddled under my blankets, chilled through, and tried to sleep.