Be So Cruel

“Still working?”

Peldirion did not look up from his writing. “I am always working,” he responded mildly.

Lothiel watched him from the door of his study, her presence an affront to the privacy of the entire house. “Not always. I saw you on a walk with Halethon earlier. It is kind of you to look after him.”

“He is my friend, Miss Lothiel. Such loyalty is not uncommon.” Peldirion’s dark gaze lifted from his papers, giving her a harsh, pointed look.

The woman shrugged off the look, and stepped inside the room. “He deserves the best, of course, for giving so much in the name of our freedom.”

“I will extend your compliments to him, then, as well as your sudden adoption of patriotism.” As she casually glanced about, Peldirion noted how carefully she had prepared herself. Everything was meant to appeal to him, from the simple, flattering cut of her dress, the color, and the way she stood to encourage any gaze that found her to wander. Then there was the lack of customary blood red on her lips,  and the way her dark blonde hair, woven in an intricate braid, caught the light. Things he pined for ten years ago and would have had him sweeping her off her feet. Things on her that, since then, had repulsed him.

“Do not make fun. War will make patriots of us all. But not you… You’re a hero for saving him.”

Sighing heavily, Peldirion closed his ledger with a definitive thud. “What do you want, Lothiel?”

She drifted in like an independent breeze, toying with the sash of her dress. “I want to know why I am being forced to leave.”

“You know why,” he replied, as if softly reprimanding a child. “You are a widow, and it is improper that you remain here.”

She was suddenly beside him, leaning against the straight edge of the heavy desk. “It doesn’t have to be,” she said quietly. “This is my home, Peldirion. I am meant to be here. And we…”

He had to give her credit for the effort. She was a lovely woman, to be sure, but it took every effor to not to berate her and have her sent from his sight. “We what, Miss Lothiel? Whatever we once had is long dead.”

A hurt expression masked her frustration. “Is it? I am still me, Peldirion. You would leave me destitute, and alone? Surely you would not be so cruel as to abandon your brother’s wife… a woman who loves you, to the world?”

Pushing back his chair, Peldirion rose to his feet. He did not touch her, but he hovered, ever so close,  dark blue eyes capturing Lothiel’s as he peered down at her. She responded just as he expected, her breath catching, and heat flooding her cheeks. “My dear lady, I do not believe you ever loved me, and if I were to pursue my brother’s wife if would be Adrovorn’s.”

Lothiel started out of the trace he had held her in, and scoffed. “That northern witch?”

“She outshines you in every way,” he replied coolly, ever so carefully tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “She is not a parvenu, and holds her own land and titles by right. But I doubt my station and accomplishments would be enough to even tempt her.”

Lothiel blinked in surprise. She probably only carried a promissory note. She drew a breath to speak in her defense, but had no chance to as he continued. “No, I have made other arrangements for my marriage. You can assure my mother of that. You will leave this house, as is proper, and stay with your family. The arrangements have been made and your dowry has been returned to your father.”

Her control snapped, and Lothiel recoiled a step from him. “How dare you do so without my consent!” she shouted.

“I do not need your consent.”

“So what? You think being Vice Consul gives you the right to –”

“Miss Lothiel, it gives me every right, though I do not need its position to give me authority in such matters,” said Peldirion calmly, stepping forward as he motioned to the office door.

Herded out from behind the desk, Lothiel scrambled for a response, advancing back to him as she gazed up with a sorrowful expression. “Is this how it ends, then? You banishing me because you cannot find it in your heart to forgive?!”

He caught her hands as they reached for him, and trapped her with a gaze that made her pull back. He did not let her. So many hateful, perfectly crafted words rose in his mind, and he wanted, more than almost anything, to destroy her. Lothiel struggled only for a second and was caught completely by surprise when he lifted one of her hands up to his lips.

“There is something….”Peldirion began, his breath warm against the skin of her knuckles. He hesitated, allowing a tormented shadow to pass over his hardened features. It was almost cruel… No, it was, and it was perfect. 

“What?” she breathed in response, hope kindling in her eyes.

Lowering her hand, Peldirion kept the other as he slowly escorted her to the door of his office. “Go to your father’s. For now. In about a month I will be hosting a gala here, and as of yet do not have anyone in the city to accompany me.” He stopped at the door, gently releasing her before offering a small bow. “There are some important people you should meet. It would… mean a great deal to me if you would attend.”

“I… I would be honored to, my lord,” she said quietly, triumphantly, caught hook, line, and sinker as she curtsied.

The smile lines that tugged at the corners of his eyes were genuine. “Splendid. Till then, Lady Lothiel.”


Our Son

Belegorn lounged back in his seat along the wall in the main council chamber. All the paperwork had been signed by the proper parties, notarized, and the older man gave a sigh of relief as he watched his only remaining son deal with the noblemen in his stead.

No more games aside from those he chose, no more weighing the balance of power that had scattered like leaves since the corsairs had attacked the city. His things at the estate were packed, and his wife was in an enraged tizzy, trying to undo what could not be undone. Life was good.

One of the lords shouted, and Belegorn did not need to look up to know that it was Lord Bentley. Peldirion would have his hands full with that one, but he worried little. He had had his doubts, but his son handled the bickering and power plays better than anticipated. Though Belegorn had often caught him lost in thought since returning home hale and mostly whole, a new energy drove the boy. He worked every waking hour, and his new steward worked when he slept.

Before returning from Minas Tirith and calling the meeting, Peldirion had already made deals and new alliances with the lords overseeing the rebuilding, and the great harbor, bringing them into the fold. One way or another he had ensured that all the other lords had no choice but to cooperate. One by one he played them, and most of them knew it. Thirty of the fourty-seven main houses were now in the young Captain’s camp, as well as nineteen of the lesser houses who supported the others. Belegorn chuckled lowly as the more agreeable lords suddenly found courage to stand up to the few who could care less if the city united. On top of that, half of the houses were indebted to the young man for either giving the sons they pretended not to want honorable deaths, or returned them to their families alive and (mostly) whole.

Peldirion was in the middle of listening to one of the lords empty threats when Gwaeldis stepped in a side entrance. She slammed the door shut, and a number if the nobles shot the stocky woman mixed looks, but the new Lord Calaer did not do so much as acknowledge her presence.

“Hello, wife.”

Gwaeldis stopped beside him, glaring, and sniffed with a superior lift of her chin. “Call me that again, and I will divorce you.”

“Oh, come now, dear. You know you never would.”

“I may try my luck. You cannot seriously be going through with this!” Her face turned red, though not so quite as red as when her son had destroyed years of her plotting the day he had returned home. By Emeleth, he loved that boy.

Belegorn smiled pleasantly up at her. “I already have. It is done.”

“You… You traitor! How could you do this to me?! I had plans –”

“Poorly made plans,” replied the old lord calmly as he looked back to the meeting still taking place.

Your son will ruin everything!”

Our son will remake this House that you were slowly tearing apart. I must say though, wife, that I am impressed how tactfully you stole my barge from me. Is Lord Obrech enjoying it?”

Too flustered, she sat with an attempt at elegance in the chair next to him. “Lothiel wishes to speak with your son when he is done here.”

Belegorn grunted. “You mean you and her have arranged to corner him?”

Gwaeldis huffed, feigning offense. “So how long do we have? Surely the ungrateful boy will leave us destitute.”

“You do not deserve my son,” replied Belegorn, chuckling. “He and I have it all arranged. The villa north of the city is ours, and on top of keeping it fully staffed we will be receiving a biannual allowance for expenditure.”

“An… an allowance?!” she shrieked. The lords looked to her again, and Belegorn could have sworn he’d seen a smirk flicker across his son’s face.

“It is called retirement, Gwaeldy. It will be a nice change of pace for us.”

She trembled like an angry hen fluffing up her feathers. How he loved pissing her off.

“Now, kiss me, wife, and run along home to get your things packed. We start moving tomorrow.”

Her eyes that he had at one time likened to that of a gentle doe fixed on him as if willing him to burst into flames. The former Lady of House Calaer, her reputation having slowly fallen into ruin, dared not refuse Belegorn before nearly every noble of the city. Gwaeldis pecked a quick, proud kiss against his lips, and pivoted to scuttle from the chamber.