Alliances, by Misha
By twenty years of age not only was I the oldest page in Eltesnian military history but I had surpassed my Eyre in both height and weight, so much so that I more closely resembled body guard than scribe. I was continually frustrated by my inability to take up arms in battle, but there were limits even to what Lev and Vay could get away with despite their influence with the King.
Yearly, Lev received the highly coveted invitation to participate in the Re-enactment of Entrapment. Despite the great honor he was recalcitrant. Clearly he had no intentions of getting naked and fornicating in the presence of the likes of Savlii and Paynor. It was one of those rare topics that we agreed on. Occasionally he would be invited to attend a royal birthday or wedding as was the case when Prince Roarke married Princess Adelaide of Belaurii.
The Prince looked anything but happy, which was no great surprise knowing his penchant for moodiness. He met his bride once or twice before the ceremony when they were both quite young. Her older sister Dophe was jilted at the altar by Prince Eburgistraten of Kanabulan when he entered into a secret alliance with Vay and King Dalma. Though Roarke knew little about the details, he was somewhat hopeful that years of clandestine planning would result in the freeing of the Lane in our time. That Roarke could be hopeful about anything was a remarkable feat in itself.
Dophe survived her first matrimonial disappointment by marrying her cousin Neopar from the Lesser house of Belaurii. The Lesser house was comprised of the relatives of exiled poet Jaun Sei most of whom now lived near the southern border with Eltesnia. Many presumed that the King was using Dophe to foster the allegiance of the "rebel blood". Dophe it seemed was more interested on flirting shamelessly with Councilman Paynor; her husband was much too distracted by every pretty face that walked by to take much notice.
Neopar's wandering eyes made it impossible to be flattered that he cast any attention toward me even though I must admit to complaining to Lev that I was the most under-dressed guest at the celebration. Even the dress uniform of a page screams perfunctory and pragmatic and I was humbled to be caught in the same drab clothing as Savlii's new boy, the second since I left his service.
I was soon distracted from my pettiness by the handle of Lev's cane as it slid along the inside of my thigh. After an eternity of watching Lev feign listening to the Halvren brothers riveting hunting stories, the King's cousin Lady Zbinka of T'Nal approached our table. Lady Halvren exchanged a curt greeting with Zbinka and excused herself. Lord Halvren smiled warmly and gave up his seat before vanishing into the crowd with his wife.
Zbinka was an odd contradiction, both refined and boisterous, her presence was felt when she walked into any room, and she would have it no other way. Approaching thirty and never married, she seemed to instantly get it in her head that Lev would make a good husband and proposed to him on the spot. The Erye told her that he was flattered by her offer, but that her interests would be better suited with another choice.
"My apologies, Erye Nalev," Zbinka started with a coy smile. "I have caught you at the disadvantage that you know little of me, while I know everything about you. Would you care to talk somewhere more private?"
Her father Lord Delrick had been thrown out of the Court years before for threatening that the heavy-handed authority of the House would tear apart the kingdom. It didn't seem that Lev needed to know more than that and his reply was a very polite "no." Zbinka perservered and persuaded both of us to join her in a quiet study. She explained, in great detail, her activities over the years in protest of the dehumanization of the Houseborne class. There had been rumors of her involvement for years, especially in the kidnappings of Houseborne males from their foster homes and subsequent placement elsewhere-- allegations that if proven would lead to her execution, royalty or not.
Lev thanked her for placing her trust in him but didn't see the benefit in an alliance. Clearly, she did and continued in her negotiations.
"Erye Nalev, you have become larger than life in your quiet yet subversive manner and put a face on a cause so many of us secretly defend. The two of you have broken infraction after infraction of the outdated and abhorrent code of conduct regarding the Houseborne and have managed to remain relatively unscathed. Alone, I'm not sure how much longer we can defy the system. Together, we represent a very powerful alliance that takes us much closer to the realization of our goals."
I wasn't aware that we had any such lofty goals, at least not before that night. But Zbinka made her impression on Nalev and before year's end he sought the blessings of the House for their union. As the figure head of authority for both the clerical and political power that Zbinka sought to challenge, Vay was wary of Lady T'Nal, but confident of Nalev's ability to control her. Control Zbinka? Vay may have been very wise, but she certainly didn't spend enough time with Zbinka if she thought that anyone could control her-- let alone Lev.
Lev and Zbinka had a spectacular wedding then vanished for a brief honeymoon, which consisted primarily of strategic planning both day and night between the three of us. As if vacationing with my lover and his new bride wasn't awkward enough, I always felt her gaze upon me.
The marriage seemed to signify a change with Savlii and he resumed his vocal attacks on Lev. We often played cards together, and since Lev had such terrible difficulty in reading, or so he was still claiming, I got to play his hands. Unlike Lev, I always won which added to Savlii's dissatisfaction.
"I can not believe you make me play with a page," Savlii huffed.
"I can not believe that you always lose to a page," Nalev scoffed.
"I don't know what you're trying to prove, Nalev. Your behavior lacks any semblance of propriety and can not be overlooked for much longer. Your familiarity with this man is an abomination."
"Unlike your familiarity with a child?"
"You've taken a military institution and made a complete mockery of it. You're entitled to a page, Eyre Nalev, not a wife."
"Actually, I'm entitled to both and have done a reasonable job in keeping both satisfied. Which is more than I can say for your relationships. Who was it your wife ran off with again? Your brother, as I recall."
"Mock me if you will. I will see you driven out of the army," Savlii said and got up, his young page shuffling after him.
"Eyre Savlii, aren't you forgetting something?" Lev asked.
Savlii threw some money down on the table and left. It was always good to see him leave.
As it turned out taunting the superior officer, though immediately rewarding was not beneficial in the long run. The political climate of Eltesnia and especially within the high court of Cznorh was changing, distancing itself from the powerful intrusion of the House while elevating the authority of the King's Council. King Dalma vehemently opposed this shift from the start, but he was swayed over time by the pervasive efforts of those closest to him. The direct ramification for us was that Nalev's ties to the House mattered less and less. And Savlii was poised for retribution.
Lev was promoted to the Office of Disciplinary Affairs which had the dubious honor of trying and executing all offenders of Houseborne misconduct, including infractions perpetrated by Eltesnian citizens. Savlii took enormous satisfaction in knowing that his nemesis spent every waking hour treading lightly with his personal life while being forced to uphold a system that he despised. I remained with Lev as his secretary for a number of months before he had a sudden miraculous recovery with his eye sight and sent me to live with Zbinka as her guard.
Lev had been responsible for my intellectual and emotional rebirth. Lady T'Nal had other aspirations for me, as I would soon find out.