Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2008 3:52 pm
Neely and Marcello (bodyswap), July 20 2008
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 12:45 PM
Approaching a person who looked just like you was, Marcello was finding, slightly awkward.
He tugged his ear, which sent his all too sensitive ear to twitching, and shuddered, before he swallowed his hesitation and approached his doppleganger. "Neely?" he said politely. "I was wondering if we could talk a bit?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 12:51 PM
No more awkward than turning around and finding yourself looking back at you. The hairs on the back of his neck rose up, and he found himself, without thinking, kissing his thumb to ward off a fetch. He shrugged at the other man. "That didn't take long," he said. "I'm afraid I don't know anything about your grandparents, though."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 01:09 PM
Marcello shot the man a wry look. "It's all right; I do," he assured the man. "It's nothing bad. I'm not here to scold you. I think Niabheara was pleased you spoke to her."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 01:13 PM
"I think we were both pleased that we didn't end up at each other's throats," said Neely. "We are a family of great extremes, if you hadn't noticed." He still looked wary. "So I did well. Do I get a bit of biscuit?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 01:15 PM
Marcello gave him a pained look."You're old enough that doing well should be its own reward; I stopped giving my sisters bits of biscuit by the time they were seven. Actually, it's more that I had a thought. When Niabheara came back to me, told me what you had talked about."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 01:17 PM
And Neely stopped, dead cold. "And what exactly did she tell you we'd discussed?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 01:26 PM
"Your parents," Marcello answered. "The fact that Titania murdered them, coupled with the fact that she then went after Lady Bride and Aengus and Tristan. And now Niabheara. To me, it looks like she's trying to wipe out her husband's family."
He opened his hands out toward the other man. "Do you think it's an unreasonable conclusion to come to?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 01:33 PM
Neely straightened and cleared his throat. "Aye. It seems reasonable enough. Save that all the people you've just named are kin to herself as well, one way or another. A bit more distantly than they would be to Auberon, but still. The only flaw to that logic that I see would be that she had my parents murdered, then waiting nearly three hundred years to go after anyone else so directly. That's a long while for an impatient woman to bide her time."
The more he spoke, the more distance he could gain from the topic, and so the calmer he became. He raised an eyebrow to Marcello. "You're wondering now if this all isn't something against Auberon."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 01:43 PM
Marcello raised an eyebrow. "Precisely," he answered. "In which case...these could each be independent retaliations. Three hundred years ago, Auberon does something to anger her, she kills his brother and sister-in-law. They mend their differences, everything's fine until...recently, say. She gets angry again. Maybe more angry than she was the last time."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 02:00 PM
"The only trouble is that three hundred years ago, I was a child," he pointed out mildly. "I don't remember any trouble there might've possibly been. Those two were always at each other. Were, are, whichever. It's how they entertained themselves." After a tense pause, he added, "I'm more given to believe that my parents had nothing to do with the matter now. It's an established matter that Titania and the Lady Niall quarrelled constantly. I've always felt that the rade on Cnoch-na-Niall was to teach a lesson to any lesser noble who thought they could get away with the same thing."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 02:15 PM
"Get away with what?" Marcello asked. "With questioning the Queen? Is that it?" He sighed, shook his head. "And you weren't living with them yet; of course there isn't anything you'd remember of what happened before they killed your parents."
He paused. "And the matter now? I...I know I spoke to you about Niabheara and the demon, and their deal. I know Auberon was angered, but...I can't see that as being the reason for all this. She solved that-- we took care of it on our own. She was the one most hurt by it. There has got to be something else that started it."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 02:26 PM
"With breaking the Queen's authority," Neely replied. "Cnoch-na-Niall is isolated enough that Lady Mabhe got away with ruling the way she liked for quite some time. She could live largely outside Titania's authority, and Titania hates to be ignored." Neely's eyes darkened, but he shook his head. "No. This has the feel of something building well before the demon incident. Auberon might have been more offended that the countess would seem to turn on him--that might have been why he reacted by stealing the child from her--but Titania had already moved on Oireachteigh well before that incident. There's no way of finding out, is there, whether or not the Lady Bride offered any sort of challenge to Titania? Any ruling that the great bitch wouldn't have liked? Erin Isle's famous for threatening to open up trade with the mainland; that might have been it."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 02:34 PM
Marcello raised an eyebrow. "That would be possible,"he answered. "But I don't know. I wasn't here when all that happened; surely-- it still seems so preposterous to me. Niabheara was the closest thing Titania had to an heir, killing her would be disastrous for more than just those of us who are close to her. But..." He frowned. "Perhaps Niabheara was never the target. Perhaps it was Tristan, all along. Auberon had already brought the Puck before he learned of the trouble with the demon."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 02:41 PM
"That's also likely," Neely muttered. "But you also seem to be operating under the assumption that Titania's in her right mind. She provokes people, deliberately. Personally, I believe that a lot of this might be because the Countess was being too fucking nice for too long." His mouth worked as if he was about to spit. "She wasn't doing anything to justify Titania moving against her. Titania grew tired of waiting. I told you, she's not a woman known for patience."
He began to pace absently, hardly seeming aware that he had fallen into it. "That might be the answer you're looking for right there. Auberon favours the countess; Titania wanted an excuse to be rid of her."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 02:46 PM
"Simply because Auberon likes her?" Marcello asked. "Even if-- even if it were more than simply approving of the girl, neither of them are actually known for their marital fidelities. Why her? Why now?"
He gave Neely a look. "And I'm not expecting a rational answer. I'm just hoping for something we can use. If this all comes down to a battle between Titania and Auberon, it would help us to drive a stake between them."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 03:00 PM
"If you wanted rational answers, you'd be better off finding more rational people. Those two adore each other, to the point that they almost seem to want to be one another. There's nothing more dangerous to set yourself between."
He stopped pacing to give Marcello a wry grin. "If it's any help, I suspect he might get along much better without her than she would without him."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 03:05 PM
Marcello raised an eyebrow at that. "Yes, I had already rather suspected as much myself," he agreed. "The question is, would we be better off without just one of them, or without both of them?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 03:12 PM
"Well, it seems a pity to break up a matched set." He shrugged, hands behind his back. "The question is," he said, lightly mocking Marcello's inflections, "which is going to be more trouble in the long run, Titania without Auberon or Auberon without Titania? I've nearly crossed Titania off as a mad dog to begin with; losing Auberon seems likely to only take the collar off her. Auberon's going to be sane, and angry, and patient."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 03:16 PM
"It would be easier to reason with Auberon," Marcello answered. "Especially if he knows this came about because of a difference between them. But it would also be easier for him to plot behind our backs. I don't know if Titania's capable of such a thing."
He considered for a moment. "You're saying we should go after Auberon first?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 03:22 PM
"All things being equal? Yes." He let his hands part and fall to his sides. "I don't know if the opportunity will arise. It may be we'll have to take whatever we can get."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 03:27 PM
The younger man nodded. "We'll have to see when we get to Oireachteigh. I half-suspect Titania's taken the city and is waiting for us on the docks already."
He took a deep breath. "What do you think of this...girl. Her daughter?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 03:38 PM
"Personally or politically?" He looked amused. "Politically, I'd like to know what the Puck's been feeding her all these years. Personally . . . " He paused. "Personally I'd like to know the same thing, actually. It just seems like madness that the woman would have not only her own child, but a female child, slated for death. Unless we get the poor girl back into her own body and it does indeed turn out that she's some sort of deformed, shrivelled monster that should've been strangled at birth."
He shook his head. "As I see it, there are only two things that make sense: that the girl is telling the truth as she knows it, or that Titania willingly gave the child into exile. Because if Titania had borne a girl-child, and it vanished--there'd be no sleep; we'd all still be looking for it."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 03:44 PM
"She's half tallfolk," Marcello pointed out. "And she's born of a union that came about because of Auberon's trickery. Do you..." He eyed the older man for a moment. "About two hundred years ago, she says. Are you aware of any boys...Indian princelings, who were given into Titania's care, that she gave over to Auberon?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 03:58 PM
"I remember a little human maiden that used to follow in Titania's train," he said. "She became badly homesick and Titania returned her back to her own country. A few years later Titania send out a missive to fetch her the girl's child. I was under the impression that the girl may have actually willed the child to Titania. But it was a boy. Auberon and Titania quarrelled over the boy somewhat at the time, but I don't know how it was resolved, and at any rate the child didn't survive much longer than the journey to bring him to the Courts."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 04:02 PM
"I do," Marcello answered. "Auberon set out to humiliate Titania when she refused to give him the child; he got the Puck to make her fall madly in love with a tallfolk man who'd been transformed into an ass. When she woke from the trick, she was so miserable, she gave over the boy without a quarrel. I suspect that man is the princess' father. Nick Bottom. The ass."
He looked worriedly at Neely. "Do you know why the child didn't survive?" he asked quietly. "Was it sickness, or something else?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 04:10 PM
Neely fixed Marcello with a hard, almost triumphant look. "An accident. The child mistook some poisonous seeds for fruit."
He turned the idea over in his mind. "That would explain why Titania would be so desperate to keep the matter quiet. Especially if she didn't know until the child was born who the father was--she may have hoped to pass it off as her husband's."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 04:13 PM
Marcello nodded. "Something like that...although to be honest, it makes me highly suspicious. With all the talk about Titania's barrennes, a one-night tryst leaves her pregnant with a tallfolk's child? It makes me think it's Auberon who's either impotent or infertile."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 04:18 PM
Neely snorted quietly. "Then so is every male courtier the bitch ever got her talons into. You honestly don't know? Half-breeds are far more likely to survive to term than Tuatha. Nature has a sense of humour."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 04:19 PM
Marcello was quiet for a long moment. "Then why-- and I don't mean this personally. Why isn't there more intermarriage? Why do the Tuatha close themselves off instead of open themselves up?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 04:27 PM
"Because that would be admitting they were wrong, for one thing," Neely said. "For another, no self-respecting woman's going to stand to be treated like a tallfolk woman."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 18 2008, 04:31 PM
Marcello gave Neely a pointed look. "We're not all like that," he pointed out.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 18 2008, 06:19 PM
"Do you want to be the one to stand in the way of twenty generations of popular opinion? Be my guest." Neely scetched a bow as if granting Marcello admittance through the gates of folly. "You asked, I told you."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 12:05 AM
"The only one I care about is the one who already believes me," Marcello answered with a shrug. "Frankly, I don't know many tallfolk men who'd want to be treated like Tuatha men, either." he pointed out. "Perhaps our women ought to get together with your men."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 11:50 AM
"We're getting off the subject," Neely replied pleasantly. "There's always one way to settle the princess's paternity. I'm game if you are."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 11:52 AM
The younger man raised both eyebrows. "How?" he asked helplessly. "If her father's tallfolk, he's been dead for years and years."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 09:11 PM
"Does he have to be alive to wager on it?" Neely asked, sounding genuinely interested in the mechanics of this wagering-business. "Are you in or out? Or does it even matter all that much?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 09:21 PM
And Marcello blinked. "That," he said, looking a bit surprised. "No. You can wager on anything, as long as it's not in the future, and it has to be a certain fact. Wagering on things like people's intentions or emotions doesn't work, but..."
He dug into his pocket. "Hm. I'll wager you a ball of lint that Princess Pepita's father is tallfolk."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 09:30 PM
"A ball of lint to one of . . . " He checked his own pocket and frowned. "One of Gioia's half-eaten candle stubs." Trying to concentrate, he shook his head, looked briefly ill--then shook it again, eyes opening, and tossed the lump of wax to Marcello. "Tallfolk. That's very . . . disconcerting."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 09:35 PM
Marcello nodded. "What's going to happen when the girl goes to claim her throne and turns out to be a half-breed?" he asked, serious, turning the wax lump over in his hand. "Not just with the Queen-- I can imagine what that's going to turn into-- but with the Queen's supporters? With everyone?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 09:41 PM
"Hell with a hangover," Neely said seriously. "It could go either way, depending on how this conflict ends and how the girl's received. Is the countess still claiming that all she wants to do is go home and raise ponies?" His voice had a decided air of exasperation.
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 09:46 PM
"That is what she wants," Marcello answered, crossing his arms over her chest. "And that girl has given her the first chance she's ever had to say it. I think she'd be content to be Queen if she had to, if she could rule from Cnoch-na-Niall, but she can't leave home," he said seriously. "Not right now, at least. She thinks it's too much in her blood; she might be able to someday, but I don't think she's ready. She feels like she's fighting a war for something she doesn't want, just because no one else will and she knows she must."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 10:03 PM
"Of course she isn't ready," Neely snapped, "she's twenty. Just tell me: is she vacillating on the matter or not? I thought she seemed fairly well eager to back the princess's claim and extract herself from the mess as much as she can. That way even if something does go wrong and she does have to claim the throne, it's a matter of public record that she never started out chasing the crown."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 10:05 PM
Marcello smiled appreciatively at the older man. "I can speak to almost certainty on that matter. She'd not take the crown if there were someone else willing and at least less detestable than Titania. And I know she would be pleased to make that a matter of public record."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 10:19 PM
Neely looked frustrated, but nodded, as if to the lesser of two evils. "Good. She can back the princess and look noble, or else lose the princess and look tragic. Your job henceforth is to state that intention very loudly and to anyone who'll listen."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 10:28 PM
Marcello gave the older man a wry smile. "I'll need my own body back before I start doing that," he reminded Neely. "I'd rather not have people trying to kill me from all angles. Have you happened to see your fuzzy cohort at all of late?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 10:34 PM
"I have not." He looked annoyed. "Have we given any consideration to how to go about this if it's not sorted out by the time we make land? I'm assuming that if there is nothing else, the countess and the captain's apprentice can go on with one pretending to be the other one's serving girl. But glammed or not, I don't think you need to risk taking that form ashore. Especially in Oireachteigh; that's one of the places I'm most likely to be recognised on the spot."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 10:41 PM
Marcello nodded. "That's what worried me," he agreed. "I didn't think it would be safe for me to leave the ship like this. I imagine you'd be able to play the Queensman if we needed it?" he asked Neely hopefully. "I admit, I don't particularly want to be leaving Niabheara's side under any circumstances, but at least I know you'd advise her well."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 10:54 PM
"I've played Queensman before," he assured Marcello. "Listen, man, for the good of both of you, you must find some distance between the two of you. How long have you known her now? Three months or so?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 11:05 PM
"Four months, two weeks, and three days," Marcello answered without so much as blinking. "And we've been nothing but distant for the past week, if you hadn't noticed. We're capable of operating separately, sir," he said politely. "But there are certain situations where I don't like to leave her alone. I don't want to be absent from her if something bad were to happen."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 11:20 PM
Neely laughed. "If you know it to the day," he said, "then you definitely could use a moment apart. I'd hardly call holing up in your cabin and talking for hours on end 'distant', man. Although I assume that you two can actually find something to discuss that isn't what you plan to do to each other as soon as you get sorted out and alone again, which is far preferable to some people I could name." He smirked to himself.
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 11:26 PM
Marcello raised an eyebrow. "It's come up," he admitted. "But I mainly fault your damn Ganconner blood for that," he added nicely. "I don't know how you function in polite company; it makes me feel like I'm sixteen years old again."
He gave Neely a reasonable look. "We were hold up in the cabin discussing our next plans," he pointed out. "Puzzling things through; brainstorming. Which I imagine any...I suppose I can't called her Queen anymore...noblewoman...would do with her advisor and friend. We're not together now. We've stopped accompanying each other everywhere, and that was only just after the Puck tried to trick her."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 11:43 PM
"I'll bet it's come up," Neely said without so much as blinking an eye. "You're only lucky that the gean-connah's faded out of the bloodstream over the past few generations, otherwise you'd be pawing at the sailors by now. Which seems to be the ship's sport anyway, so at least you wouldn't stand out."
He shook his head, his tone more thoughtful. "She's not what I expected of her. I suppose with her being Judith's daughter I expected someone a little less . . . prone to sentiment. That's the Northsbane's influence on her."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 19 2008, 11:47 PM
"The sailors aren't particularly to my taste, I'm afraid," Marcello retorted, then gave Neely a thoughtful look. "And do you think that's a positive attribute or a negative one?" he asked. "Is she more or less than you'd hoped of your daughter?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 19 2008, 11:55 PM
"She isn't my daughter," he replied patiently. "Just now she's a very gracious young lady who's trying to take over the country. I only wonder if she has the spleen for it. Sentimentality looks well when you're taking tea with the woman, not so much when you fear she's going to dither her way between life and death."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 12:06 AM
"She is your daughter," the younger man retorted. "As much as you may deny it. She...she can make decisions when she has to. Difficult ones. I think...it took her some time to learn how, but she's getting better at it. I think she needs to learn when being swift and when being sentimental have their places, but she's on her way in that direction, too."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 12:12 AM
Neely gave Marcello a very flat, patient, we-know-better smile. "She needs to get better faster. And she needs to get rid of this idea that one day this will all be over and she'll get to retreat back to Cnoch-na-Niall and things will go on as if this never happened. This is not some ugly little incident. This is the rest of her life."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 12:17 AM
Marcello gave Neely a sharp look. "This isn't the life she wants," he answered. "We've had this conversation already, sir. If what we're doing now won't help her put this all behind her when it's over, then we're not doing enough."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 12:28 AM
"We have had this conversation before," said Neely, exasperated, "and this will be my last attempt at it, since it's painfully obvious that nothing's going to teach you except for experience."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 12:33 AM
Marcello groaned, plainly irritated. "You think I don't understand," he said to the man. "I do. I understand that she has a place in the world that everyone else has planned for her, that you can't see beyond. There is always a way to fix things, to change things, to become what you want to be and shed all the things that you're not that other people expect of you. Just because you were trapped by the life you were born to doesn't mean she has to be. You refuse to acknowledge her as your daughter, and still you expect her to bear the weight of your bitterness."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 12:51 AM
"And if I had come right from the beginning trying to be a father to her--then what? What?" He gave the other man a stony look. "After the past we've had--what? What I don't understand is how you can possibly go on about how she can leave it all behind before the echo of how she's rooted to the place, how it's grown into her, has had enough time to fade into the distance."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 12:58 AM
"To be honest?" Marcello answered. "I don't think you're capable of any of the things necessary to be a father."
He tipped his head to one side, giving Neely an impatient look. "Who says she has to leave Cnoch-na-Niall to avoid being embroiled in war for the rest of her life?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 01:10 AM
"Neither do I," Neely shot back. "It's good to know we agree on some things."
He stepped out of Marcello's range, with a nasty glare in the man's direction. "She's building a reputation that's going to follow her for the rest of her life. It doesn't matter how inaccurate it is. You've already agreed to send the bards forth to promote it. The next time there's another strife, her name will be mentioned. Her aid will be courted."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 01:21 AM
"The reputation I've asked them to promote is as a lover of peace who never lifted a finger against anyone. One of a victim. Of neutrality. Of someone wrongly brutalized. Do you want me to also ask them to tell the story of how her own father tried to force her to pay for all his crimes, too, while we're at it?" he demanded. "Who wanted her to inherit shame and dishonor and savagery? Because I can do that. When we're done here, I intend to see to it that the only time her aid is courted is for advice with horses."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 01:32 AM
"Did you actually just say you wanted her promoted as a victim?" Neely drew back again. "I'm sure that will reflect well on her. I have to know: how long do you intend on being around, sir? Because I can root out the idea that you're going to grow old with her just as well as I can root out the idea that she's buying a lifetime of neutrality with this effort. Justice, perhaps; a woman of her word, perhaps. Not neutrality. That's over."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 01:38 AM
"Over?" Marcello asked, laughing hoarsely. "Over? It's never had a chance. It's not yet begun. She is a victim," he snapped. "What do you call it when you're trod upon over and over again? There's no shame in victimhood; there's shame in not standing back up."
He stepped up toward the now-taller man, defiant. "I will be around longer than you will," he answered coolly. "Since with your attitude, I imagine someone else will stab you to death again in a matter of months."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 01:48 AM
"Let's hope we've traded off again by then," Neely replied coolly. "Have you given the matter much thought at all, or are you going to see if the railing-against-fate routine works then, too?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 01:52 AM
"I'm trying for the handling-one-crisis-at-a-time routine," Marcello answered, just as chill. "We've discussed it. And I think it's personal enough to remain between me and her. n Contrary to what you may think, we're not idiots."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 02:00 AM
Neely looked as if he might beg to differ on that last statement. "Believe me, I'd stay well out of it if I didn't suspect that the pair of you were conducting business as idealistic as you conduct your romance."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 02:05 AM
"And what's a proper romance?" Marcello inquired. "Finding someone almost as emotionally distant as yourself to carry a child you'll avoid at every possible turn?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 02:21 AM
"Neither of us ever pretended to be in love," Neely said quietly. "Difficult as it may be to conceive, I trusted Judith's judgement. Better than my own, as it turned out. I knew the child would be safe with her. Perhaps not cared for by any mean you'd consider conventional. It was enough for her to be safe."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 02:30 AM
"Enough for you, maybe," Marcello retorted. "She's been so safe on the path you set for her. How many times would she be dead by now? How many times has she nearly been killed since I met her? Oh, and we may as well factor in nearly-been-raped as well. It all seems tremendously safe. You won't claim her, you won't care for her, you won't help her to the life she wants; why does safe even matter?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 02:43 AM
"Because if things had gone correctly, she wouldn't even be near the title until right now," Neely all but hissed. "Instead she ended up having her hand forced to take Cnoch-na-Niall when she was hardly more than a baby. None of us wanted that for her. She shouldn't have to be facing this now. There's no way to turn back from where we are. I wanted her safe and well away from these mad people until she was old enough to defend herself against them. Instead she's learned how to acquiesce to them, how to stay out of sight and pretend that's enough that they won't notice her. She does not need to be afraid of them. She's their equal if not their better in any damn way that counts."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 08:42 AM
And Marcello smiled almost warmly at the last.
"And there's something else we agree on," he said softly. "But you still left it up to chance. The greatest thing you might have gained if things had gone your way is that she might not be so in love with Cnoch-na-Niall and wouldn't feel torn to pieces. Would you rather have the princess, who knows nothing and is only certain that this is her destiny? I don't mean to dwell on past mistakes. I realize that you had no choice in some of this. But you've got to stop doing the same. What you've got to work with is the girl you see now. And she doesn't want what you want for her anymore. So if I'm doing this wrong, you tell me. Forget what you want, forget what you planned. Tell me what she needs to give her the life she wants. Everything is potential right now. We still have a chance for that."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 04:21 PM
Neely gave the man a resentful look bordering on real hurt. "I don't know what she needs," he said slowly. "I don't know what she wants. I have no idea who this girl is."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 04:27 PM
Marcello sighed, but stepped back a little, as if giving the other man air. "I know what she wants. I'm not sure if it's what she needs and I don't pretend to be old enough or wise enough to know that. You've still got time," he said plaintively. "You've got a chance you didn't have before. No one's going to begrudge you if you decide you want to care about her now."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 04:37 PM
Neely looked pained. "It's not that easy. If it was, I would have tried it already."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 04:39 PM
Marcello took a deep breath. "I know you think I'm being a foolish, innocent idealist, but yes, it is. It's the easiest thing in the world. It comes when you stop thinking."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 04:46 PM
"I don't know how it is with you but when I stop thinking, it only breaks off into thinking about something else--generally something worse than the first subject." Now annoyed with this whole line of conversation, he waved the man off. "Go back to her."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 04:50 PM
Marcello raised an eyebrow. "Stop worrying," he answered calmly. "Stop being afraid. She does the same thing you do."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 04:56 PM
"I am not afraid," he said. "What thing am I doing? Can you come up with a more descriptive term than 'thing'?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 04:58 PM
"Sends people away when conversations turn in a direction she doesn't want to consider," Marcello answered. "What are you, if you're not afraid?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 05:11 PM
"Does she," the man murmured without much inflection. "Or perhaps she gets embarrassed at having nothing further to add when the other person has exhausted his point. Why does everyone act as there's a broken affection between us that needs salvaging? There is none. There never has been."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 05:14 PM
"I know that," Marcello answered. "You'd need to have had affection at one time for it to be broken. But there's only part of your help that comes out of hatred for Titania and Auberon, isn't there? There's part of it that's something else."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 05:31 PM
Neely let out a small groan. "Other than my wanting the poor child to have the best chance possible to not get her silly self killed in all this? For God's sake, man, I'm not heartless. We're still family to each other; that still means something to both of us."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 05:41 PM
"At least now you're admitting she's family," Marcello said interestedly, raising an eyebrow. "I don't want her to be killed either. And I think you've got a better chance of knowing how to keep her alive. But I don't know what use it is surviving this if it's only going to mean more misery later. I've got to believe it's going to be better when it's done."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 05:54 PM
"Family, clan, one of the two. Clan is always more powerful than family." Neely's expression was half-amused. "They're practically two different units. Family is fleeting. Clan goes to the bone. Family only lasts so long as you're living. Clan extends to cover the dead."
He turned back to face Marcello. "You don't think it will be better after this?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 05:59 PM
The younger man shrugged. "It's like you said," he replied. "She becomes Queen, I doubt her right is never going to be contested. She goes back to Cnoch-na-Niall, she's going to be expected to lend support to whoever is contested. Better for the Erins? By miles. Better for her...better than things are immediately, but that's not enough. I'm not saying I disagree with you about what's likely. But I don't see why we can't fight for what she'd like and not start compromising from the beginning."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 06:10 PM
"I think the major obstacle in communication here is that she may be fighting on the side of Erin, but you appear to be fighting solely for her." This, too, he seemed to find amusing. "With the princess as a contender, there is a very good chance that the countess might be able to go back to Cnoch-na-Niall. But she is going to be remembered for this. There's no escaping that."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 06:12 PM
"I am fighting for her," Marcello replied easily. "My only attachment to Erin is if she becomes Queen. She needs someone fighting for her. And I know she's going to be remembered, but we can affect how she's remembered, can't we?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 06:22 PM
Neely laughed again. "My God. You're hopeless!"
Chuckling, he settled down again. "It will be better," he assured the other man. "We must be sure that this time, Titania has nothing to hide behind. She's been getting away with far too much for far too long. Drag her out."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 06:28 PM
"I'm in love," Marcello retorted. "Not hopeless."
He paused a moment, nodding slowly. "How do we do that?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 06:45 PM
"Lovers are hopeless," Neely replied. "The two words are practically synonymous."
He grew serious. "When accused, Titania's defence has always been to be rid of the accuser first. She seems to have skipped a stage with the countess in that she didn't attempt to buy her loyalty first, which is how she usually goes about it. That I know of, anyway--has she tried?" he asked with interest, before going on. "I'm guessing that having Auberon take favour with the countess might have been enough to curb Titania's generosity. The next step is to very quietly try to discredit the opponent."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 06:52 PM
"She's done neither in Niabheara's case," Marcello answered. "She simply launched an attack. There were rumors in Roisin that Niabheara started it, but that's not terribly surprising, especially since she is the one who finallly launched the attack. Auberon tried to rape her. They kidnapped Tristan. They attacked in Oireachteigh and took me hostage."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 06:59 PM
"But for the attack in Oireachteigh, that's all the countess's word against the Queen's, or against Auberon's." His face darkened. "Did Titania by any chance try to buy you off, while she had you?"
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 07:07 PM
"She tried to trade me my freedom for information about the Countess," Marcello replied. "I gave her my own name," he answered cheerfully. Then he took a deep breath. "Then she threatened to take off Tristan's ear. Auberon interceded."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 07:18 PM
"Nothing like that, that's a threat," Neely explained patiently. "I meant offering you something you might want that wasn't your own life." He looked frustrated at the lack of options. "I think Titania may have realised, for once, that she hasn't a leg to stand on. And there's a dead child in the middle of all of it. That's going to be a hard fact to gloss over. I believe that's going to be your selling point, distasteful as it might be. I wish we could rouse the Duke to action as well; it's his damn son."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 07:24 PM
"Have you seen the Duke lately?" Marcello asked, shaking his head. "He was an empty shell of a man when we last saw him. Half-dead himself; I don't know if he was sick or mad with grief or Titania had put some kind of geis on him. But he was like a ghost, an empty shell of a man. He could barely keep a conversation going, sir. I was thinking...his servants. His advisers. If Tristan had ever had a nurse at the Duke's house...someone like that."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 07:41 PM
"See if the house bard survived the plague. Ask Niabheara if the child's nurse came with him to Cnoch-na-Niall or if she employed a new one from the town." He raked his fingers through his now-much-shorter hair. "I hate it when these things have to be planned extemporaneously."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 07:45 PM
Marcello grinned. "I'm better at extemporaneous," he answered. "I'll find out," he assured Neely. "But Tristan is the reason she's fighting. The truth isn't distasteful, except in that it actually happened. Do you want me to find out anything else?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 07:51 PM
"I've told you, if anything occurs to me, I'll come to one of you. There's no way of knowing what's going to be needed until we're there.""
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 07:52 PM
"Apart from our own bodies," Marcello retorted. "I can tell you those are needed."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 08:00 PM
"We've already acknowledged that lacking," Neely replied mildly. "But that's another thing we have to make plans around, if need be."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 08:45 PM
The younger man sighed. "I can't wait to hear the Puck's reasoning for this."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Jul 20 2008, 09:05 PM
"It was hilarious to grow up with," Neely said wryly. "You're better off spared the details."
Posted by: Neely O'Niall Jul 20 2008, 09:27 PM
Marcello groaned. "If the thing shows its face, hold it until I can wring its neck, will you?" he asked. "I'm going to go find Niabheara."
He gave Neely a nod. "Good neighbor, sir," he said politely. "Whatever differences we may profess, your company and confirdence is always very much valued."