"This is the King's bedchamber, no one is allowed in here, so I repeat, what are you doing in here? Do not make me ask you again." She warned her grandson.
He cast his eyes downward, and pretended a subservience that he did not feel. The old bat was ruining his plans, but he dared not let word of his being in this room reach the ears of his grandfather. From his grandfather, directly to the King, and that would not do at all.
Lord Timmothy Winter cursed in his thoughts, but showed no trace of his true feelings. He did not fear his Grandmother, she was a pushover, but his Grandfather was a whole different story, even his mother feared him, and there were very few people that she feared.
"My apologies Grandmother," he said softly. "I had needs to attend to and I was searching for the garderobe, I did not realize I had wandered into the King's bedchamber. It will not happen again." Next time, he would not be caught, he would make sure of it.
She studied him for a full minute, he had to resist the urge to squirm beneath her gaze, before she finally said, "See that it doesn't. Now, let us rejoin the party before it is noticed that we are not there."
"Yes Grandmother." Lord Timmothy followed his Grandmother down the hall, and down the stairs, where she pointed to the public garderobe, he thanked her, and ducked into the tiny little room. He did not have to relieve himself, but waited a few minutes to complete his lie, before exiting the room. He was dismayed to notice that she had waited for him, but he faked a smile at her anyway. "Shall we?" He extended his arm, and she took it as they rejoined Prince Taliesin's birthday party that was starting to unwind. His mother would be furious that he had failed, but it could not be helped this night.
It was a minor miracle that Timmothy himself was even allowed into the Castle, he had his Grandfather to thank for that. He had overheard him talking, saying that Timmothy needed a male influence that he could look up to and emulate. One that would make him into an honorable man. Timmothy scoffed. Honor was for fools and weaklings, and it was a good way to end up with a knife in your back.
He did not know how his Grandfather had lived so long, believing such foolish nonsense, but he was a crafty old fellow. Timmothy had used his Grandfather's words to his advantage, and wrangled himself an invite to the Princeling's birthday party, but Grandfather had guaranteed the King that they would keep an eye on him. It appeared they were quite serious about that. He fingered the potion that remained hidden in his clothing, it would have to wait for another time.
The light was fading fast, but Morgan knew the figure that lurked in the darkness. "Turin!" Morgan called out. At the King's greeting, Turin turned back, and walked towards the King.
"You did not come inside." It was an observation, not an accusation.
Turin smiled briefly. "It was not my place to do so."
"As my Guardian, and now my son's Guardian, you should have been beside him."
"There is a foul wind in the air." Turin stated calmly, ignoring the mild rebuke in the King's voice. Turin knew his place, and on this dark night, it was his role as Protector that kept him searching for the source of his unease. "I know not where it comes from, but it bodes evil for your house. I have scoured every blade of grass this Castle sits on, but I cannot find its source. Only this I know, Morgan, my friend and my King, there is evil afoot, and grief beyond bearing in your future. Stay alert, stay true to the Old Ways, or all may be lost."
"Such grim tidings Turin." Morgan answered. "On the night of my son's birthday."
"It is my duty to tell the truth, no matter the timing of it. The Ever Living One presses these words onto my heart with a sense of urgency, stay close to Him, Morgan, it is the only way." Turin repeated his earlier words.
"Well, I will certainly be on my guard Turin, but if you were more precise in exactly where the threat comes from, it would be easier to guard against it. Is it Belle? Is she up to some sort of mischief? Or does the threat come from the Border Lands?"
"I do not know Morgan, I have told you all that I can. Now we must be vigilant, and teach the young prince the Old Ways."
Belle was disgusted. Her son had failed her, and at such a simple task too. Maybe there was too much of his father in him after all.
What could have been more simple than placing a sleeping potion next to the Queen's night table? The whole Kingdom was aware that the Queen had trouble sleeping at night, that she would walk the deserted beaches until the early light peeked above the horizon. Just a few sips of Belle's sleeping potion, and the Queen would lose the bastard she was currently carrying, and she would never have another child. Belle laughed to herself. How was that for a good night's sleep?
Then she frowned. Instead her son had bungled it, getting caught like he had. A pox on her meddling mother! Belle had been so close to taking Morgan's second child from him, and any future children as well. She would just have to console herself that her main plan was taking shape beautifully, and when the time was right, Belle would strike at the very heart of the man she hated the most. Morgan would pay, and pay dearly for his rejection of her.
Lord Argus glanced at his son as they walked towards the study together. Timmothy had been glowering for hours, no doubt the result of the conversation he had earlier in the day with his mother. Neither Belle nor Timmothy ever told him anything, but Argus could make a good guess at what had happened. Belle had given Timmothy a task, and Timmothy had failed.
Argus rejoiced in the fact that whatever task Belle had given Timmothy had failed. He knew he was a poor excuse for a father, yet he still hoped against hope that somehow his son would turn out all right. He was even encouraged that his father in law was taking the boy under his wing, and teaching him how to be a man. A good man, an honorable man. Argus hoped that the lessons would take root in his son, but he feared that his wife would simply poison the seeds. "Are you going with your Grandfather today?" Argus ventured to say with a nervous smile, he missed their easy relationship from when Timmothy was a young child, back when Belle ignored Timmothy's very existence.
"Old man Ember? No way, he's nothing but a fool." Timmothy sneered.
Argus felt his heart plummet at his son's words. Timmothy didn't seem to notice, or maybe he just didn't care, as he continued speaking without even pausing. "He won't even give me the secrets to wielding Fire, me! His only living grandson! He tells me that I have to earn the right to know, am I not of his blood? Am I not from the Fire Caste?" Timmothy spit out angrily. "He never told Mother either, but someday I will take those secrets from him, even if I have to rip into his brain to get them, I will. With the power of Fire at my disposal, I could do great things. Greater things than even what Mother has done."
"Timmothy, your grandfather is a great man, a good man. He'll know when you are ready for the responsibility of greater power, you just have to trust in his wisdom."
Timmothy looked at his father as if he had just grown a third head.
"I sometimes forget how you are." he muttered under his breath. Argus had the feeling that he had somehow disappointed his son, once again.
"Ava, I'm taking the boy fishing with me. Would you like to join us?" Morgan's voice interrupted Ava's musings on life and death. She had been trying her best to be more engaged in her life for Taliesin's sake. His sad little cries of Mama Mama still haunted her sleep. "It is one of the best spots for catching toads, and snakes, and all kinds of critters." He cajoled.
While she may be up and out of her bed, she did not have the energy to go out chasing after her husband, or child, or even toads. "I think I'll stay home." she answered him, without bothering to turn around. She didn't want to see the disappointment on their faces. "It is getting rather late."
She heard Morgan sigh, and then Tal's sweet little boy voice. "Please Mama. Won't you come? You promised last time that you would come with us the next time."
"I'm sorry Tal, I'm just not up to it. Maybe next time." She closed her eyes, and laid her forehead on the cool glass of the window. Surely next time she would have a little more energy.
"Come on buddy, let's go." She heard Morgan say.
She listened to their fading footsteps, and she longed to call them back and ask them to wait just a moment. She could be ready to go in less than five minutes, but as quickly as that urge came over her, it left just as fast, leaving the emptiness in its wake. She settled into the gloom of the still, silent castle, devoid of life.
She continued to stare out the window, long after she could no longer see Morgan or Taliesin in the distance. The baby kicked inside her, and she absently rubbed her stomach. She wished she could feel something besides the awful emptiness, she knew she was hurting her son, but none of it seemed to matter. Nothing mattered. The only peace she ever felt was when she walked the beach, alone. She would listen to the song of the waves crashing on the shore, and she even imagined she could hear a chorus of women's voices that mingled with the waves in the sweetest harmony Ava had ever heard.
Today there was only silence.
Taliesin kicked at the rocks as he walked along the path beside his father. Rags danced in and out between his feet, and Tal almost kept tripping over him. He shielded his eyes from the setting sun. He wished his mom had come with them. She always promised, but she never kept her promises. Ever. "Here we are." Morgan announced, and Tal looked up, surprised that they were already at the fishing pond.
"We're here already?"
"Already?" Morgan chuckled. "We've been walking for quite a while now." He looked at his son. "You seemed to be thinking big thoughts, so I left you to it."
Tal nodded. "Yes sir, I was."
Morgan bent down and started to set out their fishing supplies. He handed a pole to Taliesin, and showed him how to hook the worm and cast the reel, before grabbing his own pole. Several minutes of companionable silence went by before Morgan asked, "Do you want to talk about it?" Morgan let the question hang there, he would not push his son, but he wanted Tal to know that he had an available ear if he needed to talk.
Taliesin frowned as he stared down at the water and the bobbing hook. "Abby says that Lady Winter is your mistress, I don't know what that means, but I know it's bad. I wanted to hit her, but I didn't, cause she's a girl, and Turin says I'm never to hit a girl." He scowled. "But she'd have deserved it. She said that's why Mama went crazy, she couldn't take your phil...phila..." Tal struggled to say the word. "Philandering ways."
Morgan stared in shock at his son, who refused to look at him, but kept staring straight in front of him. Out of all the things that might be bothering his son, Morgan had not expected it to be about Belle. He grimaced. He could just imagine who was at the heart of this rumor.
"So instead, I put a spider in her hair, and she screamed, and I got in trouble for being mis, mis, for being a troublemaker. I should have hit her. What is a mistress Father, and is Lady Winter yours?"
"Well, son, Turin is correct, you should never hit a girl, no matter how provoked. We are here to protect our people, guide them, and lead them. They would not willingly follow someone who hits those who are weaker than themselves."
"Abby is not weaker than me." Taliesin grumbled. "She is at least a head taller than me! I think she's going to grow up to be a giant!"
Morgan smiled at his son. "You'll catch up." He stared down at the water silently for a moment, searching for the right words to say. "A mistress is a woman that a man keeps for a bed companion, but does not marry."
Tal looked up at his father. "You mean like Rags?"
Tal made a face. "I knew it, a mistress is bad. Kissing is yucky, I'll never have a mistress."
Morgan laughed. "That's good son, that's good. Someday when you get married, your wife will be glad to hear it."
Tal scrunched his face. "Girls are stupid." he declared. "They don't like spiders, or mud, or fishing! They don't keep their word either. I'm never getting married."
Morgan sighed. There it was, the heart of the matter. Ava. "Taliesin..."
"I don't know why Mama hates me." Tal said sadly.
"Hate you?" Morgan sputtered in surprise. "Taliesin," he said firmly, "your mother doesn't hate you, quite the opposite in fact. She spent years and years trying to have you. The greatest day of our lives was when you were born! The truth is Tal, your mother is sick, but just because she is sick does not mean that she doesn't love you!"
"Do you understand?" Morgan looked over at his son, who was absently chewing on his lower lip, a habit of Ava's that Tal unconsciously copied. "She loves you very much, and when she gets well again, then things will be back to normal, you'll see."
Taliesin nodded yes, he didn't want to upset his father, but he knew what he knew. As Turin had told him once, facts are facts, but opinions can be deceptive. He knew his father meant well, but Taliesin could see the facts for himself.
Ava breathed in the cold frosty air, and sighed, contented. There was nothing better than her solitary walks, where she could just be. She didn't have the disappointment of her son or her husband to contend with here. Here, it was just her, and the music on the ocean breeze. She heard approaching footsteps, and sighed heavily. The music faded, and Ava knew it was time to return home, her solitude was gone.
Her heavily pregnant body no longer moved as quickly as it once did. She could not so easily make her escape, and she heard her name called, by an unfamiliar voice. She hesitated, she thought about ignoring the voice, but in the end, she was the Queen. She had a duty to attend to. She turned, and faced the voice.
"Your Majesty, I am delighted to see you!"
Ava regarded her curiously. "Do I know you?"
The woman laughed. "Forgive me Highness, for not properly introducing myself. I am the Lady Jezebelle Winter."
Ava smiled at her, a little unsure. She had been warned by many people that she should steer clear of Lady Winter, and Ava had managed to do so until today. What had they told her? Something about how this woman harbored her ill will? She seemed pleasant enough though. "Lady Winter." Ava acknowledged.
A cruel half smile played about Belle's lips. "Please, your Majesty, call me Belle, just like Morgan does."
The familiar ease in the way that Lady Winter said Morgan's name, instead of addressing him by his proper title, temporarily stunned Ava. She stared at Belle, just what was that woman implying? Ava lifted her chin. "We are hardly familiar friends, Lady Winter."
"My apologies your Highness, I only thought that since Morgan and I are such..." Belle paused for maximum effect, "...old friends, that you and I could be friends as well."
"You know my husband then." Ava said stiffly.
Belle cackled. "Know him? I know him...very well. We grew up together, the closest, and most intimate of...friends." Her tone of voice left no doubt in just how close they had been. "Did he not tell you this?"
"What my husband and I talk about is none of your concern, Lady Winter. Now if you'll excuse me..."
Ava started to turn away, but Belle's next words stopped her in her tracks. "Did you ever ask him why he doesn't want you to walk along the shores of Siren's Cove?"
Ava paused, then turned back towards Belle. "It is for my protection of course. There is an old magic there that..."
Belle interrupted her. "...that causes people to see that which they fear most, and it drives them to despair, and to their deaths." Belle laughed contemptuously. "And you believed that nonsense?"
"I believe my husband."
Belle smirked. "Believe him then, Highness, but if you are ever interested in learning the truth, walk there sometime, and you will find it."
"Find what, Lady Winter? Find out as I lie dying that my husband was telling the truth, and that I should have listened to him?"
Belle shook her head, in venomous pity. "You will find Morgan and I, together, as we should have always been, if not for you. You have ruined his life, and made him miserably unhappy. He loves me, not you..."
"You lie! I will not listen any more to this..."
"Do I? Then how would I know..." Belle went into great depth, using every detail she could remember to torment Ava with. Belle's time with Morgan still blazed like a wildfire in her memory, she would never forget what he had done to her. Never.
Belle poured out her bitter poison and watched with malicious satisfaction as her words hit true, and the Queen's face paled, turning as white as the snow. It would only be a matter of time now, and one more thing that Morgan loved would be taken from him. Belle's lips curved in a semblance of a smile. "I hope you enjoyed the christening gown your Highness, I know I did."
Lady Winter's words were acid eating into Ava's soul, hadn't she always known there was something Morgan was keeping from her? Belle. B from that long ago note? She wanted to cry and scream out the dark grief that enveloped her, but she was too empty to do either. Her heart was a shriveled husk within her. Instead she gathered what remained of her dignity, nodded regally at Belle, and said firmly, "Good day Lady Winter."
"Charnos, it is time."
Charnos lifted his hands in surprise. "Already?"
Belle nodded. "I have planted the seed, and Ianthe will water it. I need you to fade back into the Wildwoods for a season or two, they will not question their fortune, the Borderlands lie in smoking ruins, and the dead are too many to count. My son will need something to rule, so for now, this War ends."
"As you wish Mistress." Charnos eyes gleamed. "I do hope you come by and visit me...often." His feral grin revealed pointy teeth.
Ianthe tapped her foot impatiently. "Enough of this nonsense, what about the King? I was promised the King!"
Belle barely glanced at her. "In time, in time, Ianthe. You must be patient, soon we will have taken the very heart of the King, and that will open up the way for you. You cannot have the King, as long as she lives."
"It would be a simple matter to slip her some poison, I do not understand all your worthless plotting!"
"That is because you are but a child." Belle said dismissively. "So you think like a child. If you poison her, he will immediately come after us. No, it must be her choice to leave, and she will make it soon, especially with some well placed words from you. You must play this exactly the way I tell you, do not deviate from it, or the plan fails. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Ianthe said sulkily. "But I do not like it. I am tired of playing servant girl, when I could be Queen instead."
Belle turned to Charnos with a heavy sigh. "She is a very pretty thing, don't you think Charnos? Yet her youth betrays her."
Charnos growled. "Very pretty indeed. Will her youth betray us Mistress? I could take care of her now, and no one would be the wiser."
Belle gave Ianthe a cold glare, and Ianthe took a step back. "Please Belle, I meant nothing, I was just expressing my desire to be with my King."
"He was mine before yours Ianthe, never forget that. Weakness must be eliminated, you know this Ianthe."
Ianthe straightened. "I am not weak Belle, I can do this. Forgive me for my youthful impatience, it will not happen again."
"See that it does not."
The King's daughter was born on a cold winter's night, fitting weather for the coldness that Ava felt inside. Charis cried for hours on end, without relief, and Ava took to walking with her daughter at night, her own mind in turmoil. Over that woman. Over her husband.
Ava could not bear to look at her husband, every time she did so, she saw the face of that woman. Part of Ava had been aware, even in her pain, that Lady Winter obviously hated her, and that her words were not necessarily the truth. So Ava had gathered up her courage, and had asked Morgan about it. He had barked at her that it was all ancient history, and why in the world was she dredging it all up now?
Why indeed? Why couldn't she get past it? He was always attentive to her, he was an excellent father, and she wanted for nothing. Nothing but love that was. She wanted his love, to know that he was wholly hers, and hers alone.
Round and round she went in her thoughts, chasing after that illusive peace of mind. Until Ava knew she could not stand it any longer, she had to know the truth, to see it with her own eyes. She would go to Siren's Cove, and put the whole matter to rest, once and for all.
Notes: Egads it's been forever! lol Finally an update! Woot!
In case it wasn't clear, Ava suffers from severe depression, and she is spiraling down, and quickly. Unfortunately, because she is depressed, she is not able to make the best of decisions. She also has Ianthe whispering in her ear, so that is not helping her out. Morgan doesn't know how to help her out, he's just tired of the fact that she doesn't want to do anything, and that she's always questioning him about his past, and even what he is up to presently. He feels like he's already answered her a million times, but she is never satisfied, and always suspicious.
I adore Taliesin, he's such a cutie. Poor kid though, it's true that depression not only affects the one that is depressed, but it affects their loved ones as well. He's trying his best to understand what is going on, sadly, he is drawing the wrong conclusions.
As far as the challenge goes, the generational goal is Fulfilled. Ava has fulfilled her LTW, still working on Morgan's. When I opened up that save, it had horrendous, awful lag, I almost thought I would have to Porter everyone and start over. Then I discovered it was caused by sims stuck in labor---that is what happens when you pull out mods that affect the length of time a sim is pregnant, lol Whoops! A little use of DebugEnabler and MasterController, and I think it is all straightened out. It plays much better anyway, lol
Finally, here are some family pics I took a long time ago.
Thanks for reading! =)