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The Great Tapestry Unravelled


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Art not by me.


Weak light seeped through the canvas, setting the tent aglow. Godan, morning already. Saoirse was not used to rising with the sun—the maids in Castle Lichestadt would close her shutters at night, locking out the bitter northern air, opening them only when she was awake and bathing. On the road, the forest streams were her bath, the flowering meadows her parlour. She donned her cloak  and shuffled into a world of blue and silvery grey, light as morning but brimming with midnight stillness. What? Saoirse rubbed her eyes, disorientated by the fat silver coin of a moon gleaming on the pond between their tents. 


Night was never so bright as this in the north. How could that be? Same moon, same sky, but that first step out of Karosgrad’s gates a fortnight ago had been a leap into another world. Saoirse left the camp, trekking up a short rise to stare northwards. Homewards. Across that vast stretch of land, her sisters dutifully sat in their castles, weaving fresh strands into the great tapestry of House Baruch while Saoirse unravelled it with every mile she rode further south. Soon, she would have no thread left to pull.


“Do you miss it?” 


Eugen appeared beside her and she startled, touching her fingers to the pearls at her throat. She never took them off, even though there was no use for them in the wilderness. Feeling the cool, smooth surface beneath her fingertips calmed her racing heart.


“I wish you wouldn’t sneak up on me like that.” She turned back to the rolling hills. If she avoided his eyes, she could avoid his question, and ignore the gaping space in her heart no measure of freedom could fill.


They stood in silence, the moon arcing overhead. “I miss it, too,” he said, but when she looked at him he had vanished, padding back to the camp as quietly as he had come.


Night gave way to a milky dawn. Saoirse trudged down the hill to find the tents cleared and their horses tacked up. Eugen wordlessly handed her the reins and helped her into the saddle. They rode two abreast, their horses plodding leisurely along a wooded path dense with birch and aspen, alien to the pine forests between Valwyck and Karosgrad. This is why I left. Frothy white and yellow blooms on either side of the path spilled over like beerheads; she carded her fingers through the branches and they came away wet with dew. Feel the morning on your skin, taste the air, breathe in the world and never look back. 


Isabel would have told Daid by now. And Margrait. A pang shot through her and she spurred her horse into a canter, as if she could outstrip the guilt, as if it wasn’t crowding in on her from within. Why, Saoirse? Isabel had asked. Why? Why, indeed. Eugen was a perfectly acceptable match—the second son of a Duke, as she was a second daughter. Eirik would accept their courtship if she had only asked him. A nighttime flight from the Kingdom, leaving her bedroom bare, no note, scant good-byes; it was excessive, unnecessary. That was what Freya would say. She caught glimpses of her sisters between the trees, the white blossoms making up the trails of their wedding gowns. First Isabel, then Margrait, then Eileen. Freya, undoubtedly, would be next. Duty. Honour. Sacrifice. Isabel, swollen with child, because the future Duchess of Valwyck must have an heir.


Saoirse drove her horse faster and faster, the world a blur of yellow, white, and green. Eugen called her name but he was far away, his voice barely a whisper over the wind rushing in her ears. This was freedom. Cold stinging her cheeks, leather chafing her palms, her pulse thundering like the horse beneath her. A wedding gown was a prison unto itself, layers of wool, velvet, and tartan, pure as snow, heavy as iron. Weighing down every step to the altar, stones in her pockets, drowning. Seeing Eileen seal her sentence with a kiss had snapped something inside of Saoirse, something that had begun to fray at the very beginning of Lifstala.


I’m not looking for love. I will marry whoever my father tells me to, for that is my duty as a Baruch. Those were the words she had spoken beside a shallow pond in the Nikirala gardens, Eugen sitting a polite distance away on the picnic blanket. Aloisa, their diligent chaperone, had stood a short way off. How long ago Lifstala felt. A lifetime. I wished for you to know that before you had any real intentions of courting me. She had enjoyed his company. They spoke of horses, painting, and all the places they wished to travel once the war was over. Yet, when Margrait’s machinations drew her into another man’s orbit, Saoirse cared little. A noose was a noose, and it would tighten no matter who pulled the lever.


“Saoirse!” The trees thinned. Eugen’s horse was faster on the open plains and he soon caught up, drawing level with her. “Saoirse, stop. You’ll overwork the horses, and there’s still miles yet to go before we reach Elysium.”


Saoirse reined her horse in, the memory fading around her in patchy greyscale. She thought the gardens had taught her colour, but they were naught but dour brick and slate compared to the landscape unfolding around them now that they were clear of the treeline. Verdant hills rolled gently into the distance, lapping at the base of gargantuan trees. Even miles off, Saoirse imagined ten men with their hands interlinked wouldn’t reach halfway around the trunks. She sat breathing heavily, staring at those trees to keep from meeting Eugen’s gaze as he brought his horse up beside her.


“You’re shaking.”


She was. Everything ached and her heart trembled, bleeding out the adrenaline. She slid from the saddle and stalked to a nearby berry bush on stiff, uncertain legs. Get a hold of yourself. The iron fortress around her soul had begun to rust at her mother’s death, grief corroding the metal until it was thin and jagged. Calling her sisters’ faces to memory punctured it further. She was wearing out, as rickety as the play fort her sisters’ friends had played in as children.


“Let’s rest for a while.” She kept her back to Eugen, plucking a berry and rolling it between her fingers. “We have plenty of hours of sunlight.”


He caught her wrist before she could bring it to her lips. “Don’t eat that.” Prying the fruit from her, he flung it off into the grass. It bounced and rolled, falling into a narrow brook with a splash, carried away downstream. “It’s poison.”


The bandages wrapped around his knuckles scratched her skin, rough and inexpertly tied. She had tried her best to patch him up that night, the night the letter came and she found him crumpled and broken beside the campfire, his hands a bloody mess. Bark lay scattered everywhere, a nearby tree viciously pummelled. The raw wood had looked strangely naked in the darkness. Konstanz is dead. No other words were spoken that night. What could you say to a man who had lost his brother and estranged the rest of his family in the span of a heartbeat?


“Thank you.” Saoirse wiped her hand on her cloak, in case any of the poison lingered on her fingers.


Finally, finally, she looked at him. No longer was he the boy too hesitant to approach, lest the Hearsay of Hanseti-Ruska sharpen its quill. A shadow of a beard graced his jaw and his eyes were too hard to belong to anyone but a man who had lived so little but endured too much. Saoirse had not run away with him to elope. She longed to be free, to drink in the world and commit it to paint without her ancient lineage looming over her shoulder with every brushstroke. Out on the plain, a forest at her back, a sweet breeze in her hair—there was no one to see them for miles, nothing to stop him from running his thumb over the back of her hand.


She had presumed her inevitable marriage would be for duty. A sacrifice, by mountain, river, and coal. But she had slipped the noose, absconding in the night with the boy she had said she did not and could never love, not in the way that mattered. Eugen slowly took her hand and, in that moment, Saoirse knew of no other she would rather have as her companion for this grand, unfurling adventure. No one else in the world.

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The warmth of the lands gradually disappeared with the appearance of a cooler and calmer temperature and weather alike as darkness came, revealing the stars that it had hidden with the passing of the fluffed, white clouds. Eugen would have set up the camp for the two of them before the approaching night. The faint sounds of rushing water a few steps away from where they had set up camp for the night had offered a basic but utterly gorgeous view on the areas they now crossed.


Saoirse had aided Eugen in preparing their supper for the night as the stream with many fish traveled south, and with the cool weather lightly brushing their skins, their feast would further improve their surroundings. "I shall be at the waterfall," Eugen stated as they finished their meal and moved off one of the two fallen tree barks they were sitting on. "Certainly, you are welcome to join." That was all the Barclay said, dusting off the fallen leaves and branches that had accumulated on him while sat and leading the pair to a tiny overhang of boulders that had been positioned just far enough away from the splashing water to avoid hitting any of them.


The timing of their leaving could not have been worse for him, but he felt at rest, a calm that he had finally found, albeit his thoughts heavy with the premature loss of his brother. Eugen looked out over the shallow waters of the pond that would be produced by the waterfall, the night sky shining and the stars reflected off the clean water, illuminating their surrounds. Eugen clenched his teeth as he envisioned his family all there, a rare sight for all of them to be present and together, he would only let out a deep yet shallow sigh knowing that he had done wrong by them all. Yet it felt right, it felt natural to him, where he was and who he was with, traveling across the continent in freedom, he simply reminded himself with his thoughts that there was no one else this world could provide for him to join in that moment, only shifting his hand to take hers whilst they sat in silence.

Edited by __Stal27
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fantastic writing 


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A scorned heiress found herself occupied within her former bed chambers, quietly sorting through old toys and trinkets to pass onto her child, who, in the earliest days of her pregnancy, she deemed a necessity, a sacrifice. 


Perhaps she loathed Saoirse because she was abandoning her duties, or perhaps she loathed Saoirse because she obtained what she could never: true freedom from her duties.

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A groggy Matyas gripped the reins tightly on his early-dawn ride back from the wedding at Jerovitz. Eugen and Saoirse... certainly not a pairing the squire had expected. Saoirse was always willful, self-sufficient to such an extent that her choice to bring company surprised him far more than the flight itself.


But he had done his due diligence. It wasn't compromised honor that begat this escape, no duel could be won nor apology extracted to return his dear cousin to the stone towers of their childhood. How quiet those halls were now. As a boy he could often hardly sleep for overhearing the incessant giggling of the girls behind Isabel's door across the hall. So long as she is happier this way, I cannot begrudge the honest will of her heart. He did need to ready that piece from the armory for Eugen, he remembered. Near or far, he would see that any Baruch was protected with proper Valwyck steel.

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Konstanz Barclay would be sat down on the soft surface near the entrance of the Seven Skies, his arms loosely wrapped around a sword he had yet to remove the green and blue cloth from. His gaze would not be turned to the piece however, but downward, watching those he knew in his life and patiently waiting for one of them to join him. Though as his watch waned from his loved ones in Haense to his brother and Saoirse, he seemed to find an abnormality in his thoughts, and a weak smile found it's way onto his visage. Perhaps he had found someone else he could wait a long while for. "Take ihr time, bruder. I'll be up here either way."

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Aloisa was not at all fearful for her run-away brother. She knew that he was smart enough to survive, she knew that of he needed her, he would call for her. But this fact didn’t make his absence any easier. She missed him, terribly.

Though she had been so keen on the happenings of the court, a small part of her wished for the adventure he was embarking on. He had seemed so eased when he came to her to tell him of her plans, and eased is a feeling Aloisa had not felt in a long while.

Who was she to complain though? She had acquired the life she always dreamed, she married and handsome prince and has been afforded the perks of her new title. Perhaps her dream life was not as magical as she thought. Perhaps she had made a mistake somewhere.

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The wind blew gently around the young Lord, his father was still well, and he had yet to inherit any titles, and the thought was barely on his mind. He stood atop a hill, watching over Lake Voron; if he turned slightly to his left, he could see Lichtestadt too. The grass whistled briefly around him, and he looked down to the paper, which was held down by a rock. He had been penning a letter.


In his younger days, there was so much Eirik Baruch thought he could do. He thought it a terrible curse to be limited to a life in which your duty; your purpose, was determined by your birth. To be the Duke of Valwyck, there was no thought that he hated more than that. Nevertheless, it was a single phrase that echoed in the back of his head, the one that made him stay for his supposed duties, “I mustn’t run away.” A simple plea to himself.

That was why, when Isabel had told him that Saoirse had run away from home, the Duke only chuckled. Despite everything, however much he had raised any of his daughters, there was none that had taken after him more than Saoirse had. In the end, he found no anger for the actions of his daughter. He only hoped that she wouldn’t regret her choice.

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