Author/Artist: Becca Stareyes
Theme: Five stages of life: birth
Author's Notes: Set between Five Hundred Years After and The Paths of the Dead (or at least the main bits).
Mail was not as it was when the Emperor reigned. Aerich had kept his own territories secure, but Tazendra knew that many nobles had been either in Dragaera City when it was destroyed or had succumbed to various calamities caused by the lack of sorcery. And the lack of a proper nobility to levy its own soldiers -- or, in some cases, the ambition of certain nobles to be warlords -- meant that most no longer made long journeys.
Tazendra herself didn't have a particular problem with this, as brigands preferred to attack Dzurlords in such numbers that she was entertained by the melee. But it was a disappointment once Khaavren and his Countess left for Adrilankha and Pel went… wherever Pel went, that she did not hear from them regularly. In truth, she had only found out about Khaavren's marriage some months after the fact.
So, the arrival of a letter from Khaavren and the Lady Daro was sufficient excuse to ride to Arylle and share it with Aerich, even had it not happened that the merchant -- who had passed it on from another, one of several such transfers on the road -- had two copies, one for her and one for Aerich. And, as it happened, she had some other business that required Aerich's attention.
As it happened, she arrived in time for the kitchen staff to be able to accommodate her for a truly excellent luncheon. It was near the end of the meal, over klava and fruit pastries, that Tazendra finally brought up the matter of the letter. She passed his copy over to Aerich.
"From Khaavren, you say?" Aerich asked as he broke the wax seal.
"Well, from him and the Countess Daro of Whitecrest. I have not opened mine, as I sought immediately to deliver yours to your hand."
Aerich shrugged, indicating she could have easily have sent a servant to attend to the matter, if she wished. "I hope you will not think me rude if I read this."
"On, not in the least, as I came so that we may hear the news of our friend together," Tazendra said.
Aerich nodded. "Well, then. It seems our dear friend is to be a father?"
"Does it then? Well, that is to be expected, is it not? He is a married man, now, and parenthood often follows marriage, especially when the couple are quite fond of one another." Tazendra hadn't met Daro under the best of circumstances, but she knew Khaavren. He was the sort who would have never even considered marriage unless he was utterly in love, and he lacked the titles and lands to make marriage -- or at least an acknowledged heir -- a duty.
"It is, but it is still a joyous occasion. I hope parenthood suits him well."
"As do I." The thought of heirs made Tazendra remember the other matters. "Oh, and I received news of my cousins."
"Well, it seems my cousin Ginah had some trouble with a Dragonlord and his army." It wasn't unexpected: Name was young, and young Dzurlords often travelled wide to seek their pleasure and fortunes. In general, those that were skilled or lucky -- or those which had some useful duty that prevented the more extravagant novelty-seeking impulses -- survived to be older Dzurlords.
Aerich, who knew the ways of Dzurlords, having been Tazendra's friend for centuries, merely nodded. "Was she not the same Ginah who is named as your heir?"
"In fact, she is. Which means I need to have you review my will, and second choice of heir." This had happened several times since she became Baroness. Tazendra had a large extended family, but, of course, it was a large and extended family of Dzur.
"I will do so promptly," Aerich said. "Thank you for keeping the lines of succession clear for Daavya."
"Bah, it is no trouble, until I run out of cousins." Tazendra smiled at her joke. "And it is not the most onerous of my duties as Baroness. But, now that the matter is taken care of, I should inform you I will be away for some time."
"Oh?" Aerich said.
"While I compliment the job you have done with securing the borders, my dear Duke, it is…" she frowned. "Stifling. Boring, even. So I have decided, with your permission, of course, to go on a quest."
"A quest, you say? For what?"
Tazendra shrugged. "I am certain I will know it when I locate it." Truthfully, she was confident that, even without a clear idea of what to look for, she would find some manner of excitement on the road.
"Well, if you have set orders for your staff, I see no reason to prevent you, now that the area is not at risk of war breaking out." Aerich said.
"If there was a risk of war, I would not be asking to leave," Tazendra answered. "Do you wish to come with me?"
She hadn't really thought before speaking. Or, rather, she'd mostly considered how she enjoyed Aerich's company, and that if a barony could do without its Baroness, a duchy could surely do so as well. "Yes. If you require time, I could delay my own departure."
Aerich smiled. "I would not ask you to, my dear. I fear that an extended absence would be bad for the duchy, as unsavory types may see it as an opportunity. Perhaps, once you have decided what, exactly, you quest for, you will write to me and I will join you."
Tazendra frowned. It was a bit disappointing, even though she would still have the company of Mica on her journey. But understandable. For that matter, Aerich could even be concerned that the type of excitement she desired would not be to his own tastes -- or, indeed, anyone save another Dzurlord. "I will most certainly do that."
And, if it was an incentive to find something interesting to quest for, why, Tazendra could accept that. Not that she needed incentive.