Absolution and Apology
“Corthos. This is a surprise.” Guinevere looked at her brother with mild confusion – he had never made a point of stopping by unannounced before. He grinned back. “I thought you liked surprises, Winnie.” She smiled in spite of herself. “I do. I just seem to find myself in an abundance of them as of late.” Corthos paused, speaking hesitantly. “Please, Winnie, do not tell me that is some coy way of you saying that you are with child. Because – and I mean this politely – I may need to drink some manner of poison at that thought.” She tilted her head to the side, rolling her eyes. “You wouldn’t enjoy being Uncle Corthos, telling the children of all of your own indiscretions when Alasdair seems too strict?” He laughed. “Winnie, I don’t have that many recollections of great times with an uncle. Geoff always doted on you and Eliza, and was never that keen on my behaviors.” She smirked. “Yes, well. You had a role to play, we simply had to be pretty and graceful. Less expectation. But again, I have to ask – what brings you to my home? I was under the impression that you and Alasdair had finished your case.”
“We have. And that is part of why I came by. Look…this is for him.” Corthos reached into his pocket, producing a finely made pocketwatch in the Varisian style – elegant, yet functional. “I know I have said many things about Alasdair through the years – And I still stand by them – but he was a great boon during that case. And I know it was his first on the upper court, so I thought I would give him a token to remember it by.” Guinevere took it from him, turning it over and making certain that there were no hidden profanities on it. “That’s….very unlike you, Cor. Alasdair has a high respect for you – he thinks you a clever man, and he hopes to work hard enough to earn your respect. I’m certain that this will be quite meaningful to him. But – why? I didn’t think getting in the good graces of Alasdair was high on your priority list.”
He shifted his weight slightly, looking awkward. “Gwen…the world is shifting rapidly. And it’s better that some things get put to rest and others said, lest they did off in the mouth. I don’t need Alasdair’s good graces, but he worked hard to help on a case that I accused him of only taking to spite me. And he’s been good to you – he’s never struck you or created problems. I don’t enjoy his company on a personal level, and I doubt he and I will ever be equals, but I realize that there are a lot of worse options out there. And as long as he treats you right, then I suppose I’ll make what peace I can with it. For your sake.” Gwen reached out, brushing her hand against Corthos’ head. “Not a fever. And you aren’t drunk – or you’ve become very good at hiding it. What happened to you?” He brushed her hand aside with a small grin.
“That isn’t the last of the news, Gwen. I’ve…” He shrugged before revealing his hand, a plain silver ring around his ring finger, elven lettering etched on it. “I’ve found myself engaged again.” Gwen almost dropped the watch, hurriedly setting it aside before grabbing at his hand and then looking back at Corthos. “Who? When? Why? You?” Corthos raised an eyebrow at the rapid-fire questioning, responding in a slow and calm tone. “A seamstress who works for Isadora Anton. Maisie Menard is her name. We….met quite some time ago, at a masquerade. Even with the masks on, we found ourselves drawn together. And with how the world has been going, and how Kintargo has been, and my own actions – I never know how many days I have left. So why wait? Why face death with grudges held and words unsaid? She knows who I am, and who I was, and she still chooses me. I know of her past and her role in society, and I still chose her. I refuse to let anyone else pick out what I want for my happiness.”
A tiny pang of sorrow passed over Gwen’s eyes, her hand playing with her own rings. She stood across from Corthos, tall and proud. “Corthos…gods help the woman that gets into a marriage with you. You are, without a doubt, the most infuriating person I have ever known. But do not slow yourself down for some maiden that you find. You are meant for greatness, and you awlays have been. Do not settle yourself with just some pretty little thing because she is willing. Is this honestly what you want?” Gwen felt a deep hurt, deeper than she had thought possible before. She had never had this choice to make, this decision – her heart had been made up for her, and she had simply been told of her marriage like it was a purchase of any other common good. Alasdair was fine, and he was sweet, and he seemed to love her, but….there were other ideas, other chances that stood just outside of her vision, lives left unlived. She felt a pain for all of them.
“Gwen, I have never wanted anything more in my life.” She nodded, then embraced him. As she stepped back, he held her arms, looking her in the eyes. “There is one more thing. I owe you an apology – an apology greater than anything I can put into words. When you and Alasdair were married, I avoided your wedding, you know that. I did it as a sign of political dissidence, but I missed out on so much because of a short-sighted ideology. I should have been there for you, Gwen. To see you on that day, to watch you, to stand by your side – and instead I was a damned fool who believed himself more important. And I have never apologized for that. But there is nothing that I regret more as a decision.” Gwen felt tears rush to her eyes, a frustration and sadness that had long been repressed suddenly springing forward. She punched her fist into his chest with a sob.
“Do you know how badly that hurt me, Corthos? All that I wanted was to see one friend, one trusted confidant, one person who didn’t go along with the scheme, who would have been a comforting face while I was handed off to a man I had hardly met! And you couldn’t do that for me? It was about you, you, you, your dissidence, your political game, and I was just a scared girl who wanted her brother. You have no idea how badly that hurt, how awful that felt, how alone I was. And you can come here now and tell me your regret and tell me whatever you want, but that can’t change the fact that when I needed you to be there, it was more about you than it was about me. And I believe in you, Corthos, more than anyone else does. But you need to realize that life is not just about whatever Corthos wants to do, moving place to place, leaving a trail of ruin behind him.” She stepped back, taking a deep breath and attempting to regain her composure. “I am happy for you, Corthos. And I love you dearly. But I could not sit here and accept your apology and just pretend that it made everything okay, because it doesn’t. But at least now you know that. After all, as you keep saying, it is better to not leave things unsaid and paths unexplored.”
Corthos nodded sadly, a deep sorrow seeming to take root. “I will let you go about your day then, Guinevere. When the wedding comes, I pray that you will be the better person than I was.” She nodded sternly, wiping away tears. “I would not miss it, Corthos. I love you, in spite of yourself. Just…be the better man that I know you can be.” He nodded slowly, and on a turned heel, left the house. Gwen took the pocketwatch, placing it on her husband’s desk as she went upstairs to her own room. She lifted a quill and a paper, her hand shaking as she wrote.
Master Victocora -