Shame and Silence
Rexus was lost in maps, his attention focused on finding the best routes for their troops to make their way through the city. The day was approaching rapidly that they would actually be openly fighting against Thrune. It was strange – as much as he had anticipated this when he first brought Corthos, Maxwell, and Laria together to form the Ravens, it had always seemed a far-off prospect. But now it seemed all too real, his anxiety like ice running through his veins. Between the approaching revolution and the fact that he hadn’t heard from Guinevere in nearly a week, he felt like if he didn’t keep going, it would freeze him altogether.
He didn’t realize Lena had entered the room until she tapped on his shoulder, causing him to jump a little. He looked up at her standing next to him. “Lena.” He tried to force a smile onto his face. “I apologize, I was so focused I didn’t hear you come in.”
Lena smiled at him as she set down a tray with a cup of tea and a sandwich. “I didn’t mean to disturb you, I was just bringing you something to eat. We’ve barely seen you out of your room in days. Actually…” She bit her lip, suddenly seeming nervous. “I do need to talk to you about something.”
Rexus prayed silently that she wasn’t about to confess that she was in love with Maxwell too. He’d never felt older than he had recently in dealing with the boy and Isabelle. “Of course, sit down.”
Lena perched herself on the edge of the bed and sighed. “I’m not really sure how to phrase this, but… How long do you intend to keep this Guinevere thing going?”
Rexus nearly choked on his tea. Still coughing, he turned to her. “I…I’m not sure what you mean.” The panic was beginning to set in. How had she found out? Did Corthos know?
Lena rolled her eyes. “You’ve been sneaking out every couple of days for weeks, and the safehouse by the harbor has clearly been used by someone. Now for a week you’ve been holed up in your room again, and the rumor around the city is that Lady Thrune hasn’t been seen in that time. You clearly know her, since she’s your childhood friend’s sister. I’m not stupid, Rexus.”
Rexus’ eyes widened. Lena was too smart for her own good sometimes. “You most certainly are not. Does Corthos know?”
Lena grinned. “He just got married, so I’m not sure he knows what day it is.”
Rexus chuckled mirthlessly. “Fair enough. Is there any way I can convince you not to tell him?”
“I’m not going to tell him.” The confusion was evident in Lena’s voice. “That’s your job. I just wanted to ask you how long you were going to keep this up. You have to know you can’t be, like, her little secret forever.”
Rexus winced. “Uncommonly blunt. You’ve been spending time with Isabelle, haven’t you?”
“Avoiding the question.” Lena let out another sigh. “Look, I know that you’re a poet, and there’s nothing more poetic than star-crossed lovers fighting against an unjust world. I’ve read them all – Keatwick, Auritoise, Balduin… But that’s not how the real world works.”
“Auritoise waited thirty years for Beatrix,” Rexus protested weakly.
Lena fixed him with a stern gaze, suddenly seeming much older than seventeen. “Her husband is going to find out eventually. Is she going to leave him for you? Can she do that without breaking all ties with Thrune and Tanessen, without giving up everything she has? Corthos did it, but she’s got so much more to lose.”
Rexus slumped back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair, staring at the ceiling. When he finally spoke, his voice was flat and hard. “Yes, I’m an idiot. A romantic fool. You’re not telling me anything I haven’t told myself a hundred times. She’s not going to leave Alasdair, and eventually this will become too dangerous. But I cannot stop. I have loved her since I was ten years old, Lena. Even as shameful and secretive as this is, it’s as close as I will ever get.”
Lena was silent for a long moment. Finally, she rose and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I won’t tell anyone else. You have my word. And I’m not going to tell you that you’re doing the right thing. But whatever happens, however this turns out, I’ll be here for you. ‘Love, so much like war: simple to start, hard to end.’” With the Auritoise quotation still lingering in the air, she exited the room, closing the door with a click.
With a sigh, Rexus opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a bottle. He was going to need something much stronger than tea if he was going to get any more work done tonight.