[IRP] Redcroft Manor

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Thea
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[IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Thea »

The whole manor was quiet. Not even the boy was fussing or crying at this hour. He was a finicky baby who seemed to cry more often than not. Thea assumed that this was the nature of babies, however, the nurse told her that he had colic. She neither knew what this meant nor did she care to inquire about this condition. All that she knew was that the boy often cried and screamed. It was a constant reminder of his presence. Thea was not the maternal type and while she did not hate her son, she did resent the constant screaming. Maybe some cosmic force allowed for quiet this night. Thea looked down at the slightly crumpled-up letter in her hand.

Unto Lady Dorathea Winterbourne, Lady of Redcroft:

My Dear Lady,

I am sorry to inform you that your mother, Lady Eunice Winterbourne, has died on this day the 3rd of September. According to the physician in Belcourt, your mother has been sick for many months now but she chose not to disclose this information to anyone. We at Belcourt are greatly saddened by this loss and we mourn with you during this time.

In accordance with your mother's wishes, she will be cremated within two days' time and her ashes will be scattered in the village. No funeral service will be held.

As you are Lord and Lady Belcourt's only heir, you will inherit their estate and title.

Yours in Service,
Branson Ball
Steward of Belcourt

After reading the letter for the umpteenth time, she crumbled it into her fist and tossed it onto the desk in the library. The girl then harshly pushed her chair backward, causing a loud scraping sound on the floor, before turning and leaving the room. It felt cramped in there. The dark wood paneling and heavy burgundy drapes made the study feel claustrophobic and unyielding. She strode silently through the darkened corridor to the conservatory. The room was similarly drenched in the darkness of the midnight hour, but here Thea could see the stars and constellations dotting the sky through the many glass panels that enclosed the room. It was the room where the young Winterbourne felt most at ease.

Thea did not feel sadness for the loss of her mother. It might seem callous, but it was true. They had a strained relationship at best and Thea still very much held a grudge against her mother for forcing her to live under her cousin Zuan. Mostly, Thea felt angry. Even in death her mother was controlling and only considered her own wishes. It was no wonder that Thea was a cold mother, her own mother had led by example.
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Lady Dorathea "Thea" Winterbourne | Cousin & Ward of King Zuan | The Red Wolf
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Cordelia
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Cordelia »

Cordelia looked out the carriage window curiously, grey eyes taking in the landscape. While they were close to the royal palace, she had never traversed the isolated road leading towards Redcroft Manor. Despite being near the palace, it felt like a secluded countryside. As the carriage rolled down the bumpy drive, she admired the manor when it emerged from the trees.

As the carriage rolled to a stop, she folded her fabric fan and stashed it into her pocket. She embraced the fresh air eagerly as she stepped out of the carriage. It pushed back a rising wave of nausea, cheeks warming at the sun’s touch. Autumn was around the corner. A crispness was filling the air in the middle of Fenia, offering relief from the warmer coastline. Cordelia had left Hart Helm and came straight to Redcroft. A chest of neatly packed luggage sat on the back of the carriage. She would make the most of her trip to the center of the kingdom, either staying at Redcroft or the Royal palace. Preferably, both, but she was uncertain of Thea’s mood and had her apartment at the Imperian Palace prepared for a stay ahead of time.

It had been about a month since she had last seen her cousin. It had been at the birth of the little boy she considered a nephew. When Thea went into labor, Cora was fetched immediately and she went to Everden. She did her best to support her cousin in a time she must have felt alone. She stayed for a week after the birth to ensure all was well before going home to her duties and husband in Hart Helm. A few short letters from Thea were not very telling of how she was doing, but Cordelia was caught up in her own life. It was not until the death of Lady Belcourt that Cordelia made the decision to check-in on Thea in person.

Smoothing down her navy dress, she approached the front door.
Lady Cordelia "Cora" Zabel Winterbourne Everhart-Gellygen of Hart Helm, the Horned Wolf
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Cousin to High King Zuan, Zhou, Ambra, Dahlia, Trinity, Serafay, & Thea
Big Sister to Elisabeth “Elisa” | Married to Rhozin Gellygen of Kiene
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Thea
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Thea »

The letter forewarning Thea of her cousin's impending arrival was received with a mixture of emotions. There was a part of her that was relieved that her cousin would be visiting. Cora had always been her closest ally and friend. She had never judged the decisions that Thea made, not even the reckless and dangerous ones. Then there was another part of her that dreaded having Cordelia in her space. While she loved her cousin, Thea was not sure she could deal with Cora's positivity right now. The two were so very different and yet so very similar. Two sides of the same coin. They were close in age and both had lost their fathers when they were young. Then they went down different paths. There was Cordelia who had thrived. She had gotten married for her family and followed the course that had been laid out for her. And then there was Thea who had lived a life of defiance, fighting everything and everyone who had tried to control her. Her rebellion had only caused more pain and isolation.

On the day of Cordelia's arrival, Thea had chosen to wait in the conservatory. This had quickly become her favorite place in the house. Even though she was still trapped in a box, she could feel the open air around her. It also helped that this was the furthest place in the house away from the nursery. Here there was quiet, even when Zev was crying. The boy was better in the hands of the nurses anyway, they knew how to care for him. Thea sat quietly on a cushioned bench waiting for Cora's appearance. Her leg bounced up and down as she stared blankly out of the window at an unremarkable tree. Uneasy thoughts swirled through her head as her apprehension grew until finally, a servant walked into the bright room followed by Cordelia.

"Cora."

Thea jumped to her feet and took an awkward step towards her cousin before more quickly closing the distance to embrace her. Every thought that filled her head she was unable to express as she could not find the words to speak them.
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Lady Dorathea "Thea" Winterbourne | Cousin & Ward of King Zuan | The Red Wolf
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Cordelia
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Cordelia »

The door opened as she approached it, with a small woman standing there to welcome her. The maid was unfamiliar to her, but she offered a warm smile with her greeting. Having sent notice ahead, it was evident her arrival had been watched for.

Cordelia followed the woman into the manor. Her curious gaze wandered as they walked. There was something about the place that just felt… Fitting. She could see her cousin finding a good rhythm within the walls of Redcroft. Her ears perked at the sound of a fussy babe, but the boy was out of sight. The cries grew quieter as they moved down the hall.

Once she spotted Thea past the servant, her smile grew. She entered the conservatory eagerly. Recent times had put them together again and it was a comfort to have her childhood companion back. She returned the embrace, although a bit taken aback by the emotions displayed on her cousin’s face. Perhaps it was only evident to her because she knew Thea so well, but the silence spoke for thoughts unsaid.

With a heartfelt smile, she took a step back to look her cousin over. “You are looking well, Thea. Thank you for letting me come visit. Tell me, how have you been?” She paused, turning to the servant that lingered in the doorway.

“Will you make us a pot of tea? I have tea leaves that I brought with me. Ask my driver for them.” She looked back to her cousin. “It’s a Kienian blend. It’s spicy? I think that’s an appropriate description. I am obsessed.”
Lady Cordelia "Cora" Zabel Winterbourne Everhart-Gellygen of Hart Helm, the Horned Wolf
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Cousin to High King Zuan, Zhou, Ambra, Dahlia, Trinity, Serafay, & Thea
Big Sister to Elisabeth “Elisa” | Married to Rhozin Gellygen of Kiene
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Thea
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Thea »

There was a noticeable hesitation as her cousin asked her how she was. It was a question she did not know how to answer. She still felt isolated and trapped. The anger that she felt towards her mother bubbled just beneath the surface, ready to explode at any moment. Thea turned away from her cousin, walking slowly back to the bench to sit down again. It allowed her a moment to gather her thoughts while Cora asked the maid for tea.

"Spicy tea? Is your new husband changing your palate already?"

Thea paused and waited for the maid to leave the room. Still uncertain of how to answer the other question, she pressed her lips together and tried to form the words. There were no words fitting for the way she felt. Finally, she managed to string some words together.

"My mother is dead... and I am furious with her."

There was another pause as she took a deep breath. The words that came out next came out rushed.

"It was all about control for her. Even in death, she is dictating things. Zuan still gets to dictate my life because of her. I am an unmarried single mother and he is the head of our family. I am not even a good mother. I do not like children. They are sticky and smelly and they scream all the time. Zev is just like every other child only I think he may be louder than other babies and I just want quiet."

She then turned to look at her cousin again, gray eyes meeting familiar gray eyes. Thea wondered if Cordelia would even understand the emotions that she felt.
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Lady Dorathea "Thea" Winterbourne | Cousin & Ward of King Zuan | The Red Wolf
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Cordelia
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Cordelia »

New husband. The words flitted through the air like the seeds of a dandelion, soft and mesmerizing. She had heard of newlywed bliss, the honeymoon phase… And she was very much amidst that stage. Time spent with Rhozin had been pleasant. They spent over a month in Kiene following their wedding. It was the furthest she had ever been from home and yet, she felt a sense of security when next to her spouse.

“Kienian food has a lot of… Flavour. There were some things I really enjoyed, but equally, some of the dishes are just too much. Needn’t worry, I still prefer a hearty Fenian feast.”

She gave a small grin, trying to light the mood. The air felt thick and as the maid disappeared, the emotions began to spill forth. Cordelia went to sit on the bench beside her cousin, letting her speak her mind. While there was pain there, she felt the anger foremost. A concerned crease formed across her forehead.

“I am sorry about your mother. I know you two were not close, but she was still your mother. Do you intend to return to Belcourt?”

The strained relationship between Thea and Eunice was difficult for Cora to imagine. Cordelia and her mother were best friends. While Thea distanced herself after her father’s death, Cordelia only got closer to her mother. It was yet another example how two similar women took different paths when presented similar situations. Control was exerted over them both, but with Cordelia following the rules, she did not feel suffocated like her cousin did.

But then the conversation turned to focus on the nephew Cordelia was dying to hold. A child that she knew her cousin did not want. In a gesture of support, she placed a hand atop Thea’s.

“The Mages only give you what they know you can handle.” She offered. “I will always take in little Zev if you need me too: temporarily or more permanently. You are family; he is family.

But… Maybe marriage would offer some relief for you. It would take some of the burden off your shoulders. You have a lovely home now, and land to your name back in Athena. You have income and status, which allows you to have staff and the nanny, but maybe you need a partner too. You do not have to do everything yourself, Thea.”


Cordelia paused, debating for a brief moment before adding, “You are in a position to try to find a spouse for yourself before Zuan finds one for you. You are an eligible noble, with royal blood - but you would have to do it properly.”
Lady Cordelia "Cora" Zabel Winterbourne Everhart-Gellygen of Hart Helm, the Horned Wolf
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Cousin to High King Zuan, Zhou, Ambra, Dahlia, Trinity, Serafay, & Thea
Big Sister to Elisabeth “Elisa” | Married to Rhozin Gellygen of Kiene
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Thea
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Thea »

"Mother..."

The younger Winterbourne scoffed at the word.

"It is a title fit for even the most unqualified person."

This remark, though seemingly aimed at her own mother, was also directed inwardly at herself. Just like her own mother, she should not have become a parent. Zev deserved better and she knew it. Thea heaved a deep sigh before continuing.

"I do not know if I will return to Belcourt. The steward wrote to me, but I have not the mind to deal with it."

Thea squeezed her fingers in her hand as the discussion moved away from Belcourt, a topic that was dull even on the best of days.

When Cordelia offered to take in Zevander, she was not really surprised. Her cousin loved children. She did not think that children were just sticky, gross creatures who shrieked all the time. Maybe it would be better if she sent him to live with Cora. The thought had crossed her mind many times, especially late at night when she wandered the halls alone. In the end, however, she had always landed on the same conclusion. If Thea sent Zev away to live with a relative, then she truly was no better than Eunice. She would just be pawning him off on another just like her mother had done to her.

Thea had been so wrapped up in her thoughts she almost did not catch the shift in the conversation topic and tone. Her head snapped towards her cousin as she looked at her properly.

"Marriage? Because getting married has worked out so well for me before. Why should I want to get married anyway? Zuan will be hard-pressed to find a candidate willing to take me."

Something told Thea that Cordelia was speaking with the knowledge of the situation which meant that their cousin the King was likely already looking for a suitable spouse.

"I am not sure that tea will cut it. Wine might be better. Or Vodka. Vodka could work too."
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Lady Dorathea "Thea" Winterbourne | Cousin & Ward of King Zuan | The Red Wolf
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Cordelia
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Cordelia »

Behind the bitterness on the face of her cousin, she could see pain. The anger was on the surface, but the turmoil within was so much more complicated. Ultimately, she could only offer support and comfort. The support, she knew Thea would accept, but the latter would need to be approached gently. Her cousin would not respond well to sympathy, which while Cordelia had, she knew it was not needed to display.

She found it interesting that the topic of Zev was avoided. Even in letters, mention of the baby Winterbourne had been brief and basic. It seemed that maternal instinct was not kicking in; but then again, she knew Thea never wanted to have a child. She could only hope that, as Zev grew and became more independent, and as Thea matured herself, the would be hope for a decent relationship between mother and son. That was, if the relationship was not damaged in the process.

"I would be happy to check in on Belcourt on my ride home. It's along the way. I can make sure things are situated and then be on my way. I know it is further from Redcroft than it is to Hart Helm, so I can make the occasional check-ins on your behalf. You may never want to return, but it shall become your son's some day."

She paused, the comment raising an idea.

"He is a babe, but you could name him Lord of Belcourt. You have Redcroft to your name. He can be raised knowing the duties of being a lord, appropriate of his station, and when he is old enough, he can make trips and eventually reside there. In the meantime, the steward can manage the day-to-day and you or I can make personal visits to ensure all is well. The boarders of the Hartlands and Beclourt are not far from each other, so I truly wouldn't mind."

It was fully in Dorathea's right to pass the title along. While it would not get the responsibility fully off her shoulders, she would never have to think of herself as Lady of Belcourt and perhaps, Cora thought, that would offer some relief.

"We both know why it didn't work last time.... Which is why we should do it differently this time. More... Properly. If you make the choice and it is reasonable, then Zuan will agree. I will be in your corner; I am his favourite - I'm sure that would help your case." She brushed a dark lock from her face before continuing. "If you want control over your life, this is how you do it. We are Winterbourne women. This station, whether you like it or not, offers us options. I was always going to be bond by Zuan's decision in regards to marriage. I am his first cousin and as an Everhart, I was a more... Appealing candidate. Eunice is gone. Zuan loves you. You may drive him to his wits end, but he does really love you. So... Find someone that's suitable and he will not say no.

Then you have your freedom."


Cordelia fell quiet, hoping her advice would at least be taken into consideration. Stubbornness was a family trait, but in the past year and a half, the two women had grown close again. Perhaps just close enough for Thea to listen.

The mention of tea drew her gaze longingly to the door, to find that the servant had yet to return with the tea. Disappointed, she looked back to Thea, realizing the shift of drinks in her statement. She could feel a bit of heat rise to her cheeks. She bit her lip out of amusement - a habit that she had stopped when she was a child that she found sprung back up around her cousins.

"Rum pairs nicely with this tea, so you could enjoy both together. I, however.. Will be sticking only to tea." She paused, face brightening and the heavy conversation from moments before long gone from her mind. "I wanted to tell you in person: I am expecting!"
Lady Cordelia "Cora" Zabel Winterbourne Everhart-Gellygen of Hart Helm, the Horned Wolf
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Cousin to High King Zuan, Zhou, Ambra, Dahlia, Trinity, Serafay, & Thea
Big Sister to Elisabeth “Elisa” | Married to Rhozin Gellygen of Kiene
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Thea
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Thea »

It was an interesting thought. Giving Belcourt to her son would free her of the place, at least partially. He was too young to actually tend to the estate, yes, but Thea would never become Lady Belcourt. The idea of assuming her mother's title and becoming Lady Belcourt caused her great unease.

"Zevander should be given Belcourt."

It did not take long for her to make up her mind on that. When she spoke the words aloud she felt as if a great weight had been lifted off of her chest, one that she had not even realized that it was there.

"I will speak to Zuan and make sure the arrangements are made."

She added this as a secondary thought. She hoped that was the only thing she had to discuss with the King. Marriage was not something that she wished to do ever again.

"You seem to be under the misguided fantasy that being relatives automatically means that he loves me. I believe that he would be glad to get rid of me."

Maybe Cordelia wanted to embellish the relationship between her cousins because she wished it to be so, but truth of the matter was that Thea and Zuan would never be close.

"Perhaps you are right about him searching for a suitable marriage for me after all."

There was a long pause as she considered this. He certainly would not pick any man that she liked. No, he was more likely to pick a decrepit lord who smelled of cabbage and talked incessantly about the weather. She shuttered at the thought.

But then the talk of a potential marriage was quickly pushed to the side as Cordelia nearly burst with excitement to share her news.

"My, you two have made quick work of it."

There was a small selfish part of her that wished that Cordelia had waited to have children. With children a part of the equation, Thea feared that the two would drift apart yet again. These concerns were not voiced, however. Instead, she smiled genuinely at her cousin.

"Congratulations, Cora. I hope that you continue to find happiness in your marriage. When is the child due?"

There was a soft padding sound as the maid returned to the observatory with a tray carrying a kettle of tea and two cups.

"Fetch a bottle of rum as well."

The Lady Redcroft said to the woman as she set down the tray. There was a moment's pause before Thea tagged on a 'please' as the woman left the room. She always felt uncomfortable around servants and that had not changed since being given this manor. She never knew how to speak to them and she felt like they were always lurking around. There was also the creeping suspicion that these servants were spying on her and reporting to Zuan.

"I will have to have your share of the rum."

Thea remarked as she got to her feet and moved over to the tray of tea. She poured some of the tea into each of the delicate cups, one she placed in Cordelia's outstretched hands and the other she picked up for herself.
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Lady Dorathea "Thea" Winterbourne | Cousin & Ward of King Zuan | The Red Wolf
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Cordelia
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Re: [IRP] Redcroft Manor

Post by Cordelia »

There was a relief in finding Thea responsive to the idea of giving Belcourt to her son. She truly believed it would be the easiest way forward for her troubled cousin. She made a mental note to adjust her travel path to stop by Belcourt. It had been years since she had been to the rural area. She used to spend a good bit of time there when they were younger, playing alongside Thea in the creeks and fields of the farming community. She wondered how much it had changed.

Cordelia shook her head lightly. “I know your relationship with Zuan is strained and it may be difficult to see, but he does love you. Nothing means more to him than family. He just… goes about showing it incorrectly. You two are just like oil and water.”

As the conversation shifted to the happier topic, she felt heat rise to her cheeks. ‘Quick work of it’. She had been unprepared for what came after the vows, but it had been a pleasant surprise. Did she find herself falling in love with the man arranged for her hand?

“The baby will come by the end of winter. It’s still a bit early, but I couldn’t keep it to myself. I’m told all looks well.”

The woman paused, an affectionate touch given to her abdomen. A baby. She did not realize how much she looked forward to being a mother until it was within grasp.

“I am hoping for a boy. Maybe we could name him after my father. And then, imagine the trouble him and Zevander could get into!” She laughed, grey eyes catching Thea’s. “It’ll be just like us.”

She accepted the teacup from her cousin and lifted it to her nose, inhaling the swirl of spices. It settled what little nausea lay in the pit of her stomach.

“So far, I have had little morning illness. Mother said her pregnancy with me was easy, so I am hopeful for the same.” She quieted when the servant returned with the bottle of rum. She gave her thanks, accepting it before her cousin could. She did the honours of pouring a solid portion into Thea’s cup before setting the rum down beside the teapot. “I think it will be nice to have our children close in age. And ours so close to Zuan’s. A handful of little Winterbournes… The world better watch out.

To the next generation.”
She raised her cup up in a toast, a grin on her lips. “I hope you like the tea.”
Lady Cordelia "Cora" Zabel Winterbourne Everhart-Gellygen of Hart Helm, the Horned Wolf
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Cousin to High King Zuan, Zhou, Ambra, Dahlia, Trinity, Serafay, & Thea
Big Sister to Elisabeth “Elisa” | Married to Rhozin Gellygen of Kiene
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