[IRP] The County of Northborough

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Ella
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Ella »

The riders and their horses began to move down the path away from the stables at a leisurely pace. Horses were not her preferred mode of travel, much too slow in her opinion, but she could enjoy riding just as she could enjoy a leisurely stroll through her rose gardens. Sometimes it was not about the destination.

As they reached a fork, a decision had to be made whether to continue down to the lake or to venture off into the woods. "Perhaps the lake is a better idea. The woods are full of beasts, known and unknown. Great for hunting, maybe not the best for a leisurely ride as the night gets closer." Ella guided her horse to the lake path, moving along with Nikola.

"It is not that I do not enjoy the light," Ella said in a delayed response to her friend. Her eyes turned towards the distance as her mind too wandered further away. Back over the dark memories which still could be found lingering in the depths of her mind. "I think that...life has a way of leading me into the darkness. Even when I struggle so hard to stay in the light. Have you ever thought that you were not meant to find happiness? Perhaps destiny or the fates, whatever you want to call it, decides what you can and cannot have."
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Nikola
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Nikola »

Nikola nodded at Ella’s suggestion of the lake and in agreement with her reasons for taking that path. They passed the time in silence for several minutes as Nikola did not wish to press Ella for conversation she may not want to indulge in. It was enough for them to just be together, such as it is for friends who are comfortable with each other. When Ella did speak again, Nikola was somewhat surprised that the young woman opened up more than usual, so she listened intently to Ella’s voice over the thumping of hooves on the soft ground of the path.

She frowned slightly before responding, the shadow that crossed Ella’s eyes as she spoke had not escaped her notice. She wanted to counter the darkness with a lighthearted answer but sensed that Ella was pouring out a part of her heart that she normally kept close, hidden from others, and she wanted to respect that.


“I have had my moments of disappointment and I have at times despaired of ever having the happiness I longed for, but I have always been able to find light in the world, even when all seems dark. So, I don’t know that I understand what you are going through from personal experience, but I think I can see what you are saying. Maybe that’s the heaviness I sense in you?”

She paused, falling slightly behind Ella as she gave Starr her head to step around a large stone near the edge of the path. “I don’t know whether destiny, or the fates, or even the mages have the power to control our future. I think perhaps we give them far too much credit for any hand they may have in our lives. I think we shape our own future with the decisions we make every day, from the little things to the really important things in our lives.”

The path widened enough for her to urge Starr forward so she could rejoin Ella at her side. Looking over at her friend, she asked gently, “What’s going on with you, Ella? From where I stand, it looks like you have a very good life. What can I not see that is weighing so heavily on your shoulders?”
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Ella
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Ella »

Ella stopped her horse along the path, turning the mare so that she could more easily look out over the lake. There was a stillness in the air. Not even a slight breeze could be felt playing with her dark locks.

It did all seem idyllic, didn't it? From the outside looking in, Ella had everything she could ever want. Right? And yet she didn't. She had lost not one but two children in the past few years to miscarriage. She had found herself in a loveless marriage filled with forced niceties and pretend affection.

She sighed, still looking out over the lake as she spoke,
"Looks can be deceiving, Nik." Her eyes began to prickle with tears which she attempted to blink back as she continued, "Life weighs heavy on me. This marriage set up for me by the King is as empty as the trees in winter. Except that my winter isn't going to end." She took a slow, shaky breath. Her composure was starting to slip. "When I lost my son, it became clear to me this was it. Never is this marriage going to be more than it is now. Childless, loveless. The whole reason we were married was so that I could produce an heir that could one day inherit my title and lands."
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❋ Countess of Northborough ❋ Mother of Rosalie ❋ Finance Minister of Fenia ❋ Mayor of Fenia City ❋
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Nikola
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Nikola »

Nikola remained quiet as Ella spoke, her heart going out to the young woman. She, herself, had walked away from one she had always expected to marry, but it wasn’t the same as being in an actual marriage and feeling trapped. Her experience was quite the opposite. Her former betrothed was simply never around. He loved traveling more then he loved her, and after several years, she had finally confronted him and told him she needed more than that. He had agreed and set her free. Ella, however, was already in a marriage, albeit one arranged by the King himself. Nikola had always viewed marriage as forever, even though she had seen that sometimes that was not the case. It had always saddened her to see two people who had once at least cared about each other just walk away from the life they had together. It seemed wrong somehow, to break one’s vows. Yet she was not so dogged in her beliefs as to pass judgement on another, especially when that other person was someone who was so obviously in pain.

When Ella had stopped speaking, Nikola wanted to hug her, but not only might that have been a little awkward with both of them on horseback, she was not sure that her friend would welcome a hug right now. She thought back on what had been said, choosing her words carefully when she responded.


“Why do you feel the marriage is empty?” she asked. “Has he hurt you in any way?” An affirmative answer would surprise her as Tyris did not seem the type of man to strike any woman, let alone his own wife, but one never knew for sure what a man might be like hidden from view of prying eyes. "Why do you think that the marriage can never heal? I’m sure he must have grieved for his son, too.”

She held her breath for a moment before asking the last question. “What is stopping you from trying again?” Now she waited for Ella’s response, ready to affirm her affection for Ella should her friend become embarrassed or insulted by her questions.
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Ella
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Ella »

Ella frowned as her friend spoke. She wasn't sure whether she felt sad or hurt or angry. Perhaps all of the above. The pain in her chest felt like a gaping hole that she couldn't ever fill. When she spoke, there was anguish in her voice. The walls she had kept up so carefully when she was in public had fallen down. "Nikki, there was never anything there. There was merely the hope that one day, maybe, we might grow to be more than friendly strangers living in a huge manor together."

She then shook her head to the question of whether Tyris was hurting her, "No he hasn't hurt me, but I'm hurting." Her husband was not a bad man. Far from it. He tried his hardest. She did not blame him for any of this.

The woman looked like a broken shell of the person she once was as she paused to wipe the tears from her eyes,
"The marriage cannot heal because there is nothing to heal. How can you fix a broken house when it doesn't even have a foundation?"

Then came the question of what was keeping her from trying again. It was a difficult question. One that haunted her dreams and plagued her waking hours.
"I agreed to this marriage because I was told it was a necessity if I ever wanted to raise my station. Because of my past. Because of my history. My past is tarnished, full of cracks and blemishes. So I agreed. I was told I would be raised to a Countess and I would have children," her voice cracked at these words, the pain she had held at bay for so long felt like it was going to crush her. She inhaled sharply and exhaled to try to regain some of her composure, "You know how dearly I wanted more children." There was a long pause while she tried to find the words to continue. Finally, Ella whispered, "And in the end, the child was lost. I think I am not meant to have more children. I don't know if I can survive that pain again. There's nothing left. Zuan can take back the title if he wants."
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Nikola
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Nikola »

It was as clear to Nikola that she had misjudged the full scope of Ella’s distress as it was that she had just added to it with her questions. She did not regret the questions, as they needed to have been asked, but she did regret the obvious pain they caused. Quickly she dismounted and took hold of the bridle on Ella’s mount. “Come. Get your feet on the ground and let the horses graze for a bit.” She waited for Ella to dismount, dropped the horse’s reins, and hoped it understood not to wander too far, and then pulled Ella to her, wrapping her arms around her in a strong yet gentle embrace. “I am so sorry, Ella. I had no idea things were so difficult for you,” she said softly, her own voice strained with emotion. “Cry and let it out. I am not going to leave you. Not now. Not ever,” she encouraged and did not release Ella from the embrace until the other woman was ready to pull away.

The horses had wandered off several paces to find what remained of the summer grasses nearer the edge of the lake, and she was gratified to see that Starr seemed to be keeping pace with the other horse as if to make sure it did not decide to wander off on its own. Taking Ella’s hand in hers, she lowered herself to the ground and then patted the earth beside her.
“Come, sit with me,” she asked. “Please?”

As Ella joined her, Nikola noted just how drawn and weary she appeared. She took Ella’s hand in hers again, breathing a prayer to the mages for wisdom in how to help her friend. “Have you spoken to Tyris about this? Or Zuan?” She waited for Ella to answer, guessing that she already knew the answer to both questions. “I think you need to speak with them. I will go with you and stay with you if you wish. I suggest you start with Tyris. If the marriage is as loveless as you feel it is, then he may be in agreement with putting an end to it. If you both go to Zuan and stand in agreement, the King is less likely to insist that you try to work things out.”

After saying those words, she fell silent, giving Ella whatever time she needed to process and come to a decision. Nikola looked up to find Starr looking at her, a clump of yellow green grass in her mouth. Nikola smiled to let the mare know she was alright and Starr turned away, moving to where the other horse had grazed in the opposite direction and gently herding her back toward the area where the two women were seated on the grass.
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Ella
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Ella »

Ella wordlessly dismounted the horse, landing with a soft thud and two feet planted on the ground. Big eyes full of darkness welled with tears as Nikki wrapped her up in her arms. Life felt so heavy, unyielding. The witch leaned into her friend's shoulder, soaking the fabric of her cloak with large salty tears.

After a short while, how long she did not actually know, Ella pulled back and wiped her face. She gave Nikola an apologetic look as she looked at how wet her shoulder had become. She didn't manage to get out the words 'sorry' before Nikki was leading her to sit on the ground. Ella obligingly moved to the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on them. Her hand was resting in Nikola's as she looked out over the lake.

The crying had been good for her. Though her face with puffy and her eyes were bloodshot from all the tears, she felt more composed now as she spoke.
"I've not spoken to Tyris, we have not said two words to each other since my birthday," she looked slightly uncomfortable at the mention of that night. It had been a disaster. "I think that night, we silently agreed it was over and yet neither of us has made a move. I've not talked to Zuan either. I'm not sure how. I could write him a letter..." That might not be her best idea. "But I probably will have to meet with him in person regardless."

Ella sighed. Now that she acknowledged things were broken she needed to move forward for herself and for Tyris. He deserved to have a life where he was happy too. "I think I should talk to Tyris alone," Ella said wearily. It was not that she did not want Nikola there, she did not want him feeling uncomfortable or pressured when they spoke. Nikola was her friend and he barely knew her. "But, since I think we will have to speak to the King...it would be good to have your support then with me." She might still try to get away with writing him a letter.
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Tyris
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Tyris »

Blissfully unaware of Nikola’s arrival and of the thoughts plaguing Ella, Tyris was making his own way back to the estate. Well, in truth Tyris knew much about Ella’s thoughts relating to their marriage. Admittedly, they were only thoughts as neither of them had said them out loud, but that did not mean they were not aware of one another’s strains relating to the marriage that was not working for either of them. Tyris had believed himself lucky at first, marrying a woman who was soon to be a Countess, ensuring he would be given focus of an estate far greater than his family had ever received, and that their children would inherit it after them. The marriage would also provide a bridge between two of the notable Fenian houses. The Royal House of Winterbourne, and Ella’s own house of Blackwood. The theory was perfect. But that was the problem with marriage, for after the theory, it would become reality. And no amount of theory could change the reality that the marriage did not have the spark either of them hoped for.

Tyris was wearing a doublet of silver velvet whose sleeves billowed in the winter wind, while atop this was a jerkin of grey silk sat atop the velvet. His breeches and boots were both black, the ideal colour for riding in winter when dealing with mud and the like. Thus his eccentric designs had to be limited to his torso. His sword was at his waist and his hand upon the reigns of his white steed. Over his shoulders was a wolf fur cloak, again perfect to protect from the winter cold. It had supposed to be a day of riding and escape from the estate, but between the weather and the nagging feelings in his chest, Tyris had decided to call it quits early and return to the estate.

For all his gains from the marriage, it did not sit right with him, to be bound to someone he knew he did not hold the truest of feelings for, and in their year together they had some good times, but they were few and far between, and with the miscarriage… well… he could hardly blame Ella for being distant over that, but rightly he did not know what to say or to do to try comfort her. And so instead, like a coward rather than a husband, he had given her space – and perhaps too much. From that point the cracks in their relationship grew to become a pothole, which then grew to become a split and then into a chasm, and at this point he did not think they could bridge that gap so great between them.

But what was he to do? He knew Ella had been granted the lands due to the belief their children would inherit much of it, and he was duty bound to obey the oath he made to the mages of his marriage. And so as much as he knew it was beyond repair, he did not want to present the failure to Ella let alone to the King who had worked hard to arrange their union. But if he did not act. And she did not act. Then were they both simply doomed to live the lie so many did? He let out a deep sigh, watching the breath leave his lips with the heat contrasting with the cold. No. He had decided. While he would not end the marriage. He had to tell Ella his feelings, and then, and only then, if she felt it right. Then together they would have to head to the capitol and inform the King of their shared decision.

It was thus a surprise as he dismounted and allowed a stable boy to take his horse from him that he found the estate empty and Ella nowhere to be seen. He first worried she had headed back to the capitol, thus scuppering her plans, but upon hearing from one of the maids that she had gone for a ride with Nikola, it eased his heart slightly even if the anxiety sat in his stomach like a weight. And so, heading into the large sitting area near the entrance of the estate, he would wait. And once she returned, then he would say his piece. For good or for ill, it was time those thoughts which lingered in both their minds became words.
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Nikola
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Re: [IRP] The County of Northborough

Post by Nikola »

Nikola listened patiently, hearing the pain and distress in Ella’s voice and words. She did seem less fragile now after she had cried her tears and for that Nikola was grateful. She nodded as Ella voiced her plans and she could hear a finality in her tone. Nikola had never been married, and could not fully empathize from personal experience, but she had experienced loss and had nearly chosen to take her own life at one point when the pain had become too great. She had been saved by the goodness and love of her friends who had no idea that she had needed saving. She was glad that she could be here for Ella however she had need of her. “Alright,” she acknowledged the plan. “When we get back, do you still want me to stay overnight and just give you and Tyris the space to say what must be said, or would you rather I go on back to Firestorm Manor and leave you two completely alone? I will do whatever seems best to you.”

She sighed, saddened by the pain her friend was enduring and for the end of something that had held such promise in the beginning. But this was not her life that was shattered, not her decision to make. That was Ella’s and, eventually, Tyris’s. “As for meeting with Zuan, I will be there with you,” she promised.

Shadows were falling quickly, and Nikola realized that soon it would be too dark to safely ride the horses in unfamiliar territory. She knew that while Ella could ride, she was not as comfortable as Nikola was on horseback.
“Why don’t we go and head back to the house. It’s getting pretty late,” she said, stating the obvious, then took a good look at Ella. Her puffy eyes were starting to clear a little, but her face still showed where her tears had streaked her cheeks. “Are you going to be alright?” she asked gently. “Maybe you would feel better if you splash some water from the lake on your face before we go.”
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