Fishing and a Falling Out

There was a prime fishing hole in Arden, something that very, very few knew about. Not even all family members knew about it, but Latimer had found it. The pristine spot sat in a small valley, a small river draining into the lake before the lake gave way to a waterfall no more than 15 feet high.

An outcropping of rock was the prime spot to fish from and it is Latimer's destination when he notices the sound of singing. It is late summer, everything bursting with their bounty of leaves and berries, and singing seemed to spring naturally from the beauty of the landscape. The voice carries for a few minutes, but then it stops and starts again several times, correcting the song with subtle changes. The tone is pure and seemed to cause the birds around to sing in harmony with it. And he recalled where he had heard it before……..

Latimer pulls up his mare to listen, frowning slightly to identify it at first but then his expression clearing as he remembers. He sits still for a time, just listening in that faraway place called memory, before beginning to triangulate on the sound, trying to find the source.

Mordaleah sits on the rocky outcropping, fishing pole in hand, her pants rolled up with feet dangling in the water. She pauses now and then to write something down. A small camp lies just behind her, a canoe visible from his vantage. She does not seem to notice him, content in her music and fishing.

Latimer approaches quietly, waits a little while, and then clears his throat politely the next time she pauses. “Ah, fair day, Mordaleah,” he calls over to her. “Are the fish biting?” He dismounts on the last question, and leads his horse closer.

Mrodaleah's head jerks up and she nearly tosses her pole in. “Unicorn's tits, don't do that,” she hisses before smiling and waving him over. “A bit, but I keep missing them,” she admits.

Latimer grins sheepishly. “Ah, sorry about that. I forget how lightfooted Melian is sometimes.” He pats his mare on the neck. He is, unusually enough, out of 'uniform' today, wearing a blue shirt and black breeches, rather than his typical green clerical robe. Reaching the rock nearer Mordaleah, he drops the reins and fishes around in his saddlepack for a moment before finally pulling out a bundle of rods about a foot long. “Mind if I join you?” he inquires.

“No, please do,” she says, moving over and picking up the sheet music she had been working on, returning it to a leather case. “Nice to see you. How have you been?”

Latimer takes a few minutes to make his horse a bit more comfortable before grabbing the rest of his fishing gear and joining Mordaleah on the rock. He settles down and assembles his fishing pole, fitting the notched pieces together and then running the line through. “Not bad,” he answers as he works. “Not bad at all. Thanks for inquiring. Of course, busy as always,” he smiles to himself, then looks over at her. “I took some pages over to Raven's Nest recently. You might have heard. It was quite an experience.” He chuckles.

Mordaleah chuckles as well. “It’s always quite something their first time there. Poor lads. How fares our Holy See?”

Latimer finishes up with his line and casts into the water. He raises his eyebrows in some surprise, watching his line as it trails over the water rather than her. “Peaceful,” he answers, somewhat diplomatically. “Ah… the most momentous thing going on for me right now is a conversation I had with Prelate Abigail. She asked me if I would apprentice to Archdeacon Sarpedon.” He pauses a moment, then adds, “I agreed.”

Mordaleah casts her line out. “Well, congratulations and well done,” she says, her feet rocking back at forth. “Did you think I would not find that good?”

Latimer takes a few moments to reply, pulling his line in and also recasting. Finally he admits, “It's not that I didn't think you'd find that good. It's just always a surprise to me when you ask about the Church.”

She pulls on her line but leaves it in the water. “Well, I care about your work and I care about our beliefs,” she explains as though it was just that simple. “I like knowing that some people that will follow their calling and not bow to the whims of powerful people are in charge.”

Latimer smiles, a touch of rue in the expression though. “Thank you,” he answers. “Those are two votes in my favor. I was beginning to rethink the decision. Prelate Abigail can be very forceful in her way.” He falls silent for a while.

“No, stick to your guns. She is going to test you and see when you buck back,” Mordaleah reasons, recasting her line. “So what are you expected to do as Archdeacon?”

“The Archdeacon's purpose is to balance the Church and State,” he answers thoughtfully. “Both entities, obviously, have their own agendas, their own needs, and their own views on things. The Archdeacon is the one in between, who tries to moderate and mediate between these two, in order to… to help them see the other side of things. Reach compromises.”

She pats his leg. “A little peace maker. Fitting. So you get to listen to Daddy bellow and Abby rail. Could be worse.” A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth. “You'll do splendid.”

“Hm. I hope so,” he says fervently. “It's a great responsibility.” He dinks with his line a bit. “I'm hoping that Father and I won't have any trouble relating in this capacity,” he admits then very quietly.

“You will, but you have to follow your heart and be true to your conviction,” she reasons. “Dad has to fight for his side of things… you need to do the same.”

He nods, not saying anything for a while, pulling his line back in and recasting it. “Can you tell me anything about your mother, Mordaleah?” he inquires. “I have to admit I am… curious to know what sort of person she was.”

Mordaleah is quiet, almost as though she had not heard the question before she finally takes a breath and speaks. “My mother was short,” she says, as though that should define and explain her. “And she had this smell that only mothers have… You can't really describe it. A scent of flowers, a scent of warmth, a hint of mystery.”

She casts her line again, resting the pole on the rock as she leans back, arms folded behind her head as she watched the clouds. “I suppose I look a lot like her, though the proportions are wrong, all wrong. She was tiny, though it didn't seem so when she was yelling at you. She didn't yell much in the beginning; it was only in the end, when they fought so damn much,” she says, regret carried in her words.

“Titania loved this land… and its people. When we first arrived, she was up day and night tending to the wounded, speaking to any that had lost loved ones, rocking the orphans to sleep. She was tireless,” she says, a smile on her lips as she recollects. “She designed a number of the rooms in the castle and most of the garden layout hails from her planning.”

“She had a way of keeping Dad and Dworkin calm… reasoning with them. Father took her advice to heart, even over mine.” There was no bitterness in the statement, but Latimer could guess it had taken her a long time to get to that point.

“She was always closer to Aston… They are both much more studious and introspective than I ever was,” she admits. “I always thought I would have time when I was older to get to know her really well and have her for a friend and not just a mother. Tis not to say we did not love one another, we did, we just… We were different. Nay, I was. I was young and my world was my father. I should have made time.”

Latimer listens quietly throughout her talk, not interrupting or adding anything, just absorbing it while playing with his line and pole. He says nothing right away after she finishes, letting the silence settle around them again and listening to it before finally venturing anything. “She seems like someone I would have really liked to know,” he answers at last. “I'm sorry, too. I know that is a poor thing to say. Wholly inadequate. But I'm sorry that you have that regret.”

“You would have liked her I think,” she muses and lets out a breath.

He sighs, and falls silent for a while again. “Have you ever asked Father about the Church's stance on her?” he inquires then. “Why he didn't stop it?”

“Because I didn't want to lose the only parent I had left. I could not bring her back. What was the point? Someday… someday people will see how wrong it is… how foolish it is that she has been so poorly treated by memory, so many years after her passing.”

Another silence falls while the water ripples by. “It's an irony that the only thing that seems really to bind all of us together, really, is loss,” Latimer almost murmurs into the stillness. “All of us have differing views of Father, each according to our own experiences. But all of us have known what it is like to lose a mother.” He sighs, and stops pretending to fish, setting his pole aside. “I'm sorry that you have disdained the Church for its stance on your mother, though I know… I know you still hold the faith. I have to admit I was curious to know why you are not angry with Father as well.”

“I had never thought of that… all bound by lost mothers,” she says, rolling to her stomach to run her finger tips through the water. “He's my father. My beacon. The greatest man I have ever known. If I hated him, I would have no parent at all. No one to admire, look up to….” She sighs.

“I tried, but I couldn't. I had to forgive him, for my sanity’s sake. I made a choice… And I knew picking my father was a betrayal to her, but it was something I had to do,” she admits quietly.

Latimer takes his boots and socks off, rolling his pants up so he can dip his feet into the water. He tosses the footwear aside, startling his mare a little at the flying boots. “What's he like?” he asks finally. “Father, that is.”

“Tough, gruff. He has a hard time dealing with emotions, especially in women…You know, when they want a shoulder to cry on? Mom was not a crier…neither am I. He is hilarious, has this dry acerbic wit that I adore. He is the poorest loser I have ever seen.” She giggles. “Ask him how much I won at the last poker game. I thought he was going to flip the table over when I showed my last hand.”

“He has no musical taste,” she continues with some regret. “I swear you could have pigs singing and he would be pleased. He likes strong women, but he can never share well and always has to be in control so those relationships don't last. I think he likes Imogen so much… she is strong, independent and he doesn't have to come home to her.”

“He inspires people like no one can, not even Barca. He has this way of making you want to lay down your life for him… for his ideals,” she says wistfully. “I can only hope that some day I am half the ruler he is.”

“I am coming perilously close to the anti-virtue of envy,” Latimer remarks after she finally falls silent. He sighs, picking up some pebbles and beginning to toss them in the water one by one, watching the ripples spread. “We've never been able to talk to each other. I don't think he knows where to begin. And for *me*… Huh… I've never known where to begin either. I think the anger gets in the way usually. I sometimes wonder how things would have been different if I *had* grown up in Amber.”

Mordaleah sits up, arm around his shoulder. “It might have made the anger worse… to see your mother trying time and time again,” she confesses. “But it is never ever too late… It will take time. He is a guarded man, even to his offspring. And you are frightening away the fish,” she says with a smile.

Latimer grins and lets the pebbles funnel out of his hand onto the rock. “Mother?” he shakes his head slightly. “I'm not so very angry about that anymore, really. I don't think so, anyway. Mother also made her choices, and I can accept that, though… it has taken many years. I suppose I feel cheated in some ways. Cheated out of another life. Do I love my life as it is now? Yes. Would I have chosen the Church otherwise? I don't know.”

“What would have happened had I stayed in Chaos? What if I would have married Ragnar…. what if I had found Mother…?” Mordaleah says. “Life is always uncertain. What matters is what we do with the time we have. There is no point to worrying or lamenting what might have been,” she reasons.

“Ah, so there *is* a philosopher in there,” Latimer teases her. “One would almost never know.” He puts his arm around her and gives her a brief hug.

Mordaleah blushes. “SHHHSH, don't tell anyone. I am keeping that under wraps.”

He chuckles. “You're right, though, I know. Some days I get like this, but usually it's not so bad. That's when I run away, and fish.” He chuckles, and then gives her a sidelong look. “So why *did* you leave Chaos?” he inquires.

She looks startled at his last question and picks up her pole to recast. “We were being chased, we had enemies, that sort of stuff.”

“Oh, come now Mordaleah. I've heard all that,” Latimer almost scolds, but good-naturedly. “Saying we had enemies doesn't say *why* we had enemies, or were being chased. That sort of thing.”

Mordaleah opens her mouth and closes it. “I'm sorry, Latimer. I can't talk about it,” she says, looking almost… almost scared. “Some say to speak of a thing is to call a thing. I can't do that. It’s the past and it’s done.”

Latimer frowns in puzzlement, pulling away to lean back and look at her, appraising. “How are we to avoid the past if we don't even know what it is?” he almost murmurs the question. “Why can't you speak of it? Because you don't wish to or because it's forbidden?”

Mordaleah scowls at him. “Curiosity isn't always a good thing. Tell me why you must know.”

Latimer reacts as though she had slapped him, blinking in surprise at the sudden transformation. Then he frowns. “Do you say that curiosity is not always a good thing because you don't want to deal with it? Or because you're afraid to?” he returns, a sudden edge to his voice. “What possible reason could I give you that would convince you to tell me?”

“Because…” She grits her teeth. “Dammit Latimer, it’s not my tale to tell. I am sorry, this is just a bad, bad subject. Please don't press me on this,” she entreats.

Latimer lets out a breath in a sharp sigh. He looks down at his hands, gripped together tightly enough to turn the knuckles white, and waits for a little bit before answering. “I don't understand how you can say that it is not your tale to tell,” he ventures finally, very quietly. “Whose tale is it, then, if not our family's? You were there, you have your own experiences, your own perspective.”

“You're persistent,” she mutters, playing with her line. “Fine. My tale. I was there… I was an adult when it happened. We were driven out, our friends and their houses attacked. Some of my kinsmen died. I really had little to do other than help people escape. Father, Grandfather, Mother,
Aston… they did the work. I left my heart there and my hopes.”

“Then why did you leave physically?” he questions softly, gently.

“Because we would have died… I would have died. No one could hide me from them. Any of us. Any that were captured were put to the sword. And I wanted him to live… to have a family. It was not worth his neck. And I could not leave my father.”

Latimer ponders that answer, recasting into the water, watching the ripples move and fade as he plays absently with his line. “Is the family really so hated, back there?” he asks at last. “What happened?”

“Not hated by everyone… But now we are a bad memory. Who knows that they teach in the academies?” she says, resting her head on her knees. “Latimer, I would like to tell you, but if Father or Dworkin wanted you to know, they would do it. We had enemies, they made us leave and all those that sided with us. Please let that be enough.”

Latimer shakes his head, betraying frustration. “As if Father would tell me anything,” he answers bitterly. “He would rather talk to… to the fish out there. But perhaps,” his voice calms into consideration, “perhaps Dworkin.”

“Then speak to Dworkin….” she offers. “And work on Father. Stop giving up on it,” she says with a pat on his knee. “He is not the bear you think.”

He sighs, and nods. “I suppose I really wasn't in all that great a mood to begin with, and it's all gone downhill. Let's change the topic for a while. Any suggestions?” he inquires.

“Uh sure… So when are you going to visit Imogen?” she asks with a smirk.

Latimer blushes and looks away from his sister, trying to concentrate on his fishing again. “I heard she doesn't like Priests,” he offers for an answer.

“No, she just doesn't want the Church to be upset with her choice of career so she keeps a low profile and gives them money,” she explains, humor in her voice.

Latimer gives her a droll look. “The Church will be upset with her career choice regardless of whether she gives them money. Unless she truly wishes to contribute, she may be able to find some other use for it.” He looks back to his pole, feeling a light bite. “Either way, sex is not something to be bartered or sold, Mordaleah. I would not turn to Imogen for that even if I felt the need for… that sort of companionship.”

“Explain to me why sex should not be bartered and sold, who wise one?” Mordaleah asks. “Explain to me what women that lack education and family should do? We don't have a very good system here for caring for them. We don't even protect them legally….so please…explain.”

“And you assume much about Imogen and know zero about her. She does respect the Church and see their role as needed and necessary. Or else she would not give them money. She has more than enough powerful people to protect her from anything the Church could try.”

Latimer sighs. “I didn't say she doesn't respect the Church, Mordaleah. *You* are the one who implied she pays the Church to help alleviate any friction that her business might generate. I simply pointed out that if that's the only reason, she should find something else to do with it. If she truly wishes to assist, then by all means.”

He shakes his head, starting to say something, hesitates, and then continues. “And here you're talking about power already. Is that all there is that you see in the Church?”

“In the Church, yes,” she says with no hesitation. “Some individuals are not corrupt but as a whole I don't think that is the case.”

“Corrupt how?” he asks.

“Hmm, hunting people down for not believing exactly what the church says. I would start there. Living opulently. I have seen barons that don't have as much. Not practicing what they preach… Imogen has more than one high ranking church official as a client,” Mordaleah points out.

Latimer expression becomes troubled. “Yes, I suppose if you look at it that way. The Church has its faults, but can also be a vehicle for much that is good as well. I hope, in my new position, to be able to address some of those things.” He sighs. “But I don't believe the Church is any more inherently corrupt or hopeless than, say, the State. There is as much of the same corruption there as well.”

“But the state isn't the moral high ground, and therein lies the difference. The state can't damn your soul to eternity. The power of the church is incredible,” she says with exasperation.

“Yes, and that is as it should be,” Latimer answers with conviction. “The State also holds in its hands a type of morality. It's call the Law. Which high-ranking *State* officials break and get away with as well.”

“What age are we living in? People fear for their souls. I say that is the higher power.”

“And there you are with the 'power' concept again,” Latimer frets. “You don't trust the Church with that power, is that what you're saying? Who would you trust, then?”

“People that are true and pure. I don't trust people that besmirched a woman long gone who once supported them. You don't think the Church grew strong cause of Dad, do you?”

“But the Church *is* people, just as the State is people. And there are good people, and bad people. You're willing to dismiss one institution for corruption but not another?”

“I didn't say the state didn't have problems,” she counters.

“So then what's *your* solution?” Latimer asks her.

“The church should worry about souls, not politics. They need not be involved in that.” While it wasn't really an answer, it was all she would offer.

“Your philosopher's soul is getting in the way,” Latimer notes wryly. “Unfortunately, while people might think the Church should ignore the mundane world, the Church ministers to people who live in it.”

“That doesn't mean they need to be political.”

Latimer sighs. “Fine. You're right. Is that what you want to hear?” He finally turns to look at her directly. “Politics and the Church are perhaps not the best mix. But politics exists everywhere, even in the poorest family. You haven't given any real alternatives, either.”

“Don't get so snippy,” she chides. “I didn't say it was easy.”

He shakes his head. “I'm not getting snippy.” But he pauses to relax before going on nevertheless. Patiently, he continues, “Do you really think that the church would have survived this long and become as strong as it has without becoming savvy about politics? As long as there are nobles and others who will use politics against the Church, the Church must have the knowhow and the ability to defend itself. Now, does that mean I am saying that every political decision of the Church has been right or just? No. I'm simply saying that just because a few people happen to be corrupt doesn't mean the institution as a whole cannot stand.”

Mordaleah sighs. “Okay, I concede. And you didn't answer my question about sex.”

Latimer looks puzzled. “Which one?” He's completely forgotten about it, and has to think back. “Do you mean why sex isn't a commodity?”

“Yes,” She said, pulling her line in and retiring her pole.

“Because it isn't,” he answers. “Or it shouldn't be. Sex is… is something special to be shared between people. Not bought or sold like wine or cheap thrills. Love and sex bring people together. Selling sex for profit cheapens its meaning and depth.”

“Ah, but love and sex don't have to go hand in hand… And why is pleasure bad? Why would it be bad for two consenting adults to find pleasure but not love?” she reasons.

“People have many sorts of pleasures that don't involve having sex, Mordaleah,” Latimer answers. “Simply because you *can* do something doesn't make it right or good.”

“Nor does your opinion make it bad. What would it make me because I choose to have sex?” she challenges. “Or father?”

Latimer looks frustrated. “I didn't say that sex is bad or wrong. I simply said it shouldn't be bought or sold. Or used as a weapon. Courtiers sell it. Patrons buy it. That's simply wrong.”

“Different from a back rub how? Lat, in this, we shall never agree. But perhaps I am too old to see it that way.”

Latimer shakes his head a little, and also pulls in his line, setting aside his pole. “Why don't you tell me why you think that's a necessary part of life?” he tries. “It *is* a part of life. But you speak as though people need to have sex to survive, and that is simply not so. Sex between two people who care for each other is a sacred thing. It should not be brought to the level of a business transaction.”

“I beg to differ. You speak of making love and I speak of sex. They are two distinct things, brother. Sex is like a back rub, nice for the person paying for it. Making love should not be used in a business sense, I concur with that. But if the Unicorn did not want us to have sex just for pleasure with any of our liking, why would she make us capable of it? We have free will and should exercise it as an adult would.”

“You're drawing a distinction that doesn't exist,” Latimer answers stiffly. “We're back to the same issue of just because we *can* do something doesn't make it right. There are a lot of things that people *can* do that aren't right. Both as defined by the Church and the State. I *can* go out and kill someone, but both the Church and the State say it is wrong, both legally and morally. The *State* says that Courtesans are doing illegal trade when they sell sex and the Church says it is morally wrong. Yet you defend it. How does that sit with your view of the moral corruption of the Church?”

“The Church is wrong. The State is wrong. And a courtesan is not covered by the law… Arguably, she offers companionship, not just sex. I know people that see Imogen regularly that have never had sex.”

“And there is a difference,” she continues. “If pleasure does not break a marriage vow, or is not on a child or someone is not forced, it’s fine. There is sex and there is making love. Trust me in this.”

“Don't treat me as though I'm a child, Mordaleah,” Latimer returns angrily. “You're acting as if I have no experience with this particular arena. My love and sex life are no concern of yours, but do not assume that simply because I haven't been around practically since before time, I don't know what I'm talking about.”

“Act like it then. I have sex with people I don't love. Because I want to. Because I like it. And they like it. You don't because you feel differently. I think that is great. Hell if I didn't I would never speak to Morrigan. But….” She suddenly stopped and slow smile broke her lips. “Latimer… I just realized two things. First, this is our first argument. Second, what are we fighting about?”

“The fact that your reasoning basically amounts to the idea that because it feels good and you're physically capable, it's okay. Which is one of the weakest lines of reasoning I've ever heard,” Latimer returns. “And again you're missing the distinction that sex should not be sold or bartered, not that it's bad in and of itself. And you're talking about the *Church* being morally corrupt….”

“Ah right. Sex and love… We don't agree on this, and we never will. I think we should leave it at that.”

Latimer still looks very peeved. “Then perhaps you should avoid suggesting I go to see your Imogen in the future,” he suggests, trying to go along with the reconciliation. “My ways are not yours.”

“I was talking about two separate things. You brought the two together, you dolt,” she says, rising. “And taking you to Imogen was a joke. Your lack of humour is not apparent. As is your lack of insight into economics. But I am not ruining my day off fighting with you.” She picks up her pole.

Latimer also gets up and goes to find his boots. “If your remark about economics refers to selling something that should not be sold, then I would say there is no other insight needed,” he returns, his tone milder now but still with an edge. “You have not provided a compelling reason for me to change my mind.”

“I wasn’t trying to change your mind. That you don't agree with me is fine. I already said that,” she reasons.

He sits and begins pulling socks and then boots on. ““It's not even so much about us disagreeing. How do you think it looks that the King and his children flaunt his own laws—” he breaks off, and takes a breath.

“I do not flaunt our father's laws,” she says sternly.

He presses his lips together, but then he gives a sharp sigh. “It wouldn't be right for us to part on such unhappy terms,” he finally concedes, trying to get over his anger. “Perhaps we can do something to help mend some bridges,” he suggests, looking up.

“Yes, I have an idea… It would make me feel better.”

“What is your idea?” he asks, climbing to his feet and brushing off his pants, glancing back up at Mordaleah. His eyes are still stormy, but he's clearly trying to keep himself in check. His lips twitch into a sort of grim smile, a lame attempt at his normal good humor.

She smiles back. “This.” And with that, she charges him and pushes him into the water.

Latimer is not caught completely off-guard, so though he goes splashing into the water, he manages to catch a handful of Mordaleah, yanking her in after him. He comes up sputtering and coughing, shaking the water out of his face. “I suspected” cough “you were going to” sputter, cough “to do something like that,” he manages to get out. It's hard to say if he's amused or still annoyed. “Your reputation precedes you.”

Mordaleah comes up, brushing her hair out of her face and grinning. “You looked so tense when ya got here…I had to get you heated up so I could do that… But damn. I am too predictable.” She brings her fists down on the water, splashing him.

Latimer smiles crookedly, and splashes her back. “I'm not going to apologize,” he answers after a moment. “There are some things I feel very strongly about.”

He swims over nearer her, and then grabs her, ducking her under the water. Mordaleah pulls him under as well, holding him there for a bit. Prepared this time for such a move, Lat gets a good lungful of air before going down.

“And you shouldn't,” she says with a smirk when they both come back up. “Convictions are a hard thing to come by. I don't really care one way or another about most of it.”

“So it would seem,” he notes wryly once he's gotten some breath. “But only when it's convenient for you. What do you usually do on your days off?” he asks without pausing, trying to change the subject.

“Sometimes I travel about shadow, do research… Other times I just write music and fish. Whatever takes my fancy,” she confesses, climbing out of the water.

Latimer paddles over and grabs her leg, pulling her back in. “Hey! I'm not finished yet!” He laughs, the first real laugh that afternoon, splashing her some more. “Okay, I'll bite. What do you do research on?”

She wiggles against his hold, splashing him. “How our bodies work and reproduce,” she explains, spitting water at him.

Latimer looks a little surprised at that, and gives her a quizzical look. “As in biology?” he asks. “You have a particular interest in that area for some reason?”

Again she flicks water at him. “Reproductive biology to be precise. I can't carry a child to term.” Her voice and look are both calm…very calm.

“Ah.” Comprehension. Lat opens his mouth, but stops, shutting it again against whatever he was going to say. There is an uncomfortable pause, and then, “I'm sorry to hear that,” he finally offers. His grey eyes are sad.

She shrugs. “Thanks… It’s alright I suppose. I am used to it now. It’s become more of an exercise in determination than anything else.” She gives him a curious look. “What were you going to say?”

Latimer begins wading back to the shore. He doesn’t look convinced when she says she’s used to it, and shakes his head. “Nothing really important,” he answers.

“Come on… I am thick skinned about it by now. Say it, ask it, whatever. I'm not some weeping girl, you know,” she says as she follows him back.

“I was just… just wondering why you haven't adopted,” Lat asks quietly. “I've not seen you with the castle children or others…”

“Because they are not mine… Not by blood, and that would just end horribly for both of us,” she explains.

Latimer looks nonplussed. “End horribly how?” he asks, confused. “I know this isn't exactly the same, but *I'm* not able to carry a child full term, either.” He smiles, gently, not trying to mock her. “I have found working with others’ children to be very fulfilling.”

“You aren't expected to… And you can't anyway. That is different. And a man seldom ever knows for certain unless he does the genetics if he is a child's sire. A woman knows… and woman is connected in a way a man never is,” she explains, her voice matter of fact. “I would not watch my child grow old and die… nor have it envy my gifts that I can not share. It would not be of my blood and while I would love it, it’s not the same.”

Lat climbs out of the water and reaches over to give her a hand up. He is considering his reply, taking his time, mulling over his thoughts. He pulls two towels out of nowhere and gives her one, beginning to rub his hair vigorously. “Do you do any sorts of activities with children on a regular basis?”

Mordaleah pulls the towel slowly through her hair. “I spend time with the children of the Furies and those at Morrigan's. But it’s hard enough watching lovers die, let alone a child I see as my own. I feel that affection for Lyonene… so I have stayed away from her as a child… I did not want her confused to our roles… or to come in conflict with Dad.”

He shakes his head. “I cannot agree with your path any more than I can agree with Morrigan's. But it is yours to choose,” he answers quietly. His towel goes back to wherever it came from, and he pulls a comb out of his pocket, running it through his hair. “And I know this may not be what you wish to hear, dear sister, but… if indeed men such as I have learned to survive without the connection of which you speak, and still find joy in the presence of children without feeling regret, then I would submit that it is most likely possible for a woman as well. But if there is anything I can do to help you, please know that you need only ask,” he finishes still more softly.

“This is like our debate on morality. It is not wrong for me to feel that I would not behold a child not born of my body in the same way I would hold one that was. That you question that is very….” She shakes her head. “I am done fishing. I hope you have a good evening.” She heads for her camp.

“Mordaleah,” Latimer calls after her, sounding a little frustrated. He follows her, wet socks and boots squishing as he walks. “I didn't say it was wrong of you. By the Unicorn you're touchy,” he observes wryly. “I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. I didn't mean to. I just don't like seeing you unhappy.”

She lets out a sigh. “There is nothing you can do about this… But thank you. I would just rather be alone now so let us part friends again and I shall see you when I see you.” She tears down her tent, rolling it for her pack.

Latimer stands there watching her for a little bit, silent for a time. Then he snickers. It turns to a chuckle, and the laugh isn't long in following. Turning, he starts heading for his horse, chuckling the whole way, listening to his boots squish. Mordaleah pays him no heed, loading her canoe and pushing it into the water while he packs his things and mounts up.

“Have a good evening, my dearest sister,” Latimer calls after he swings up on his mare's back. He nudges the animal closer to the water, expression serious again, though the humor in his face is grim with irony, rather than something more light-hearted. “I realized that we have both gotten each other pretty well today. So we'll part with an even score.” He smiles, but there is nothing mocking in the expression, mostly a sort of wistful sadness. “Perhaps we are too alike. Too stubborn. Do all the siblings suffer from this trait?”

The canoe glides across the water. “I don't know. I never really thought about it. Being that I was grown when you were all babies… It’s hard to view you as my equal most of the time. I just have lived too long for that sort of thing,” she says evenly, her eyes trained on the sunset. “But I know I am stubborn and hard, so for that you have not the fault.”

Latimer guides his horse along the water's edge, following a little along. He is silent again for a time, and then speaks quietly, barely heard above the sounds of water and horse. “I know it cost you a great deal to admit your dilemma to me, and I *am* sorry that I hurt you, Mordaleah. I hope someday we'll be able to move past that.” With a light cluck, he turns his horse and heads back the other way, back to the castle.

“I know… And we shall. We have time… We have time,” she says quietly, the only sound that of his horse and the canoe gliding across the water.

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