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Eris missed the blue waters of home. She missed the fruit bearing trees and the sweet smell of rosemallows tucked behind her sister’s ear. She missed the sound the jungle made as it came alive each morning, and the soft crashing of waves as they ebbed and flowed. She missed seeing birds half hidden in trees; red ones, blue ones, yellow ones. She missed her mother’s cooking. She missed her father’s singing. She missed the driftwood castles she made as a child, and the boats her brothers sailed around their little island. Eris of Larimar Isle missed a great many things.
There was a summer breeze moving through the gardens of Peten, bringing with it the briny scent of seawater and beach sand. Eris inhaled deeply, her nose unoffended by traces of the day’s fresh catch and the pungent smell of sulfur that seemed innately connected to wherever the sea breeze blew. The Lady Patron of Peten felt most at home. She sat upon a plush cushion, moving her hand in gentle strokes across the head of a sleeping panther. Nox let out a low rumble with each breath he took, his large head drifting into a peaceful sleep in Eris’s lap. Somewhere in the garden, Lux lurked beneath the leafy underbrush. Now and again Eris thought she spotted the white flick of her tail or the speckled pattern of her back, but it was only ever falling leaves or rays of sunshine upon felled logs. The jungle cat herself was well hidden.
Often Eris came to the gardens to think. There were eight in total, each built to represent one great house. The Atwood garden with its perfumed flowers, a pond and water lilies for the Yungs, tall grass and orange sand for the Montesas, and so on. It was the eighth garden, the garden of her home, that offered Eris some peace. There a familiar canopy tree lent branches and vines for climbing, though Eris was far beyond her climbing years, and the ground was thick with ferns and fauna of Larimar origin. The platform she sat upon descended down a path of white stone imported from the island, each one embedded with the blue and white Larimar stone itself. Even the cushion that pillowed out beneath Eris was of her home, gifted to her by a young Larimar merchant.
The boy was unusually comfortable in the company of a Patron. His voice lolled with a heavy Lars accent, and Eris fell deep into her memories with each word that seemed to spill out of him. Rosemallows, birds, and island music were ebbing and flowing like the waves themselves, dipping in and out of her conscious thought.
“I will bring you proper Larimar coconuts next time, Lady Patron. And mangos if you like. Had I a ship of my own, I would fill it with fruit for you, straight from the trees of Soto, or Aaran, or Laiti. Whichever island you prefer, though I suspect it is the fruit of Larimar that would make you happiest.”
Eris had long ago accepted her situation in Peten, and often found herself content in it, but rarely happy. Happiness, she considered a strange and foreign thought.
Other thoughts were mingling about as well; she wondered where her husband was, and what he would say when she returned to Castle Riverrend. Would he be angry she had gone, or would he be only silent? She knew not which to fear most. For a man born of the south, where all but two months of the year were spent beneath an unforgiving sun and not a native man woman or child had seen snow in their lives, Tobias Hammond had a temper more suited for the unpredictable moorlands of Ellysmere. There were days when his anger came in flashes of vile language and boiling rage, while on others his anger could freeze the sun. Her husband’s icy silence, Eris knew, was no better to endure than the fire.
Another thought that came and went was that of her duties. Being the Lady Patron of a country even as seemingly simple as Peten, Eris had come to realize, was not without its hardships. There were trades to oversee, court decisions to weigh in on, villages to collect rent from, clans to appease, castle chores to direct, events to plan, and so much more that Eris had thought would not be charged to her when she agreed to marry into such a stately position. These tasks only got harder during months like these, where her husband had left the lot to her while away at Summit. Three days now had passed since his return, and still Eris could feel the pressure in her chest as each and every responsibility of these days alone in charge of Peten still rolled about within her.
The forefront thought that always seemed to be in Eris’s mind was of her children. She hoped they had not found trouble, though they always seemed eager to root it out and bring it in hand to their mother, smiling as she worried away undoing their messes. Those children of hers had become another sort of Patron duty. She sometimes lost that once cherished feeling of being a mother, and began to regard her children as chores. She was to keep on Leon and his training, ensuring that he spent what remained of his childhood preparing for his duties as Patron. Make sure that Deena has not harassed Emmaline too much, and that Emmaline has not been broken hearted over another sea turtle caught on a fishing hook. Moira was not to encourage Henry too much with her ideas, and Henry was to be gentle with his sickly self. There was also Angee to think about. Two year olds were not supposed to be so much trouble, Eris thought, but the youngest of her children was wicked when it came to getting her hands where they did not belong. Wild and troublesome as the lot might be, Eris thought again of home and of her siblings that often seemed to emerge from her own spawn.
“This place is much like home, no?”
Eris looked down at the boy, well aware that he had no business speaking so familiarly with her. Still, she did not dismiss him. Maceo was a small piece of home, and this was all that mattered to her.
He stood before the platform steps, overshadowed by the canopy tree above. Even from the higher ground Eris could tell just how tall he was. Tall, yes, and rather thin. The skin that stretched over his bones was tan, much like Eris’s own. They shared the dark complection of the south, though Eris’s face had grown paler since coming to Peten. What had not changed was her head of fair hair and eyes of soft blue, tokens of Larimar Isle. Maceo carried these tokens himself. He appeared completely foreign to the people of Peten, but not to their Lady Patron. She looked at Maceo and it was as though she were looking Eterio in the face. Her Eterio, who she had not seen since she was a girl. Eris wondered if she would have grown to favor the merchant boy so, were he not the perfect image of the brother she left behind when she became Patron of Peten.
“A shadow of a shadow,” Eris said, her speech falling once again into the rhythmic accent that had long since acclimated to the monotonous dialect of her new home. It felt good to let the words roll off her tongue as they once did, naturally without study.
“Forty years on the mainland, Lady Patron, cannot make it home to an islander.” Maceo lowered his head, respectfully. “Hin dure mah.”
Eris’s lips softened to a smile. “Sah, Maceo. Hin dure malla.”
These words were old. As old as the Lars language itself. They meant very little to an outsider, but to the Southern Isles these words were sacred. The sea is yours, Maceo had said. The sea is ours.
It happened so rarely, and she hardly knew why it happened now, but Eris felt a swell of warmth in her soul. She dared not fight off this sense of home and happiness. Eris rose, Nox’s head adjusting from lap to pillow. He hardly stirred but to yawn, groan, and return to sleep. Descending the stairs, Eris settled herself before Maceo. They boy did not grow tense at her approach, as most any other subject would have when facing a Patron. Rather, Maceo returned Eris’s comfortable smile with one of his own.
For certain, Maceo was tall. Far taller than Eris. Standing level, she needed lift her chin to look him in the eye. Beyond his blue Larimar eyes, which Eris could not remove her gaze from, the canopy tree swayed overhead as summer air shifted. Some bird or another took to flight, a flurry of red, and the garden for the first time became true to Larimar.
It was Maceo’s doing, she knew. He was so perfect a replica of her brother that Eris could nearly believe she was back in time and back to her home. She did not stop her hand from rising, allowing it to settle in a gentle caress on the young boys cheek. It was smooth. Completely unadultured by whiskers in his young age. Beneath her palm, Eris could feel the lines of Maceo’s cheek twist into a broadened smile. “Eudaimonia,” she responded at last, though the word hardly broke her lips.
“Sah,” Eris replied, she did believe in Eudaimonia.
What the people of Peten and Torre and Emory, and every other mainland country, did not understand about islanders was their dedication to old beliefs. Stories and fables, and such. Eris’s mother, and her grandmother before that, and so on in the history of the Belo family, had passed down many stories, none of which were singularly belonging to the Belos. These were stories that all of Larimar knew, and each of the islands that dwelled south of Historia. Eris’s favorite was the story of Eudaimonia.
She withdrew her hand, turning slowly from Maceo. Eris took seat upon the lowest white stone step. “A lost island,” she said, speaking in common tongue. It felt strange to talk about Eudaimonia in a language other than Lars, but Eris needed reel herself back from the past.
Maceo joined her on the steps. “Paradise,” he said, his voice soothing. “That is what they say of Eudaimonia.”
“My mother used to say it was the only place where storms never raged and one could truly find peace.”
“I often think of going there.”
Maceo nodded. He let the statement breathe a moment before responding. “Have you no peace here, m’lady?”
Truly, Eris did not. She confided this in Maceo, knowing the fury her husband would loose if he knew that a lowly merchant boy had found more inside knowledge to Eris’s heart than he had in over forty years of marriage. They talked a while longer about the fabled Eudaimonia. Of the treasures Maceo believed to lay there and the tranquil beaches Eris longed to see. They could have gone on for hours, but their time together in the garden came to an end with the return of Aegis Clemonte.
“Lady Patron,” he addressed Eris formally, though she knew it was only on account of Maceo’s presence. Aegis knew her first and foremost as Eris. The fact that she was his Lady Patron was an afterthought to him.“The Lord Patron requests your presence.”
“Of course.” Eris’s voice betrayed the sadness she felt for having to give up this time with Maceo. She did not try to hide it. Not while in the presence of only a Larimar merchant and her most trusted friend. “Thank you, Aegis.”
“I will wait outside.”
He left the garden without another word.
“It has been good to speak with you, m’lady.” Maceo spoke earnestly, though Eris knew there was something more he wished to say. She granted him speech. The boy became visibly nervous for the first time since entering the garden. A light flush crossed his cheeks and his eyes dropped. “You say your husband has returned from summit?” He asked. “Leon and Deena with him, then?”
Eris nodded, aware of where his mind was without him needing speak it. Still, she allowed him to spit it out anyway.
“Might I have a moment with the little lords and ladies of your house? I have much I could offer them from Larimar, your home. Trinkets at toys, and more fruit even. If they would like.”
“I’m sure they would take great joy in seeing you again, Maceo.”
His flush darkened. “Thank you, m’lady.”
“The girls have gone to the shallow pools, and Henry with them,” Eris said. “Leon I suspect has stayed behind.”
“Thank you, m’lady, I will find them.”
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