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Home Truths, PG

Summary: Rilla visits Julian, and confesses a few things.


"You've been awfully quiet."

"Have I?" Rilla asked, her dreamy hazel eyes coming back into focus.

Douglass sighed. Rilla had always been his girl, and he had thought (with good reason) that things would stay that way. Oh, she might get a husband, but Douglass could deal with that now, after Alan. He had never seen Ansis as a serious threat, instead looking fondly on their attempts at secrecy, imagining it would all blow over before too long.

It just went to show - no fool like an old fool, he thought ruefully.

"I'll amuse myself for a few hours," he said instead, for all the world like this wasn't his journey. "Let you catch up with your brother. Bring him for dinner - there's a new restaurant near the city gate that I'd like to try."

"Julian hates that restaurant," Rilla said loftily, wrapping herself more tightly in her cloak. She still did not look fully recovered from that cold she had suffered a few weeks back - Ansis, young lover that he was - had jumped on his horse as soon as he had heard of it, and arrived entirely too late to be of use. The worst had been over then, but a cough lingered. "Says it spoils the look of the city."

Douglass shrugged. "I'll wager he doesn't hate having his food paid for, or he can take us somewhere else."

Rilla planted a kiss on his cheek. "Don't be grouchy, Douglass. I'll see you in three bells."


"Punctuality is a virtue, Brother Julian," Rilla said, mock-severely. She was leaning against the monument to Master Si-Cham, positively glowing.

Julian pulled her into a tight hug, realising suddenly how much he had missed his sister. "Sorry, Rilla. I meant to be on time."

Rilla laughed, ruffling his hair affectionately, though he noticed that the familiar gesture required more exertion on her part; he must have grown again. "And that is all that matters. How is life in the City treating you?"

Julian made a face, leading Rilla round the back of the monument, to a little bench where one might reflect on Master Si-Cham's greatest virtues. Or where one might catch up with one's siblings in a secluded, half-hidden corner. "It's all right. We feel like there's not really much here they can teach us - I mean, I'm Gifted, but not that Gifted, and I'm not sure I want to take my vows any longer." He turned his head away, not meeting Rilla's eyes, and rushed on. "We think we might go to the Royal University."

"We?" Rilla queried lightly, arranging her skirts with care.

It surprised Julian - not the skirt-fussing; Rilla had always taken pride in her appearance. He had thought his change of career would create a stir, but instead, it seemed he had betrayed himself unwittingly. "Edmund," he confessed, watching Rilla's face. She, however, did not even flicker. "We would go together. We - talk of it often."

"I thought you wanted to be a priest," Rilla said, and her tone was neutral. She had perhaps learned too much at their mother's knee, and Julian felt all the excuses rising in him, looking to tease some real response from her.

He quelled the impulse and instead voiced no excuse. Rilla (because she was not their mother) was first to speak. "It is what you spoke of; devotion to the gods rather than to the sword. It is what you thought before-"

She cut herself off there, but Julian could fill in the blank. Before Edmund.

It was possible that Rilla had a point. Julian considered that his and Edmund's thoughts were so tightly bound that he could not tell who had conceived an idea first, but it was possible that it had been Edmund's idea to leave the City of the Gods. Edmund, youngest of nine, always thirsted for more. Julian was typically content until somebody planted a seed. The seed of the Royal University had germinated and ripened until it preoccupied him, took precedence over prayer. He did not see now how he could remain at the City of the Gods.

He had been silent too long, lost in his own reflections. Rilla shifted uncomfortably beside him, but as ever, she didn't interrupt. "Before I came to the City of the Gods," he finished, his voice clear and firm. "Before I began my studies in earnest, and saw what more I could achieve."

Rilla was not to be deterred. "Before you met Edmund."

So, there is was. Edmund's name laid out between them. It was a fork in the road; Julian could either dismiss it, or confide in his sister. His chest tightened, and he forced himself to breathe steadily. He could trust Rilla. He had always been able to trust Rilla.

"Yes. Rilla, I - think I love Edmund."

His sister's face whitened, her eyes widening. "For - for how long?"

Julian shrugged. "All my life? The past few years? I can't tell. Rilla, is this... is it too much?"

Rilla paused, and he was grateful that she didn't rush to appease him. "It's a lot," she admitted. "But not too much. Never too much." She slid an arm around his middle, and squeezed him tightly. "Does Edmund feel the same?"

Julian nodded eagerly, and then shot Rilla a sly look. "He also wants to move to the University."

Rilla laughed, then, and the tension eased out of her face. "Julian, I wouldn't think of telling you what to do," she began, and Julian stiffened, "but you might want to consider confiding in Douglass. Certainly before you told Mama and Papa."

Douglass was Rilla's confidante, and as such, Julian was not surprised by Rilla's suggestion, but he would not be acting on it any time soon, if at all. What worked for Rilla in her trials and tribulations over Ansis would not necessarily be the best course of action for Julian. By way of a change of subject, to avoid further discussion about Edmund (it was not that he minded, precisely, and the square they were sitting in was quite empty of people in the frigid weather, but some things were still such a delicious secret that he couldn't bring himself to talk about them), Julian asked, "What brings you to the gods' own City? Are you avoiding Ansis again?"

Her cheeks were already pink with cold, but Julian was sure they darkened a shade. "No," she said slowly, rubbing her gloved hands together. "I came to talk to you. Julian, I am going to marry Ansis in the spring."

Julian couldn't have been more stunned if Rilla had struck him across the face. This resolution, following years of Rilla lamenting her lot in life as an heir, was not one he had anticipated. He had always thought Rilla would marry sensibly, after a suitable break post-Ansis. Truth be told, he wasn't sure he liked the idea of Ansis, the friend of his boisterous brother, being Lord of Dunlath. "Right."

"And I have chosen to renounce my claim to Dunlath," Rilla said, her voice dropping to a whisper. "Theodore will be the heir."

This must be a joke. When Julian looked at Rilla, though, her anxious eyes put paid to that theory. "Theodore?" Julian asked incredulously. "What does he know of running a fief?"

"Nothing, yet. Mama and I will teach him, before I get married. Julian, I-"

"You come to me, and ask if I am letting Edmund influence me in switching my path in life," Julian said quietly, "when you are allowing Ansis to influence you into throwing away your fief."

It wasn't often that Julian got angry, and he almost never fought with Rilla. This was different. This was Dunlath.

Rilla's eyes sparkled furiously, her temper rising. "That is right. I asked. If you had asked me, I could have told you that Ansis offered to give up Cavall for me. I could have told you that I thought it through for months, and how often I talked to Mama about it, and how she gave me her blessing. I could have told you that Mama thinks Theodore a suitable heir. But what would you know of all that? You're never at Dunlath."

"Which means I can't have an opinion," Julian stated flatly.

Almost immediately, Rilla relented. He was half-afraid that she would reason that he had asked her to accept something, and all she was asking was the same in return, but she didn't. "Of course you can. But you haven't been back for a while. Theodore is - he's growing up. He's sweet on that Naxen girl. The younger one," she added, as if Julian might have thought she meant the imperious Lady Agatha. "She's been good for him. Julian, truly, do you disapprove?"

"Would it change your mind?" Julian enquired, still stung from her previous comment.

"It would make me unhappy."

"Then I will try to approve," Julian conceded. He hesitated, suddenly feeling like he could not stay put, as though the discussion still weighed on the air around him. "Come. Let's take a walk around the gardens before we have to meet Douglass. Some of the mages are trying to grow plants out of season in a few of the beds. It's - well, it's interesting to me. Nobody seems to be having much success. You can tell me all the news from home."

Rilla seemed to know their talk was at an end. She rose, and shook her skirts out. "That sounds delightful. Lead the way."

The rest of their time passed with light, unremarkable comments. If Douglass found either of his dining companions subdued, at least he did not show it, although he did find Rilla's hand just before he assisted her into the carriage, and squeezed it. She smiled gratefully; Douglass always understood.


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