Daughters Will Love Like You Do

Claire missed her daughters.

As she played, she thought of them and missed them. She thought of Lynn, her dancing daughter. She thought of Clarice, her little brow puckered as she tried to pick out the melody on her cello. She thought of Angelique, her clear angel’s voice rising above the noise of piano and cello and tapping feet. She thought of the beautiful music they made together, so many times, just the four of them.

Claire had another daughter, but she did not think of her. She had two sons, but she did not think of them, either. For if the Lord Wright and her husband thought that giving her two sons and an infant daughter were ample recompense for the daughters she had lost, they were wrong.

The Lord Wright and her husband were both men, after all. Even if they were superior, both of them, to her — what did it matter? A Sim might be superior to an insect, but what did a Sim know of how an insect felt?

Claire watched as her fingers, all ten of them, skittered over the keys. As they splayed and pressed and jumped, they looked very insect-like indeed.

She closed her eyes and let her thoughts drift. A year ago she would have marshalled them to order, but now she no longer cared. What did it matter, anyway — any of it? Her inside was a ringing hollow emptiness — what did it matter which thoughts volleyed and echoed through the gloom?

She did not miss her daughters, Claire decided, merely because they were far away from her. Surely, if geographic separation was all it was, it would be easier to bear. No, she missed her daughters because whether they stayed at Camford, or came home, or went to the moon, they were not the daughters she had given birth to. The daughters she had given birth to were happy, laughing girls. She remembered Lynn’s giggles whenever her grandmother or uncle would make funny faces at her. She remembered Clarice’s fearless toddling through the halls of the château, always exploring, exploring, exploring. She remembered Angelique’s mischief — upsetting her grandmother’s sewing basket, hiding for hours in one of the kitchen cabinets and giggling in the dark while the household was in an uproar after her, slyly coating the seat of her father’s favorite chair with mud.

Her girls were no longer like that now. Now they were ladies, even Angelique, a novice nun. They spoke in murmurs no louder than the soft swishing of their skirts through the hall. Their smiles, when they smiled, were small and gracious, lady’s smiles. If they thought about anything other than dresses and gossip and their future families, they were careful not to show it. They no longer dared to disagree with a man, or any man that Claire saw them with.

They were, every one of them, miserable. And now Bors wanted her to raise another daughter so that she could watch him crush the joy from her.

Claire closed her eyes and let the dark notes sweep her away.

“My lady?”

Her fingers paused on the keys. She did not answer.

“My lady,” the butler repeated, “the — the Lady Morgan le Fay is here. Shall I tell her you are not at home?”

Claire frowned, stroked the silky ivory, and thought. Why would she not want to see the Lady Morgan? They were not good friends, she remembered that. Or perhaps they were good friends. The women whom Claire would have named a year ago were with her all the time, now, endlessly laughing and chattering. They invited her places, they dropped by unannounced, they tried to drag her back into the wide world of sunlight and smiles. Did they not see that all she wanted was to be left alone? But Lady Morgan, she had not bothered her yet …

“My lady?” the butler asked.

“What?”

“Shall I send her away? She has baptismal gifts for young Lionel and his sister, but we can accept those on your behalf.”

“Why would you send her away?”

The butler blinked. “My — my lady, but I should hardly think you should want to see a woman such as her …”

“Because she is a witch?”

If the man continued to stare at her as he was staring, his eyes would fall from his skull and roll along the floor. “My lady! Because — because of her reputation?”

“Come again?”

The butler looked around and said in a scandalized whisper, “She bore a child out of wedlock!”

Oh, that … Claire remembered now. She remembered, vaguely, being shocked when it had happened, for surely the King’s sister —

“She is the King’s sister. Show her in.” If she put up with the King’s chattering wife, she would certainly show courtesy to his more retiring sister.

Without waiting for the butler to reply, she turned back to her piano and began to play again.

She closed her eyes as she played. Bors hated it when she played like this — not from a well-known, recognizable piece, or even a lesser-known but still pre-written piece. He hated it when she just let the notes take her where they would. “Play something a man can follow!” he would bellow, and Claire would reach for her sheet music and try to pick something that would placate him.

But Bors was not here right now; he was off training with the troops as he always was these days. So Claire could follow her fancy. She let the pictures form in her head, the same pictures that had been forming there for weeks and months now.

She stood, as she always did, at the edge of a lake. It was a deep lake, and a dark one, and the night was moonless. There was no sound, other than the lapping of the water on the shore. It gave off dark, deep, slow piano notes as it lapped.

She stepped closer to the lake. Her feet entered the water. It was cold, chilling to the bone. Her skirts dragged along the bottom, but the bottom was not muddy, but sandy and smooth.

Claire threw her head back and played the notes of standing in the water’s edge, letting the cold seep into her bones, and waiting.

She could play like that for hours. She would play like that for hours. Or perhaps she would let herself go deeper. Perhaps she would let the music sweep her away. Perhaps she would take another step forward, and another, and perhaps she would feel her skirts drag her further. Perhaps she would let them drag her. Perhaps she would, as she once had, kneel and watch her reflection in the water. Perhaps she would, as she had then, smile in the secret knowledge that all she had to do was pitch forward and the water would close over her head. She would sink and drift away forever …

“Brava, Lady Claire!”

Like a herd of geese descending into her smooth still pond, honking and flapping their wings and fouling it with their droppings, startled notes rang out as Claire gasped and turned around.

Lady Morgan gasped herself. “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. I just — you were playing so well, I couldn’t resist.”

Well? She was playing well? That was impossible, she did not have her sheet music …

“Did you compose that yourself?”

Claire remembered her father, yelling at her for wasting her time when she would shirk her embroidery to try to pick out a new melody on the old piano. “Women can’t write music! Now go do your sewing before I take the hoop to your backside!” Claire remembered Bors, throwing himself into the chair opposite and growling, “Play something recognizable, for Wright’s sake!”

“… You think I did?” Claire asked.

“Well,” Lady Morgan replied, “you certainly weren’t playing what’s in front of you.” She gestured to the sheet music, and Claire turned to let her eyes focus on it. It was a marching tune, popular with the Glasonlander army.

“No, no, I wasn’t.”

“So you composed it yourself.”

“I … suppose.”

“Then you have quite a gift, Lady Claire.”

Claire blinked. She stared at the woman above her. Lady Morgan only smiled.

And then, before she knew it, she was on her feet, clapping her hands together. “You — you enjoyed it? Truly?”

“I would hardly have scared you half to death with my praise if I hadn’t!” Lady Morgan chuckled.

She liked it! What did it matter if she was a witch and a whore? Someone, somewhere, the King’s own sister, liked her music!

“But …”

Claire’s shoulders sagged, and she waited for the inevitable criticism. It was not intricate enough, it flouted the rules of theory that she had never been taught, it —

“It’s — it’s rather sad, don’t you think?”

“I don’t want it to be sad,” Claire replied, without thinking. “I want it to be … empty. Deep. Dark. Cold. Numbing.”

“That’s what makes it so sad,” Lady Morgan answered.

“I’m … sorry?”

“You love your music, don’t you?”

“Of course.” Claire blinked. Of course? It was not ladylike to admit to a love of music — a fondness, maybe, but not love. Love was reserved for children and the Lord Wright.

“And yet you want it to make you numb. I find that sad.”

“I …” Claire shook her head. “Alfred said that you brought a baptismal gift for the children — thank you.”

“A rocking horse,” Lady Morgan answered. “My Ravenna loved her rocking horse. I think your Evette might, when she gets a little bigger.”

Claire shuddered.

“May I — may I see her?”

Claire blinked. “Evette?”

“Aye.” Lady Morgan — was she flushing? “I — well, you will think this sounds very silly, but it’s been so long since I was able to hold a baby girl … and I’m sure your Lionel is positively drowning in attention, I think it’s about time his sister took some of her own back, don’t you think?”

Claire stared. She wanted to see Evette … just Evette …

“Follow me,” Claire heard herself say, and she marched out of the room and into her daughter’s nursery. Lady Morgan followed.

When they arrived, Claire moved toward the crib, but hovering over it, she hesitated. When was the last time she had held a baby girl from her free choice, and not from duty or obligation?

Slowly, Claire reached into the crib and drew the baby out.

Evette stared up at her with eyes that did not blink. Claire barely restrained a shudder. Those eyes were cruel. They were not her eyes. They were the eyes of every single one of her children.

They were Bors’s eyes.

Claire remembered how every one of her children had looked up at her. Lynn’s gaze had been nervous, but as she grew older and learned to recognize her mother, Claire had been rewarded with a shy smile. Clarice had never been afraid; she had grinned whenever she was picked up. Angelique, Angelique had been born with a smile on her face and a laugh on her lips, reaching her chubby little arms from the cradle and practically demanding to be held. Elyan had welcomed her snuggles and caresses, but always with a hand pawing at the front of her dress, looking for milk. Lionel, when she held him, gazed at her with indifference — she was just another nurse to him.

Evette was different. Evette gazed up at her with knowing eyes. For, Claire convinced, Evette did know. She knew of the coming betrayal. She knew that however much her Mama kissed and caressed her now, there was a storm coming — the storm of her father — and her mother would leave her to be beaten down by it, all alone.

And that was why Claire did not kiss and caress this child. She could not save her, and so why should she try to love her? It would only break both of their hearts in the end. Better that Evette know from a young age just how terribly alone she was — how terribly alone every woman was. They were, all of them, like stars flung across the vast expanse of the night sky. They were close enough to see each other, but they could never touch each other. They were divided. The men, meanwhile, were one, united — and when they came out, together, they completely outshone and overpowered the women. They were the sun, and the women were only the stars.

I’m sorry, my darling, Claire thought to her youngest daughter, to the last one she would fail. But it is easier this way, for both of us.

Without a word, she passed the baby to Lady Morgan.

Oh, Evette was a different baby in her arms! She giggled, she wiggled and laughed as Morgan’s fingers did a tickling dance across her stomach. And when Morgan brought her up to her shoulder, Evette sighed and nestled in a happy contented baby daze.

And Claire watched.

“Oh, aren’t you precious …” Morgan murmured into the baby’s ear. She kissed Evette’s hairless head.

Keep her! Claire wanted to shout. Take her with you! Get her out of this house before her father breaks her like he did my other daughters!

“I’m sure, considering she’s — is she number five or number six?”

“Number five,” Claire whispered. She could only whisper, the bleak despair that had closed over her head, and now closed over it again, when the midwife had announced a daughter would allow her to do nothing else.

The bleak despair had almost killed her that first time, for though she had heard the midwife exclaiming that another child was on its way out of her womb, that she had to keep pushing, Claire had briefly considered giving up and letting death claim them both.

Then she remembered that mercy would never be allowed to her; if she refused to push, Bors would have her cut open and the child removed. She would be dead and her child, if it was a daughter, would still be thrown into Bors’s hands. Dying would accomplish nothing.

Something changed. Lady Morgan looked over her shoulder at her, one eyebrow upraised. She patted the baby’s back. “I think,” she murmured, “it’s time for Evette to go back down for her nap — unless Mama wants to hold her?”

Claire took a full step back and shook her head, waving her hands before her as if to ward off a blow.

Lady Morgan nodded once, then, with infinite tenderness, she cradled the baby one last time before putting her back into the crib. She turned to Claire.

“Lady Claire, you are not well.”

Claire stared.

“I don’t want to make you feel guilty, because I’m sure that’s the last thing you need right now, but your friends are worried sick about you,” Lady Morgan continued. “They see … they see how the life has been sucked out of you. Lady Guinevere came and spoke to me about it.”

Lady Guinevere? She had been the most persistent of her friends in terms of trying to get her to come out and do things …

“She asked me to help you, if I could.”

Claire looked up. “You can’t.”

“Can’t because I’m not able to — or I can’t because you won’t let me?”

Claire did not answer.

“Do you want to get better, Lady Claire?”

“I can’t.”

How could she get better? How? The world was what it was. Nothing would change. She was just born with an excruciating sense of what the world was, and what it did to women. She loved her girls far more than she should; than any mother should. She loved them too much to have to watch them be bent and broken to better fit the molds of wife, mother and nun.

Morgan pursed her lips together. “I see. Lady Claire, is there somewhere we can discuss this in private?”

It was a sign of her lack of interest that she merely turned around and led Morgan to the bedchamber rather than attempt to insist that she did not need, and could not receive, help.

They sat on the bench near the wall, together. Lady Morgan spoke first. “Lady Claire … I do want to help you, if you’ll let me.”

Claire turned her head a little to one side. “Why?”

“Because no one should feel as bad as you do.”

“Why do you think I feel bad?”

“Because when I look into your eyes, all I see are two dark holes staring back out at me.”

Claire faced the opposite wall, away from Morgan. “Do you think I am going mad?”

“No, Lady Claire. If anything, I think you are suffering from an excess of sanity.”

She snorted. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Silence, broken by, “I know your daughter Lady Gwendolyn — did you know that?”

“Of course you two have met …”

“I mean more than that, my lady. I mean that I’ve gotten to know her as — as her future aunt,” Lady Morgan said finally. “She’s a lovely, talented, intelligent young woman. You should be very proud of her.”

Claire couldn’t even smile.

“But when I’ve seen her, spoken to her sometimes … I see this sadness in her. And fear. Lady Claire, while I do not believe it would ever be in Lady Gwendolyn’s nature to take up a sword and go hunting after dragons, that sadness and fear is not hers originally. They were put into her. And they were not put into her by you.”

Claire shuddered. “I failed her. I failed them all.”

“Because you could not prevent your husband from abusing them as he abused you?”

Claire turned to Lady Morgan in shock. That wasn’t what she had meant at all! She had failed her girls because she had coddled them, she had prepared them for their roles as women as she should, and so it was up to Bors and his rough methods to teach them what she could not —

But if that wasn’t what she meant at all, then why was she nodding?

“Let me tell you something, Lady Claire. Lady Gwendolyn is stronger than she seems. I’ve visited my niece at Camford, I’ve seen your daughter. She’s blooming. And I know my nephew — he loves that bloom, he’ll never crush it. And given sun and enough water and shelter from the storm, your daughter’s bloom will grow into quite a hardy flower indeed.

“She gets that strength from you.”

Claire blinked. “No. If she has strength, she gets it from her father. I have no strength.”

“Maybe you don’t feel like you do now, but trust me, Lady Claire, you are stronger than you appear. And your husband is not strong. Truly strong people do not need to crush those who they fear might be stronger than they — that is the action of a weak man, and a coward.”

Claire’s jaw fell.

“But though you’re a strong flower, Lady Claire, you’ve been through some storms recently. They’ve almost been too much for you, haven’t they?”

Claire felt herself nodding.

“You don’t have to succumb, you know. You can grow strong again. But you have to want to do it.”

“No!”

“You don’t want to?”

“No — I can’t!”

“You can’t do it at all,” Lady Morgan asked, “or you can’t do it on your own?”

Was there any way to do it, but on her own?

“You don’t have to do it on your own,” Lady Morgan told her. “You have help. Your husband is the most useless man to walk Wright’s green earth, but you have friends. You have your elder daughters. You even have me.”

” … You?”

“I’m studying healing, you know — I’m not an expert, but I can help you. And I shan’t preach any nonsense about resigning yourself to the inevitable. I can help you help yourself.

“But,” Lady Morgan concluded, rising, “you have to help yourself. I can’t give you a potion and make you happy again, Lady Claire. And telling yourself that you should be happy shan’t make you happy again, either. But I can help. I can promise you that much. Come to my castle any time — you know where it is?”

Claire nodded.

“Then come any time, and I will try to help you.”

Such was Claire’s daze after she heard this that she followed Lady Morgan, meek as any kicked puppy, down the stairs and to the door, allowing the servants to help her into her cloak, hearing herself say the proper housewifely farewells as the King’s sister took her leave. She even followed Lady Morgan out the door.

She stayed there a long time.

Lady Morgan couldn’t help her. Surely no one could help her.

Or could she?

The Lord Wright Himself had abandoned her, given her another daughter and laughed at her pain.

Hadn’t He?

Or was there hope for her after all?

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16 thoughts on “Daughters Will Love Like You Do

  1. Wow. Just, that was really good. Really good.

    I hope that Morgan can help, Claire shouldn’t give up. Bors wins if Claire gives up. Don’t let him win, Claire!

    I love the part with her and the piano, it was very powerful. And I agree with Morgan, her girls are strong and they don’t get that from their dear darling father. 😛 To Bors.

    • I’m so glad you thought the part with the piano was good — I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to express what I meant. It’s hard to inhabit the head of a character when she’s suffering from depression, and you’ve never been depressed yourself.

      And no, the girls don’t get their strength from Bors — unless you call getting strength from learning to deal with Bors “getting strength from Bors.” Which some people might. 😉

      And now for something completely different — I very much dislike typing the word “strength.” And the word “daughter.” Somehow those g’s and those h’s and those t’s get all mixed up when I’m trying to type it out. So you can imagine how much fun typing this post was. 😉

  2. Awwww… I do feel for her, i suppose it’s hard for her because she no-longer see’s her daughters the way she once did, when ever she see’s them now it’s in social situations when they are on best behaviour, perhaps she’d feel better if she saw them more socially so she could see that there was still alittle fire in them.

    • You know what, now that you mention it, when Lynn coming home from Camford and getting married and making babies and being happy (assuming I let her be happy, muahaha!) ought to help Claire out a bit. If Claire could see that at least one of her daughters managed to do very well in spite of the way Bors raised her, it might make Claire feel less like an all-around failure.

      I don’t know, though, that seeing Clarice or Angelique would — right now — have quite the same effect. Both of them are still finding their way, and Angelique in particular is not happy at all. 😦

  3. Claire just seems so defeated, but she does have strength in her. I do believe she’ll get better when she makes up her mind to do so, and I have hope for the twins. I don’t think Claire’s about to let Evette become another of Bors’s victims, or Lionel become another Bors, even if she doesn’t realize it yet.

    Yikes, Claire’s father was that oppressive too? The poor woman! She’s been pushed around all her life 😦

    • Claire’s been through a lot over her life, and she’s finally getting to the point where she just can’t take it anymore. Having the twins now, after she’s had to let Angelique go and has arranged a marriage for Clarice to a virtual stranger, is not helping her mental health at all. 😦

      Honestly, I think the fact that Claire had a nasty father is part of why Bors married her — she’d been trained into just the kind of wife he thought he wanted. He never would have wanted to marry a Guinevere or a Morgause, and probably not even an Alison. An Eilwen he could probably put up with, but that’s about it.

      What Bors didn’t know then, though — and still doesn’t know now — is that you can’t push a woman around her whole life without some nasty consequences, one way or another.

  4. Composing is good therapy. Doing anything productive– where when you are done, you have made something you can hold in your hands– is good therapy.

    I’m so glad to see Claire admitting, even if it’s more agreeing than saying it herself, that she’s been abused. That’s a huge first step, although somehow I’m not surprised that Morgan is the first to actually use the word. She’s outside society enough to be able to see a broken spirit and call it abuse even if there’s never been a blacked eye or split lip. And it seems like Claire is ready to accept some help, if that help can call a spade a spade.

    (In fairness to Bors (because apparently I’m addicted to playing Devil’s Advocate), he does care for Claire– said so himself, at least in internal monologue– and he doesn’t actually realize he’s been emotionally abusive to her, or even that he’s been cruel. I’ve been watching a lot of Criminal Minds lately, and while he may be damaging to his entire family, he’s not actually enjoying it or anything. Bastard though he may be, he gets no satisfaction out of his family’s suffering. It’s a bit of a relief from these people who get off on causing pain. Or setting things on fire. Or gouging out people’s eyes.)

    I do think that Morgaine or Leona or someone stepping in on Evette’s behalf would be a lot of help for Claire, actually. Actually making a place for her somehow, somewhere out of that house where she’ll have a bit more of a chance to grow up into the girl Claire would like her to be, instead of the girl she’ll be in spite of Bors’s bulldozing.

    • Oh, I had no idea that composing was such good therapy, though it is true that I was having Claire use her music as an emotional outlet. I might have to incorporate that into Morgan’s “therapy” for her. Not that Morgan knows squat about music, but she could suggest that Claire take some composition lessons/show her music to someone who knows more about the subject than she does.

      I agree that Morgan is the only one who’s in the position, mentally and socially, to call it abuse. She’s not just “outside society” in the sense of being something of a social leper (though she’s still on very good terms with the King and Queen), she’s outside society in terms of not adhering to its laws and values. Because everything Bors does to Claire is perfectly permissable in the larger society in which they grew up (Glasonland) — hell, in some circles, since Bors has never been physically violent with Claire or the girls, he’d be considered an above-average husband.

      I love it when people play devil’s advocate, it’s so much fun to read the comments! (Plus it makes me feel like I’m doing a good job, if these manifestations from my head and computer can inspire such rousing debate!) You’re right, Bors isn’t doing this to hurt them, or to be cruel — if someone asked him, he’d probably respond that he’s doing what’s best for them. They’re women, they’re supposed to obey men. Better for his daughters to get the disobedience knocked out of them now, while they’re young, than to keep being headstrong later, when they might go to a husband who could beat them.

      Hmm, it might be hard for Morgan to make that space for Evette, if only because Bors would flip out at the idea of that “witch” and “whore” being so close to his young, impressionable daughter. Lynn might be a better canditate. 🙂 But I do agree that getting Evette out of that house and giving her space could do wonders for both mother and daughter.

      • It’s easy to get too wrapped up in composing, but it’s also… productive. And productive helps. Make soemthing.

        I just went on about why I’m not as mad at Bors as I could be when I replied to Andavri, so I’ma skip that up here. Cos that’s a load of Bors. But. It just makes sense that Morgan’s sight is clearer on emotional needs, because that’s… such a big part of what drives her, personally. Her love for Accolon didn’t change after he died, came back, and forgot her, she loves her truly heinous sister’s daughter– Morgaine pretty much has a heart as big as all outdoors, except when it comes to Morgause (and hello there mitigating circumstances).

        Lynn really would be a good choice, although Evette is a little young for a lady in waiting. I can see Clarice as mightily willing to take her, though, since she’s realized how destructive an influence her father can be– provided Kay’s plotting works out and Clarice and Freddy get both oars in the water, so to speak. If there were more adult nuns, I’d almost suggest sending her to the convent to be raised, although that’d take a pretty hefty donation. But she’d be out of the house and not even Bors could protest to a religious upbringing, at least in terms of propriety. It just doesn’t work if Evette’s the only nob in the playpen.

    • I don’t think it’s you like playing devil’s advocate, Hat. I think you just *like* Bors. 😉 You’re always standing up for him, and defending him, and much more so than when it’s anybody else in Albion being stupid. *sing-song* Yep, that’s it, Hat has a crush on Bors!

      Seriously though, I don’t think the fact that he doesn’t “mean” it makes all that much difference, not really. Does a guy who’s fighting with his wife and back hands her in a fit of temper get away with that then? He didn’t mean to. I mean sure, everyone has lashed out in temper. And if he doesn’t feel bad about doing it?

      But I bet very few people would justify it if Bors went around smacking his daughters around physically, but because it’s a mental abuse and he doesn’t actively, maliciously enjoy it, that makes it okay?

      I mean this is a constant, cold-tempered abuse, he’s not doing it when he’s angry, he’s doing it ALL THE TIME. And he JUSTIFIES it, because the people he abuses are women. Admittedly, there is an argument to be made for the fact that Bors is not the 100% greatest father to Elyan and Lionel either. He is allowing his own personal views of women and the world warp Elyan and he’ll do it to Lionel and all we can hope is that the asshole will die a horrible, yet oddly funny death, while Lionel is still young enough to be salvaged. (Or that Lionel decides to stick a middle finger at Bors and his views and rebel against Bors. Either or, I’m not picky.)

      And yes there’s lots of mitigating circumstances involved in Bors’ creation. He’s a man, this is the middle ages, the religion they subscribe to is misogynistic, etc. nobody’s bothered to tell him he’s WRONG. But, you know I’ve read biographies of serial killers and while some are just evil sick fucks, there are a lot of people who kill alot of other people who’ve had horrible things happen to them.

      That does not justify what they do. I understand perpetuating a wrong view for the sake of a character, I do it too, sometime you should ask Morgaine about all the times I’ve justified Tibby to her. Tiberius is a rapist… and a pedophile. And he DOES enjoy what he does to some degree, he wouldn’t keep doing it if he didn’t enjoy it.

      But I would like to have it explained to me why not knowing that something is wrong, and not getting an active enjoyment out of it, ever justifies doing something wrong. Because, as I read it, that is what you’re saying.

      Okay, in the RL middle ages, hell even up to the middle of the twentieth century, smacking your wife around wasn’t wrong. It was giving a woman the discipline she needed. Fathers were expected to crush the spirit out of their daughters because that’s how you made them into ladies. And ladies did not threaten the status quo. They didn’t make waves that upset male domination, they didn’t press uncomfortable issues. They were like your horse or your hound; provided a necessary function (popping out more boys) and were something to parade around and brag about. Something that made you look good.

      Emotional abuse is complicated, insidious, and even after the situation is over, you find damage in places you’ve never expected. And people do it every day, even to people they say they care about.

      Maybe Bors is just abusive simply because Bors doesn’t know how to stop being abusive and doesn’t see anything wrong with what he’s doing, so why should he stop. Maybe he doesn’t get any enjoyment out of it, but he doesn’t see any reason to stop. Stopping would be difficult and in a lot of ways uncomfortable. And if there’s no reason… But I know people in my own life who do the exact same thing. Without a doubt, it makes Bors more realistic, adds drama to Albion, but I personally am still going to call him an asshole every time I see him or hear about him because there are no circumstances in my view of the world that makes what he does okay.

      And I don’t think I will ever be able to have someone justify what Bors does without at least wanting to refute that person. (Not saying you can’t, cause you can, just it is probably the best way in the world to get me to argue with you…)

      • Now, now, I like Mordred. I prefer my jerkasses pretty. *grins* (And hey, don’t mind me, I actually do really kind of love an intelligent argument, so long as it’s just debate-y argument, not fight-y argument. If I can find another side to anything, I’m very likely to bring it up.)

        And you know, I had this whole long thing written out, but then I caught on something you said– But I would like to have it explained to me why not knowing that something is wrong, and not getting an active enjoyment out of it, ever justifies doing something wrong. Because, as I read it, that is what you’re saying.

        I am not saying ‘justifies.’ Nothing justifies what Bors is doing, not even the fun values dissonance we get sitting here in the 21st century reading about events that take place in a fictional world roughly analogous to sixteen hundred years in the past. Bors is an abuser, and that right there is straight up unjustifiable. I wouldn’t even try to justify his actions.

        However, his ignorance of the fact that he’s being abusive mitigates it somewhat for me. Not justifies, just mitigates it. Bors lacks the intelligence to realize that he’s causing harm to his family (wife, daughters, and sons too), and no one has ever said “You know, you’re going to make those girls hate you,” or “You know, you’re going to break your wife’s spirit” or “You know, giving your sons an inflated sense of self importance is going to screw up their lives for good.” Bors is doing what he’s doing a) because it’s what he’s always done and b) because he doesn’t get any argument from anywhere, even outside the family, so it must be working.

        He’s not a sadist. He doesn’t feel powerful or aroused when he belittles someone, he just feels that they needed that correction and now they’ve had it. He looks at Claire and sees that his wife is miserable– but he has no idea that he’s the cause of it, which means that he isn’t going to find Claire’s misery all sexy. Unfortunately, that also means he isn’t going to apologize or try to change or fix things, but he’s not setting out to cause pain.

        Intent and reaction are as important to me as the action itself, I guess– it’s easier for me to forgive someone who ‘just snaps’ and apologizes and actively tries not to snap again than it is someone who plans their action and gets off on it and plans to do it again, regardless of who went through worse before committing the act itself. Bors has been kept ignorant; he doesn’t intend to damage anyone, and he doesn’t get anything but a sense of ‘why don’t people just behave in the first place?’ out of doing that damage. It doesn’t make him a saint, but it also doesn’t make him an irredeemable character… except that he’s never going to get the guidance he needs to redeem himself, because not even the Queen stands up to this jerkass. That both pisses me off and strikes me as tragic, because everybody knows about it but nobody does anything. Nobody says anything to Bors. Nobody even tries to stop Bors. Just marry off his daughters and remove them from his victim pool once the damage is already done and leave Bors thinking that of course he’s a good husband and father, because nobody ever argues with him. Unless something monumental happens, Bors is very likely going to go to his grave thinking he’s a good husband and father.

        … So there’s what I’m saying, actually. Bors’s actions piss me off, but because he has no idea how they affect his family, his actions piss me off less than the fact that there are six other noble houses in Albion alone and nobody ever says anything to Bors. If someone managed to get it through his thick skull that he was actively causing harm, Bors might stop. Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he’d try to stop, fail, and give up. We’re not likely to find out. (Morgause wouldn’t stop. Clarence wouldn’t stop. They’d just hide the evidence better because they actually do like hurting people.) As things stand, Bors has no idea what he’s doing to people– and while that doesn’t make it anywhere near okay that he’s breaking down his wife and daughters and artificially building up his sons, it dilutes my anger enough that there’s a share for everybody who witnessed Bors being Bors and failed to call him on it, and less directed at Bors himself. Claire can’t stop him, the girls can’t stop him, Elyan is a long way from realizing someone needs to stop him, Bors doesn’t know he should stop; the only way to end the abuse within the confines of the story short of waiting for Bors to die– which is too little, too late, as solutions go– is for someone outside Bors’s family to say something to Bors about his behavior. Repeatedly.

        Is it worse to do the wrong thing out of ignorance, or to fail to do the right thing out of fear, complacency (‘oh, that’s just Bors’), or just figuring it won’t do any good to speak up?

        • Well, you make some good points. Somebody should say something. They know what he’s like and they don’t say anything for fear of upsetting the status quos apparently. And I can see how that’s distasteful.

          I mean if my next door neighbor is an axe-murdering pedophile, and I hear the little kids screaming inside his shed and I turn up a reality show to drown the sound out, that is pretty frickin’ wrong. But I wouldn’t say that the guy murdering little kids next door is any less distasteful if he honestly did not know that raping little kids and murdering them is wrong.

          Obviously a lot of people have dropped the ball with Bors, and it might be too little, too late anyway. I mean, what could shake Bors’ world enough that he would change now??

          Yes, it kind of irks me that Alison and Gwen bite their tongues around Bors. I wouldn’t.

          But in some ways I think that what Bors does is even more insidious than what Morgause or Mordred do. Because it takes a pretty sick person to admire a Morgause or a Mordred. Not to say there aren’t theoretically, I mean after all there are people who admire Hitler and look at all those Death Eaters in Harry Potter and etc.

          But as I told Morgaine, a perfectly respectable person, on the outside, could admire Bors and what he does. I mean he is the one who raised the woman who will be the new queen. He’s a successful general. He has 6 kids and they all seem content with their niches. It wouldn’t take a lot to admire him, but look at what he’s done to have his successes.

          And while Glasonland might be different and that’s where the core of Bors’ views were founded, Bors has been in Albion for fifteen, almost twenty years? And in all that time he’s been content enough to wear the blinders and not see that what he does to his children is abusive. It is there all around him that what he does is wrong.

          Now to go back to my serial killing neighbor, how does he know that raping and killing kids is wrong? Is he not responsible for it because nobody sat him down and said “Joe, killing kids is wrong.”? Most of us assimilate that killing kids is wrong without having to be told. Just like most of assimilate that have sex with a dead horse is wrong. Because these are the general assumptions of the society we live in.

          He’s had enough exposure to how things are with the other families in Albion, that if he had the brains God gave a blender he should have started to pick up on the fact that what he does isn’t right at least. Maybe he’s not smart enough to make the leap to “What I’m doing is wrong.” But I’m sorry, I am not sold on the culpability being solely or even very nearly solely on the shoulders of everyone else.

          I like debate-y arguments too. That is why sometimes I’m willing to pick the fight.

          And what? You don’t think Bors is pretty? *lip quivers* Tsk!

  5. It would be nice if Morgan could help her. It’s so sad that she’s blaming herself for Bors… It’s time that she took some of her freedom back and tell Bors where to shove his stupidity… And poor Evette, being born into a house where the father couldn’t care less for her and the mother is too afraid to show affection because of what named father will do to her (Evette)… Oh oh oh…

    • Evette and Lionel are probably in one of the worst positions in this household. 😦 They didn’t ask to be born into this unholy mess!

      If Claire took some of her own back, that would be AWESOME both to see and to write. But it’s going to take some time, and it’s going to take a lot of effort on all of their parts. Particularly Morgan and Claire’s parts, because of course Bors is just going to be hampering progress at every turn.

      But what are men like Bors for, if not to hamper progress? 😉

  6. Pingback: Worldbuilding: Justifying One’s Characters, Or, How Good People Let Bad Things Happen to Other Good People « The Chronicles of Albion

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