« on: December 27, 2018, 04:33:54 PM »

Fingers kneading his knuckles behind his back Vrai swept the walkway with a probe. In the temple the servants and slaves were well trained. They could easily go unnoticed. Today no one else was in the courtyard. Just the eunuch and his sister. Fresh from Corlay with that mischievous twinkle returned to her eye. News of home, and their mother on her lips. Neither spoke of their father. Miel did not like him enough to care, and it pained Vrai to know she got that mean streak from the man himself, who had never liked Vrai enough to care.

When she was finished mending the torn strap of her sandal with binding craft she stood again. Hair swept over her shoulder and arm tucked back into the crook of Vrai’s elbow. She smiled up at him, warmth turning to concern as she studied his face. The little nymph. She could always tell when there was something on his mind. No matter how sure he was his face was placid.

”What’s wrong?” She prompted. Adding her second hand to the hold, resting it on his shoulder. Leaning away slightly Vrai licked his lips. He had been working up to the question for a few minutes. Getting the cursory ‘how have you beens’ out of the way. Now he wasn’t sure how to phrase what he wanted to ask.

Miel nudged him with her elbow. Casting another look around with his probe he slowed their already leisurely pace. Voice an intense whisper in the space between their heads. ”Have you ever heard of a eunuch getting someone pregnant?”

Eyes so wide Vrai thought they might pop from her head Miel swung around and slapped him on the chest. He thought for a moment she took it as a criticism of her work but the look on her face was not annoyance. It was glee. ”Oh my…. Eulie? Does she think she’s pregnant, Vrai? Mother Night!” She laughed in a sort of excitement he had never quite witnessed in his sister.

But he couldn’t share her mirth. Stomach quivering he turned pale. ”No. No. I’ve never… Eulalie is not pregnant.” He corrected hastily. A switch flipped behind Miel’s eyes. Happiness fading back to concern. She clutched at Vrai’s hands, standing face to face with him now. ”Is she angry?”

”Miel. Why would you assume I could do that?” It shot into his heart like a cold dagger. He was a eunuch. He couldn’t even stir a woman’s interest. Just a poor, naive child who had crushed beneath his inexperience. They had cut those things away from him. The pain was a sharp memory that made him shift his weight from one foot to the other as if the metal replacement in his scrotum had suddenly gotten heavy. ”Miel!”

She was hesitant to answer. Curled fingers brushing her lip and eyes on his chest. Vrai wanted to shake her, but Eulalie was in the armory. And there could be maids on the other end of the courtyard. He didn’t want anyone to catch him so unraveled yet again. ”Eunuch’s can’t get women pregnant.” He reminded her hotly.

”Well brother… that depends.” Miel started. Still rubbing her bottom lip thoughtfully, as if she had to make a very hard decision. You might be-- a special case.” The words came slowly then sank in fast.

”No. No. Being Mother Priestess’ Hand is everything I’ve built my life on. I wasn’t even talking about me I was asking because of Gabriel!” He insisted. Going on because she quirked a quizzical eyebrow. ”The apprentice that was broken is with child. Since she was raped, its not very likely the baby resulted from that encounter.” Especially since she was raped by a eunuch with only one testicle! ”And the only male that’s been near her since is Gabriel. I wanted to know if he had done it, or if we need to get her additional protection. Someone could be sneaking in to take advantage of her.”

Chewing her lip Miel nodded. She didn’t know that Vrai had done the breaking. Arms wrapped around her chest she shrugged. ”You have to understand, Vrai, that the cut is surgery. And surgery doesn’t always go as planned. And it’s surgery on a very small portion of the body. The veins and ducts we separate are hair thin.”

They held hands. One soothing over knuckles she had mended a hundred times. ”Sometimes things just go wrong. And it can’t be done in the conventional way. Like with what happened to you.”

It was like someone had tipped the world upside. Vrai had only felt faint once in his life, and it had included the sound of his blood rushing to the floor. But he had been laying down then, legs spread wide. Now he was standing. Hand hard on his little sister’s shoulder as he used her to catch his balance. ”No. I’ve always been-”

”Vrai.” Miel tapped his face. Hands on his cheeks to make him look her in the eye. ”You are a eunuch. You have always been a eunuch. The cut is the easy way to do it. Not the only way.” It took a moment for the shock to really subside. Vrai taking deep breaths while this new information sank in. He could be a eunuch. Even if there was something wrong with his cut. He had not been living a lie. He had not.

”How else?” He asked. Leaning over Miel so close he could see his face reflected in her pupils. ”Your brews. For a cut eunuch the muscles start to deteriorate, you know that bit. It’s why they take brews every morning. They start them a few weeks before the surgery, because we can use brews to achieve the same effect. It keeps the boys from changing their mind. And if a man’s surgery can’t be performed accurately… we keep his castrated that way instead.”

Still a eunuch. That was all Vrai cared about now. ”Well you have to do mine right.” He didn’t like the idea any more than she did. But he had to be perfect. Eulalie had to be beyond reproach, suspicion, or anything of a similar ilk. ”I can take a look, I guess,” Face flush she glanced down at his pants as if he should take them off right then. ”But I doubt there’s anything that can be done. Grandmother would have seen to it. And you were in surgery half the day, you nearly bled to death the first time.”

”That’s my problem to worry about. I have to try Miel. It’s important.” So important! Why couldn’t she see. Sassy eyebrows lifting up in tandem. ”You’re Mother Night’s Hand. Her First. I’m not touching you without her explicit permission. And if you tell her, I think she’ll tell you the same as I am now. It isn’t worth the risk. The brews have worked all this time. Why change it now?”

He would have to tell Eulalie anyway. Stomach knotting in anxiety again he nodded. Turning her around so that she could tuck back to his side for their walk. ”I’ll tell her.” Mother Night what would she say? Would she feel as fooled as he did? Would she hate him? Worse… what if that child was his? He had to tell her. Now. ”I can find my way out.” Miel told him with a calming pat on the arm. He was too transparent for his own good.

But he kissed her cheek and turned to the armory anyway. Waiting quietly aside while Eulalie and her Second finished a meeting with the priestess of Rosnay. After she had been seen out he looked at them both. ”Lady. I need a private word if we may.” His tone was apologetic, glancing at her Second. ”I’m sorry friend. It isn’t to leave you out. This is just, a very private personal matter.”