OF :: Tales And Toy Soldiers

Title: Tales And Toy Soldiers
Arc: Faerie
Rating: PG
Written: 2001?
Summary: Jeassinae finds herself a figure of legend even to her nieces and nephews.
Author’s Note: This has been one of my secret favorites for a long time. When I wrote it, I was struggling to express the difficulties Aderana and Jeassinae were having in relating to one another as Jeassinae grew older, but this seemed to capture the tension perfectly. And it introduces their nephew Quenin, who is probably my favorite of the second-generation Faeries.

These characters, stories, and ideas are the original, copyrighted work of Nicole Sharp and are protected under a Creative Commons License.


The night before she set out again, a special dinner was held in the Hall for Jeassinae. All of her family attended, along with many of the bekaryns. Jeassinae watched three Faerie children play on the floor from where she sat. Kallysa was more than year older than the other two, but she played with her cousins anyway. The other two, Jeassinae had been told, belonged to Deirdae and Sylla, respectively. Deirdae had given birth to a son three years ago, and she had named him Quenin. About a year later, Sylla’s daughter Kyla had been born. Deirdae, now twenty winters or so, was bonded to Cecyl, just as Aderana was bonded to Trijeson. The little boy had his father’s brown hair and his mother’s bright blue eyes, and he was quite intelligent. His mother had introduced him to Jeassinae, and he had promptly asked for a story from his “new” aunt. When Jeassinae insisted that she knew no stories, the little boy proceeded to tell her all of his favorites. Kyla was a good bit quieter; she acted unusually like her mother, although she had her father’s striking green eyes. Sylla never said anything about Kyla’s father, but anyone could see that Stykantus had fathered the girl.

Jeassinae watched the three play with Quenin’s wooden soldiers, carved by his father. Kallysa and Quenin played together easily, but Kyla required encouragement, and Kallysa would stop politely and ask her if she wanted to move her soldiers next. The Queen’s daughter would glance toward her parents after doing this, expecting one of them to have seen and to praise her for being such a good girl. Sometimes Trijeson would notice and smile at her, but Aderana was often too busy speaking to someone else. Each time Kallysa would glance toward her mother and see that she wasn’t watching, Jeassinae saw a flash of disappointment and pain in her eyes. Jeassinae knew the feeling. She had often felt that way in their old home when her sister had been too busy to pay attention to her. Finally, Jeassinae rose from her place and moved to sit by the children on the floor.

“May I play as well?” she asked.

Kallysa’s eyes widened, and she turned to Quenin. “They’re your soldiers, Quenin.”

“Yes, yes,” Quenin grinned. “Play with us, Aunt Jeas—Jeassi—Je—

“Jeassinae,” she smiled. “It’s a tough name. You can call me Aunt Jea.”

Quenin took one of his soldiers, one with a broken sword, and handed it to Jeassinae. “He was one of mine, but you can use him. You gotta have a soldier.”

“Thank you.”

Kallysa was not about to be outdone. “You can have one of mine, too,” she said, pushing one of the wooden toys toward her.

“Thanks.” Jeassinae looked at Kyla, who was still sitting quietly. “Is it all right with you if I play, Kyla?”

The girl was staring at the soldiers on the floor, and slowly, her eyes moved to her aunt. She nodded in silence.

“Okay. Now can you tell me what I’m supposed to do?”

Quenin leaned forward and spoke confidentially. “We’re pretending that the soldiers are fighting the Drayells like the Queen’s sister does.”

“The Queen’s sister?”

“Mm—hmm. She left ‘fore we were born, and she got rid of the verildés. Mamma says that she’s really nice and pretty like the Queen. She talks about her sometimes, but Daddy doesn’t.”

Kallysa nodded. “Mother talks about her a lot, too. She tells me stories sometimes before bed. Does your mother talk about her, too, Kyla?”

Kyla shook her head.

“Why not?” Quenin asked her. “Does your mother not like her?”

Kyla shrugged.

“How do you play this game?” Jeassinae interrupted, uncomfortable.

“We’ve got them set up in lines like when my daddy talks to the guards every day. And these,” Quenin pointed to the rocks, “are the Drayells. They’re getting ready to fight, and so are we. You put your men here.”

“Are they all men?”

“ ‘Course they are,” he said. “Women don’t go out and fight. They’re supposed to stay in the town and take care of stuff.”

“Do all of them do that?” Jeassinae asked.

“Of course they do,” Kallysa answered. “All of the women stay here in the city.”

“Right,” Jeassinae agreed, setting her soldiers in place.

“Set yours here,” Kallysa told Kyla. Kyla put her soldiers down where the other girl pointed, one on his head.

Quenin sat back. “Now we gotta wait for awhile so that they can get ready.” He looked up at Jeassinae. “Why are you playing with us, Aunt Jea?” he asked. “None of the others play soldiers with us at dinners.”

“They all sit at the tables and talk,” Kallysa complained.

“I thought it would be fun.”

The children nodded.

“Why haven’t I seen you before this?” Quenin asked.

“Yes, where have you been?” Kallysa echoed.

“I was outside the city.”

“What for?” Kallysa asked. “Girls aren’t supposed to go out there.”

Quenin was examining her carefully. “You look lots like the Queen.”

“Yeah,” Kallysa agreed, “you look a lot like my mother.”

“Mm—hmm,” Quenin said.

“You Queen sister,” Kyla whispered.

“Is it time for the fighting now?” Jeassinae asked, covering Kyla’s comment.

“Kyla said something,” Kallysa squealed. “She doesn’t ever talk.”

“Say it again, Kyla,” Quenin said.

She pointed to Jeassinae. “You Queen sister,” she repeated, louder this time.

“Are you really?” Quenin asked with wonder.

“Yes.”

The children were silent, eyes wide.

“Then you’re a real soldier,” Quenin whispered at last. “You’ve fought the real Drayells.”

“And the verildés,” Kallysa added.

“Wow,” Quenin exclaimed. “You must be real strong.”

Kallysa reached forward and touched Jeassinae’s arm. “Mother always talked about you, and I used to believe it. But then I got older, and I thought you weren’t real ‘cause I’d never seen you. But you are real. You’re real.”

“You told me you didn’t know any stories,” Quenin complained. “You could have told me lots.”

“I’m sorry that I thought you weren’t real. I thought that maybe you were like Carisae, someone that they talk about who isn’t really real,” Kallysa said.

“Jeassinae.” It was Aderana. The younger sister turned toward the Queen. “What are you doing on the floor?”

“I was just talking to my nieces and nephew.”

“Perhaps you should speak to your brothers and sisters. People closer to your own age.”

Jeassinae bit back a sour retort and rose. “Thank you for allowing me to play with you,” she said as she smiled at the bewildered children. She turned smartly and returned to her seat.

“Jea,” Aderana whispered as she sat by her sister, “why did you do that?”

“Kallysa was sad because you weren’t watching her. She wanted you to compliment her for encouraging Kyla to play with them. I felt bad for her,” Jeassinae answered.

“I don’t understand.”

Jeassinae looked into her sister’s dark brown eyes and saw that she truly didn’t understand. “I suppose you wouldn’t know, Aderana, because our mother fawned over you every moment. You never lacked attention.” Jeassinae watched without flinching as her sister’s eyes flashed in anger.

“What are you suggesting?”

“I’m not suggesting anything, sister. I’m just informing you that your daughter is feeling unloved. She’s too young to understand that you’re busy with more important business. Perhaps you should consider her feelings more often.” Her sister’s jaw worked in silence. Jeassinae could sense the anger that Aderana was fighting. “I say this only as your sister, Aderana,” Jeassinae whispered.

Aderana swallowed. “And I accept it as your sister, not a Queen,” she replied in the same low tone. “All the same, I would appreciate it if you did not seek to tell me how to raise my daughter.”

“It’s not my business to intervene, but I know how she feels,” Jeassinae answered. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to be going early tomorrow so I should retire.” She rose from her seat.

“Wait, Jeassinae,” the Queen ordered. All eyes turned to them. “As you set off again to locate another settlement, you shall take with you twenty bekaryns. They are knowledgeable in many crafts and will assist you in building and maintaining a new fortification.”

“This isn’t necessary, Your Majesty. I have no plans for a large settlement.”

“Perhaps you do not, but I do. They will travel by your side.”

Jeassinae felt her face darken, but she held her anger in check. “You honor me, Your Majesty. Thank you.”

“Go, Jeassinae, and may our mother watch over you.”

Jeassinae bowed and walked toward the other end of the Hall. Wellian fell into step behind her. Our mother watches over only you, Aderana, Jeassinae thought. She saw Kallysa and the others playing still. They stopped and watched as she passed by. And you watch only yourself.

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