Sep 22, 2021 3:45 PM
Naima and Elie
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"I wouldn't mind spending a few more days in Quantium, as long as we're here, there are all sorts of people I didn't get a chance to talk to the last time we were here – but I'm being thoughtless. Of course you want to see Rahim." 

They could travel separately, but somehow that feels unthinkable. 

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"Yeah, I - kind of do.

"Um - I guess if we're planning to go back, then - I have been thinking. About what you said. Before all this happened, I mean, back in Sothis. And - knowing me I might mess it up horribly, definitely always a live possibility whenever I try to talk about anything, so I figure now is probably the most considerate time to say some of what I have been thinking, before you're stuck on a ship with me for however many weeks back it is. If you don't have any reasons I haven't thought of why revisiting the topic in light of additional thought is a terrible idea."

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It has been a very busy couple of weeks and it takes him a moment to remember what it is she's talking about. 

"...Oh. Go ahead." 

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"Okay. As far as I can remember, your conclusion at the end of our previous conversation was that I haven't met enough people outside of Osirion - maybe even inside Osirion - to say whether I genuinely prefer you to any of the other people I'd be likely to meet if I spent more time in Avistan. Which makes sense, as a concern to have, I think - I thought you might be right, at first - but I've been thinking about it more, and now I think you're wrong.

"My question is - how many people have you trusted, in your life. Entirely trusted, with your life and with your ambitions, not just in one arena but in general. And of that set, how many of those people were not mistakes, were people who had genuinely earned and who deserved the trust you placed in them. Because for me the list is not very long."

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Well, that's a lot to take in, but all he can think to say is – 

"Naima – I – do you want to marry me or not?

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" - well, yeah, I thought that part had been established."

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"Yes – I know – I mean – do you want to marry me, or do you want to get married and I'm the least worst option?" 

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"Um. Hm.

 

"Both?"

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"What am I supposed to do with that?" 

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"Well I don't know! I don't know what you're looking for! And while we're at it I'm also very unclear on whether your objection is actually that you think I don't want to marry you, or whether it's in fact that you don't want to marry me, because those are very different situations and I probably only want to argue out of one of them. But - ugh, look, I'm just going to say the thing I was going to say before you asked me a completely different question instead of answering the question I asked you, okay, because I don't think I have a great handle on what you're asking but I know what I was trying to say before.

"I trust you. Not because you're Avistani, which if anything is sort of a mark against people on the trustworthiness front. And not even because you just saved my life, although that's an excellent example of the sort of behavior that leads me to believe that you're worth trusting. And I think that you ought to trust me, because - I acknowledge that I am kind of a disaster who might run out of time at any point and be called on to do horrible things for my patron, because magic doesn't come free unless you're a sorcerer. There is some level on which I am not the sort of person that anyone should trust, not to entwine their life with and commit themselves to even in the case where I am being controlled by forces beyond our understanding. But - you can at least know that I am the sort of friend who will, if I think you are in danger of being dragged to hell, drop everything to prevent it.

"I think that this sort of relationship is rare, between people. I won't claim that it's so rare as to be actually alien to most people, but it's not the sort of relationship that is trivial to create, or that a given person can expect to fall into many times in their life. It's not the sort of relationship that you create by going on first dates with lots of people. I think that it is valuable, and perhaps even one of the most important possible elements of a marriage, if it is something that you can possibly have within your marriage.

"I also think that it is more difficult for some people to achieve this sort of relationship than for others. I'm pretty bad at forging relationships of any kind at the best of times, but more importantly than that, I'm a witch, and on some level I don't think that I'm the sort of person that anyone should trust, not except under very specific circumstances or unless a truly unusual amount of trust has been forged over the course of many individual dangerous encounters. At this point I don't know how I could possibly build up a comparable level of trust with someone who I had not adventured with, and I don't actually want to adventure with anyone I don't already trust at all, so I'm not sure how such a thing would happen. 

"I - suppose that you may be right, that if I were not a witch and were instead an ordinary person, I probably shouldn't marry you, and should instead explore my options. But if I weren't a witch I would just want to marry Tariq again, although I suppose I probably wouldn't have the money to do that and would be stuck in the situation I was when I left Mut, having considered and rejected everyone else who was interested in me, because I was in love with someone I couldn't have, and I couldn't respect anyone else while I was comparing them to him. And I think that is not entirely unlike the situation I find myself in now. I doubt that I would be able to respect anyone who was willing to marry me without having relied on me in a series of incredibly desperate situations, and I doubt that I would be able to respect anyone who wanted to marry me while I felt this way about one of my adventuring companions, not with all of the very good reasons why most people shouldn't want to marry me. At least not unless they had some other extremely compelling reason to want to join forces with me in particular regardless of my attitude towards them or likeliness to turn evil and randomly do horrible things, like if they were a really obsessive doctor, or something, and if such a person existed I would probably already have met them in Alkenstar. Which I didn't.

"So I don't actually think there's any point in going out of my way to evaluate anyone else, not unless you're genuinely opposed to you-marrying-me and not just me-marrying-you, and can explain why in words I can understand. Because otherwise I already know that I won't respect them, and I've been putting off marrying someone I don't respect for almost two years, now, and I like to think I'm still not desperate enough to give up on it, at least not until I've thoroughly exhausted attempts at having someone who I do."

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...

...

"Naima. I – I thought you just wanted to marry someone – anyone – so your father wouldn't have the legal rights to all your property, and I was the man you knew who was least likely to beat you or squander your money on drink. Which I wouldn't! That should go without saying! But – I didn't want to be unfair to you. I thought that you deserved better than a marriage of convenience. You deserve a husband who respects you, and admires you for everything you're trying to do for the world, and cares about your research, and wants to raise your son, and, alright, maybe he's a little bit afraid of whatever's coming for you, but he wants learn everything about it, so that you can face it together, before whatever happened to all of the others – " 

He's breathing rather heavily, by now. 

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" - well, yeah. I mean. I don't actually know whether I deserve that, but I figured if it were on offer I might as well go for it. Since. You know. It's not really the sort of thing that's easy for someone to pass up."

She - might be kind of blushing because this is a very important conversation and she's definitely going to mess it up somehow but also that sounds like she might not be messing it up??

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"I've never really thought much about getting married. When I was younger I always assumed I'd be executed before I could get around to it, and then I wasn't, but I was in Mut, and I never, uh, stopped to reevaluate. But – if I could get married – I mean, if I was alive, and kept being alive, which, unbelievably, appears to be happening, thank you for that – I can't think of anyone else I'd want to – " 

He's so bad at this. He's really incredibly remarkably terrible at it. Is this a proposal? Is he proposing? Because if so he's only going to do it once gods willing and should at least try not to make such an awful hash of it. He looks around, a bit desperately, for any stray tyrannosauruses who might be about to save him but of course there aren't any. Nex is a civilized country and he's going to have to use his words to say what he means.

 

 

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She is, for once in her life, actually going to try not to interrupt him, because he listened to her thing and she feels like probably she should listen to his. She is instead just going to kind of look at him hopefully and wait and see where the words are going to go.

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"Ah. What I meant to say is – before we make an irrevocable decisions, we should talk about what marriage means. Is. Since in all probability we have two fairly different understandings of it. I wouldn't – I think you know that I wouldn't be much of a traditional Osirian husband." 

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" - yeah. I do figure that. But - you'd want to talk about that?"

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"I ...yes. I very much would." 

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"Oh good."

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".....so, hm, I guess at the most basic level marriage is an agreement between a man and a woman to form a household and a family, with the woman promising to be faithful and - logistically? supportive, and the man agreeing to provide economic support and protection. Although I guess being fairly unusual people it's reasonable to expect each of us to provide economic support and protection. The structure so created is permanent and does not bow before other considerations, barring the death of its members. I'm sure there are other things that are necessary or to be expected, but that's my first thought off the top of my head."

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"Well, this is where I admit I don't have a good idea of the kind of marriage I'd particularly want for myself. My parents, I guess – they cared for each other. If one of them said something, or did something, the kind of thing you were supposed to report, I don't think the other would have said anything. That's the first thing I think of. Loyalty. Not informing." 

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"I think I generally assume we already have that. - I guess that's not entirely true. If you marry me I'll be expecting that to encompass a promise to help me with whatever ultimately comes of being bound to my patron. Right now I don't necessarily expect that, not if it happens a long time from now and circumstances change significantly in the meantime. But that's - one of the more practical reasons I want it to be you, right, I trust you more than other people to safeguard my most important interests even if I'm under the influence of something that means that I myself can't do that."

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He realizes that – well, he's known, intellectually, that Naima's predecessors had changed quite significantly over the course of their lives. That could be perfectly normal, of course. Most people would have different priorities as 8th or 9th circle casters. And if they tended towards evil, well, who's to say they didn't have their reasons. He's been avoiding thinking about the possibility that one day Naima might in some sense cease to be herself. He can't imagine being as calm about it as she is. He's not that strong. 

At least he can keep his fears from being her problem. 

"Then we should talk about those interests are, and how you expect you might change, and what kinds of change you'd endorse and which you wouldn't." 

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"Yeah, that seems true. I don't really off the top of my head know how I expect to change, or what things I want to bind myself into not changing my mind about? Other than, like, obviously if I marry you I am fine being bound by that. I guess the other thing is that I worry about ultimately becoming a danger to Rahim, that seems like exactly the sort of poetic price of power you can expect witch patrons to go in for. And I'm not particularly inclined to pay it, given that he was the reason I made this deal in the first place."

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"Keeping Rahim safe seems pretty straightforward. At least philosophically. I have no idea which of us would win in a fight and hopefully we'll never find out." 

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"Yeah, possibly we should make some kind of plan for that situation and that includes more than just us having a magical duel? - actually probably you should make some kind of plan and not tell me what it is. Just in case."

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