Jan 20, 2022 8:21 AM
but naima and elie are, we hope, going to have one anyway
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          "Oh, Naima," says her mother, "he didn't mean that."

"He meant it enough for the law."

          "We can keep Rahim here, with us, until you're done working with the Inquisitor - "

"Mom, that's not any better, it's not like I think Tariq's family is going to smother him while he sleeps. He needs me. Even Saira can't do it, not realistically, not with the rest of the town to think about, too. And I'm - I'm not so callous as you seem to think I am. Maybe I shouldn't have charmed Dad. But I'm going to keep Rahim safe, however I can."

          "Then we can talk to the Inquisitor and get him to release you, and you can stay here and find someone in your own time. We'll talk to Tariq's father and - "

"His legal claim is stronger than mine, you know."

          "I'm sure he can be reasoned with."

"Well I'm not. And I'm not going to gamble on arguing this well enough to be allowed to keep Rahim whenever it comes up. I'm going to marry Élie and resolve the whole situation. I'm not going to let you argue me out of that, because a life hangs in the balance. You can stay for the ceremony if you want."

          Her mother says nothing to that, but she doesn't leave or try to stop her.

She turns back to Élie and speaks in Taldane, just so she doesn't have to think about how anything sounds to her mother. "Sorry about all of that."

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Ordinarily he'd say it's not her fault – but that's not strictly true, is it? 

"You did what you had to do." 

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" - yeah, I guess that's what it comes down to. Are you - " still doing this after seeing what a disaster this situation apparently is " - ready?"

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Élie's opinion of Osirian parenting is already low enough that he's not actually too phased by this interaction. "If you are." 

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Saira is going to want to check that he's aware of what the promises he's making are - that he will honor his wife, and protect her and provide for her and for her children, and be good to her and greet her with love. Also going to want to double check that he hasn't been charmed, though she doesn't have a spell for this and is going to have to do it by talking to him for a few minutes.

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Not charmed! Pretty much knows what he's getting into! ...Would actually like some clarification on "greeting with love," since he really would prefer not to swear falsely, but since Osirion has arranged marriages presumably there are understood parameters for this. 

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Saira can discuss the nature of love, if that's what's necessary. It's not best understood as a fleeting emotional state. It's a stable desire to prioritize the needs of another person, even when inconvenient. It often takes practice, but it is achievable with practice, even towards people who one has little natural interest in.

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It is occurring to Élie that he's about to make a very serious commitment. 

He likes Naima. She's a good adventuring companion, and obviously a gifted healer. But he hasn't known her for very long, except as the prickly tailor who most of the villages' exiles prefer to hire because she speaks Taldane. Is he willing to make a lifelong commitment to protect her, and provide for her, and put her needs before his own? There's still a dying child on the line, so he's definitely going through with the ceremony. He could always just say the words without meaning them – he can't say he fully understands the situation he's in, but it probably counts as some form of duress – but Naima deserves better than that. Certainly, she deserves better than him. 

Alright. He'll do his best.

"I will honor my wife, and protect and provide for her and her children, and be good to her and greet her with love." 

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          "And Naima? Do you remember everything you're promising?"

"I will be faithful to my husband, and take guidance from him, and obey him, and use his money wisely, and raise his children to honor him, and be good to him and greet him with love," she says, obviously by rote.

      "All right then," says Saira, sighing. "I hope it brings you more prosperity than pain, children."

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wait, WHAT? 

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"Sorry – can we back up a second – you don't have to promise to obey me. I would actually very much prefer you don't promise to obey me."

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"That... is what women promise when they get married?"

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"didn't promise to obey you!" 

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"Well, you're a man."

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"I don't see what that should have to do with anything! I'm an adult, and you're an adult, and – and – who just swears to obey someone they're supposed to have an intimate relationship with? I mean, at least ostensibly – " oh gods this is so awkward – "I don't see how one could trust or respect someone after making a promise like that. Of course I won't hold you to it." 

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Man, this is just a very weird conversation to be having immediately after - she's pretty sure - she just got married, in front of her mother and Saira, who are definitely now thinking that she's a lunatic married to another lunatic, if they weren't thinking that already, which they probably were.

"Uh, if it bothers you I would think you could just not... tell me to do things? I guess?" 

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"You might have warned me first." 

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She thought it was understood to be a part of how marriage works!! How else would it work!!

For some reason she doesn't really feel like arguing about this, though. She feels tired. And - kind of humiliated? Which is probably exactly what she deserves, for trying to pull a stunt like this, it's all working out to have exactly the abysmal effects on her reputation here that one might expect it to.

But Rahim is asleep in his sling, still, and nobody's going to be legally allowed to take him away now. Except Elie. Who she doesn't know that well, actually.

" - sorry," she says, because this seems like it is maybe the sort of conversation where the closest thing there is to a winning move is to shut up.

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Whatever Élie thinks about it, Naima certainly seems to consider herself bound to obey him. Which means he's just going to have to watch everything he says to avoid the ghost of an implication that he might be giving her an order, for any reason, ever, because she might do it – and he can take her son away – and suddenly he feels very, very tired. 

He – likes to think he'd have agreed to the marriage anyway, of course. There's still a deathly ill child in the picture. In a similar vein, he likes to think the reason he's spent his entire adult life participating in various doomed rebellions is because he sincerely believes in the inherent freedom and dignity of persons, and not because the only thing in the world he truly wants is to just be able to say what he godsdamn means. Whole nations of people just live like this. He's never going to understand it. He wonders how Osirians make it to Axis as often as they do. He doesn't believe that mortals are inherently evil, as a matter of principle, but sometimes he wonders if they don't have an irrepressible grubby little need to rule or be ruled, which in either case is the first step on the road to Hell. 

"Don't worry about it," he says, because he can't think of anything else. 

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"I'm going to go find the boat," she says, after a couple seconds, and then turns and does that before her mother or Saira or Elie or any other random person in this town can try to talk her into having any more conversations, because she's wising up again to the fact that having conversations is, generally, horrible.

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It occurs to Élie, belatedly, that "don't worry about it" might be construed as an order. He is so bad at this. This is exactly why he doesn't want to be in a situation where another person's freedom and dignity depends on his ability to perfectly modulate his language! 

He's going to stay right where he is, since he gets the sense Naima doesn't want to be followed. 

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She was actually kind of hoping he'd follow, then she would be able to talk to him without other people watching in an attempt to determine exactly how idiotic she's just been, but it's whatever, really, she doesn't entirely know what she would say to him anyway.

It does occur to her that 'don't worry about it' is in some sense an order. She could really annoyingly try to follow that order even though she is otherwise actually quite inclined to worry about it, but - Élie wouldn't actually want that, she doesn't think, so it wouldn't be being obedient in the way that matters. Obedience, as everyone has been trying to impress upon her since she was five or so and first demonstrated being too clever for her own good, is not about following precisely the literal words of instruction that you have received, and otherwise doing whatever you want. It's about doing what you're supposed to, following the guidance of those in authority over you, and doing what you expect that they would have you do, if they were available to give you more complete instructions. And Élie - she thinks, although she doesn't quite know - would probably have her worry as much as she thinks is at all useful.

When she reaches the river she sits down and stares out across it, until her baby wakes up, at which point she feeds him.

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Her mother watches her leave, also getting the sense that she doesn't want to be followed.

 

"What will you do now?" she asks Élie.

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That's an excellent question. He sighs. 

"Honor her, and protect and provide for her and her child, and be good to her, and make a good faith effort to greet her with love. If she wants to talk to me."

Élie is, as a matter of principle, not Lawful, which means he takes his promises extremely seriously. A perfect world would have no need for Law – merely Reason, by which all beings can determine the foundation of correct action. No binding constraints but those which which we establish for ourselves. Those are sacrosanct. Even if they start to look really awkward five minutes later. 

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Something in the mother's expression softens, at that, even if it doesn't really answer the question at all.

"She's not usually angry for very long," she says. "I hope she can be happy with what she's chosen."

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