Feb 03, 2023 9:27 AM
It's 1913 in Sicily, where Sable lives
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"Oh. That's not for me. I only have friends. Anything else just seemed pointless. I might have liked to try it anyway, so I could have a baby to love, but it is very rare for spirit bearers to have children."

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Bria nods, then giggles ruefully, "Oh, children certainly aren't for me. I could teach them, perhaps, but I'm not cut out to raise them, not even if I get magicked into the right body."

And then she lets out a wistful sigh. "I had the biggest crush on you, though. Nothing could come of it, of course. What would you have said to a young girl in the wrong body?" She shakes her head.

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"...I don't know. Probably that it was not meant to be."

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She nods slowly, a sad smile on her face. "You turned everyone down, didn't you? I know I saw some of the elder sons of the Familia giving you flowers, and I think I remember seeing a very pretty girl do the same at least once."

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"Like I said, anything else just seemed pointless. Men, women... I just don't understand. Like if you told me that standing on one foot was the most exciting thing ever, and invented elaborate rules about when it's appropriate, and with whom, and what kinds of standing and where..."

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Bria laugh. "Oh what an image! It's quite the evocative analogy, too. It's maybe a little like how I can't understand the appeal of boys — either dating one or being one — despite all the shoulds that the thrown around."

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She laughs. "I did actually try that sort of thing once. It was, as predicted, boring. My 'partner' was quite petulant about it, but I explained ahead of time so it's her own fault."

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She nods, giggling. "If you're not into it, there's no helping that, and it was silly of her to have an expectation that she could change your mind. You were here for all of us, not for romance and such. Oh well!"

She hums thoughtfully. "Do you have any regrets? Anything you wish you could change, or anyone you wish you could give a last message to?"

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"......I cannot think of any."

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Bria gives Teresa a lopsided smile. "Then you probably did pretty well, all things considered. At least there's that, right?"

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"Mm..."

She has that vacant look again. The one that comes more and more often.

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Damn it. She knew this would happen, but... Bring her back, c'mon.

Bria smiles warmly, none of her fray showing on her face. "So, back in the village, Lina — you remember her, Paulo's daughter? — is engaged to Alberto, the dashing young man who just came back from law school on the mainland on the Familia's scholarship. They finally set a date, in early October. Oh, and Eliseo's latest toy soldier came in from Belgium. Yeah, he's still on that kick. This new one has such an elegant little coat, too."

The trick, when dealing with these vacant spells, is to give her something easy and comfortable to draw her back. So Bria keeps up a steady stream of updates on village gossip, bright and cheerful, but carefully attentive to Teresa's state.

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"-Oh, Eliseo. How many such things does one man need? I suppose if it's what he enjoys, so be it, but I imagine his wife is still watching the accounts!"

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She giggles and nods. "Oh she absolutely is. I saw Marianna giving him a suspicious look when he unboxed it. Just last week they argued about how many he was allowed to order."

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"I still remember him helping out in Maruso's vineyard to earn enough to buy her a dress, as an apology. He told me 'no regrets'.

 

-Speaking of regrets. Bria dear. Have you ever thought about telling others how you feel? It's terribly lonely not to. I know that."

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Her laughter suddenly turns shy. "Um. Yeah." She sighs hard. "I... Mama and Papa don't really see me, y'know? They focus so hard on the role I can play in the family business, the things I need to study, finding me a 'good match', and all the Normal Son of the Familia things, that I worry about how they'd react to my disrupting all of it so dramatically. And the rest of the townsfolk are all on about how I'm such a 'fine young man', and think they know me better than they do. I don't know who I could even tell."

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"...Bria. You need to travel, like I did. See the world. And take skirts with you when you do. I see the pattern, I was the pattern of 'good enough', but you're too restless for that. Even if it's just up to Messina... That's a big town, a port town..."

She sighs. "If I really must, I'll make it my last request to you, you know!"

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<She's right, you know,> adds Maya. <You know as well as we do that you're overdue for leaving the island.>

<They're too small for us, here, Bria,> says Erika.

Nova — Novapolitana — points out that they don't have a way off this rock, though.

"You would, wouldn't you," Bria replies aloud with a laugh. "I want to. I need a way out, though. I'm not old enough to vanish off to university yet, I don't have the money to get quarters aboard a boat, I'm not a spirit bearer, I'm just just a trapped Familia Princess that everyone calls a Prince. I could put together some travel food in a bag and run away, but I've been the Familia's charmer-in-training for a year now, and half the population of the three nearest towns would recognize me."

She sighs raggedly. "I don't know how to get out of here any sooner than sweet-talking my parents into letting me study abroad, Teresa."

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"But-!"

Sigh.

"I suppose I have an estate, somewhere. If I say so, you might be able to get some money. I don't recall any of the details...

I... Might have another way to help. But I have to think about it."

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Bria turns to Teresa in shock. "You—I—No, Teresa, I couldn't. You've done so much for everyone, for me, even just being my friend here is more than..."

<We've talked about the idea of you "not deserving" things, Bria,> interjects Erika.

"I'm just grateful for your friendship, seriously."

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"Lucky for you, you don't get to choose whether I try to help you. I do. You just get to choose whether to accept it."

She crosses her arms and smirks, nodding happily.

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Bria grins, blushing faintly. "Outmaneuvered completely. You've got me there, Teresa. Well, I'll keep working on Mama and Papa about studying abroad either way, while you consider if you want to make me some far-too-generous offer."

She sighs fondly and smiles at Teresa, then shakes her head. "Did I tell you they started me on negotiations with the local judge? They've tasked me with charming him into giving me an internship."

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"Mm... Politics. I always was just aggressively oblivious at them when they started with that."

They chat quietly for a while longer, and soon Bria departs once again.

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Midway through another of Bria's picnic visits, a chilling howl echoes up the slope.

"Cazzo. Teresa, did you hear that?"

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Teresa whips around, and glides down the slope. "No. No! Figlio di puttana, the Demon Goatherd! Bria, you- You are in terrible danger."

The figure staring up the hill at them looks like some infernal goat, wicked horns tipped with painful-looking embers, and a sooty black coat.

"That thing haunts the hills of Sicilia tending its vile flock. That one is alone, but it's very dangerous!"

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