Seia Kailani
It is not their rules that keep you bound, but yours.Played by Mystique Yellow // 7 Posts Last Active Mar 19, 2018, 11:03 PM
Seia was born quiet in a world that was much too loud. Her father was a lancer, but you wouldn’t know from her soft voice, from how sorry drips from her lips like never-ending rain. If he had been a part of her life, maybe Seia would be different. Maybe her voice will not shake whenever she tries to shout, and maybe she will not shrink within the shadow of anyone who tries to tower over her. Or maybe not, for adversity had only ever broken her instead of making her stronger, and she has no scabs, only weeping wounds from years past that continue to bleed and bleed.

Before there is a war, there are skirmishes. Everyone knows of lancers, but fewer know of the industries that spring up around them. Lancers cannot support themselves, and wherever they go, there is a retinue that follows. Seia’s mother cannot describe the face of her father. Rather, she could describe many faces that might be her father, but she cannot say for certain which one. I’m sorry, her mother tells her, and Seia says, I don’t mind. Privately, she does. Not because she wanted to know him, but because she thought it might’ve been better for her mother. The world is not kind to those who make pleasure their business.

Seia spent her childhood in a small apartment that was converted from a noble villa. Close enough to the border between Efrea and Uclain for the continued skirmishes to affect them, but not directly. Her mother was fifteen, not even an adult when she birthed her, but still she tried her best to raise her and Seia tried her best to make it easy for her. The trials of adulthood should not leak down to children, but children are observant, and Seia might not know the exact shapes of her mother’s hardships but she did see the aftermath. The weary limbs, tired eyes, all the exhausted anger that she turned on herself instead of her child. Children were not meant to raise children, especially not alone, and her mother was kind to her but Seia saw how she floundered. As a consequence of her mother having to grow up too quick, Seia, too, grew up faster than she should.

Eventually, her mother did marry. It is hard for women in Efrea to be without a man, especially when raising a child. Seia’s stepfather was quiet like her, but whereas her quiet was one born of timidity, his was born from aloof detachment. Her mother claims he loves them, but Seia was never sure. Still, she had ever only seen his walls crack somewhat around her mother, and that has to mean something. But if there was any love between them, it was closer to the love that developed between comrades in arms rather than anything romantic. And though he was distant with Seia, he was never cruel nor unkind and worked hard enough to provide for his wife and her child.

They moved into a small house that had no yard and gave Seia her own room. Very early on, it was discovered that she had a hunger for knowledge, and while her parents could not afford schooling they gave her as many different books as they could find. Fairytales, biographies, stories that occur in lands Seia could only dream of. She read about the wildlife of Uclain, the history of Efrea, the geological processes that formed Shuya’s mountains and high plateaus. She read about magic, about the currents that flowed off Kardia’s shores, and learned to identify the birds that sang outside her window every morning. Under the supervision of her stepfather, she carefully poked holes in the bottom of empty containers with a heated corkscrew, filled them with dirt, and watched as life grew upon her windowsill. Paint and ink were expensive to buy, but when her mother presented her with a sketchbook she had gotten at a discount because the cover was scratched and the binding was frayed, Seia learned that coffee and tea made passable substitutes. Eventually, she learned how to crush berries and boil petals to make her own pigment, how to combine soot and water and eggs to make a coarse ink that drew thick black lines.

For a while, Seia was happy. News came from the east of the skirmishes between Efrea and Uclain becoming less like skirmishes and more like battles. For the first while, Seia paid them no mind. She had read of war, but she was still a child and did not understand all the complexities involved, and besides, her interests lay on other paths. But as the possibility of war drew ever nearer, people shrank from the borders and closer to the interior and the west coast where it was safe. War is just a formality. Before there is a war, there are skirmishes, and it is enough to tell people what is coming.

Small towns like theirs that relied on travellers for revenue were the first to be hit. Resources dawdled. Money became ever tighter. The price of food rose as the demand for them fell, and eventually, even the farmers left for greener pastures.

As winter came, her mother fell sick.

They could not afford a doctor, but at first they didn’t think they’d need to. It was nothing serious at first. Just the flu that struck an unlucky few every winter. After a week, her mother recovered enough to get back to work, and Seia thought nothing of it until it happened again. And again. And again. The time it took for her to recover stretched from one week, to two, to a month. Still her mother laughed at her worried eyes, squeezed her hand though she was too weak to lift her head, and shooed her out of the room in case she got sick, too. “I guess I’m just unlucky this winter,” she said. “Don’t worry about me, worry about yourself.”

Spring came. Seia pretended to not hear the hushed arguments between her mother and stepfather on whether she was well enough to move, whether it was contagious, whether they should spend the eyes on a doctor or heart mender or some medicine. She kept her head down as they argued and did what she’d always done and tried to make life as easy as possible for her parents. She kept quiet. Kept the house clean. Tried to make meals from whatever scraps she could scrounge up in the kitchen. As the days grew longer, her mother grew weaker, and Seia ignored the grumbling in her belly even as she tried to convince her mother to eat more. Desperate for money, she cleaned the houses of others, too, cooked for them and looked after their children and took small amounts of food that they wouldn’t miss from their kitchen even as guilt gnawed at her stomach. Her stepfather came back later and later, and the shadows under their eyes grew darker in tandem.

Despite their best efforts, it still wasn’t enough. Seia was twelve when her mother died.

For the next month, she shut herself in her mother’s empty room and cried, just like she had when she found her, just like she had when she was buried. She cried through her birthday, cried through the declaration of war. Two weeks after she turned thirteen, her stepfather sat her down and told her he had found a man that would take her as his wife. A merchant who is not rich, but still wealthy enough to afford her a comfortable life. His home was on the shores of Efrea, close to the nobility and far from the war.

In three weeks, he will leave. “You can still say no,” her stepfather said, finally, as tears fell from her eyes. “In the end, it’s your choice.”
“It’s okay,” Seia replied. Quiet, compliant, obedient. As she always was.
“I’m sorry,” her stepfather said. “It’s the only way I can save you.”

Seia didn’t want to be saved. She wanted to sleep for days. She wanted the shadows gone under her stepfather’s eyes. She wanted to stay in this house with its familiar walls and familiar memories. She wanted her mother back.

Three weeks passed, and she packed her meager belongings, and her stepfather hugged her for the first and last time.

Her fiancé’s name was Christopher Kailani, and he made his home in Nereida, a city that was not quite by the sea but close enough that the air pressed down upon her shoulders with a heavy weight. His house was big enough that her home could fit in it six times and still have room left over. He had asked her about her skills on the drive over, and seemed amused at Seia’s apprehensive stare. “Surely,” he said, “you know the duties of a wife.”

She can cook. She can clean. She can wash the sheets and do the laundry and keep the house all neat and orderly. She can keep her head down and stay out of his way. Pretend to not see what he didn’t want her to see, but that was her skills as Seia and not as a wife. Her first months in Nereida were plagued with homesickness, but she could almost pretend that she was here as a maid and not as a fiancée. Christopher seemed amused by her shyness, at how strange she found things in her new world. Her stepfather wrote to her sometimes, and she wrote back. Life was not easy, but it was bearable, and Seia slowly got used to Nereida, to its bustling streets and loud people.

A year passed, and she realized that Christopher had lied to her stepfather. He was no merchant.

At least, he was not only a merchant, and much of his wealth did not come from reputable sources. Seia did not ask about the packages he picked up late at night, about the surplus goods that he did not count on his ledgers. When he suggested that she go to the market before his friends came over, she nodded and stepped out. When he asked her if anything woke her up last night, she shook her head no. When he told her to not mind the guests staying over who were closer to her age than his, Seia averted her eyes and did not speak to them. She was dutiful. She was obedient. She knew her duties as his soon-to-be wife, and she tried to make his life easy.

She knew about those other duties too, the ones that her mother had not performed with her stepfather but had with strange men before she married him. Practice, Christopher had said when he pushed her onto his bed after her fourteenth birthday. For when they were married. They’d practiced all other aspects of being husband and wife. Why not this, too?

Maybe he was right. But she didn’t think she’d have to do it so soon.

As the date of their wedding approached, Christopher smiled less and less. Something was wrong, but Seia did not ask. She was good at not asking, at pretending that nothing was wrong. Good at being small and obedient and docile. After they wed, she listened when he snapped at her to not go out without his permission, listened when he told her to only associate with those he had okayed. She turned a blind eye to the furious, hissed conversations he had in his foyer with strange people she was not allowed to meet. Didn’t comment as the empty liquor bottles steadily piled up and increased in number. She didn’t have to ask to know that his business was failing, that somewhere, something went wrong. It wasn’t her place. She was his s wife and her job was to please him, and she tried to be good to him, tried to do what he wanted.

It wasn’t enough to stop his hands from turning into fists. And as the bruises became harder to hide, Seia went out less and less and pretended she wasn’t lonely. Pretended she wasn’t scared. She wrote to her step-father, but stopped after the third time he didn’t respond. Food became less appealing. She stopped eating, and her soft belly shrunk around her ribs until she eventually stopped bleeding. Stopped trying to hide from her husband, because that only seemed to make him more mad. She hadn’t drawn nor painted in years. There were no books for her to read. She missed the feeling of creation. Missed watching things grow. Missed the wonder of discovering something new about the world, and missed her mother and her step-father more than ever.

Eight months after they married, her husband died, and all his holdings and his debt fell to her.

The official ones she managed to pay off. Some of her neighbours offered their help when they saw her selling everything in the house. Even though she didn’t know them, they saw enough of what went on to know that it wasn’t by choice. With the help of those more experienced in trade, Seia managed to fetch a fair price for most of what she sold. When that wasn’t enough, she sought out his other properties and sold those, too. She liquidated his company and sold his vessels. Finally, she sold the house itself.

At the end of it all, Seia was left with an empty storefront, and she almost sold that too before she realized she had literally nothing left in this world. Her husband was gone. Her stepfather was lost. In retrospect, she realized that Christopher had probably withheld his letters from her, and tried to look up the town she grew up in only to find that it didn’t exist anymore. There was nothing in this world for her, unless she wanted to get married again, and she would really rather not.

Seia moved into a small apartment close to the store and tried to remember what she was good at. It’s been so long since she was good at anything. By chance, someone gave her an old pottery wheel, and – this. This, is what she was missing. The feeling of creation beneath her own hands in a way that was more real and visceral than even painting.

It is a bad idea. She knows it is a bad idea, to keep the same shop, stay in the same place. Because while her official debts have been paid off, there are still the unofficial ones to contend with, those that are not listed on paper, and they are what killed her husband. She doesn’t know the extent of his network, doesn’t know the extent of his contacts. Doesn’t know how much he owes, and to whom. But she is so tired of hiding. She is so tired of turning a blind eye to her husband’s follies. There are very few things in the world that Seia is good at. One is forming clay into life, and that ranks maybe second or third on the list. The first is cleaning up the mess of others, and she has gotten very good at mopping up Christopher’s messes. Maybe, when his debtors come for her, she’ll be able to make amends. Or maybe she’ll follow him into death, just as she’d followed him in life. She should probably find that thought more frightening than she does.
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