Stay of Arms

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by templemarker

Notes: Sabriel, post the book by her name, waiting for Ellimere. For kaydee falls in Yuletide 2004. Read it there.


Sabriel stood at a window in her house, looking at the world outside. She had been in here much longer than she expected. Her hand fell to her stomach, where her child was heavy and waiting to come to her. It had been a long pregnancy, she thought, but an easy one.

She loved this house, its intricate walls and strange inhabitants, but the walls were beginning to come too close now, and she could only take so much more of the chartered servants’ hovering and mothering. She’d come here because that was what all Abhorsens did when a child was coming; they came here for rest and protection, for either themselves or their companions. At least, that was how it was supposed to work. Sabriel knew it had not always been so easy.

But she was here now, watching the snow collect on the window and wishing she could go back to her work. Her work was waiting for her, sometimes impatiently. There was little she could do, however, because necromancy and child-bearing did not, all the books told her, mix. It came as a surprise when she received a letter from the house instructing her to retune to it as soon as possible, because firstly, she didn’t think it had that much will or power, and secondly, how could she simply leave her duties for months at a time? Sabriel tried to ignore the request, but the letters kept coming and she found her concentration slipping as her pregnancy went on.

Four months ago, she bid good-bye to her husband and journeyed here. Three months ago, and then one month ago, he visited. But the life of a king is just as busy as that of an Abhorsen, and though they saw each other little when the Old Kingdom was first being rebuilt, they saw even less of each other now. It was an odd thing, to be left alone for such an event. It didn’t feel quite right, that he wasn’t there to share this with her. After all they had been through, Sabriel believed they deserved this; but then, life was not always fair. She had learned that lesson well.

The house had tried to accommodate her to the best of its means. When she had gotten too round and big to move easily up the stairs, they had moved her bedroom to the first floor. As her charter magic waned in the wake of the growth of her child, they took care to help her more (though she would have been gladder had they left her more alone), bringing her whatever she wished and checking on her often, behind half-closed doors or through windows.

Sabriel spent most of her time in the library now, with the thousands of books collected by Abhorsens over the centuries. There was so much to peruse–she had once heard it told that the house library might rival that of the Clayr in their remote mountain, but she didn’t believe it to be true. It kept her busy, though, and she read voraciously. A librarian had come out of the woodwork, looking dusty and faded and very much like she fit in there. She helped Sabriel find whatever book she needed, and often recommended related titles. If nothing else, this time of respite had enabled Sabriel to read up on her history. She now better understood the line of Abhorsens before her than she’d ever expected too. They’d lived fascinating and varied lives, often with great adventures and travel. The journals of her ancestors were filled with daring escapades and great adversaries, and occasionally there was even a sweet story of love.

The Old Kingdom was well into the winter months. Sabriel felt it suited her situation and her mood, hibernating in here as the drifts of snow piled up. It was just as well, she tried to convince herself. The dead weren’t as active in the winter, nor were most of the things she fought. It was as if the pall of the land took its toll on all its creatures, even those whose will rejected peace. Sometimes she believed herself; mostly she did not. Touchstone kept her informed of the incidents that occurred within his domain, by weekly letters she could not do without. While nothing sounded terribly bad, there was so much more to the Old Kingdom than the few pieces they’d rebuilt. The land was mostly wild, still. They expected many years to pass before things would settle down more.

Sabriel’s hand fell to her stomach, and she moved from the window. The librarian popped up only a few feet away, tilting her head to inquire if Sabriel needed anything. Sabriel shook her head no, and the librarian went off to…wherever the librarian went. That was something Sabriel had grown accustomed to: not talking. She’d not seen anyone in months, not since the roads had grown too treacherous to walk through. Mogget had been there, for awhile, but one day he declared his intention to sleep through winter, and Sabriel hadn’t seen him since. She imagined he had holed himself up in one of the many unused rooms in the house, calling up a charter servant whenever he wanted food.

Only one month more, she told herself. One month, and the child would be kicking and screaming. A little boy or girl with a E name–she would wait until Touchstone arrived to confer on a final name, but they’d both liked Ellimere and Eberhard. It would be better to see what name fit on the child, and name it that together.

She could survive one more month. The books on the table were laid out before her like a towering bound-paper mountain, waiting for her to open them after years of disuse. There was still so much she had to learn, so many things she wanted to know, like her father had. That would keep her going until her child came. It would have too. The Abhorsen could last the winter months.


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