ChildhoodLisbet Ryker wasn't born a bastard, but she may as well have been. No one in her immediate generation of Rykers had been born a slighen and her mother, Morrigan, having been hopeful that the undesirable gene had simply weeded itself out of their noble House, abhored the idea that her only daughter might carry such a stain on their family tree.
But Lisbet was born a slighen. Legally, it cast her down two notches of citizenship and threw her under the cruelty of the Inheritance Laws. In practice this meant she was plucked from her mother's breast not ten months after her birth. Taken to a special practice in North Beourjen, under the careful hands of one of the most prolific surgeons of the time. A needle in her chubby arm, and a small slice horizontal at the bottom of her belly. And sterilized.
Stitched up. Redressed. Taken back to the manor. All better.
Except it wasn't all better. Lisbet's father was running the House, and also running the business, and also on the Triadic Council semi-running South Beourjen. Her brother was at training, and then on the first train to Chamberv when the war started because he was their star child and held the promise of a paragon. That left her mother at home with her, tightening Lisbet's corset and then smoothing it down with her palm as though she feared someone might somehow see the tiny, faded scar through the fabric and ivory, and screech across church that House Ryker was hiding a slighen among their brood! As if House Ryker hadn't carried that gene in their bloodline for centuries.
Several weeks after she first tried on the corset—she was four, almost five—her parents brought her with them to a salon at House Balassar. Their families were dear friends, see, went back centuries even before the Rykers' slighen gene. They had salons often, and tea, and went to the theater together. And Lisbet's mother was also oddly close with Lord Balassar but that was probably because Lord Balassar's wife wasn't too close with him so Lisbet mostly ignored it.
So the children were shoved off to the side, in a room akin to a sitting room but with decidedly less fragile furniture, and that was when she met Fjornin Balassar. They were close, immediately, even though he was two years older than her. He brought up scars, because his uncle had just recently grabbed his arm and given him one; Lisbet showed him hers and he didn't tell anyone.
Afterward, they were attached at the hip, every chance they got. Lisbet's mother even sent her to the Balassars' so the children could be tutored together, though Morrigan stopped coming with her after a few years. Then the footman would just drive Lisbet over in the morning and be there to pick her up when Morrigan wanted her back.
Sometimes Lisbet ended up sleeping over the Balassars' for several days.
When Fjornin was eight, he began military training and Lisbet got her own governess which was fine. Fjornin liked military training because he didn't have to be at home with his mother and uncle, and occasionally his father when the man stopped by. Lisbet hated the governess and everything that came with her.
At thirteen, in the last year of the Great War, her brother came back in a leather bag. It was lovely leather and it had the Ryker sigil on it, and Lisbet got all the settlement for her dowry, but it put a thorn of a thought in her brain that someone else she loved dearly might leave her for the war and die.
Later that month she enlisted herself. She went up to Fjornin's uncle—the one who gave him the first scar and had given him three more since, and who also sometimes weirdly put his mouth on Lady Balassar's neck—and asked if he would make sure she ended up in Fjornin's unit.
She did end up in his unit, thankfully, and then suddenly they were spending all their time together again. They both moved into the barracks, and the only time they weren't together was when Lisbet had slighen training. Which was a substantial amount of time, but still.
SchoolWhen Lisbet was fifteen, Fjornin started courting a girl. She was lovely but it meant that Lisbet was bored at the balls so she started seeing a boy. Then another boy, because the first was too young. Then a girl, because the second boy bored her. Then, ahh. . . Fjornin was still seeing the same girl and perhaps even falling in love with her, and then he said he thought he might marry her.
It ended up working out, because that spring they were to be put into separate units anyway, for Lisbet to finish out her slighen training and Fjornin to be promoted. Instead, they both put their military careers on hold. Fjornin married, and began fighting his uncle for the House Balassar assets and property. And Lisbet went to school.
The decision was a bit last-minute. She knew she didn't want to go home, and she didn't want to stay in the military, but she was smart. She'd excelled at slighen training. And Yseult offered her a full scholarship, so why not get away from the Confederacy for a few years?
It proved to be a sound decision, albeit an abrupt one. Lisbet loved Ethaeras, she loved Yseult. She loved not being toted around by her parents and her mother looking disdainfully at her belly when they went in public, as though she still wanted to smooth it out.
Fjornin wrote her nearly every other week with updates:
The southern coast is even lovelier than I remember (though the sand does make for quite gritty lovemaking).
I got the House! Just recieved the letter this morning!
We just returned to the city. Father is sick; he didn't admit it, but Professor Leidevelt let it slip when I visited Brickard.
Lisbet, you were bloody right, she is fucking him! I can't believe it! Years! You said that years ago!
I'm fine; I suppose many people have shitty parents. They really can't help it when they grow up in such a shithole as this city.
I think I may return to the army.
Do you think you'll come home for the winter break? I do miss you.
I'm having a child. It's due the beginning of Ethraet. Would hate to have to find another godparent if you cannot make it.
The last bit of news was especially irksome, because it came only days after another letter had arrived at Lisbet's flat in Ethaeras. The other letter had come from an orphanage in Chamberv, informing her that they believed one of the children there to be related to her and if she might be interested in further contact or information.
It was another last-minute decision, to take the next train back to Chamberv, and then stop at the orphanage despite her certainty that she had not, by some impossibility against several laws of nature, accidentally gotten with child one of the women she'd fucked while in the army. But she went anyway, perhaps out of mere curiosity. It was not her child, not that she'd expected anything differently, and yet upon seeing the child the girl wasn't what she had expected either.
Lisbet had been a child herself, and she hadn't even seen him when they'd brought him back. So it had been even longer, really. Still. She knew her brother's eyes.
She showed up to House Balassar with her neice—Wren—in tow and made it in time for the birth of Fjornin's son, Evander. Things were well. Both she and Fjornin, inexplicably, had secured their family lines. Lisbet would have to marry eventually, but for now Fjornin had a different plan.
He had returned to the army a year and a half into her schooling. It's where I want to be, where I'm meant to be, he'd told her, but it also hadn't felt right without her by his side. And though Lisbet didn't want to leave her new niece—daughter?—she liked the idea of him going off without her even less than she had before.
The Border WarsFjornin had moved up in the chain of command, had done some finagling, and possibly more than a little bribery, so that when Lisbet returned she stepped straight into position as Slighen to Major Balassar. Majors didn't have their own individual Slighen, and Slighen didn't operate by the same principles and respect as common soldiers, but Lisbet did. And it had been three years but she took to it all like a fish in water.
From 1530 to 1534, Fjornin worked hard but Lisbet worked slightly harder. It was tumultuous. Fjornin was fighting the Triadic, trying to change the entire military relations between slighen and common soldiers. It was for Lisbet, really, because with the way it was now she couldn't rise any further in the command chain with him, but Fjornin told her it was for the entire system. Any slighen as brilliant as you should be able to work their way up. To be fair, Lisbet agreed wholeheartedly.
Lisbet, on the other hand, was doing the actual strategy work. Figuring out how to more effectively use slighen in battle alongside common soldiers. It was a slow start—because she was a slighen, a woman, and she was also, apprehensively, looking for a husband.
She ended up taking on more of the command, at least in practice, than she initially intended. Fjornin and his wife were trying for another baby, and his wife—Ophelia—slit her wrists with each tiny carcass that they had to bury. It pulled Fjornin from the field, at least figuratively, but skirmishes kept bubbling along the northern border so Lisbet drove their men harder.
She was becoming revered, a paragon, even before the Border Wars had truly broken out. She went home each night to Wren, asked Wren's governess if she might like to sit and talk over a glass of wine before they each went to bed. Lisbet would make a fire. It'd been a long day on the training fields.
In 1534 the Border Wars broke out. Fjornin and Lisbet—now Colonel Balassar and Slighen Lieutenant Ryker—and their brigade were sent to assault the northern border and drive back the Aveaans.
It was rough at first; none of their soldiers would ever deny that. But Lisbet's training proved incredibly effective and their new formations and strategy, this ingenius idea to have the slighen and common soldiers actually bonding and working in unison how Lisbet felt should be obvious, was undeniably successful.
For four years they went back and forth. The battles would subside, they would return to the city, and then violence would bubble up again as the Aveaans sought to push against the fragile northern border. Increasingly, Fjornin and Lisbet were sent to the heart of it.
Her parents died in 1538, her mother mere weeks after her father, though Lisbet was certain they no longer loved each other at that point. If they ever had.
Regardless, she rode back to the city to fight the court for her inheritance. It was a long-forgotten wound being ripped open anew, their cold response to her questioning. You cannot carry a bloodline, so the inheritance goes to the Confederacy coffers. It didn't matter that she had a daughter.
She went to Fjornin's uncle again, because most nobles who carried weight did not care to associate with her but Lord Balassar at least felt guilty. He'd stopped giving Fjornin scars, now that Fjornin was grown and the uncle had his own son to lay hands on. He said he would do his best but that Lisbet would need to work with him.
In the end she did. She went back to the surgeon, who was still prolific but whose hands were a bit more shaky. She let him open up the real long-forgotten wound, that small slice horizontal at the bottom of her belly; she had done her army time and risen up the ranks so she could now. She had it undone.
Stitched up. Redressed. Taken back to the manor. All better.
In the end she got the godsdamned inheritance.
They agreed to marry after the wars had subsided, so Lisbet joined Fjornin back at the riverside stationing for three more months. The battles calmed, if only temporarily. Time passed hazily. They all returned to the city, Lisbet got married. Fjornin took his forces back to watch the border while Lisbet began her wedding tour across the Sophre Bloc.
The Madhouse & End of CareerShe was on her wedding tour when she felt, through her bloodbond with Fjornin, that Fjornin was in trouble. She rushed back up to the border, and the days following are what current historians and soldiers now refer to as 'the madhouse.'
The Border Wars petered out after that, which was timely as Lisbet was both pregnant and beginning to suffer from arcana poisoning. She took several years off and gave birth to two children: Adara, and then Gannon. They were perfect and they looked just like her, and if Fjornin envied her for it, he said not a word.
She returned to the army for several more years afterward, something of an icon for her ruthlessness and loyalty to her soldiers. Fjornin became High Commander, and for three years Lisbet was the army's first Slighen Lieutenant of the High Commander.
Her arcana poisoning became increasingly severe, her mind and body beginning to succumb to the stress she had put on her skills as a slighen during those final months in the Border Wars. Wren had joined the army herself several years prior, and her going on reconnaissance patrols and being stationed far away perhaps caused Lisbet to deteriorate even more rapidly.
DeathIn 1546 Wren, under burgeoning Captain Evander Balassar, was stationed on the northern border. Two months into their patrol the company was ambushed and slaughtered, a single surviving soldier returning with uncertain news.
Over a year later, the captain and his lieutenant were found alive, having been held hostage at Ferren Downs slave-mines. With the aid of the two men, the Beourjen army was able to recover many of the soldiers' bodies and declare their deaths.
Within the month Lisbet's eldest daughter came back in a leather bag. It was lovely leather and it had the Ryker sigil on it.
She didn't tell anyone before she went to Fjornin. She made sure her affairs were in order, she said good-bye to her children and husband and lover though none of them knew it, and she went to House Balassar one last time.
I cannot follow you to the field anymore, she told him. And I cannot bear for you to leave me for another war, so I think my time is done. They had discussed long ago how she wanted to do it.
Fjornin nodded, and took her into the very room where they had met. Lisbet laid down on the couch, and she took off her waistcoat while Fjornin prepared. A needle in her arm, and one last small slice horizontal at the bottom of her belly. Fast asleep before she bled out.
Save me a glass of baethateth at the eternal feast, will you darling?
1512 1548 36 years old
Circumstances of Death
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