A story for #RemembranceDay: A Flower for Rolande - Part 2

Part two of our Remembrance Day story. Share with family and friends, and join us in remembering the fallen.

And Rolande…here was the prevailing notion, for with all his forbearance with the lords in
the Chambers and his good-natured affability in court, he never did satisfy his inclinations. His professions of finding a partner, whether in the desire for companionship or for producing an heir, went unanswered. Once his father had gone, he did the one thing he had always wanted and joined the Marridon forces, more on a provisionary basis than a serious one, and enrolled himself in the knights on behalf of the Whilhem house, to take part in the hastiludes and champion over others who were as attached to their families as he could be himself. When he was not with Jaina, he was in the arena, practicing his melee and his swordsmanship, keeping as far away from eager and eligible ladies as he could. He thought it cruel to tempt those who could never gain his interest and wrong to marry without love, and as marriage was little more than a contract to those who paid the debts of lineage and muliebrity with the currency of hereditary promises, Rolande should never wish to give a woman the pretense of affection. Doubtless there were those in the Marridon gentry secretly harbouring the same inclinations which Rolande expressed, but as every male in the Marridon peerage was expected to produce an heir, the shame of preferring a relationship in which no woman bore a part was ill-advised. It was not absolutely forbidden, and there were no laws in Marridon’s constitution restricting any two persons in love from being together, but inclination must give way to social obligation, and as children must be born from arranged unions, Rolande would have no part in such a degrading affectation. He would rather keep to himself, he would focus on his seat in the Chambers, his practice in the arena, and spend all the rest of his time with a sister who had always been in his confidence and had always proved herself his greatest supporter. One needed little else when the other was by, and they continued much the same, reading books and playing their games over tea whenever Rolande’s time permitted, but when riots on the Bellatrim border broke out and Rolande was given leadership of a small battalion and ordered to quell the insurgence, he was taken away from the Chambers for a while, spending his time at the front line, fighting to secure the borders of their kingdom and proving himself as an invaluable asset to the crown. Under the king’s direct command he remained, and after a successful campaign against the Bellatrim insurgence, he returned home, to regale his sister with stories from the field, to reenact the battles and tell of well the king’s men fought. Jaina saw with what vigour and exultation Rolande recanted his stories, and being proud of him she could listen to his grand exhibitions for hours together, but she still detected a sorrowfulness in his air, the intimation of his not being perfectly happy, the pang of knowing that the redemancy of a man’s love would be forever out of his reach. It was a felicity that must forever be denied; he could have taken a lover in secret, as Jaina had often encouraged him to do, but a few months later, another incursion of Bellatrim rebels pushed against Marridon’s northwestern border, and Rolande was summoned to fight once again for his sovereign.
The summons came whilst they were in the midst of the longest game they had ever played: Jaina had created an effective blockade, had hired mercenaries to remove some of her brother’s ships from the board, and her commander was well flanked by brigs well fitted up for battle, but Rolande, with all his calculation and sagacity, had a plan. He would take down the smaller gunships and work his way to the middle, and he was within two moves of winning, or so believed, when the Grand Duke entered with a most discomposed countenance. He made his apologizes and kissed his wife, was sorry for disturbing them whilst they were at their game, but came with a message from the king that could not be delayed. Rolande accepted the letter and read it to himself: the change in aspect, the slight flickers in his expression conveyed the severity of the situation to Jaina, and even before he had told her of the letter’s contents, she knew that Rolande must leave; the contraction of his brow and his diminished smile told her so. The Grand Duke too was being called away, it seemed that everyone was being asked to defend the kingdom, and the moment she understood the severity of the situation, she could not but feel that she was going to lose the last of her family, a husband who cared for her and a brother whom she loved more than anything else in the world. He said he should be coming back, that he should only be gone for a week or two, and when he should return, they would finished their game and everything would be right again, but the sinking sensation in Jaina’s stomach told her that if Rolande was going, he would be gone forever. The nervous laugh on his softened voice bespoke his hiding something from her, probably the number of men making of Bellatrim’s forces, but whether his change in countenance was in fear for his own life or the concern for her wellbeing, every feeling revolted against his tender placations. He should be back, she would soon see that he and the Grand Duke would be home again, but the Grand Duke’s uncommon silence and the look in his eye was decisive: they were going to be Marridon’s champions, to be immortalized by the historians as those who defending their kingdom to the last, and she should never see either of them again. It was the only time she opposed her brother so openly and warmly. She begged him to stay, asked him to consider training more men in the capital instead of going abroad, he was the head of his family, the lord of the Whilhem line, he ought to stay to see that his estate was protected, and the Grand Duke understanding her fears joined her in all her heated protestations, but it would not do. Rolande must go, he had sworn an oath to his sovereign to fight at His Majesty’s side, they needed him, needed his tactical mind and good grace, the Frewyn foreign legion was coming to join the effort, and he must be there to take Marridon’s part in their cooperative assault, and there was no dissuading him.
Rolandehow noble and valiant he was: He was gone with the Grand Duke within the hour, and Jaina, not liking to part with ill-will, forgot her dissension for a while and treated him with all her usual joviality. She joked and laughed with him, told him that he should memorize their game board before leaving, that she should move the pieces in his absence and see how well he should win with a missing commander, and feeling that there might be a chance of his never coming home, made some laughing answer, saying something about having already committed the board to a memory as infallible as the  heart, but it was impossible to express what he really felt. Had the king not asked, he should never have left her, and his greatest compunction as he kissed his sister and held her was his having to choose between defending Marridon and protecting her. He soon reasoned they were one in the same, and after an earnest goodbye and a promise to write, he passed the threshold with a tearful aspect, and the door soon shut out a brother whose death she had never got over. Seeing her apparent distress, the Grand Duke promised to defend Rolande, even if it meant exchanging his own life for that of her brother’s. It was a foolish proposal, he knew, but he would not see her so despondent if there was something in his power he could do to alleviate her sorrows. It was a reprehensible business, and Jaina would have given anything to have both her brother and her husband excluded from the war, but they would both go, would both ignore her entreaties, would both ride into the foray at the king’s side, and with a last osculation and a tender goodbye, she and the Grand Duke parted, her remaining family quitted the royal quarter, leaving her to the misery of unquietness and all the horrors of a solitude that would prey upon her mounting consternation. She stood at her bow window, watching her brother and her husband gallop out from the stables, and she remained there long after the rataplan of cantering hooves had diminished and all sight of them had ceased.