A Season of Festivals

Rebecca had become far more responsive with Amitel’s presence. Amitel was, of course, Literia Khammael’s half-Ni-Kunni half-Brutor daughter of ten years of age–a girl far wiser than her age would have showed. Perhaps it was that wisdom that caused Rebecca to smile and laugh again or perhaps, more simply, it was that Rebecca had someone nearer her age to distract her from the darkness that had befallen the Sakakibara family a matter of a few weeks prior to the festive season.

It was a gorgeous day on the temperate planet above which Triumvirate had established its capital station in the SAH-AD system. Like many of the major hub systems in null-sec, capsuleer activity drove the local economy. Work teams, technicians, engineers, scientists, and industrialists were all required to support the massive war machine headed by the alliance executor Garst Tyrell. With such a large baseliner population applying for entrance and employment in Triumvirate sovereignty, it was inevitable that a service industry would follow. Although many said services were of a seedier nature designed to appeal to the single, adventurous spirits who saw the fortune working for a capsuleer alliance would afford them, a great number also catered to the growing number of families that grew out of the stability in the Etherium Reach region.

Reginald smiled at his niece as they exited the shuttle that had conveyed them to the planet’s surface, to the system’s second most populous terrestrial settlement. They were bedecked in clothes designed for winter: she wore a brick red overcoat trimmed in white, large buttons that were either for decorative purposes or demonstrative of the ease of use tailored for a child, a pair of mittens to protect her hands from the winter chill, a billowing scarf around her neck, and a fuzzy hat that matched her overcoat and skirt; he wore a light gray coat, a pair of gray leather gloves, as well as a scarf of his own–the rest of his outfit, simply trousers and a corresponding tunic, was made up of neutral colors.

He knelt down and checked the buttons on her overcoat, making sure that they were fastened properly to protect her from the gusty air, “Are you warm enough?” He asked her, patting away wrinkles in her winter attire as if doing so would affect her insulation.

Rebecca gave a distracted nod in reply, “Yes, Uncle Reginald.”

He chuckled, wondering why he even bothered. He nodded, then took her hand, before turning towards the festive decorations of the open-air market of SAH-AD III. Decorations were abound from a multitude of cultures preparing to celebrate their winter holidays–and it was these colorful decorations that had captivated his niece the moment they had exited their shuttle.

As much as Reginald was the elder Holder and nearly twice his niece’s height, she seemed to be the driving force on their meandering stroll through the marketplace, pulling him from one display to another, never growing tired as she asked questions of the vendors, decorators, and sometimes even random passer-by about why that color had been chosen, or what that decoration was for, or how come people celebrated this time of the year so much. For their part, her victims in conversation were more than happy to answer her question, some of them even offering her samples of their decorations for the exorbitant prices they knew they could extract from someone wearing the Triumvirate insignia.

He was content to let her do most of the talking, only interjecting to thank a vendor for a particular offer before moving on. Amidst the bright lights and the simple, melodious songs playing throughout the market, he was distracted by a completely different sight–one that caused everything else to fall to the wayside.

There were three of them. A man, a woman, and a child. He might have been an engineer or a technician, though his hands were concealed beneath a pair of gloves, so it was difficult to ascertain. She smiled and laughed at his jokes and jests, her auburn hair sometimes kicking up with the wind–it was during those moments that she shook her head, trying to tuck the strands into a more manageable configuration. And between them walked a little boy, each of the adults holding one of his hands as he skipped and fell and wobbled, bundled up in a hodgepodge of colors. It didn’t seem to matter to him that he tripped and fell over everything, nor to them, who simply helped him back up. He, like Rebecca, had been mesmerized by the decorations.

The man led the other two over to a stand, letting go of the boy’s hand for a few moments to pay a vendor before providing warm, sweet delicacies wrapped in paper to the other two. It was the first time they stopped holding hands, though they walked to a bench in the middle of the square to enjoy their meal, the boy sandwiched between the other two as they huddled together for warmth against the cold.

They didn’t seem wealthy. Perhaps they were newcomers to the Reach, ready to seek their fortunes supporting the capsuleer empire of Triumvirate. But wealth seemed to be the furthest thing from their minds. They finished their snack, then walked towards the other end of the market, attracted by new sights, smells, and sounds.

Reginald felt something tug at his hand. He looked down, broken out of his reverie by his niece. It was clear from her expression that her most recent conversation had ended an unacceptably long time prior–most likely a minute or two–and she was demanding his attention.

“Yes, dear?” He forced a smile.

She glanced towards the trio–she had seen him gawking at them, he supposed–then looked back up at Reginald, “When will I get to see Auntie Katerina and Cousin Oberyn?”

He felt his smile twitch slightly at the sound of her name, of the woman he had betrayed and failed so miserably. And his son, the boy that had his mother’s eyes. He had held him only once, cradling him gently at the homestead where Lady Lianne’s daughter was kept safe. He remembered his eyes, his smile, before his mind sunk into the reality of what that expression would become: bitter, hateful, spiteful. That’s all that Reginald had to look forward to when his son became old enough to understand, once Katerina thought him old enough to know–old enough to know just what sort of a monster his father was and how he ruined a nascent noble family. And once she told him, Reginald knew he would never see his son smile at him ever again.

For Rebecca’s sake, he forced every ounce of self-control into his demeanor, “I’m certain that when they are ready, they will make sure you are the first to know they’ll be visiting.”

Rebecca nodded. She was clearly unsatisfied at his answer, but easily distracted herself with a fresh set of novelties and trinkets.

He looked back towards the trio, but they were gone. Just like his family, he mused to himself.