This is set with new characters in my Tír na Cali setting; its landing page is here.
This is a Cali storywith no slavery. 😉
The Duchess’ family did not often eat together.
Her children were, all but the twins, grown adults, and since they were all but the twins male, they were mostly married as well.
Niles, who still lived at home, helped his mother’s head of household plan the meal; Jeriel and Lauriel, the twins, helped the head of the maids arrange the seating. The Duchess had seven children, five daughters-in-law, and eight grand-children; the seating arrangements took a bit of planning to get everyone where they needed to be. Add in that Achishar wasn’t speaking to Emlen’s wife (nobody could remember why anymore) and a half-dozen other feuds, and seating the family for dinner became rather good training for some day running a fractious and wild Duchy.
“Do you think it’ll work out?” Niles was the twins’ go-to for questions. He had far more free time than the Duchess, and was old enough that he knew everything.
“I think…” He folded several napkins while he considered his answer. “Whatever our Lady Mother is wishing to work out here will work out. The informal place settings are a cue, and the mid-week date. She’s looking for a ‘family dinner,’ not something states-like.”
The twins shared a look. Jeriel led for the next question. “Why?”
“I don’t know.” Niles almost never admitted that. It was enough to shut his sisters up.
“I thought we could use a change of pace.” The Duchess looked around her assembled children, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. “I thought all of us could use an hour or two where we were not statespeople but simply family.”
Boone’s wife Lady Dorseigh, the Countess of South March, said what many of them were thinking. “I don’t understand how that can be, your Ladyship.”
“Hannah. Today, for the next hour, I’m just Hannah, or, if you want to be very informal, you can call me ‘mom.'”
Lady Dorseigh, finding herself the designated spokesperson for the table, sounded as perplexed as most of them felt. “…Why? Why… Hannah?”
“As I said, I think you could use a change of pace. I think I could use a change of pace.”
It was Niles who finally figured it out. “Think of it,” he offered, “like taking your shoes off and falling down in your private sitting room. This is that, only with a handful of other people who understand. A breather.”
“A breather.” Lady Dorseigh nodded slowly; the others followed suit, in time with their ability to understand. “This is a lovely Yule gift. Thank you… mom.”
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