Part I is here.
And as if his responsibilities as steward weren’t enough, Josen was also obliged to take over much of the more feminine upper crust duties, such as making sure the maids were properly doing their work. Such tasks were normally left to the lady of the house, but Lady Caitlin seemed disinclined to pursue such activities. Instead, she usually surrounded herself by those idiots that served as her ladies-in-waiting and idled away the days in sewing, or knitting, or some other useless activity. By all reports, the lady was almost completely silent during these sessions, remaining quiet while the women around her chatted endlessly. If someone who didn't know Lady Caitlin was to look at the situation, they might think she was pining for her long-absent husband—a belief that would last all of an instant once they learned of the true history behind the lord and lady of Aginor Manor.
It was no secret that Aginor and Caitlin were estranged; one needed to look no further than their courtship, an affair that brought the entire continent into conflict. Aginor had made arrangements with Caitlin’s father to marry her, but it seemed no one had bothered to ask the Lady Caitlin’s opinion of the betrothal. She ran off with the son of Lord Something-or-Other, and everything went rather downhill from there. The entire affair had ended only when Aginor almost literally wrenched Caitlin from the arms of her beloved, and, according to some accounts, wrenched the arms off as well. While Lady Caitlin never overtly displayed any sort of resentment towards Aginor, Josen thought it was impossible that she didn't feel some sort of hatred for the man who killed her first lover. And even putting aside the murder of one's true love, any affection Caitlin could foster for Aginor certainly wasn’t reciprocated. Aginor was not known as a caring individual, and for good reason. The idea that he could be warm and loving to anyone, even his wife, seemed as far-fetched a notion as meeting an affectionate mountain range. Their estrangement became even more pronounced after the birth of their children, the twin boys Trellis and Traenis. After that, Aginor seemed to hate being in the manor at all; that was when he began to ride in campaigns again, and rejoined the front lines. On his brief sojourns home, he and his wife avoided each other as much as possible.
An avoidance which made the current situation all the more peculiar. Josen had met Aginor's company, a small detachment that represented only a miniscule portion of Aginor’s entire force, at the manor gate. Josen was steadying himself to begin his report when Aginor brusquely told him to run ahead and tell Lady Caitlin he would meet with her in her bedchambers immediately after he had removed his riding gear, with the further instruction that Josen was to wait outside the door while they… talked. Well, that was what he said they'd be doing, at any rate. Lady Caitlin didn't seem the least bit surprised at her husband's sudden deviation from normal behavior; in fact she seemed almost—pleased at the prospect. While he was waiting for Aginor to finish with his horses—which had taken an exasperatingly long time—Josen took the opportunity to question both Caitlin's ladies-in-waiting and Aginor's soldiers. Both groups admitted that their respective masters had been acting strangely for the last month or so. In Aginor's case, this involved long hours of isolation from his men while conducting private meetings with strangers. In Caitlin's case, the newfound eccentricity was an almost manic increase in both appetite and energy, as if every experience was something new. It was probably no coincidence they both went through these changes at the same time, but how they managed to coordinate their transformations baffled Josen completely. Aginor had been on the battlefield the entire time, and nearly all communication between the castle and the outside world went directly through Josen. He knew without any doubt that no form of messages had passed between Caitlin and Aginor. So how did they manage to synchronize these changes from a distance of half a world?