"Sometimes, in life, we are handed a mithril chest plate. Our chalices are made of crystal, our battles won for us. For some people, life is easy. We don't know that life, do we, Twitch?" Twitch shifted in his stance behind Ante. He didn't say anything quiet yet, just listening to the elder husband. "I know. You would like to point out that we are male, and our lives are not supposed to be easy. But some of us live painfully harder lives than others. Why do you think this is, Twitch?"

"Because some of us need to learn our place, and those harder moments are to teach them to us." Twitch's voice was hard, deep, almost demanding. He had, easily, the lowest voice of all the husbands in House Teken'zynge. His thin lips were pulled tight, made thinner, as he studied old Ante.

They were both husbands of the same drowess. Micara was next in line for Matron hood, as soon as Matron Xuna's time on this world was used up. Micara hadn't killed her mother yet. But they all knew the time was coming. Micara wasn't known for her patience, and Xuna was well past the age that most Matrons live already. Micara had long been an adult. But she seemed to be waiting for something. And as the Fifth House of Leiah Latok, no one was questioning Micara's patience right now.

"I… don't know." Ante shook his head gently. They were standing on the balcony, looking out over the large, beautiful city. The timepiece in the middle of the city glowed dimly, telling them that it would soon be supper time. The drowesses of their home would come to sitting in front of a fine table, with a spread of whatever was being served. The matron and her daughters were away right now, though, attending some meeting or another put together by the Queen Matron of Leiah Latok. And both Twitch and Ante knew what that would mean when they came home. "What about you, about your youth, gave you that nervous twitch to your eye? What did you do to deserve that?"

"I don't understand what you're getting at."

"I was one of the lucky ones. As soon as I became a man, I was traded up. Micara was a pretty drowess when she was younger. And far less vicious, if you believe it." Twitch snorted behind him. No, he didn't. He'd only ever known Micara with a cruel edge to her. "My life has been naturally easy."

"Why are you telling me this, old man? It's not like you to rub things in."

"And I'm not, Twitch. Ever since your matron sold you to Micara, I've seen you as a talented and strong brother in arms. One who will eventually take my place. In fact, it's a shame you were traded off to Micara. She's older. She's had her daughters. She doesn't need you like she needed me. But she is not finished with you either."

"You're speaking in riddles, and it's getting annoying."

"Give an old man the chance to tell the story, you impatient young-un," Ante grinned, turning from the way they gazed over the city to look directly at Twitch. "What I'm trying to say is this. Your life, right from the get-go, has been harder. I've been thinking a lot about it lately, how some of us had easier lives, while others have been handed a seemingly cruel hand by a despising goddess. But I just can't believe that it's that simple. For as easy as my life was, I've always known my fate. And, in truth, I greet it head on. But when I look back at my life- yes, things were easy. But I really took no joy in it."

"As I take no joy in mine. This is how it is for males."

"No. I think something greater waits for you, Twitch. I can't say what or why, but there is something good for you, in your future. And, because you will eventually be what so many of us are not, happy, you are paying for it ahead of time."

"What are you talking about?"

"Just- remember something. Tonight, when you are asked to do one thing that I know you will hate the most, you are doing me a favor. And, as your life progresses, promise me that you will not give up."

Ante gathered himself and walked back into the house, leaving Twitch glaring out at the city. His left eye began acting up again, the underside lid twitching hard and fast, at times threatening to close his eye altogether. Stupid disorder. If he had developed it any younger, his matron would have killed him. But it didn't develop until after he started his weapons training, and by then he was too good, even with the defect. He had it to thank for his lovely nickname, for all the trouble and bullying he did receive. Yet, he was still good enough to be here. He was still good enough to be Micara's youngest husband.

He was her sixth husband. But Twitch had developed a sick feeling in his stomach as he talked with Ante tonight. Something was wrong. And, though he'd lived through and seen many cruelties since being brought to this house, this something was stronger and certainly more frightening. And his namesake acted up more than ever. Well, there was still better than an hour before the matron and her brood was back from the meeting. He had better get rid of this muscle spasm before then. Micara and her siblings were extremely cruel if they saw that weakness. And he already had a big night ahead of him.

A soak in the baths would calm his nerves. Twitch didn't really need to be clean, but the heat, water and steam might help his face relax of that nasty tick. Twitch gathered what he needed and made his way through the house, to the bathing quarters. For his status by marriage, he wasn't quite a servant, but certainly not important enough to use the upper quarter's bathing room. It didn't matter. Both were heated. Twitch had his own soaps and oils, things Micara liked to smell on him, regardless of what he thought of them. He watched his fingers work at the belts of his leather chest plate. Nothing too extreme when not in battle. But Twitch was too smart to go unguarded, ever. This house was cut-throat when the females were around.

He turned his attention to undressing himself, pulling at his undergarments, untying the bindings that held his pants up on his thighs. It wasn't long. Soon his black flesh was exposed, uninterrupted by his tight clothing. Twitch's dark fingers worked with his hair. It was longer than even the drowesses. To keep it out of their notice, he usually left it tied up and twisted in unflattering ways. But right now was a moment where he got to comb it through. Silver white hair flowed down his back, over his shoulder. The ends tickled his thighs and lay as lazily as his shame, as his wife called it, did right now.

What was Ante going on about? A warning of some sort, specifically for him? Twitch rolled his words through his head again and again. Yes, Twitch's life hadn't been easy. The very thing that gave him his nickname developed because, from an early age, Twitch couldn't shake the feeling that something about Ante's words were… too deep for a male to grasp. He certainly shouldn't be speaking it. But what if it was true. What if, somewhere along the way, Twitch was meant to be happy, truly and honestly happy, with some part of his life? So happy that he had to pay for it ahead of time. He'd never questioned his joyless life. So many of their lives were just that, empty and sad, hard and painful. They all had the marks of the whip on their backs to prove that. What about him made Ante think something better, something different, waited for him?

He sat at the edge of the tub, sliding into the hot water. Twitch paid attention to the way his thigh muscles relaxed, and felt the heat overtake his abdomen and lower back. Anything to keep from thinking about that annoying spasm going on under his left eye. He sighed, his deep voice echoing off of the bathing room walls. His hair floated and then sank in the hot water before he started working the oils through those long strands. The soap bubbled on his dark flesh. He brushed the oil through his long hair and slipped under the surface, rinsing himself clean. By the time he stood and began with the drying cloths, his annoying tick was gone.

Twitch stopped in front of the many mirrors. Time was growing short. But the hot water had done its job and he would soon be dried and present himself in front of Micara for her nightly entertainment. He dried and combed his long locks again, pulling them back up in another ugly, tight set of braids, something that lay thickly down the middle of his back when he was finished. His one pride, and he dare not show it.

Well, there were also his eyes. Twitch leaned forward, studying his face, his strong fingers flitting down the length of his jaw, as if smoothing the handsome features. He wasn't a bad looking drow. And his dark skin had the delight of hosting the brightest purple eyes. When he was young, Twitch had the chance to go on a surface raid. He didn't remember much about it, about how many humans were killed or why they were raiding. What he did remember was the weather. Dark clouds blotted out what was left of the sunlight that evening. And sparks of electricity jumped from the sky, lighting it up. The surface lights gave the sky a bright purple color.

Only on the return trip had one of the drowesses commented that the color of such power reminded her of Twitch's eyes. That drowess had been one of Micara's sisters, Talaba. When he was later sold to House Tek'Ynge, he'd assumed it was that sister that wished for him. Twitch was darkly surprised to find Micara awaiting him in the bed. But Micara, as the first daughter, could take what she wanted. And if Twitch had been meant as the husband of another sister, it was never mentioned.

Pants were pulled back up muscled legs. Much as he tried to dry himself, the leather still found moist flesh and clung, causing Twitch to lean over himself and pluck at the leggings until he fit nicely through them. Tied again at the pelvis. A scant bit of white hair drew up from the waistline, leading to his naval. Twitch quickly saw to hiding that away with his tight fitting undershirt, then the chest plate. He rolled up the sleeves, showing off the well-built arms. One final splash of oil over his limbs and a thorough drying of his hands, they couldn't be slick, and Twitch was worthy of presenting himself before Matron, Wife and Sisters.

Servants opened the dining room doors for him, moving out of the way at his approach. He entered and offered the customary bow, coming to his hands and knees on the floor in front of the long table, keeping his eyes turned away from Matron Xuna's gaze. Instead, he pressed his forehead against the floor, counted the breaths taken, before he dared rise again, even if just to take his place behind Micara.