Chapter 16 - Actions Over Words
April 22, 1645
The Walled City of Arcadia, Capital of Ivaris
I snapped back to reality when I heard the King’s voice. “Would you like some wine?” he asked me. I nodded and he motioned for a servant to fill my goblet. I drank some and felt some heat creep down my skin.
The king then began to cut some choice pieces of meat from the trays in front of us and he set it on my plate along with a loaf of bread he cut himself. “Anything else you want?” he asked and indicated the numerous selections of foods placed in front of us.
I shook my head. He was playing the thoughtful husband now. It was expected of him to be doing these things for his new bride and I must say that he was acting very well. I tore a chunk out of the bread and placed it in my mouth. My mouth was so dry and I was so nervous that even if the food smelled delicious, it felt as if I were eating paper. I lifted my fork and took a bite of the meat but after swallowing one mouthful, I gave up and just pushed the food around my plate.
“You don’t like the food?” the King asked me. He placed his knife and fork down and I saw that he has consumed almost half his plate and was helping himself to more. I shook my head. “I think I just don’t have the appetite, your highness.” I replied.
“Try this.” He said and held out a piece of bread that he dipped in some kind of sauce. I shook my head but the King said, “Please.”
I think it was the first time I heard him say that word so I reluctantly opened my mouth and took the bread he offered. For the first time tonight, the food didn’t taste like ashes in my mouth! The bread was warm and I tasted a faint hint of butter before I tasted the different spices in the stew.
Before I could control myself, I took the whole piece of bread the king held out for me. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was. For the last week, I hid in my room and I seldom ate because of the loneliness and the stress of my upcoming marriage.
I looked at the king and saw that he was grinning at me. He then picked up my bowl and ladled some stew on it and then placed it in front of me. It was still steaming and the aroma teased my senses. “Eat.” He commanded with a lazy grin.
“Thank you, your highness.” I replied stiffly and quickly dug into the food in front of me with renewed vigour. I felt the King’s eyes on me as I ate but I did not mind him. When he didn’t cease to gaze at me, I looked at him and raised my eyebrows inquiringly. “Yes, your highness?” I asked.
He took my hand and squeezed it. “Seth.” He said. “Pardon?” I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly. “You are my queen now and you are my equal, my partner. You aren’t a slave anymore. Call me Seth.” He instructed.
I pursed my lips. “It isn’t proper, your grace.” I replied. I saw anger spark in his eyes but before he could reprimand me for my insolence, the nobles and monarchs approached us and presented us with their gifts.
The King and I graciously accepted them and I smiled throughout every conversation. My jaw ached from smiling too much. My back ached from sitting straight. My head ached from constantly having to think of great topics for conversation and from replying to difficult political questions.
When the last of them talked to us, I sighed and slumped back in my chair. The King shot me an amused grin and I looked away. From a distance, I saw men in familiar clothing and they were approaching us.
I leaned closer to confirm if what I was seeing was true.And I was right. I wouldn’t mistake that white formal jacket with a blue stripe from the shoulders down to the wrist. This was the uniform of the King’s Guard of Amaranth. The uniforms all looked the same except the one worn by a brown-haired man. His uniform had tassels on the shoulders and he had two stripes per sleeve instead of one. This symbolized the captain’s rank.
I inhaled sharply as they got closer and I saw Duncan’s profile. He stood a head taller than his men and there was some sort of lethal grace in his movements. He walked rigidly as if every step pained him. I saw that his fists were clenched together at his side The other soldiers with him walked with their heads high, proud to wear the colors of their Kingdom yet with defiance towards their new King in their eyes.
They approached the thrones where we sat and stopped. The men did their salute to the King and then bowed. Their movements were stiff and forced. They were unlike those I’ve seen them give my father. Seth looked at them with a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.
Duncan stepped forward and breathed in deep. Then he looked at Seth and then me and I saw his eyes fill with pain. “We, the soldiers of the King’s guard of Amaranth, would like to extend our congratulations to the new king and... Q-queen...” Duncan said and then he exhaled loudly.
“No...” I whispered softly and I felt my heart tear into two. Duncan’s eyes focused on me and I found my pain mirrored in his lovely green eyes. I tried to snatch my hand away from the King but his grip on me tightened.
“Thank you.” The King replied with a grin.
“How heartless could you get?” I hissed and then gave my hand a vicious tug. I saw the King’s expression as it flashed from surprise to something like pain and then maybe anger? My hand was released but I ended up knocking the goblet beside me and the wine spilled into the white tablecloth. “Stop it this instant.” The king hissed back at me.
I sat back in my chair and motioned for a servant to clean the stain. While the servant was cleaning, I looked at Duncan. He looked as if he wanted to jump up and strangle the king. I could see that his whole body was tense. Brodie walked towards his side and placed a hand on his shoulder, restraining him.
“I’m fulfilling my part of the contract. They are free to go.” The king said. My eyes watered and I nodded to the King and then to the soldiers.
“May the Gods bless you and guide you on your journey.” I said and they all bowed. Duncan looked at me once more. His eyes roamed over my face and my entire body and then lingered back on my face. It seemed as if he wanted to memorize every last inch of me.
“The horses and provisions for the journey have already been provided for you. I wish you a safe return to Amaranth.” The king said.
I sighed and continued to look at Duncan. I wanted to memorize every last inch of him too. If I was going to suffer a loveless marriage, at least I’d have these memories of him to keep me sane.
The others started to turn back and I knew this would be the last moment I’d see the man I love. I touched my fingers to my forehead then to my lips and lastly to my heart and then placed my palm up with my fingers pointing towards Duncan.
It was a gesture of lovers in my kingdom. It was also commonly used as a gesture of farewell.
The touch to the forehead meant, ”You’ll always be in my mind” or “I’ll never forget you”
The touch to the lips said, “Take my kisses with you.” Or “My kisses will always be yours.”
The touch to the heart said, “This heart belongs to you.”
The palm up is like an offering which said, “I am yours, always.”
I saw Duncan as he took a sharp intake of breath and his lips opened in a gasp. He opened and closed his mouth as if he wanted to say something to me. I waited for him to voice the words but he suddenly stopped and a flash of tenderness crossed his rugged features.
He lifted his hand and then touched his forehead... Then his lips... Then his heart... And then he closed his fist above his heart and bowed.
He repeated all the gestures of my goodbye to him except that he changed one... Instead of touching his heart and saying “This heart belongs to you,” he made a fist over his chest and bowed.
A fist over the chest meant, ”This heart would love only you for all of eternity..." or “There’ll be no one else for me...” It was a symbol of deep commitment and it is how a groom honours his bride at a wedding by doing the gesture as he said his vows.
Tears pooled in my eyes once more and I managed a small smile for him and the soldiers of Amaranth. The soldiers glanced around nervously and looked if anyone recognized the gesture. If the King knew of it, I was sure he’d have Duncan’s head right away!
However, I forgot all my concerns when Duncan smiled at me. Instantly, he was the Duncan I knew from before. He was the carefree soldier who taught me how to shoot arrows, ride a horse, played with me by the river, held my hand as we walked through the woods... He was the man I fell in love with... Again, he was my Duncan... The only man I ever loved.
“Adrienne.” A sharp voice bit out and I turned my head to look at the King of Ivaris. He waved his hand and the soldiers departed. A sense of despair washed over me as I saw their retreat. “What was that?” the king asked menacingly.
“Nothing.” I replied.
“It looked like an intimate gesture.” He replied. His face turned red with fury.
“It was nothing, your highness.”
“You will reply when I ask you something!” he shouted.
“It was a gesture of goodbye from our people.” I said with a shrug and then took the goblet of wine that the servant offered and drank greedily. I’ve never indulged much in spirits but they said that wine dulled one’s senses. I heard the servants say that wine is the cure to a broken heart. I’ll never know if I don’t try, right?
I downed the goblet in one gulp and motioned for the servant to fill my goblet once more. The King’s attention was riveted to one of his guests who were discussing something with him. I used the distraction to get myself soused. I wanted to get roaring drunk and just forget everything that’s happened.
I wanted to forget this life, this sham of a marriage... Everything!
The King’s conversation took a long time. He never let go of my hand and he absentmindedly rubbed his thumb over my skin. While he was busy, I downed goblet after goblet of delicious wine. After a few gobletfuls, suddenly everything seemed interesting. The music seemed lovelier but the world sadly tilted a bit to the side. I wanted to go up and dance but the ground looked unsteady.
With the help of the wine, everything inside me was dulled... I was in pain before but right now, I was feeling numb... It was like when you sat on your legs for a long while and then the feeling in them was gone...
I saw the butler of Ravenswood walk towards us. “The traditional first dance of the bride and groom!” the butler announced. The King rose to his feet and offered his hand to me. I giggled when I took it. The King frowned as he tucked my hand in the crook of his arm and escorted me towards the dance floor.
I swayed a bit but he kept a steady grip.
“What did you do, Adrienne?” he hissed as he led us to the middle of the dance floor. He took my hand and placed his other hand at my waist. I saw him nod to the musicians and they began to play a slow song.
I giggled again and then rolled my eyes. “Just drank some wine.” I replied, trying to sound nonchalant.
I felt his grip tighten on my arm. “How many?” he asked. “Lost count.” I replied after a while. I swayed again but his arm around my waist prevented me from falling on the floor. I wasn’t really sure if I was dancing but we seemed to move in time with the music.
I saw the King looking down at me and I looked at him too, scrutinizing every inch of his face. I sighed dreamily and then giggled.
“What?” the king asked.
“You have the most intriguing eyes I’ve ever seen.” I declared and then giggled once more. I moved a bit closer until our noses were an inch apart and I gazed deep into his eyes.
“They are the exact color of the sky just before it rains.” I replied with a sigh. The King just grunted in reply as he continued to lead the dance. I looked up at the stars and then across the crowd who watched us with dreamy expressions. Some had envy on their faces while some just looked plain bored.
When I got tired of staring at the sky and the people, I moved my gaze back towards the King. “Why do you scowl so much?” I asked and the King frowned even harder. “You would have been handsome if you didn’t frown like that.” I replied and disengaged my fingers from his grip and smoothed over his frown.
I heard a few chuckles from the nearby guests. The King took my hand again. “Adrienne...” he whispered. “Yes, your highness?” I replied.
“Seth.” He countered. “Your grace?” I teased. “Say my name.” He insisted. “Nah. I don’t think so.” I replied and suddenly the world spun. I gripped his jacket and I felt his arms tighten around me.
He hauled me to his chest. I was so dizzy that I rested my cheek in his warm, hard chest. I heard him sigh and then his arms enfolded me. “You smell nice. You always do.” I declared and then giggled again.
The King said nothing.
The music ended and he led me back towards the thrones. I lifted the goblet to my lips once more but I felt a hand on my wrist. “No more.” The king instructed. I shrugged and placed the goblet down.
I leaned back on the chair and watched the performers hired to entertain our guests. First there were a troupe of acrobats who jumped so high and bent their bodies as if they had no bones!
I clapped hard when their performance ended. Next came a group of troubadours who entertained us with their lovely songs. After them was a bard who shared a great love story. I sighed and had tears in my eyes when his story ended. It was a happy one where the lovers ended up together.
Then the King of Winstrom stood up and walked towards the front of the thrones. He was a big man with fiery red hair. He had a long beard which was tied at the bottom with a leather band and encircled by a small golden ring. He wore the furs of a tiger and he looked very scary.
“I would like to sing a song in honor of the new King and Queen!” he shouted and his words were met with thunderous applause. That was the least I expected from the burly King.
“I thank the King of Ivaris for his support in my latest campaign. Without him, we wouldna’ have driven off the scoundrels invading our land.” He said and then cleared his throat.
Then he began to hum in a deep baritone. He nodded towards the musicians and they seemed to know the song so they started to play a beautiful melody.
O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O, my love is like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun!
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand miles!
The end of his song was met with thunderous applause. He had such a lovely voice. I wanted to close my eyes and savour every note and word from his lips. I stood up and applauded him. “That was beautiful, your highness.” I said and he grinned and gave a small bow.
The King of Ivaris also applauded him and raised his glass in a toast for the King of Winstrom’s health and the continued alliance between their countries.
The night went on and on and I got drowsier and drowsier by the minute. The wine started to dull my senses and I longed for the comfort of my bed. I sighed, leaned back against the throne and closed my eyes.
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
“Your bride’s falling asleep!” Malcolm said as he clapped my back. I looked at Adrienne and she leaned on one side of the throne and was fast asleep. Her brown hair was spread like a curtain and her cheeks were flushed from the wine she drank. She couldn’t look any more beautiful.
“She drank too much wine. I think it’s time we left the feast.” I said and Malcolm winked at me. I saw the maids hovering on one side and I nodded to them. “Good luck on your wedding night with your drunken bride.” Malcolm said and then laughed at his own jest. “Since when did I need luck with the ladies?” I countered and then drank the last dregs of wine from my goblet.
I went to Adrienne and gently shook her awake. She opened her eyes and gazed at me sleepily. “It’s time we went to our chambers.” I said to her. She just closed her eyes in reply. I bent down and carried her. The action was met with lewd cheers from the crowd.
“It’s time for the bedding!” one shouted and the cascade of jokes started. “You sure you’re up to the challenge, Seth?” the King of Winstrom threw in and the men with him guffawed. “I’m not sure he could rise to the occasion...” another one threw in and then loud laughter echoed across the tables. I saw Malcolm laughing along with them as he slapped his knee in mirth.
“Better give him one of yer potent brews, Winstrom!”
“Aye. I’m sure that would do the trick!”
I shook my head and laughed along with them. “Gentlemen, while this night has been nice... I believe it’s time for us to retire now. Enjoy the feast!” I shouted and more cheers erupted from the crowd.
I carefully carried Adrienne into the castle and then up to my chambers.
Now, our chambers...
I pushed open the door and waited as the priest and the maids entered. The priest started blessing the bed.
“May the goddess bless this marriage and make it fruitful. May this couple be blessed with fertility and countless bairns be born in this very bed...” the priest said as he sprinkled the bed with oil.
He left the room and I gently laid Adrienne down on the large bed. This was the first time someone other than me has lain down on this bed. My father told me it was meant for my queen and here she was... My queen...
Something inside me softened at the thought and at the sight of her. Her brown hair was spread across the pillows and her lips were parted as she slept. The maids started to walk forward to prepare her but I lifted my hand and halted them.
“Your services won’t be needed further tonight.” I said and they bowed and left the room.
I sat on the edge of the bed and just watched her sleep for a long time. Then, I realized that she wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping with that heavy gown so I loosened the laces that held the gown together. I tugged it gently and removed it from her. She wore nothing except her chemise now and the sight of her like that in my bed stirred my senses and fanned the flames in me.
She stirred and moved a bit. She turned and her chemise got caught under her and the hemline got a bit lower. I was given a tantalizing view of her cleavage. I inhaled sharply and the flames were now burning fully.
I gently lifted her and arranged her on the pillows. She sighed with comfort and a ghost of a smile touched her lips. Again, something tugged inside me at the sight of her. I stood up and quickly removed all my clothing.
Then I went to the bed and settled myself on the other side. Then, I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her gently to me so that every inch of her was plastered to every inch of me. I tucked her head under my chin and I felt her soft breath on my throat. She wriggled her hips and the movement sent a shot of desire right to my heated core.
I groaned and willed myself to remain under control. I took a deep breath and then realized how big a mistake that was. When I breathed in, I inhaled her lavender scent and it drove my desire higher.
Damn it! I wanted to take her right then and there. But this was our wedding night and she was drunk. I’ll not be repeating my mistake in Escrow. She’s my queen now... My wife... And she’s not to be treated like a slave anymore.
I kissed her forehead and willed myself to just be contented with holding her for now...
The night is still young anyway...
When I next opened my eyes, the sun has just risen and has cast a lovely glow on the room. The sun’s rays hit the bed and Adrienne’s hair looked like strands of gold. My breath caught at the sight of her like that and the surge of desire was renewed.
She was just so beautiful that I couldn’t stop myself... I traced feather-light kisses across her cheeks, her jaw, and then down to her neck. “Wake up, my sweet...” I whispered and licked the spot where her pulse lay.
“Mmm...” she moaned softly and she moved a bit. Her lips parted and I used the opportunity and quickly covered her body with mine and kissed those lovely lips. My tongue delved inside and tasted her sweetness.
“Adrienne...” I whispered and then blew on her ear. I felt her body shiver and she moved restlessly under me. I lifted my hand and cupped her breasts. My thumb traced her nipple through her chemise and I felt it harden under my ministrations. I heard her sharp intake of breath and that fuelled me even more. I slid lower and licked at the hardened bud on top of her chemise. The wet fabric clung to her nipple. I did the same with the other and when I was done, she was writhing underneath me...
“Wake up now, my queen.” I cooed to her and my hand traced her neck, then her cleavage, down to her belly and then dipped between her legs. “Open your eyes...” I commanded as I stroked her and felt her desire coat my finger.
“Now...” I urged.
I was painfully aroused and every moan from her almost sent me spilling my seed right then and there. I wanted her so badly and I ached with the force of my desire. “Adrienne...” I called out as I lifted her chemise and exposed those lovely thighs and those dark curls between them. I heard her sigh as I parted her thighs and settled my body between hers.
I felt her moist heat as I waited for her to wake up. The moment she opened those hazel eyes, I’d take her hard and fast and make it a day she’ll never forget. I almost lost control when I felt her hips wriggle against me.
I groaned as I fought for control and kissed her lips once more.
“Mmm... Duncan... Yes...” she whispered as I probed her moist entrance.
Like hell!!! I flinched as if she struck me and then quickly scrambled off the bed. I ran my fingers through my hair and then quickly got dressed.
Keras! I wanted to make love to my wife but I hear another man’s name on her lips! Fuck that! No one has ever done this to me!
When I was dressed, I quickly exited the room and made sure I banged the door shut as loudly as I can. The footman waiting outside the door jumped and regarded me warily. “Get me Malcolm. Tell him I want to spar with him. NOW!" I shouted loud enough for the entire castle to hear.
Keras!- curse/ swearword.
My Red, Red Rose- the tite of the song that the King of Winstrom sang. It’s an old Scottish love song. If you guys have watched “Made of Honour” starring Patrick Dempsey, it’s the song that the scottish guy sang to the girl. :D