Hidden Magic Ch. 10bymadam_noe©
In the bare hours after dawn I crept from his bed to my chamber, and cleansed my body from the lingering scent of passion with a sponge bath.
I heard my cook wake and signaled her upstairs. I told her to rest and sleep more, and to direct the buttress to do the same. I instructed that Tomass and I should be wakened for the noon meal, me only earlier in case of emergency and my lawyer's arrival counted as such.
I finally fell to sleep and dreamed of pleasures shared with Tomass, of his bright blue eyes, his smile, his laugh. For the first time in years, I did not dream of war, battle and death.
Tomass had magic he didn't even know about, and soon he would be mine. I smiled, and fell back asleep.
"My lady," the buttress knocked.
I swam to consciousness through heated dreams and blinked. "What time is it? Come in!"
"It is eleven, my lady. I'm sorry to disturb you but your lawyer, Miss Carlinns is here with a guest. A- a man, a very strange man."
"Fetch me clothes, quickly, then send the maid to me and make sure they are seated."
"They are in your study with refreshments," she said, already pulling a semi-formal dress from my wardrobe. Like all my others it was old fashioned and white, but trimmed with my colors and bearing the seal of my house- two phoenixes entwined as they took flight from ashes.
She left me then and I cleaned my mouth and did the necessary. The maid entered, curtsied, and helped me to bind my breasts and dress. Once I had the dress on she brushed my hair and pinned only half of it back in deference to time.
I came downstairs to my study to find my lawyer seated with a man in black robes and a cloak. His hair was long but he also sported a beard, just as Tomass did. I knew this marked him a sorcerer.
They stood and bowed, Carlinns formally, the white-haired sorcerer with curiosity.
"Carlinss, good day to you, and to you as well sir. Have a seat."
As soon as I sat at my desk the buttress brought in orange juice and some simple pastries from the bakery down the way.
"My lady, this is Hawls, he sits upon the Sorcerer's Guild."
"I did not know such a thing existed."
"Magic is still frowned upon, but you've been away for years at war, according to your lawyer here. A treaty was signed with the new queen. We are allowed to practice magic, but not blood magic, and the informal guild is officially recognized. We police our own."
"I'm honored by your presence, sir," I simply said, dumfounded. Why had I not thought to ask about the legal status of sorcerers? Tomass had not said anything, but he did move about with ease in Plaindand, something an outlaw would not easily manage.
"Carlinns tells me you wish to marry a young sorcerer named Tomass."
"That is right."
"I have come to...care for him, greatly," was all I said. Carlinns looked at me and I shook my head, best not mention legal duels outright. "There is another sorcerer who has recently wed, M'Graough. They say he practices blood magic."
"He is an outlaw. He is wanted by the council but we have come to learn that he is now wed to a duchess, and so protected."
"He need not be."
"I will not sanction assassination."
"I'm not offering that. Let us turn back to Tomass. I can wed him, just as the duchess did with M'Graough, in a marriage of legitimacy, then pay a fee to have his line declared. However, this would be all much easier if he has any noble blood. He told me his parents were farmers, what do your records show?"
He sighed heavily and Carlinns adjusted her glasses. "His aunt by his father is the Countess Marchant. He married a pauper and was disowned, and indeed Tomass did grow up on a farm, or at least for a few years.
"In those days deals were struck. His parents were compensated and it was agreed this would never be spoke of again."
"Why admit this now, then? Why not just send Carlinns back to me with this wonderful news?"
"The guild is split. I favor the practice of marriage, joining our separate cultures. However, marriage between a woman and a sorcerer means special precautions must be made. Our culture cannot die.
"You must know, Earless, that any male children that result will be sorcerers. In this new world, they will remain in your household, but they must be educated by the guild with your husband's cooperation. And you must swear that you will not restrict your husband's use of magic, that you will allow him to practice and keep the oath of light. Should he ever practice blood magic, you must agree to tell the guild, and agree to our sentence, whatever it is."
"I can agree to this. Carlinns, you can draw up a contract and I will swear to it."
"Does Tomass wish to marry you?" Hawls asked.
"I believe he does, but he does not know it yet."
"And when do you wish to marry?"
"We must marry tomorrow."
Both of them looked at me, aghast. I sipped my drink and sat back. "Know this: the Duchess who married M'Graough has called for a duel with me. I have agreed. We must wait for her marriage to pan out, but the queen herself has told me my position would be most secure if I married.
"Yes, I must marry tomorrow, but of all the men I know, when I think of spending my life with one, it is Tomass I envision."
Hawls smiled at this and Carlinns blinked, shocked.
"I will file the papers of lineage and obtain the special license for you today," my lawyer said.
"Excellent. All that remains is I tell Tomass. I would try asking, but I know he will say no."
"Not necessarily. When the queen took her throne a short time ago and the treaty was struck making magic legal, the plan to intermarry arose. Tomass' mentor, a great man named Jawlik, had agreed that Tomass would marry. He was killed shortly after, before Tomass could be told.
"Tomass has lived alone these past few years, attempting to mentor a young boy. He has been told time and time again that his path is not mentoring, but we were refraining from speaking of marriage until a suitable match could be found.
"I know of you, Earless. You are an honorable woman from a strong line, and a national hero. I will accept your word to see to Tomass' welfare, and know that part of the treaty says that a sorcerers mentor can act as his guardian, or if his mentor is dead, it reverts to the guild. I agree to this marriage."
"I witness this agreement," Carlinns said automatically, as attentive as any trained lawyer should be.
"I will speak to Tomass, assure him of your care and concern, but enforce he must do this."
"Please- let me speak to him first."
Hawls nodded. I looked to Carlinns and she pushed her glasses up and rose. "I must do this filing. Perhaps, Hawls, you should like to accompany me and we may have luncheon at a place near the courthouse. We can return here after."
Hawls rose and I stood in politeness and escorted them out. I had my buttress roust the newly hired driver and loaned them my coach.
Now the moment was at hand. The hardest fight of my life was to begin.
I ordered cook to prepare the finest meal possible on our meager budget and sent the buttress to wake Tomass.
As a woman alone I had female servants as was customary, but now with husband I would need to hire a gentleman's man. Tomass would not like to live in the city, I hoped he would be happy at my country estate.
I waited for him at the table and rose when he entered. Again he wore the black trousers and loose, flowing shirt, his hair freshly washed and shining like the silk. Against his tanned skin his blue eyes glowed, and his beauty struck me anew.
He blushed slightly under my regard and took his seat.
"Did you sleep well?" I asked lightly as we were served. There was the prepared hare stew but with it a rich assortment of fresh vegetables in a cream sauce, freshly baked bread with sweet butter, and herbed potatoes. Waiting for dessert was a sweet honeyed fig pie, and somehow the cook had gotten a hold of the bubbling umalli liquor.
"I certainly did. What is this?" He held up his glass.
"Umalli. A toast...to new beginnings."
He gave me a puzzled look but drank, his eyes widening with the surprise of a child at the sweet, effervescent taste.
"Thank you Smartile," I thanked the buttress who bowed and left us alone. "Tomass, why did not tell me the news that while I was away at war, one thing that had changed is that magic is legal."
He dropped his trident petite and it clattered on the table. "Did I forget to mention that?"
"Quite, in fact, I believe you went along with me when I assumed it was illegal."
"Why would you do that?"
"I don't know why, it just...put some distance between us. I just- you weren't what I was expecting. I was expecting a grizzled old crone, not such a beautiful young woman."
I blinked, dumbfounded.
"Surely you must know after last night, I do not wish for distance between us." He said this shyly, hesitantly.
I smiled. "I do not wish for that either."
"I know you said I must be patient, but you did win last night. What is the prize you shall claim?"
I had intended it to be his agreement to marriage, but after spending the night talking and knowing his love of freedom, I could not ask for that now.
"It is simply this. You hear me out until the end, when I put a question to you."
He took a bite of vegetables and smiled at me. I took a deep breath to steady myself. "Tomass, will you marry me?"
He looked as if he had been slapped in the face with a live fish. I held up my palm. "Hear me out.
"When I left the war I knew that it was time to marry. I have seen such ugliness, such horror, that I wanted someone to share happiness with. I had not planned to find a husband for some time. My holdings are struggling and I am fixing them, but wanted to correct it all before I found someone.
"I have come to care for you a great deal. It is not mere lust, though I confess I am nearly mad from it, but I care for you as a person. The times we have spent sleeping touching, and our conversations mean more to me than our passion. Do not discount the passion, I have never found such with anyone else and I do not wish to seek such again.
"Know that under these circumstances, I would love to court you as is proper, to woo you, if you will, but time is not a luxury we can afford.
"Serinne has married M'Graough and called for a duel with me. I have accepted. The only way you can challenge M'Graough legally now is as my husband, or the husband of any titled woman.
"The queen knows of a history between Serinne and I and it is possible that if she becomes pregnant with an heir the duel can be converted to a legal battle. With a husband and heir, she will be given precedence. As such, I myself am in need of a husband to strengthen my claim. With a husband we shall be equals and held to the duel. If she contracts an heir so must I. After their births a duel may commence.
"Know that if it comes to court I will likely lose. She is higher in station with greater holdings.
"Despite this I do not wish to marry you simply to avoid losing in court, nor simply to grant you the right to the vengeance you seek. Without this I would wish for your hand.
"Hawls has been here and through your father's house there is noble blood. Your aunt is a countess, so do not think to argue blood. Know that I have sworn to him with a witness that I will never stop you from practicing magic and any male children that result I will consent readily to education with the guild."
I stopped and took a drink with shaking hands. I had made a sound argument imbued with passion, concern, and logic. This style had won me many arguments in the council and amongst my fellow generals. I had little hope that it would work with Tomass. With Hawls' signature on the license Tomass had no choice, but I desired a willing groom.
"Why?" he whispered.
"Why what exactly?"
"Why must I have no say in my fate?"
"I am giving you say."
"You mean if I say no you will respect it?"
I did not wish to lie so I hedged. "I respect your freedom and have no wish to take it. We can live at my estate in the country, surrounded by nature. I will promise to never take another lover, to always be faithful. I will value you as my equal and I am already committed to fighting for men's rights in the council."
"I don't wish to be married."
My heart winced and I covered it by taking a bite of stew, acting as nonchalant as possible.
"I have an apprentice-"
"Hawls has informed me he is not officially your apprentice, that he has a true master."
"It is unfair of them to deny me the historical lineage I was promised!"
"All that matters is that you are free, with no duties to anyone. Save perhaps your vengeance, and our marriage would make that most possible."
He looked lost, distressed. I set down my utensils and sat back, seeking all my inner strength in the hope I could lend some to him. "Sometimes life changes. For me I left for war a callous young woman with no concern in life other than pleasure. I went to war out of boredom, seeking glory and an escape from my future.
"I too did not wish to marry, take my title...I only wished to be free. Then I went to war...and I was quite good at it. I made the rank of general and soon after my mother died. I came home knowing I had to accept my responsibility, but the world had changed around me. War and poverty has made the world conservative, but things have changed. Magic is legal...things are different.
"When life changes we must push forward. Know this; Hawls like many other sorcerers seeks to change the world by letting sorcerers marry. You have the choice to marry me or wait for another. Time is of the essence, what is your choice?"
A knock came at the door and I heard the buttress answer it: Hawls and my lawyer had returned.
"I don't wish to marry at all!" I let the hurt show in my eyes and he appeared contrite. "It's not you, Minn; I seek my own destiny."
"You would refuse good marriage to an established line, to a most honorable woman who has forsworn to let you live a life of magic? Do you dare shame us all?" Hawls came in with all the fury of a High Council elder.
Immediately Tomass shot to his feet and I jerked to mine, following custom. He hung his head contritely. "I mean no offense I just want-"
"To waste the opportunity to join your life to that a woman who cares for you? Who can effect policy? You have the chance to shape your destiny and that of others and you seek a dream none of us can realize.
"No one is free! We all of us have responsibilities that cannot be ignored. You have a chance here you will never see again, do you understand me, boy?"
He nodded, sullen and turned to me. "I accept your proposal. May I be excused?"
"I wish a word in private with your future husband, my lady."
"Go then, I must speak with Carlinns privately myself."
"Come, boy, show me your chamber." Hawls was shorter than Tomass but broader in the shoulders, and seemed to dwarf the younger sorcerer as they ascended the stairs.
"Have you eaten?" I asked my lawyer.
"The restaurant was too crowded."
"Bring another plate for Carlinns and take a tray up to our guests," I addressed my buttress who had been easily harried and outmaneuvered by the old sorcerer.
"Have a seat," I told my lawyer and she sat next to me. I waited for her plate to arrive and allowed her to serve herself while I contented myself with bread and stew.
"So you obtained the license?"
She nodded. "Hawls actually obtained a permit to perform the ceremony himself. While I was getting the license he was asking about you. I dare say if Tomass won't consent to marrying you, Hawls surely would."
I laughed with her and came down to a smile. "Married...by a man. My, things have changed."
"When the treaty with sorcerers was signed it threatened many people. Funny thing is here in Plaindand they got more conservative, but Sorcerers are marrying more in the country. This other, M'Graough, is the first to wed nobility."
"Today Duchess Valchamp's lawyer filed the papers to clear his lineage. She claims it has been consummated, so it is important you marry tomorrow. I got the impression her lawyer has been trying to sway the Duchess into moving the challenge to court. Valchamp has been making noises about debts your mother held to hers but I can find no record."
"She's not the type to let reality get in the way. Did you post the banns?"
"Excellent, the queen will let the challenge ride. Now we must simply see who contracts an heir first." There came the sound of shouting above us and something heavy fell. "Or at all," I amended.
"I have better news. Messengers came to my office, a runner found me at the courthouse to tell me. The emergency funds have been received and the mine is operational again. An order was placed for ore, payment should arrive in two days. Your steward from the plantation, and the managers of your shipping company and the plant will be here. Investments may take more time but the mine-head heard an order for grains has been put in at the plantation."
"Excellent. This is indeed good news. I may as yet need a loan but this shall hold us longer."
"This is all so exciting. When I knew you as a young woman I never imagined one day you would be marrying a sorcerer."
There came more shouting and things falling, or smacking into the wall.
"I can't imagine any other way, I admit. We'll have the reception here, you will be invited. What time does the license have us at the courthouse?"
"Three in the afternoon."
"We'll be back here for supper at six. I must set the cook to buy the supplies for a fine meal. If the day after money from the order arrives I'll spend all my coins on this wedding feast."
There came more thumps and a yelp that sounded like Tomass.
"Should we go up there, my lady?"
I smiled. "And interrupt two sorcerers fighting? I have no wish to die young."