The van Sietter Bride Pt. 02 of 03byNaokoSmith©
The van Sietter Bride Who Brought Happiness in Her Pocket
Part 2 of 3 (Not much sex in this bit)
She was pretty.
The daughter of the el Shostas was a plump curving creature with golden hair dressed simply on her head. She had a sweetly full bosom, a tidy curve into her waist and then an appealing curve out round her hips. She probably had a good fresh complexion from the exercise of running about the Thiel woods and rivers but it was not possible to tell because her cheek was pink with powder. Her dress was old-fashioned like her hair, Arkyll knew this must be an happy accident. Thiel was such a back region they would not have access to dress-makers and ladies' maids skilled in the new fashions. The tight waist and big skirts suited her figure although the petticoats meant it was not possible to guess at the shape of her legs but Arkyll knew she must be a good rider -- they all were, the el Shostas. He could assume she would have muscular legs with a good definition in the thigh.
Tisha's had been a softly indulged squishy thigh but discreet subsequent exploration had led Captainofthepeace-Lord el Maien to decide that he preferred an athletic leg with the muscles delineated so clearly that you could run a finger up the defining groove in the thigh. Like Daria's leg.
For a moment he thought van Thiel and his mother were mistaken, that there would be no difficulty palming off this ladybird on some decent son of the high nobility more her own age. The daughter of the el Shostas was a bit young for him. He ought to have gone to court some time back and picked out someone elegant with good political connections and an appreciation of the work he was involved in. Now here he was, being asked to pretend to an interest in a young woman so she could be taken to the mid-winter Angels' day balls at court with a flutter of gossip to puff her into the arms of someone suitable. He knew it was because he was considered too high above her but he felt curiously piqued by it nevertheless. She was a tidy little handful of curves and probably full of bounce: fit with running and riding wild in the Thiel woods, possibly swimming in the lakes too. Naked. She stood with her head turned to the side, maybe she was blushing under the face paint, she was charming in her old-fashioned green silk gown. He thought that if they cleaned up her face she would easily catch someone's eye.
Then she lifted her head, dipped lashes which he realised were painted so much that they had actually stuck together and put an hand up to cover a snigger out the corner of her painted mouth. Instead of giving him a friendly greeting, she slid her gaze rapidly over him with a dip of the eyes that he might have thought shy if they had not gone straight to the rank of First Sietter officers dismounting behind himself and his parents: dashing young blades in the regional colours of red with the gold-embroidered collar and the thigh-length brown boots.
There would be no problem with her being a slut, of course, but she must learn to be discreet. Men of honour expected to give the glove if a favour was being forced or seduced but they did not like to be constantly throwing their lives in the hazard just because some stupid woman was so careless that everyone thought they could gossip freely about the manner in which she stained her marital honour.
Still, she looked biddable. A man with a firm hand would be able to hold her on a tight rein and ensure she behaved with outward propriety. Maybe she had ... some pleasant pretty chatting ways? although his mother said she was ignorant and his father, who had actually met her at some fishing party of van Thiel's, was ominously silent about her.
van Thiel was coming to offer a sword arm to his father, saying "Ho ho ho! you are Clair and I am Clair, we are both Clair!" van Sietter cast a speaking look at his Lady wife at this but she only looked at him with veiled blue eyes so he grasped the shoulder of his youngest son and pulled him forward, saying with gritted teeth, "yes and this is a Clair, too. We are all Clairs here." van Thiel looked in surprise into young Lord Clair el Maien's astonished face and then started rolling about with laughter, slapping his thighs and slapping poor Clairan on the back so hard that Clairan, who was slight of frame, stumbled forwards. Arkyll sniggered into his arm, pretending to sneeze.
Dame van Thiel was wafting them up the castle steps and down the castle corridors into a small parlour while babbling eagerly on. She had clearly determined that this was an intimate social occasion and that they should be greeted in a privy manner by the family while the officers and lesser aristocracy of their retinue were directed off to some larger more formal reception room. Arkyll walked into a room full of flowered fabrics, noticing with another snigger his father wincing because the pattern of the curtains clashed with not only the carpet but the different flowered fabric of the sofas and armchairs. Normally this was probably a comfortable sitting-room for the ladies, full of sewing-baskets and silly novels. It had been tidied into a stiff-backed propriety, the cheap ornaments people had given other people as gifts had been interspersed with gold and silver objects which belonged in more formal parts of the castle and there was only a small collection of faded poetry and philosophy books on one side table which Clairan glanced at with a raised eyebrow.
On the central table were a selection of delicate small sandwiches with the crusts cut off them and tiered plates of cakes, iced biscuits and Soomara chocolates. This was obviously Dame van Thiel's idea of a most elegant entertainment for the el Maiens and Lady el Jien. The biscuits had been iced with the Sietter insignia. Arkyll was tempted to nudge his little brother and point this out but he preserved a proper solemn dignity since he was being wafted by Dame van Thiel's excited little hands to a sofa by young Lady el Shosta's side. The two el Shosta boys nudged each other and snickered, young Lady el Shosta became convulsed with the giggles, twisting to the side and refusing to turn to him a face in which the blush was so high that it was evident beneath the pink powder.
"Sevie!" her mother said crossly, "I mean, Lady Sevianne. Do pass Lord Arkyll those cakes. She made them herself, your Ladyship, I mean Lady Arianna. So sweet as any you could buy from the pastry shop."
Dame van Thiel was still a very attractive full-figured beauty herself, obviously the source for young Lady el Shosta's sweet curving figure and the puckered cherub's bow of her lips just visible under poorly applied paint. The paint was rather better applied over Dame van Thiel's mouth. Since his naive mother was sitting closer to him and his father had been seated in an armchair too far away to kick him, Arkyll made a sweetly smiling long inspection of his prospective mother by marriage's mature beauties. Dame van Thiel lowered her lashes over her blue eyes at this with a small smirk in the corner of her mouth that made an alluring dimple dip in and out her cheek before turning to nudge Sevie's hand holding the plate of cakes towards Arkyll again. It was plain to be seen how she had succeeded in entrapping old van Thiel, who was sitting uncomfortably upright on one of the sofas, casting wistful looks at the door. He had probably been a dashing officer-aristocrat in his day: big and blond, but he was fattening up now in spite of the hard riding he still did at the hunt. The way he sat on the sofa instead of in some favourite armchair which had moulded itself to the shape of his bottom made it evident that he never spent time in this ladies' sitting-room. He was like a dog not normally allowed in the house, watching anxiously for the right moment to beg for a walk -- he was just watching for when he might say, "well my dear, perhaps I should take the menfolk to the games room for some billiards." Poor old dog. Because they wanted Arkyll to continue sitting here with Lady el Shosta he would not be allowed to go off and have snifters of spirits and a game of billiards.
"Y'know, papa," Arkyll said, his kind heart exercised by the sight of van Thiel's mournful expression when he was handed a delicate bowl of tea. "You were telling me how much you admired the arrangements in Lord van Thiel's kennels. Will you not ask him to show them you again?"
"Pleasure," van Thiel assured his fellow sworn Lord hurriedly and with great sincerity, his eye brightening. He gave Arkyll a look of intense gratitude.
Lord van Sietter shot a look of uncompromising resentment at his son, across the annoyed glances of Dame van Thiel at her husband. He replaced the piled plateful of tiny sandwiches which he had been hungrily scoffing on the table and unfolded his long lean legs from his armchair. As he turned to go out the room he gave Arkyll a piercing stare from his slanted grey eyes, Arkyll looked back with his exquisite slanted blue eyes limpid with innocent inquiry, successfully repressing his giggle.
The two el Shosta lads seized the opportunity to rush out as well, chortling loudly as soon as they were out of the door, and Arkyll was left accepting a cake from a plate shakily held out to him by a sniggering damsel who would not look him in the eye. Young Lady el Shosta was squirming uncomfortably in her seat beside him and sliding anxiously sniggering glances aside at her mother. Arkyll stopped imagining Dame van Thiel's plump bow of a mouth wrapped round his cock and took a cake from the plate with a flash of his slanted blue eye at Lady el Shosta beside him. She cast her over-painted eyes up at him briefly and then suddenly aside but not before he had seen an all too familiar look in eyes that sparkled with nervous exhilaration.
Suddenly he realised that she had not looked at the young First Sietter officers with an eye calculating which was the easiest fruit to pick from the tree. He realised that under the vivid paint on her face she was even younger than he had supposed, not much older than his baby brother. Her manner was that of the young women who would come and hover nearby if he and his peace corps chums were taking tea in a café -- women too young to go into the taverns or even the hotel bars. Mimi, Lisette and his Lieutenant Jamies Velor would start laughing and kicking him, he would kick them back but eventually he would smile at the silly maidens and they would come in a blushing bouquet of rosy cheeks holding out bad reproductions of pictures of him from the gossip-sheets and begging him to scrawl a few words on them.
This behaviour was not at all what he had expected of some younger daughter of the high nobility, confident of her social rank and brought up in a spoiled indulgence to have an arrogant appreciation of her own beauty and cleverness. He saw her hunching her shoulders around her lovely curving body and he realised with a qualm at his heart that like so many of these nervous shy maidens who stuttered to beg him for a signature to his picture, she did not even realise she was pretty. Her figure was not fashionable but he pictured her riding careless in the hunt with her family or fishing the rivers with a bunch of young friends, the unselfconscious smile curving her pouted cherub's bow of a mouth with no paint on it and her shoulders throwing back to cast the line so that her round bosom lifted. He thought of her dancing shyly with the young men who would be discouraged from becoming intimate with her and fretting that they did not come asking for her hand because there was something unattractive about her, rather than something about her mother's repressive eye which made them go elsewhere for a dancing partner. She would be eaten up by some of the sons of the high nobility like the tea-time treats her mother was anxiously offering his mother.
His mother had with an effort started a conversation about stitching (which bored her dreadfully although she turned it out supremely well). Arkyll was about to engage Lady el Shosta in some light chit-chat when he saw with a qualm his young brother Clair shift in the sofa opposite and lean forward, pushing to the side of his plate a biscuit of which he had taken one bite before discarding it as inedible.
Clair gravely fixed the Lady el Shosta with his serious grey eye. He was a slender scholar with the delicate el Maien frame and the same features as their sister Arrie's but he had dark hair which he kept cut shorter than the fashion while she was blonde and they rarely looked alike because Arrie almost always had a cold lack of expression on her face (except when she had just sold you down the river to your mother when an hideously beautiful joy would make her face light up like a pale Angel's). Clair's face was mobile with gentle humour and affection and when thinking something through he would frequently stick his tongue out of the corner of his mouth in a peculiarly appealing manner.
"Have you read a good book lately?" Clair inquired in a tone of polite interest. "I see you have Piria's classic text on the mundane here," he added, picking up one of the faded volumes on the side table.
Arkyll groaned to himself. It was clearly something that had been suggested to him when he complained that he had no idea what to say to people who did not know anything about architecture or agriculture, V'lava's darker poems or Hyaline's laughing watercolours or where to go at court for a tip-top meal of P'shan sweetly spiced delicacies and how to get a table there since that restaurant was always full.
"Um, such lovely cakes!" Arkyll said loudly but the unfortunate young woman was giggling now and saying, while sliding her eyes at her mother, "Gracious Angels! I do not have time for books, what with the stitching and cleaning stuff and helping my mother with the household, whatever. I swear, I should like a nice rest with a book."
An appalled look came into Clair's all too expressive face, Arkyll hurriedy repeated his compliment about the cakes but she was only sniggering and giggling at Clair's horrified expression.
Such nonsense. He knew it well, she was obviously a lazy pussy-cat who snuck off from any cleaning of ornaments or flower-arranging they made her do in order to hide in some rarely used room and stick her head in dreadful novels about brigands or pirates carrying off fainting maidens and then improbably refusing to stain their honour, preferring to die in their chaste arms when their cruel vengeful fathers caught up with the unhappy couple. At the least of it she had not started recounting one of these to his highly intelligent brother who would have been even more revolted than he was to imagine she did not read at all. Arkyll sat politely inclining his head to the sniggering maiden by his side, repressing his own sniggers and wishing Hanya had been in the frame of mind to appreciate a long hilarious letter about it all.
Actually the cakes were light and sweet, very tasty.
Lying with his head on his arms thrown back onto the pillows of his bed staring at the canopy above him, Arkyll heard a gentle tapping on his door. When he lifted his head and called out, "Halloo!" Clair opened the door and came to sit on the bed beside him, looking at him in an hilariously stern solemn manner. Arkyll lay back in his pillows, raising one dark eyebrow in question over his warmly affectionate slanted blue eye.
"Arkyllan," Clair said in a voice of quivering appeal. "You are not truly going to offer for that ... that person are you?"
Arkyll laughed. "C'mon, Clairan, gimme rein," he said lazily.
"I prithou!" Clair said, still intent in appeal. "You cannot seriously want to offer for ... that silly bitch!"
"You are being very rude," Arkyll said sternly, leaning up on his elbow in annoyance at this. "Shut it, Clairan. You do not understand about these matters."
"Yes I do!" Clair said. Arkyll saw in consternation that his lip was quivering. "I know that mama wants van Thiel's counter for her programme of proposals. I know how many people will benefit, so much poverty may be weeded out, but I beg it of you, Arkyllan, not to sacrifice your own happiness for that." The tears suddenly spilled from his round grey eyes. Arkyll sat up quickly and gave him a soft buffet on the shoulder before putting an arm out for Clair to lean in to his shoulder.
"Stop being a goose," he said, giving his brother's cropped head of hair a casual caress. "I am not going to offer for her. She is rather young, eh? They just want me to pretend to be interested then she can go off to court and the other silly sons of the high nobility will come chasing her. There now, shut it, you soppy bit of biscuit. Gimme rein."
"I was so worried!" Clair cried, sobbing now with relief. "C'mon, Arkyllan, confess it. She is a silly bitch."
"I shall not say such a cruel thing about anyone," Arkyll said angrily. "Never mind a ... shy and sweet young woman who has not been brought up to the high standard of discussion and morals which we have."
"Well it is not nearly so cruel as the things Arrie will say if you bring home such a bird-brain," Clair pointed out, wiping his sleeve over his eyes.
A quiver of apprehension went through Arkyll only to imagine what his sister would do to some silly bitch like Lady el Shosta if she were ever brought in a wedding coach to be the Lady wife of el Maien van Sietter. How fortunate that he was not going to marry her -- for her!
"Why do people imagine mama and papa would make you take someone like that?" Clair demanded indignantly, "when they let Hanya and Arrie choose to marry each other for love."
Arkyll laughed. "Han does not have to think about who he marries," he said. "He is not of the high nobility, silly goose. He is a Knight."
Clair looked surprised to realise that the oldest brother under whose affectionate eye he and Arrie had always run about was not after all the same as they were. He said slowly, "but Arrie. Papa was only fretting because Han was riding to war direct from the honeymoon. He never tried to put up Arrie like some disgusting piece of meat for sale."
Arkyll smiled. "No," he said, "not papa. But mama was hoping to bestow her on Stevan el T'fel van P'shan."
"What?!" Clair cried indignantly. "That kid who showed off about his skating when we went up to P'shan for the winter sports! He is even younger than me."
"He was a skilful sportsman even then," Arkyll answered. "That was a long time ago. He is a young man now. In a two-three years they will send him to someone's army. He will probably go to be cousin Vadya's junior officer. He is some years younger than Arrie but he is an oldest son and will inherit what is the wealthiest region in the country. She would have suited the el T'fels, she is a woman of high honour and el T'fel would give the glove if any man of slack morals so much as looked at her. She would have helped them with the defence of the region and she liked the winter sports almost as much as she loves her horses."
He watched Clair think about young van P'shan with whom they had once enjoyed an happy holiday playing at the winter sports in the H'velst Mountains. The el T'fels with their slanted dark Northern eyes and thin wiry frames made for dashing young officers. He watched Clair think about Stevan el T'fel grown up and wearing the double-breasted black tunic with blue details of the H'las army.
"Why do they not palm off that silly girl on el T'fel," Clair demanded crossly.
Arkyll smiled patiently and said, "because she is a silly girl. I mean young woman. She must get someone serious like me showing an interest in her to make them think she is something more than a silly woman." He knew the proud van P'shan family would never look at Lady Sevianne el Shosta van Thiel.