tagSci-Fi & FantasyTorgan Wine Ch. 21

Torgan Wine Ch. 21


With thanks to Todger65 for helping edit another chapter!


The Daga's private bath was not what Isonei expected. The floor as they entered was a mosaic of small, green stones that reminded her vaguely of the mural on her Daga's wall. No sooner had she thought that, Onsh-Lothlaerith led her through a room that made her stop and stare in shock. It was almost exactly like the room the ceremony had taken place in at her Daga's house, or at least it should have been.

The large mural was scored as if someone had attacked the wall and the colors had been allowed to fade. Onsh-Lothlaerith offered an explanation without her needing to ask.

"This was once our home. When the daughter became Daga she had to rebuild the city and the house. She chose to build a new one into the cliff face by the gate. The crypts were remade and the ashes of the elder Dagas moved. Our home was made into something that the people of our city could all enjoy. We are close to our people, closer than most other Dagas."

Isonei took her eyes from the mural to look at Onsh-Lothlaerith. The pride and pain in his face prompted her to embrace him as she had Daga Gildith.

"Why are you embracing me?" His question surprised her as much as it seemed her embrace surprised him.

Taking a breath and stepping back she looked up at him with a rueful smile. "Your face. When my heart hurts that way I need to," she laughed as he stepped forward and embraced her, "to be held." She wrapped her arms around him again and rubbed his back under his cloak.

"You are sweet, little thorned blossom."

"Overly sweet as honey wine?" Isonei teased pulling away from him.

"Lerian wine has a richer flavor and more depth." Onsh gently led her through the room.

"Lerian wine pleases, yes. But the wine my Daga pleases, the wine of House Ernelis, is best." She saw the realization dawn on his face and grinned.

"You introduced yourself as Isonei of House Ernelis. Your family makes that wine?"

"Yes. It is my father's wine. His best has apples." She made a face as if she had tasted something tart.

"His best has sour apples in it?" He looked interested. "Sour apples and honey?"

"Yes. But only a little."

"No other wine pleases you as much?" Onsh removed his cloak and took both of hers, handing them to the attendant waiting by the steaming pool and pair of washing seats with soaps arranged between them.

"Flower wine pleases. It is uhhmm..." Miming two things well apart from each other she watched him smile.

"They're very different but you like them both. Your father's wine is best, however."

"Yes! Thank you."

"You're trying very hard to speak Lerian to me. Why is that?" He began to undress turning away from her.

"The room. The wall. Uhhmm..."

He turned his face to her with a smile, "Seeing the wall makes you feel as though you should be speaking Lerian. While you stay you'll walk through that room every time you bathe. Your Lerian will improve quickly, I think."

Isonei made a face at him and his eyes shimmered. Abruptly, he made a face back, wrinkling his nose and peeling back his lips in an exaggerated snarl. Her mouth dropped open and she made a loud scandalized sound, stepping toward him to poke him in the side. His laughter echoed in the bath as he turned again and stripped off his jerkin and shirt.

"Little blossom, you need to undress to bathe."

"Yes." She sighed. "I thought the baths were uhhmm different."

"You thought we'd be bathing separately." Onsh's disappointment was palpable.

"Yes. It will not please my Draeseth." Isonei hesitated before beginning to unfasten her dress and letting herself switch back to Aran, "He doesn't need to be jealous. I keep my word. But he and I have a lack of trust on some matters."

"You'll tell him about bathing with me? Will you tell him if we drink and dance?"

"Of course." Stepping out of her overdress she gave it to the attendant. "I'm not doing anything wrong and concealing my actions would give him a reason to doubt that."

"You have a lack of trust... you're willing to travel with him to Torga but you don't trust him?" Naked, he moved to one of the washing seats and chose a soap.

Isonei joined him a moment later, to choose the soap she was required to face his bare back as he sat washing. His grey skin was a slightly darker shade than her Daga's and he was undeniably well built. The long wet hair that hung down his back made her want to move it aside so that she could have a better view.

"You're ignoring my question?" At his displeased sounding question she took her soap and turned around, reminding herself silently that desire is a choice.

"I trust him not to harm me, I trust him to keep me safe... but I," she sighed and shook her head as she began to wash. "I don't know if I can trust him not to hurt my heart. There was an incident with a gift. It might have been a misunderstanding but it was just too painful. I don't know how it can be mended but I'm giving him the chance to try."

"I imagine he feels the same. He's afraid to trust you not to hurt his heart because you're willing to... bathe with other men."

"He should know that desire is a choice. It bothered him that I've been with other men but I explained that he doesn't have to be concerned. I've chosen to be with him and I choose to give him my desire. Being exclusive is difficult but I take it seriously. We can bathe together because I won't give you that desire."

"And what happens at the next Festival of whatever Goddess you worship? Will you still choose to give him your desire?"

"I don't know." She thought about that as she washed and rinsed. "I'm still afraid of being with just one man. Why risk making the wrong choice and being forced to remain exclusive to someone when you could choose to have an arrangement instead? It makes so much more sense."

"Do you care for him?"

"Yes. Yes, I do care for him. I adore him. But he isn't the only one I adore. I'm fond of Andnaeuth as well. It isn't the same, not-not really but..."

"And if you can't have them both?"

Having finished washing and rinsing she rose and walked toward the pool leaving him sitting on his washing seat. "If it doesn't feel right to continue being exclusive with Draeseth I won't agree to it. If he needs it I'll let him go so that he can find the happiness he deserves. He's a good man with a good heart."

"You'll return to your Daga if you choose to leave him?" Onsh rinsed and joined her in the steaming water.

"Of course. My home is with Liadith."

"And when your Daga tries to find you a match?" His green eyes studied her.

"Any prospective match would have to be patient and able to give me what I need..." Isonei tapped over her heart with a bitter smile, "That I don't know what that is... will make it a difficult task."

Onsh frowned and then nodded slowly. "You shouldn't be with someone you can't trust, daughter of Liadith. If he is not worthy of your heart, if you think he will shatter it, you should release him now and let him seek a woman who will find him worthy."

The words struck a chord within her and she stared into the middle distance as she contemplated them. When it was phrased that way... Bringing her gaze back, she glanced at Onsh noticing his eyes glued to the place her breasts met the water.

"That is something I have never seen before." Isonei adjusted herself so that more of the water covered her and his eyes met hers in startlement. "A Lerian man staring at breasts."

His face flushed as he looked away, falling into its displeased default expression. "I was staring at the seriousness of your face and my eyes strayed."

"Mm. I see." She tried not to laugh as his flush deepened. "How many questions have you asked me tonight? A dozen easily, I think?"

He turned his head slightly toward her again and his green eyes were shimmering at her playful tone. "Not so many."

"I think it's my turn." Isonei gave him a mischievous smile.

"What do you want to know of me, daughter of Liadith?" Onsh turned toward her again, and his expression relaxed.

"When we left your father's house, the man you gave orders to, almost seemed scandalized you wanted to drink and dance with me, why?"

The Lerian narrowed his eyes and frowned before looking away from her again.

"And you sulk!" She grinned at him. "Now I have to know."

"There are... women that I drink with." He paused. "Occasionally."

"I take it you're intimate with them and embarrassed to discuss it?" It was almost impossible to contain her glee at his discomfiture.

"Yes. It's concerning that you're so willing to discuss it." He snapped and crossed his arms over his smooth grey chest.

"Is it? I'm not ashamed of any of the men I've taken to bed. There was at least one I wish I hadn't but that's still a lesson learned and not worth being ashamed of." Isonei smiled at him encouragingly as he glanced at her to judge her sincerity. "Some lessons are much more pleasant than others. But if you're doing it right, you learn something from everyone you're with."

"You could learn something from the Torgan?" He sounded incredulous.

"I've learned a lot from him already, some of the things that man does are... impressive. Things I didn't know to ask for, things that I didn't know would be enjoyable..." She watched the way his eyes dipped back down to where the water met her skin at the curve of her breasts. "What have you learned from your occasional drinking partners?"

"I..." The sound of a door made him close his eyes and scowl at the ceiling.

Purposeful footsteps and the sound of water were all that could be heard as Isonei looked to the doorway.

"Onsh-Lothlaerith... I intended to travel with you to bathe but when I sought you I was told you had left to bathe with the daughter of Liadith. And that you intend to take her drinking and dancing afterward." There was a faintly amused edge to the Daga's stern tone. "Did you rouse her from her bed for this?"

"No father. She was awake and wandering the house." His words were followed by silence.

"Is it common for you both to be awake at night?" Isonei teased after a moment.

"What woke you daughter of Liadith? It would pain me if some fault in my hospitality caused you to lose sleep."

"Your hospitality is flawless Daga Lothlaerith. I've been having bad dreams... I would say for days but I haven't been sleeping well enough to dream every night."

"Caeridith said you were sleeping in the carriage when you... encountered his son." The Daga allowed the attendant to undress him, standing with his back to the pool.

"Yes." She tilted her head as Onsh-Lothlaerith gave her a questioning look and inched closer. "How is Hesh-Caeridith?"

The Daga drew in a slow breath, "He is mortified that someone he treated so poorly would do all she could and incur the wrath of her travelling companion to spare him justifiable punishment. Death would have been the punishment I levied against him for his actions."

"He behaved poorly but he didn't deserve to die for it. And I have no need to fear Draeseth's anger, he may raise his voice but he would never harm me."

"He would raise his voice to you?" Onsh scowled and his eyes flickered with dangerous shades of green.

"It may be difficult to imagine, Onsh-Lothlaerith, but I can be infuriating sometimes." Isonei returned his stern gaze. "I prevented him from killing a boy who dragged me from the carriage into the cold and rain without a cloak, held a knife to me so firmly it cut my dress and spoke almost gleefully of what he anticipated would be my death at Liadith's gate and how he intended to march me there in the rain."

The look on Onsh-Lothlaerith's face made her shrink against the side of the pool.

"I was told that Onsh-Caeridith behaved little better." The Daga seated himself on the washing stool and beckoned her over. "Come help an old man wash, dear Isonei."

She left the water with relief. Draeseth could scowl impressively, but Onsh-Lothlaerith was somehow more intimidating.

"Did you bathe with your Daga as a child?"

"No, I occasionally bathed with Daga Gildith's daughters but not with my Daga or Onsh-Liadith."

The hovering attendant poured some soap in her hands to wash his long thinning hair, so pale a yellow it was almost white. His face looked blissful as she took her time massaging his scalp, washing and rinsing his hair thoroughly. She washed his neck and shoulders, and lightly haired chest. It wasn't hard to imagine him as a younger man; his slim form still seemed strong.

"My Zentha never liked washing me when I was unshaven." He sighed as she rinsed his upper body.

"Unshaven?" Isonei knelt next to him to begin washing his feet and lower legs. "I don't know that word."

"When I had not removed the hair from my body. As from my face." He smiled at her in amusement. "I'm told the men on the southern border have less hair to remove. That you wouldn't know the word is somehow amusing, my dear Isonei."

"Why would you remove it? Not many Aran men have it and it's fascinating. It doesn't look like it should be soft, but it is." She smiled up at him as he touched her face gently.

"The Torgan doesn't shave more than his face?"

"I didn't realize he was removing hair from his face, I haven't seen him do it. I know it gets rough to the touch sometimes; that also fascinates me." Isonei laughed at the way he tapped at her nose. "I find the hair on his body beautiful. I wouldn't ask him to remove it."

"You don't find Onsh-Lothlaerith's appearance more pleasing?" Daga Lothlaerith turned her head toward the intently staring Onsh.

"Both are very beautiful men."

"I can allow my hair to grow if it would please you." The fiery green of his eyes was entrancing and the intensity of his gaze made something in her belly flutter.

Taking a deep breath she had to look away and remind herself again that desire is a choice.

The Daga laughed softly, turning her face back to him. "You would be well-suited to each other. I have already sent word to Liadith that you will be staying and that we wish for you to be offered. His response will come within days."

Isonei looked up at the man, aghast. "Daga Lothlaerith-"

"You are exclusive with the Torgan for several more months. I understand. But you must understand, a daughter does not leave Leria. He is not meant for you."

"I can't agree to-"

"If she doesn't wish to stay until she can choose to consider me, she should be allowed to go back to Liadith. It would give me time to prepare and allow Liadith to provide her with a proper teacher so that we can converse in the same tongue." Onsh-Lothlaerith sounded as if the matter were already resolved.

"You will be allowed time to speak to the Torgan before he leaves. You may tell them in the morning, their things and servants will be sent across to them when they arrive."

Closing her eyes and covering her face, Isonei bowed her head. This wasn't how this was supposed to happen.

"You will not pass through the gate without the permission of the Daga Lothlaerith." He cupped her face pushing his hands under her own and forcing her to look up. "You do not have my permission to leave Leria, daughter of Liadith. Do you understand?"

"I... I understand Daga Lothlaerith. I will not pass under your gate without your permission." Her desire to drink and dance had faded, finding the inn Draeseth was staying in felt wretchedly urgent. "May I go speak with him now? He's going to be upset."

Daga Lothlaerith frowned and released her face, nodding to the attendant. He took over washing the Daga after pointing to what looked like one of the changing rooms from the large baths. As she dried herself completely and began to dress she tried not to listen to the hushed conversation happening not far from her. Onsh-Lothlaerith sounded furious.

"Why did you have to join us? She was enjoying my company and now she wants to go to him."

"She needs to know that she cannot leave with him, and I need to know that you are well-matched."

"You couldn't wait until morning and give me this one night?"

"Forgive me Zenaethe. I could not."

There was a pause and she tried to focus on her clothes and dressing instead of the sudden nervous feeling that the Daga might still be ill, slipping on the soft knee high boots that had been provided for her before pulling on the overdress. It was another winter gown but it was pale grey and cream with small embroidered flowers of a very dark red across the bust. It was apparently from someone much closer to her own size than Onsh's mother as it fit surprisingly well, the length was just a bit too long, she'd have to be careful not to trip on it.

"Did you hear us?" Onsh was leaning against the edge of the open doorway.

"I didn't mean to, but yes." Isonei glanced at him over her shoulder as he began to fasten her dress in the back. Very gently she chided him, "You should be kinder to your father."

"You're not happy with him either." He gave her a sharp look.

"No, but I think my Daga would give a great deal to be able to sit with his father and share a glass of wine again. They sometimes had difficulty... I know they argued before..." She sighed and faced away from him again.

"If you will give me just one dance, daughter of Liadith, I will have you escorted to the Torgan's inn and I promise you I will spend the rest of the night being kind to my father." He breathed the words behind her ear and she nodded in response. Almost brusquely he ordered, "Go wait for me in the room you liked so much, little blossom."

At his command she felt her lips twisting and she couldn't resist teasing, turning her head only slightly. "What was it he said? 'As you will it, Commander?'"

"Little thorned blossom, I hope you stay if only to acclimate me to your sting." Onsh's teasing words were followed by a kiss behind her ear.

She felt her face flush.


Isonei was studying the mural when Onsh-Lothlaerith finally joined her. He looked solemn dressed in his uniform with his blood colored sash across his chest, but his face softened as he saw her standing and waiting patiently.

"I think my father would keep you to himself if he were a few years younger. You haven't been here an entire day and he may like you better than he likes me."

Nodding and putting on a serious expression she pretended to commiserate. "Arissa scolded, 'You are the elder Daga's favorite and you try to be my father's favorite as well?' I said uhhmm 'if you were more nice you could be favorite.'" She grinned as his lips twitched ruining his sour expression. "It is not hard to be nice."

"You're the elder Daga's favorite?" He narrowed his eyes and approached.

"No, but my Daga says that. His father loves him as much but he cannot sit still and uhhmm..."

"He doesn't soak in his father's affection as you do?"

"Yes." She nodded with a smile.

"Why is your hair down?" Onsh wrapped a strand of her hair around his finger.

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