tagSci-Fi & FantasyTorgan Wine Ch. 30

Torgan Wine Ch. 30

byIsemay©

Many thanks to Todger65 for editing and Nthusiastic for beta reading and making suggestions!

*****

To Isonei's delight Halloc Aurim gave permission to stay for the feast. The men of the village organized a small bonfire for the occasion with some bales of moldy hay and old planks while the women prepared the meal.

Isonei passed the time learning the Torgan version of The Merciful Men of Mun from Brother Jannun. It seemed to entertain the village children tremendously, some giggled at her, and some tried to help her get the words right but twisting her tongue around the Torgan language was difficult and the results amused even Halloc Aurim.

The meal itself was filling and hearty. Not a drop of wine or a single caper had gone into its preparation. The beef stew was heavy on vegetables, mushrooms, and most peculiarly some sort of grain. The portions were not large but she still only barely managed to finish her bowl. One of the older women hovered around her insisting she try to eat bread and butter as well, and to try the simple apple tarts. Halloc Aurim seemed to approve and whatever he said to the woman made her look very proud.

After the meal several of the children were shooed in front of the smoky fire to sing. The only thing to make the evening more perfect would have been dancing. Isonei smiled at the children adoringly and told Brother Jannun, "I feel more welcome here than I do in the Keep. These are such wonderful, joyful people."

He translated for Halloc Aurim and the people who heard seemed almost ready to burst with pride. The Halloc's response garnered him a few sharp looks, and Brother Jannun seemed hesitant to translate.

"He says ahh, perhaps, if you like them, you would give them a ahh a place to learn."

She blinked. "A school? They don't have a school?"

Brother Jannun shook his head slowly.

"And Draeseth is spending so much on gifts and dresses? My father's father, Lord Ilosith, always said clever people and good roads will get you farther than parties and jewels. They're a better investment. I can try to speak with his Highness but he prefers to listen to Lislora on things that matter." Isonei frowned at Jannun's suddenly clenched jaw, and she could hear the anger in his voice as he spoke to Halloc Aurim.

The Halloc smiled faintly. He spoke at length above the muttering that had begun and eyes turned to her with surprise. She looked expectantly at Brother Jannun.

"He says," the priest cleared his throat briefly, "Prince Draeseth took you from the Aran Prince. You would have been Queen." Jannun looked almost stunned as she nodded with a sad smile. "You are ahh strange because you are Aran, but you," he gestured to his chest, "this is for a King. Generous. Kind. If you ask ahh you could learn to be Sellac."

"Sellac?" Isonei tilted her head.

"As the Halloc, but a woman. With respect." Jannun nodded.

The discussion that had begun around the Halloc while Jannun was speaking was getting louder and was clearly becoming an argument.

"What's wrong?"

Jannun exhaled and frowned at them. "Some think he ahh should not say to you. You should fight and Lislora..." He made a shooing motion.

The quarreling stopped as she began to laugh. "Have you seen Lislora? It would be like one of the smaller children trying to fight Halloc Aurim. In Ara a Lady doesn't run the household, a servant does. Draeseth relies on Lislora to do that and the dozens of other things that I can't do because I lack the language or the Torgan etiquette. He views me as pretty and useless." She gave Halloc Aurim a bitter smile, "He isn't wrong. My skills lie in charming and persuading, peacemaking and cooling tempers. Draeseth needs a woman like Lislora; he chose poorly when he stole me away."

The Halloc's eyes glinted as Jannun translated. But he didn't have time to respond, the thundering sound of hoof beats made everyone peer into the darkness toward the road. Draeseth and a half dozen of his guards appeared as if conjured and the scowling Prince snarled something at the Halloc as he dismounted.

Villagers scattered, the older woman who had been hovering over her and encouraging her to eat took Isonei by the arm and hurried with her into one of the houses. While she and the others gathered by the small window, Isonei took the opportunity to pull the slip of paper from the purse and put it into her boot, wiggling her leg and foot as much as she could trying to make sure it slipped down.

Once it seemed safely stowed she tried to peer out of the window as well. The sight of Draeseth squared off against the Halloc as if he intended to strike him sent her scurrying for the door. As she opened it the women protested loudly, but she ignored them moving purposefully toward the pair.

"Draeseth-"

"Go back into the house, wife. He intends to steal you. This will be settled now."

"May the Gods save me from your jealousy." Isonei put herself squarely between the two of them tilting her chin up as she looked him in the eyes. "Did I not promise to cleave to you when you gave Xago of Mun his freedom? We have an Arrangement."

Draeseth's scowl didn't soften but he brought this hand up to curl around the side of her neck and brushed his thumb up and down her throat. "We do. But the contract I kept has been stolen..." His face softened as he took in her surprise.

"Stolen? It can be rewritten if it needs to be. Does your father still have his copy?"

The Halloc spoke icily behind her and she frowned, "How badly did you insult him? He works very hard to help those who need it. If it's too great you might offer to help him give the people here a school or anything else they might need more urgently."

The large Torgan in front of her made a soft sound in his throat. "He asked if you were offering your services as a peacemaker." Turning his attention to the Halloc, he spoke contritely and stepped around her to kneel.

Halloc Aurim offered a long frosty sounding response, gesturing toward Isonei several times as the priests and some of the bolder villagers ventured out of various houses.

Draeseth stood and bowed deeply, offering another contrite response that included the name Ernelis. "They will have a school, my Duchess. He asks that it be dedicated to your father's noble House for teaching you such generosity. We will pay for it."

"The village schools on the land my father owns teach many things, beekeeping among them. The children keep school hives and make honey cakes once a year to sell." She smiled at Draeseth's baffled frown. "They raise part of the money to maintain their schools, my father always doubles what they earn and if they have more than they need for supplies and the care of the building, the remaining money is used for a celebration for the children. They work very hard to raise the money, if only to have a celebration. And you would be surprised how well they take care of their schools."

His baffled frown faded and he inclined his head. "That is clever." Draeseth took her hand and kissed the backs of her fingers before relaying her words to the Halloc.

The Halloc's response prompted him to bow again before he barked an order at one of the tentatively approaching guards. The Prince's horse was fetched and Isonei was swept onto it, held tightly as Draeseth rode briskly back toward the Keep.

After a time of silence, Draeseth spoke softly, "The Halloc said a man who prefers water will not appreciate fine wine. I have taken a wife whose value I do not understand. You were not intended to maintain a house and content yourself with the isolation of my Keep. You were meant to charm Courts and see to the needs of your people. I stole a queen and I favor a baroness over her because she is too rich for me."

"There is nothing wrong with preferring water to wine."

"No," he pressed a kiss into her hair. "The choice he gave me is to become a better man and learn your value or to release you to those who can see it."

"Over dinner, he said with training I would make a good Sellac."

"You would be a fine Sellac. And I would be the fool who chose a baroness over a creature who can shake the despair from a village with a few kind words and a smile." His tone was sour and his grip on her tightened.

Soothingly she caressed his arms and reassured him, "I also used the money you gave me to spend. That probably helped a great deal." She refrained from reminding him she had a soft spot in her heart for fools.

"You spent it on wood and food?" He sounded pleased.

"Of course, and I think medicines. I sent one of the men with the cart to get whatever they required. And Brother Jannun said the glassmith heard what I asked of them and gave them tokens of healing as gifts."

"What did you ask of them?" Draeseth breathed the question into her hair between kisses.

"That anyone who accepted something the money bought would do something kind for someone else, something kind for kindness sake."

"He wishes to repay you for your kindness. You will change the reputation of the Torga Kroscur if I allow you beyond my Keep, my jewel." He exhaled pressing his face against the back of her head. "But you will do it well guarded and with Krouth at your side. I cannot risk you."

"I thought you were... that you had chosen Lislora?"

"You have told me often, desire is a choice. For a moment I faltered and gave it to another, but I have recovered my senses, my Duchess. I choose to give my desire to you. Lislora may leave if she wishes. I will not part with you."

Closing her eyes she took a deep breath. If he couldn't be persuaded to part with her, he couldn't be persuaded to send her home. Without help she would be here until the day she died.

"You are not pleased?" He brushed his lips over her ear.

"I can't give you what you need. I don't know how to run a household or-"

"A servant can be found." His deep voice was almost soothing. "As long as I have you, it will be enough."

°°°°°°°°°°

Their arrival at the Keep was quiet. It seemed that most of the servants had gone back to their own homes for the evening. Isonei hung her cloak and noticed for the first time that it had gotten a little dirty.

Before she could say anything Draeseth reassured her, "I will ask Krouth to have it cleaned tomorrow."

"Thank you. I'm very fond of it."

"Brother Odgar will be pleased to hear it." He pulled her close again and kissed her head. "Will you come with me in the morning for prayers?"

"You usually go with Lislora. I don't want-"

"I want to go with you. If you would prefer it I will have Krouth read the prayers in my room and you may sit apart from us and watch, but I would have you there."

"I would prefer it in your room." She tentatively wrapped her arms around his waist. "But I don't want you to get into trouble."

Draeseth laughed softly in his throat. "They will understand."

Isonei tried to stifle a yawn.

"My sweet wife, let me take you to bed. Sleep next to me again."

A yawn wrenched itself out of her and she smiled up at him sheepishly. "I still need to wash first and I think Krouth was considering giving me a glass of Kurebra to make certain I don't fall ill."

"That seems wise." He ran a finger along her jaw to her chin. "Go to your rooms. I will speak with Krouth and have water and Kurebra sent to you before I fetch you for bed."

"That would be lovely." She let him press a gentle kiss to her lips before she obediently went to her rooms.

Once inside them she walked purposefully to her bedroom and closed the door. Taking a seat at her vanity she watched the door as she pulled off her boots. The slip of paper had to be shaken out, and she folded it open curiously.

Her breath caught as she recognized the hands it was written in. Both her father and her Daga had written the few words on the small slip of paper. 'All is forgiven, come home to us,' stood in her father's familiar Aran script. In Lerian, 'You are loved daughter of Liadith. Your Daga commands you to come home.' She kissed the paper twice.

How she could get home was still the difficult part. Holding the paper in her hands she murmured a prayer, "Sweet Tyhnoth, dour Tyhnoth, your mother's foolish child thanks you for this comfort with all her heart. Fearsome Teth I beg you again for your strength and fierceness, and the wit to use it well. Maeralya, mother of all, your child wants to go home and cannot see the way. Please-"

The sound of the door opening stopped her words and she looked up with apprehension. A put upon maid who looked as if she'd been roused from her bed had pushed open the door before bending to pick up the basin full of soaps and a towel and bringing it in. She bustled back out again immediately.

With her heart pounding, Isonei opened the small drawer that held her hair pins and tucked the slip of paper beneath them. Out of sight but in a place she could get to it again without drawing attention, her sisters had taught her that. She began to pull down her hair and put the pins in, finishing as Krouth came in with one of the pitchers of hot water.

"His Highness will have the Kurebra for you, your Grace." The slim Torgan seemed tired as he poured the water into the basin, his shoulders slightly slumped and his movements less precise than usual.

"Is something wrong Krouth?"

He rubbed his temple for a moment before replying, "No, your Grace."

"Sit." She stood, frowning at him with concern as he gave her a puzzled look. "You don't look well."

"It's nothing, your Grace." Krouth's lips twisted slightly. "Thank you for your concern."

"My brother Geroth sometimes got headaches, his mother used to rub his head with oil of lavendela and make him drink tea from the sea dew flower."

"I will have tea made, your Grace. The oil is too expensive."

"Sit. Please." Isonei gestured to the chair and he grudgingly sat. He nearly leapt out of it when she stepped behind him and touched his temples. "Sit still, please."

Rubbing gently in a circular motion she gradually worked her way back as she'd seen her mother do, tilting his head slightly forward as she came to the base of his skull. Krouth exhaled slowly, relaxing under her hands as she worked her way forward again. After a few moments she glanced up and saw Draeseth standing sourly in the doorway.

In a firm but quiet tone she explained herself, not stopping her gentle massaging, "He has a headache, my mother did this for my brother Geroth and I insisted. Krouth is family."

Draeseth's face softened and in a low tone said something in Torgan to the man who was tensing again under her fingers. Krouth relaxed slightly but gingerly rose from the chair nonetheless responding in the same.

As he moved to the door she reminded him, "Don't forget your tea."

"Yes, your Grace."

"His tea?" Draeseth came closer to kiss her hair.

"My mother always made Geroth drink tea from the sea dew flower afterward. She also used oil of lavendela when she rubbed his head, Krouth says that's too expensive here."

He made an amused sound in his throat, tilting her face up. "For a child the expense could be justified."

"My father has fields of lavendela; the oil is one of the other things that puts coin in my family's coffers." Isonei gave him a small smile. "We're proudest of our wine but House Ernelis has a great many things to be proud of."

"I hope our children will be as proud of me as you are of your father." Draeseth stooped, stealing an urgent kiss. "Let me wash you. I need to touch my kind and loving wife." Seeming to sense her hesitation he stepped back and stripped himself of his tunics, rolling his shoulders back with a mischievous smile, "I will not fight fair."

"You are too beautiful and too wicked to bear." She felt her lips twisting with amusement.

It was as if a little voice whispered in her ear, there was no going home tonight, it would hurt nothing to enjoy him. Isonei stepped forward to curl her fingers in the dark hair of his chest as his smile widened into a grin.

"No hairless Aran could hold your attention, woman."

"We aren't entirely hairless." She teased back, leaning to kiss his grey-green skin and playfully rub her face into his chest hair.

He purred in Torgan and twined his fingers in her hair pressing her face more closely against him for a moment before gently pushing her back and unfastening her overdress. Her layers came off quickly, and he knelt to strip her warm stockings and small clothes from her kissing her thighs and slightly rounded, food stuffed belly.

"You ate well at the village?"

"A very motherly woman kept insisting I eat more and the Halloc encouraged her. The stew they served was very good; I think you'd have liked it." Isonei stroked his hair as he gave her a bemused look.

"I can find a motherly woman to keep the household. If I need to I can make one of her duties encouraging you to eat."

"You'd have to have all of my dresses let back out." She traced the curved scar around his left eye as his hands roamed up and down her legs.

"It would be worth the expense." Draeseth began washing her from the basin and leaving gentle kisses on every freshly washed part of her. He washed her sex last and pushed her back on the bed to press his eager mouth to her. His tongue parting her folds and exploring them hungrily as he squeezed her hips.

"Mmm, my Draeseth, that's..." Her back arched and she buried her fingers in his hair as his lips teased her most sensitive spot before giving her gentle suction and lightly teasing his tongue around and brushing it across in a careful rhythm. As he slowly increased the pressure her hips began to grind urgently against his mouth and her thighs clamped to his head. "Please, mmnn please yes..."

His fingers slipping into her wet sex felt divine as he curled them and rubbed in just the right place making her thighs tremble and her sex tighten around his fingers. Draeseth groaned, letting her feel the hint of teeth. The sensations pushed her over the edge, making her pant and writhe as she let her release wash over her, her skin tingling and flushing.

"My Draeseth, mmm, my Draeseth." Isonei massaged his head as he let his tongue delve into her soaked sex. "My flower wine."

He pulled away and tugged desperately at his pants as she smiled up at him. "I need, woman."

She slipped from the bed and took the cloth running it teasingly down his leg, kneeling to kiss his thigh. "Let me wash you, I want to..." Her brow furrowed, he smelled as if he'd already had sex.

The Torgan yanked her up hurriedly, "After."

"Have you taken someone else to bed?"

Draeseth's face flushed as he clenched his jaw and she knew she was right.

"Tell me, I won't be angry." Isonei stepped back and knelt again beginning to wash between his thighs gently but thoroughly.

His jaw relaxed and his embarrassment faded to puzzlement, tentatively he reached down to caress her hair. "I... I told you I faltered."

"You were hoping I wouldn't notice you hadn't washed afterward?" She gave him a pointed look and he flushed again.

"Washing is not always on my mind, woman." He brushed the back of his hand over her cheek. "I went to find the contract afterward to be certain I had not violated it. I was-"

"You left her alone afterward?" Isonei stopped washing him and frowned.

"She wished to pray afterward, without me. It was not... not what we had hoped." Draeseth took the cloth from her and began to wash himself with less gentleness than she had been showing him.

Perching on the edge of the bed she watched him until he had finished and then moved back to sit by her pillows patting the place next to her. "Tell me about it."

"You would have me speak of bedding another while I am naked in your bed?" He pulled her legs toward the foot of the bed and then climbed on top of her, kissing her face and pinning her with his weight.

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