tagSci-Fi & FantasyTorgan Wine Ch. 34

Torgan Wine Ch. 34

byIsemay©

As always, my sincerest thanks to Todger65 for helping me edit and Nthusiastic for beta reading and asking good questions!

*****

Isonei was nervous as the maids put her in the gown Draeseth had chosen for her to wear when meeting his father. The rich blue gown made her skin look a little healthier and the black and silver flowering vines on the bodice and sleeves also edged the bottom hem of the skirt. The neck was to be worn open tonight, and as libertine as King Orgath had been described she almost wanted to protest. Thinking of how she might feel in her Aran gowns in front of the King and his Court made her even more uncertain about meeting the man.

She had thought she was ready when Draeseth brought in two of the boxes he'd presented her with at her Daga's house. The peculiarly linked rings and bracelets had become a bit too large for her hands but it didn't seem terribly noticeable and he had chosen the slightly longer necklace that held the cluster of flowers and single, large, dark blue gem. It sat just below the opening of the throat.

Looking in the mirror with her crowning braid and the Torgan clothes and jewels she felt something similar to the way she felt in Leria dressed in her formal gown for the first time. Gazing back at her from the mirror was the Duchess of Kroscur. The woman was a stranger and Isonei wasn't certain she wanted to get to know her.

"You look so solemn, my Duchess." Draeseth stepped behind her and bent to kiss her head.

"I look like the Duchess of Kroscur. It's strange." She met his eyes in the reflection, they were glittering and his grin was wolfish.

"You are the Duchess of Kroscur," he kissed her neck below her ear, "my jewel, and the most beautiful woman in all of Torga." Helping her from the seat he stooped to kiss her hungrily. "You have no need to be nervous. I will be next to you."

Telling him he was next to her when she met the Kamrus crossed her mind but she bit her tongue. Instead she wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her face into his tunic. His hands rubbed her back comfortingly as he purred something to her in Torgan, the low rumble of his voice through his chest made some of her nervousness dissolve.

A knock on the door to their rooms prompted him to bark an order to one of the maids.

"Draeseth? Father wanted me to escort you and your Duchess to dinner. I think he may be concerned you would rather spirit her away than introduce her to him." Ougath's eyes widened as his gaze fell on Isonei. "You look stunning, Duchess." His eyes lingered on her throat. "I have never seen an open throated gown look so salacious. You still allow him to bruise you?"

"I bruise easily and he has this wonderful biting kiss, I can't bear to discourage him."

Draeseth flushed and held out his arm, "No man can look at your perfect skin and think of anything but my mouth on it, wife."

"How is that different from me saying I enjoy you?" She shook her head as she took his arm letting him lead her out of the room. "And it feels very strange to have been hiding my throat since I arrived only to stop when we have dinner with your father. In Ara you do your best to avoid scandalous things in front of the King."

Ougath's face lit up as he smiled, "My father is the one who insisted on the open throated gowns. And you will find, Duchess, that he is far less strict than the priests my brother has surrounded you with."

"They may be strict but they've been kind and welcoming. The Kamrus was the first I've met that wasn't. It's been easy for me to understand why Draeseth gets so much comfort from his faith."

The large Torgan at her side made a pleased sound in his throat. "They have been fonder of you than me, my Duchess. Halloc Aurim has been vigilant about your care and reclamation."

"Not so vigilant if you still bruise her, brother." Ougath glanced back at her with a smirk.

"He does not observe us in our bedroom and my wife wears modest gowns. Her bruising goes unnoticed." His tone was smug and when she looked up he wore a smirk much like his brother's.

Her Daga had been right, the marks weren't simple enthusiasm. It was still difficult to believe that something that felt so good had an ulterior motive. She barely paid attention to the two men as their conversation turned to things their father had made fashionable at Court as she nibbled on her inner lip.

The large dining room was packed with people as they entered, people eagerly and obviously craning their necks to get a look at her as if she were an oddity. Draeseth pulled her arm tighter against him as he strode in proudly behind his brother. Isonei simply hoped her smile didn't betray too much of the nervousness she felt.

A man who very strongly resembled Burgath in face and build, with dark red tinged hair showing hints of a paler reddish grey at the temples, stood from the seat Ougath had occupied earlier to greet them. His tunic was a rich, golden shade of honey that complemented the gold of his circlet and on his dark brown belt.

The King's voice boomed in the sudden quiet. "This is the silver jewel my son had to have at any cost?"

At the slightly teasing tone her smile became more genuine, "Did he inherit his impressive stubbornness from you or from his mother, your Majesty?"

"From both of us, but he takes his appreciation of beauty from me." King Orgath extended his hand for Isonei's and she gave it with a bright smile.

As he politely pressed his lips to her fingers she added cheerfully, "He takes his charm from you as well."

He laughed releasing her hand and giving his son an amused look, "He is more like me than he cares to admit. My sons all tell me you are the most exquisitely charming creature they have ever met. The three without wives are desperate to return to Ara and look for silver jewels of their own."

"Your sons are all thoughtful and generous men, I have no doubt they would be successful." Isonei turned slightly and gave Draeseth a mischievous smile, "They may not even have to poison them and put them in barrels to bring them into Torga."

Draeseth's scowl drew a hushed murmur from those watching but his eyes were glittering. "My jewel enjoys teasing me."

She beamed at him, moving back to his arm. "I do."

"A man needs a woman who has no fear of his temper." The King's tone was both surprised and pleased. "Though I would expect a woman so fearless to be large enough to defend herself."

Isonei grinned at him impishly, "Who says I'm not?"

"She is much more mischievous than I expected." King Orgath looked to his son with a warm smile. "She is exactly what you needed."

"It pleases me that you approve, father."

"If you wished my approval, why would you keep this silver jewel of yours away from my Court?" He resumed his seat and gestured for Isonei to sit next to him.

"I don't travel well, your Majesty." Isonei offered him a rueful smile as she took her seat between the King and Draeseth.

The King's annoyed and dubious look almost made her laugh; with his eyes narrowed and his face settling into a scowl he looked very much like Draeseth.

"It's true! The Torga Kroscur is lovely, my Draeseth has every right to be proud of it, but so few people speak Aran and no one wants to dance. I've been looking forward to visiting your Court." She turned her hand palm up and smiled as Draeseth took it. "But I cannot bear the cold here, and I seem to get ill every time I travel. Your sons have been marvelous hosts despite having such a poor guest."

His scowl evaporated. "If your children inherit their mother's charm, Draeseth, you will have enriched the Kroscur beyond measure."

"He's been hoping aloud that we'll have a daughter he can call uhhmm Tengk Voyeh furh Kroscur."

King Orgath leaned back with a wide smile, "The Torga Kroscur is famed for its beautiful black haired women. A silver haired beauty would be something to prize."

"She will be. Did Ougath tell you what his healers discovered?" Draeseth brought her hand to his lips.

"No." The King's eyes began to sparkle. "Tell me there will be another addition to our family."

Draeseth rested her hand on the table again. "They believe that is part of what has left her so exhausted after the day's travel. They have also suggested feeding her a diet more like what she was accustomed to in Ara and if we travel to spend no more than half of the day on the road."

"Both of you will travel with me, I would enjoy a leisurely journey back and my carriage is more comfortable and spacious." Orgath took a sip of his wine. "There is a test to be sure. We can have it done when we arrive. Do Arans know the wheat and barley test?"

"I've never heard of it." Isonei looked at him curiously.

He smiled, "The midwives at my Keep will show you. It allows you to know if you can expect a son or a daughter. It was only ever wrong once with all of my sons. The wheat sprouted for Rogath, I was expecting a daughter when he was born." King Orgath shrugged, "Two granddaughters is a fair recompense for the momentary disappointment."

"Did it predict your granddaughters correctly?"

The face the King made was almost identical to Draeseth's sourest expression. "Their mother refused to try."

"Is it difficult or taxing?" She reached for her own cup.

"No, no! I would never have asked my Queen or Draeseth's mother to do it if it were. Her" he hesitated before derisively sneering the title, "Imperial Highness, Kresh of Bir Viccord, refused out of spite." His gaze returned from the middle distance he was glaring into, "Rogath says you are much more agreeable."

"My wife is seldom sour, and when she loses her temper it passes quickly." Draeseth answered as she was taking a sip of the Mezi that had been poured for her.

"I had nearly forgotten you were here, Draeseth." King Orgath eyed him with amusement.

"I've taken over the conversation! I didn't mean to." Isonei brought Draeseth's hand to her lips kissing his fingers briefly.

"I prefer the sound of your voice to my own, wife." He gave her a doting smile. "And if you charm my father as completely as you have my brothers he may not chide me so greatly for all I have done to bring you home to Torga."

The King laughed and raised his glass, booming out, "A toast to the charming Duchess of Kroscur, may all of my sons find wives to treasure as fondly!"

°°°°°°°°°°

By the time the meal ended several hours later Isonei had been struggling to stay upright much less keep a cheerful smile on her face. King Orgath's attention had shifted to his other side where Ougath and Burgath sat and he hadn't seemed to notice. Instead, he seemed surprised when the meal was brought to an end and Draeseth lifted her off of her feet in the hall out of sight of the rest of the guests. Burgath spoke quietly to the King as Draeseth carried her back to their rooms. She didn't have the wherewithal to try to listen, or even to register what language he was speaking in.

Her sleep was deep and dreamless. But when Draeseth began kissing her face, gently waking her for breakfast, she still felt tired.

"I have asked if our breakfast can be taken here in our rooms, wife. You look more exhausted than you did after spending the night carousing in Leria." He made an amused sound as she tried to burrow into his chest.

Keeping her face pressed to his skin she murmured, "I feel more exhausted."

"My father enjoyed your company," he pushed her onto her back, laughing softly as she whined and positioning himself over her. "You charmed him and made it clear you were mine. I want to reward you."

"Letting me sleep would be a reward." Isonei made a sulky face up at him as he wrapped her legs around himself. "You haven't even said 'Gentle morning' to me yet."

Draeseth's face split in a wicked grin, "Allow your husband to apologize to you, when I finish I will reward you." He kissed her hungrily, "I will let you feel me as you wished to yesterday."

"But I want to sleep..." She tried her best to give him a pitiful look, widening her eyes and dropping her chin with a pouty frown.

It set him laughing, "You look like a child. When little Kothesei makes such a face, woman, it might move me."

Isonei huffed and managed to cross her arms in front of her despite his closeness, "You're being terrible this morning, my beautiful beast."

He began covering her face in kisses, "I try to wake you pleasantly and you sulk, but I am the terrible one?"

"Oh no, no! I want to sleep and you want to have sex! Don't try to-" Her words were cut off as he began kissing her, breaking it with another burst of laughter.

"You enjoy my appetites, woman."

"When I'm awake!"

"Let your husband wake you!" Draeseth grinned down at her as she poked his chest. "Do not prod me or I will wake you over my knees."

The sound of Krouth clearing his throat made Draeseth look up with a scowl. "His Majesty insists on having the Duchess at the breakfast table. He does not seem in a pleasant mood."

Grudgingly, the large Torgan rolled off of her and Isonei curled on her side with a sigh. "If you hadn't been so intent on waking me for sex you could ask him nicely to let me sleep."

His dark eyes glittered as he turned back to look at her. "You will be apologizing to me later, wife."

"We can apologize at the same time; I know how much you enjoy that." She gave him a mischievous smile and squealed as he yanked the covers away from her and pulled her across his knees.

"You would drive a lesser man to madness woman." He landed a sharp slap on her ass and then put her on her feet. "I would give you as many as you deserve but we would miss breakfast."

Washing and dressing hurriedly, this time in the gown that Draeseth had thought was hideous in Leria, Isonei couldn't help but wonder what had put the King in an unpleasant mood. Her own was quickly souring with every half stifled yawn and her growing hunger.

The dining room was a much different sight in as she entered it again. It was packed once more, but silent. The guests stared down at their places looking almost nervous. Glancing to the King, she thought she knew why. He looked like Draeseth in one of his moods.

King Orgath looked at her with a peeved frown, as if she were the cause of his displeasure and made a brusque gesture to the place next to him. Once she was seated he spoke quietly, "Prince Burgath says you are in the habit of trying to be charming even when you know the exertion is more than you should attempt."

"I don't like to be the reason a pleasant meal or a party ends. One of my mothers was always very insistent about resting or being ill after a party has finished, not in the middle of it."

"Which mother?" The King furrowed his brow and turned his head toward her.

"My brother Ialath's mother, Lady Avletha of House Brynelis."

"Do you share a mother with your other brother?" He studied her for a moment.

"Ivorith? No, we all have different mothers, but when mine died their mothers raised me as one of their own."

"What did your other mother say about parties and being ill?" At his gesture food was brought out to the tables and a quiet hum of conversation began.

"Nothing. Lady Kyssula of House Ravaris came in the month of Semuth, she enjoyed the quietness of the late autumn and winter. My father rarely held parties unless the fields were in bloom."

"Ravaris... the name sounds familiar." The King filled his plate with the offered meats.

"Princess Daeira's mother is of that House." Draeseth offered filling his own plate from the meats offered to him. "Ougath, is there-" His word ended in a pleased grunt as a bowl of the creamy oats with nuts was placed in front of Isonei. "Thank you."

"Yes, thank you, Prince Ougath." Isonei leaned forward slightly to offer him a smile and Draeseth pushed her back into her chair forcefully.

"Never lean to look across the King, Duchess." King Orgath looked more amused than offended. "Would Tamnaeuth tolerate that?"

Frowning she tilted her head. She'd only ever sat at the King's table once. "I've never thought about it. I sat next to Andnaeuth on the same side as Daeira, I didn't have a reason to lean to look across the King."

Draeseth made a loud, annoyed sound in his throat, "Eat your breakfast, my Duchess."

"You speak of them very... familiarly." Orgath's glance was sly.

"Andnaeuth loathes the Court proper and most of the time I spent with them was outside of it. They insisted I not use their titles. I think they enjoyed being able to relax and enjoy someone's company without expectations and the demands of their stations." She took a bite before Draeseth could start tapping on the table.

The Torgan King closed his eyes with a wistful smile for a moment. "That was why I loved Draeseth's mother so deeply. She was only Lady Athelosa when I met her, a postulant at a convent. I had injured myself hunting and this... black-haired beauty," his face lit with a beatific smile, "she tended me and made me feel as if I were a man and not a King. The weight of the crown lifted. I plucked her from the convent and gave her the Kroscur." He took a deep breath and turned to look at Isonei, "I understand now why Andnaeuth is so angry and demanding your return."

"In the letters he has written to me," Burgath spoke up from the other side of the King, "he calls her his stolen Queen. He was willing to make an Arrangement that would include Draeseth when we left Ara."

"A Queen for only half the year." King Orgath's eyes glittered, "He expects you would return to be a mere Duchess?"

"Isn't it the same word in Torgan?" Isonei asked with a smile and the King grinned wolfishly. "And after half a year Andnaeuth would be eager to send me back. I adore the man but he gets bored so easily." She ate another spoonful while widening her eyes.

The King barked a laugh. "Your Duchess, Draeseth, she is a playful one." He glanced back to her, "How does he keep you from being bored?"

The large Torgan at her side gave a growling grunt and Isonei placed her hand on his thigh reassuringly.

"He's going to amend the Arrangement so that I can help with schools and other things the children in the Torga Kroscur need, and I can adopt an orphan for every two children I give him. I adored the children at the orphanage I visited."

"My wife adores children. It matters very little who they belong to."

"He has to amend the Arrangement for that?" King Orgath was beaming.

"He does."

Draeseth lifted her hand from his thigh to kiss. "It will give her peace of mind. I have broken my word to her too many times. Amending the Arrangement will give her certainty, and allow me to keep her happy."

She offered him a wry smile, it wasn't entirely a lie but he'd edged around the reason skillfully.

"The way she gazes at you I can see you have mastered the art of keeping a woman happy."

Isonei tried not to laugh at the way Draeseth flushed, she couldn't help teasing him a bit more, "If he knew how to keep a promise he'd be the most skilled man I've met."

The Torgan Prince's scowl caused a hush in the murmur of voices but his were glittering and she knew he was more amused than angry. "I will put you over my knees if you keep teasing me, woman."

"For giving you a compliment?" She widened her eyes, replicating the pitiful look she'd tried to use on him in bed.

King Orgath began to laugh leaning his elbow on the table and saying something that sounded vaguely familiar in Torgan. Draeseth's wry toned response in Torgan, coupled with the way he reached out to grip the back of her neck making her squeal and hunch her shoulders, made the King laugh harder and set his brothers to laughing as well.

"Eat your breakfast, wife." Draeseth tapped next to her bowl with a faint smile. "You can make them laugh in the carriage."

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