Chapter 04

Second Thoughts

This was a bad idea. How could Samard take back a marriage proposal without starting another war?

At the wedding ceremony, when asked if she would accept Samard as her husband, after a long pause, Abiya merely nodded. She’d not spoken to him since the day she’d arrived. What would their wedding night be like?

Samard had tried to include Abiya in all the wedding decision-making, but her only response was, “As the king wishes.” He’d not actually spoken to her or seen her since her arrival. All communication went through Abiya’s handmaiden, Yamie. It was said she’d not spoken to anyone in the castle, except Yamie.

He glanced at his queen; she sat on her throne as if she were not there. He hoped her attitude was not permanent. They needed an heir to seal the peace between the two kingdoms.

This will be a difficult marriage, he realized. I should not have been in such a hurry. I should have thought of a better solution to our predicament. I should have courted her as a lover does.  

It was not too late. They had a lifetime together. Samard could court his new bride. He would make up for his inconsideration until they did become lovers.

He turned his attention to the procession of guests who brought wedding gifts to the newly wed king and queen. Nobles bought fine gifts such as bulls to improve the king’s herd and wheat to feed the royal family. Peasants brought what they could afford, such as: baskets of bread, finely crafted jewelry, pottery to decorate the castle and a tapestry of the wedding. Samard was pleased with the gifts.

Before the war, when the castle was at its most prosperous, more than a thousand people had lived and worked in the castle and surrounding town.  After the war, all mercenaries left, looking for another paid battle to fight. Now only a few hundred subjects still loyal to the king remained. Samard valued each and every one of them.

Seven men leading two horses walked up the aisle. It took a few minutes for Samard to realize they were the stable boys from his childhood. They seemed shy and unsure of themselves. Were they afraid their king might not remember them? Samard smiled broadly. They straightened and walked forward with more confidence.

“What is this?” Samard asked, leaning forward.

One man stepped forward. Epercun said, “We bring a mare for the queen and a stallion for the king so you might ride together, my lord.”

“They are fine horses.” He didn’t bother to inquire what Abiya thought. “The stallion looks like a runner,” Samard said, remembering the times he used to ride with the men.

“Indeed, my lord,” Epercun said. “He runs well through fields, over hills and into forests.”

Samard looked at each man in turn. Would it be possible for him to ride with them again? Yes. He was king and could do as he pleased.

“I remember a time when I used to ride like that,” he said. “It would be good to do it again.”

The men broke into wider smiles. They understood his meaning. He wanted to ride with them. Their joy warmed Samard’s heart.

Epercun said, “Your horse will be saddled and ready at your word, my lord.”

“Then soon, I will take such a ride.”

“At your command.” Epercun and his friends bowed, turned and led the horses away.

Truly, the mare belonged to the queen. The horse lifted her tail and deposited a large pile of manure in the aisle. Samard stifled a smile.

Two stable boys quickly ran over to clean up the mess.

His childhood came flooding back to him. He’d been happy then. He’d much rather shovel manure with his friends than rule a kingdom or be trapped in a loveless marriage. If only the stallion could fly and take him away from all of this. Better yet, if only he could sprout wings and fly away.

He stole a glance at Abiya. Her cream colored, flawless skin looked as if it had never been marred by the sun. Her dark brown eyes that always darted away from him, blinked slowly as they stared straight ahead, focused on nothing. One might have thought she was a marble stature. She was perfect, soft and smelled of fragrant flowers. If she smiled, she could be pretty. He decided not to go to her bed that night. He would wait until she was ready.

Abiya leaned forward.

Samard realized a dwarf-wizard and his gnome-assistant were kneeling before them.

The dwarf held something in his outstretched hand. With his other hand, he reached over to pull back a black cloth. Samard just caught a glimpse of an orange topaz the size of a man’s hand before Abiya snatched it away. He caught another glance of the jewel as she tucked it in her sleeve.

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Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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