Guiscard: Chapter 2
Two months passed. Two months of stealing moments together, furtive kisses and caresses and words of love when they were unobserved. Both knew that it could not last, but neither dared speak of it. The wedding was no more than three weeks away when he stole into the arbour by night to meet with her. Though his brother was no more attentive a suitor than before, with the preparations beginning she was now more hedged about with attendants and relatives.
He found her waiting for him on the stone bench, wearing the same light summer dress that she had on the day of their first kiss. She looked up as he approached, a sad smile on her lips. With a sinking heart he sat beside her, knowing what was to come next.
“We cannot go on,” she said. The words struck him like a hammer blow to the stomach. Though he had thought to steel himself against them, the sickening pain they brought spread throughout his body.
“I know it,” he replied softly, trying to keep his voice as steady as he could. He felt the tears welling up inside him, brought forth by the pain, but somehow he forced his voice to some sort of calm. “I would beg you to run away with me, if I thought you would come.” She shook her head, the sadness in her eyes deepening.
“Too much depends on this marriage. For both our families. We have had two months of happiness. To continue now would only ensure that we were found out.” His arms slipped around her body.
“I will love you always,” he whispered, holding her for a moment. Her body pressed to his as she embraced him one last time.
“There is one last thing I wish you to do, my love,” she whispered as they drew apart. Her eyes locked with his as she stood up, her fingers fiddling nervously with the ties of her dress. It fell away, leaving her naked in the pale moonlight. His eyes feasted upon her. The small high breasts capped by the dusky rose of her nipples. The soft curve of her buttocks. She smiled shyly, cheeks blushing to be so exposed before him.
“In less than a month I must go to my marriage bed. I could go there with a calm heart if…” Her words trailed off, the shyness suddenly replaced by a look of such hunger and longing that he had never expected to see from her. Scarcely daring to breath, he reached out to her, gently caressing her porcelain beauty. She shivered with pleasure, her body arching to press harder against his touch.
“My love,” she whispered again, biting her lip as she watched him shed his clothes. Then he took her in his arms and there was no further need for words.
Afterwards they lay together on the grass, spent and sated, her head pillowed on his chest.
“My brother does not deserve you,” he whispered as he stroked her hair. “But I shall pray to Mitra that he makes you happy.” She smiled, but he could see the sadness returning to her eyes.
“Whatever happens, I have spent a night in the arms of the man I love. The memory of it shall keep me warm for the rest of my life.” They kissed, sadly and sweetly, both knowing that it was for the last time.
The next morning Guiscard woke to a feeling of emptiness. There was a hole inside him where she had been, a place that she would never return to. A knock at the door of bedroom shook him out of his reverie. Scowling he pulled on a robe and answered it. It was a servant, with a message demanding he attend his father at once. As he dressed, he considered the reasons why his father might want to see him but only one appeared likely. As the second son he had always been allowed a greater degree of latitude, or paternal laxness, than his brother. His confrontations with his father had been few, and Guiscard could think of only one matter which would see his presence demanded in such a fashion.
The older man turned as Guiscard entered the study. His blonde hair had long ago turned grey, but there was still strength in his limbs and his moustache bristled dangerously as he caught sight of his younger son.
“Boy,” his father said without preamble. “What lies between you and the lady Naenia?”
“Nothing more than is proper between a man and a woman who is to be his brother’s wife.” His father shook his head angrily even before he had finished speaking.
“Don’t lie to me, boy. Your brother might think her a prize already won, but I’ve had my suspicions for a while now and I’ve had a watch set upon you. Not three nights ago you were seen meeting with her in secret.” Inwardly Guiscard breathed a sigh of relief. At least Naenia would be spared the shame of their final meeting becoming known, though no doubt even had he learned of it his father would have hushed it up to preserve the marriage alliance.
“It is as you say, father,” he said, bowing his head penitentially. “There was something between us, but it is over now. We both knew it could never be.” His father snorted, barely mollified by his contrition.
“Fools, you and your brother both. If he had been a more ardent suitor this might never have happened…” Another angry shake of the head. “And he shall not know of this. This marriage is too important to the future of our house for it to be threatened by his jealousy or your romantic foolishness. They shall be married in a month, and you shall be in Shem in a week.” Guiscard started in surprise.
“Aye boy. It’s long been a tradition in this family that the sons learn the arts of war amongst the asshuri. You brother did, I did, and so will you. When you return they shall be well married, with a son and heir, Mitra willing.” His mood softened slightly, and when he spoke again it was in a kinder tone. “Slake your lusts in the whorehouses or the temples of Ishtar if that is what it takes to get her out of your system. But this is the end of it.”
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