October 15, 2015

In Which Dea Is Charmed by the Duality

January 23, 1195

It was only a couple of hours before Dea would leave the castle to attend her uncle's funeral. Everyone in the kingdom knew that the funeral was today, as the death of the queen's uncle, the former queen consort's half-brother--the baron's son, and the son of the beloved late Princess Holladrin of Dovia--could not possibly have escaped the notice of the public, especially when it was such a sudden death at such a young age. And even if someone hadn't known... well, it was morning, and early enough in the morning that many had yet to wake. On this day, at this hour, she had not expected a knock on her study door.

"Willott?" Even when her grandfather had been king, she'd known the steward's knock like she knew her own voice.

"My apologies, your majesty. I realize this is bad timing, but your betrothed has arrived."

Dea's spine jerked. In light of her Uncle Farilon's accident, it had slipped her mind completely that he was to arrive so soon. "Oh! Ah, yes, of course."

"Shall I put him up at the nearest inn until tomorrow, or...?"

"No, that won't be necessary. He couldn't have predicted any of this." Who could have? Her Uncle Farilon had been a healthy man of twenty-four! Dea rose from her desk chair and braced herself. "Bring him in."

Willott opened the door and entered, followed by a dark-haired, bearded young man in a winter coat. The coat wasn't anything special, but she found little disappointment in the man who wore it--handsome and casually regal, a grim look of sympathy befitting the news Willott had surely just told him, but not without a playful twinkle in his eye as he first spotted her. Dea mustered up all the queenly composure she could; she was used to many things, but such direct male attention was not one of them.

"Her Royal Majesty, Queen Medea the First of Naroni. Your majesty, may I present Henry of Stirling, son of David of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon."

"My lord," Dea greeted the man for lack of a better title as he stepped forward. His father was heir presumptive to the Scottish throne (a fact that left a vile fog in Dea's mind, as his brother the king did have a young daughter) but Henry himself was excluded from succession as a natural son. But he was well-connected, available, and--though she hadn't known it prior to his arrival--quite attractive. As far as prince consorts went, she could have found a worse candidate.

"Your majesty." He took to one knee and kissed her hand. The softness of his fingers was matched only by that of his lips. "My sincerest condolences to you and your family."

"Your condolences are appreciated, and I see no need to keep to the formality of 'majesties'. You may rise." He did, though she kept hold of his hand. It may not have a been queenly or maidenly gesture, but there was something in his skin that made her stronger, more prepared for the trials of the day. She did not want to let go. "Welcome to my country."

"Thank you. If it isn't too bold, I was told that the Queen of Naroni was even more brilliant than she was beautiful; having now laid eyes on you, I must surmise you to be the pinnacle of brilliance."

"It isn't too bold, though I daresay poetic compliments are wasted on someone so literal-minded as myself."

"Ah, lass--there is no such thing as a wasted compliment, so long as it comes from the heart as well as the lips."

Dea felt her cheeks warm. Not once in her life had anyone called her 'lass', but there was a charming duality in his pretty sentiments and the occasional bit of Scottish slang.

Behind Henry, Willott cleared his throat. "Shall I leave the two of you in peace, your majesty?"

"If you so prefer." If she were honest with herself, Dea had nearly forgotten that the steward was there. "Take the rest of the day, Willott. Go home to your wife and children."

Willott bowed, then turned and left. At least, that's what Dea figured he must have done after she'd dismissed him.

"I must apologize for my poor timing. If you would prefer I seek lodging elsewhere while you mourn, I understand."

"That won't be necessary. Our official mourning ends with the funeral here; the Dovians have long believed that any soul worth mourning would much prefer for their loved ones to focus on life."

That said, the funeral had not yet occurred. "Though, I must ask that you remain here while I attend the funeral, and warn you that I may overnight at my grandfather's."

"Of course. I should hate to start our acquaintance by imposing myself in your family's time of grief."

And that was good of him--but, so to would Dea hate to start their acquaintance by abandoning him for the day in a strange castle, even if she told the servants to cater to his every whim. "Then you'll be pleased to know that our acquaintance will instead begin with a tour of my home--unless you'd rather rest first, of course."

Henry smiled. "There'll be plenty of time for resting when you're away, lass. No sense in not getting my fill of you while I can."

NEXT CHAPTER:

8 comments:

Van said...

By a single vote, the winner of "Who Wants to Be Prince Consort?" is Henry! Kudos to Oengus for making it a close contest.

The competitors for the non-canon-except-for-the-result bachelorette challenge were all men who either did exist or could have feasibly existed in real life, who aren't known by historians to have married or produced children. Henry, as stated by Dea's narrative, is an illegitimate son of David, Earl of Huntingdon.

empireofmeliora said...

Huh. When he said "lass", I suddenly was reminded of Brynjolf. ô.ó
Is that good or bad?
Henry is more charming, though. Not as sleazy. xD

Van said...

Wait, which Brynjolf? XD

My current impression of Henry is sort of a laid-back, romantic bard type of personality. That is very much the opposite of Dea, but could end up being exactly what she wants in a man. For now, we know she at least thinks he's cute.

empireofmeliora said...

The thief from Skyrim.
With the Falmer Blood Elixir. xD

Well, being a bardy sort of guy probably will keep him from going after Dea's power, right?

Van said...

Ah, that Brynjolf! Man, school has been taking away all my video game time. XD I did already finish the Thieves' Guild quest, though. Not sure if the NPCs responsible for cleaning my quarters at the College know about the Nightingale Armor I have stuffed in one of the chests there... XD

Oh, yeah! I can't see Henry having much interest in being king, in name or otherwise. But I think Dea would have been safe no matter who she'd married, though. Between Dea herself and her loyal lords, Mr. Dea would be kept in line.

empireofmeliora said...

I did it twice because the first time I forgot to get the last achievement before deleting the character. I'm not overly fond of the Thieves' Guild and am annoyed by Brynjolf following me around the market every time I'm in Rifton.
Stop following me already! I won't join!

It's still better having someone who doesn't even want to be/only wants to be a supportive spouse.

Ann said...

Ah, to hear him call her "lass" makes me feel all nostalgic for Lothere!

I think I'm really gonna like this guy, beyond looks and stuff. There's something very sweet in his words and tone, though I get the feeling he can be uncompromising and even ruthless if the occasion calls for it.
In any case, I really hope for this marriage to be a healthy, supportive one at the very very least. But I'm still gonna count on there being sparks and fire in their future, chemistry-wise. ^^
You wouldn't want to tease your readers so, now would you. ;)

Van said...

Mimus: Yeah, the Guilds weren't as fun in Skyrim as they were in Oblivion. I actually ended up destroying the Dark Brotherhood because it seemed like a more fitting move for my character (she's not the sort who can follow orders blindly without knowing the whole story).

Yeah, definitely!

Ann: I figured if Dea was going to marry a Scotsman, he just had to call her "lass". ;)

He is pretty sweet, but yeah, I think he can be uncompromising if his morals demand it. As for chemistry, I guess we'll just have to see. :)