Drinking under the moon
The Little River Road
The next morning Iris woke up with the sun shining on her face and on the sheets, shaking gently and casting soft shadows in the room. Her body felt strange as if there was a change she never felt before in her and when she moved, she felt sore. Her hand found Benjamins pillow and hugged it, taking in his fragrance and smiled, thinking of their deed the night before. It was everything she expected and much more. Her cheeks burned at the memory and she smiled in the pillow.
It was silent in the room except for the sound of paper turning and when she looked towards the small table in the room, Benjamin was already awake and buried in documents. But it didn take long to notice her and put everything aside.
”Good morning, wife! ”
Calling her wife made her lips spread to a glowing smile across her face.
”Good morning, husband! ”
”If youd like, we should move to the little drawing room to let the priest do his job ”, he announced and Iris stood up quickly, understanding what kind of work it was. She took on the robe her husband held for her. He then led her to the next room where tea and breakfast were prepared. The smell made her stomach cry in agony. Newly baked bread, butter, ham and some small fishes were on the table, along with beer and wine if they wanted to make the food go down more easy. There were also some berries, whipped cream and tea prepared for them.
”How are you feeling? ” he asked, concerned for her body, while helping her sit.
”Better than ever ”, she asked, feeling actually like that. He looked at her doubtfully, but took her word for it.
”Please, eat! ” And she didn need more than that to take a bite of hot bread with some butter, while Benjamin took a big piece of ham and some small fishes on his plate. They ate in silence, peeking at each other every so often.
When they moved to the tea, Benjamin rang a bell and two women entered the room. The first one was maybe in her 40s and had dark black hair gathered at the back of her head in a dull way, but she was walking straight and looked calmed at them, with a pleasant smile on her face. The other one was younger, probably the same age as Iris, with wavy carrot-like hair that surrounded her small face splattered with brown freckles that went from her forehead down to her neck. Her eyes were joyous when she saw them.
”These are you maids, Gilda and Mary, who will help you from now one. ” The older woman was Gilda and Mary the younger one. ”They are very effective and resourceful. Mary has an interest in the latest trends, while Gilda is an expert at making tea ”, he said, pointing at their cups.
”Was it you who brewed this delightful tea? ”
”Yes, My Lady ”, she answered, ”and if My Lady likes it, I can prepare it for you everyday, or as often as youd like it. You see… ”, she hesitated and peeked at her lord who nodded slightly, ”this tea helps you get pregnant. ”
Iris felt her cheeks burn and a heavy weight on her chest. Her response didn come immediately, but the maid waited for her. Never did her nanny tell her about such tea, but instead prepared her for a much worse experience than she had last night. Your duty as a wife is to serve your husband in bed. Even if you don desire it, you have to let him do what every man does, Iris could hear her inside her head. Iris could only think that if she was wrong about the intimate part of a relationship, it was only natural her nanny hadn had knowledge about such practices.
”Of course, it is my biggest desire to have my husbands child ”, she answered with a genuine smile and saw Benjamin was more than pleased.
”The best decision, Iris dear! If there isn something you need them for right now, Id like to be alone so we can discuss our itinerary for the day. ”
”Are we leaving right away? ”
”Not yet, but as soon as we have all our things packed. You should send your new maids to bring all your things to the carriage. ”
”Mary, Gilda, do as my husband said. I reckon everything is already prepared ”, Iris told her new maids before turning to her husband. ”How long does it take to reach Atulus castle? ” She drank her tea until the cup was empty and realized her husbands eyes were following her every sip. He smiled when she looked up.
”It takes more than a day and a half, but have no worry! We will stop at Brook castle by the river on our way before it gets dark and depart again at dawn. Your father gave us permission to spend the night there. He might not have me at heart, but he wouldn let his daughter spend the night at an inn. ” He hesitated before asking ”Have you said your goodbyes? ”
”Elisabeth came before the wedding and we had our time to talk, as did my brother. And I bid my farewells to the rest after the ceremony. ”
”And your father? ” he asked with caution and Iris sighed.
”He was against our union from the beginning and I don think he has changed his mind, but he could at least pretend to not be so cold and sour. ” She stood up in rage and went to the window. ”I don understand what he expected of me. To live alone all my life, closed in my room and only paraded at balls? ”
He came to her, hugged her back and kissed her hair. ”For some parents it might be hard to split from their children, especially for a father from his daughter. ”
”You know we barely saw each other. He married the king after my mother died ”, she snorted and Benjamin laughed, but said no more on the topic.
”I have to prepare for the road. Well take the road up the Atulus river for a more tranquil journey. ”
After he left, Iris drank another cup of tea and then called the maids to assist with her preparations. She instructed them to warm the water well as she liked her bath hot and to get her favorite soap, camellia scented, and to prepare her clothes for the road. They did as instructed and when she was bathed, clothed and had her hair fixed, a knock was heard on the door.
”Iris, its your father ”, a voice came from the other side of the door.
She stood still for a moment before nodding to Mary to open the door. Duke Martel was clothed in brown velvet with the two crossed war hammers of their house sewed with black and silver thread on his chest. But on his face, he wore a worried look.
”I hoped to see you before you go ”, he began, ”I heard there is not much time left. ”
”Would you like some tea, father? ” Iris asked him, but was refused with a head shake from her father.
”Could we talk in private? ”
”Of course! Mary, Gilda, Ill call for you later. ”
They both looked at the maids leaving, before the duke approached her daughter and took her hands into his. He squeezed them lightly.
”You looked lovely yesterday! ” He took his time to find the right words and finally said ”Im sorry! ”
Iris eyes widened in shock as her father seemed only cold towards her the past years. After his wife died, he mourned for a long time and she felt guilty although he never blamed her for it. Not long after, he started working more in Moesia, the capital, and, as the king grew older and sicker, his journeys away from home became more frequent and longer. In the end he was seldom there, making the imperial palace more his home than Tomis, his ancestors castle and the place where his children were born and raised.
As soon as his younger child, Durian, turned 10 he followed his father on many occasions. But never Iris. At least not on business leaves. She would of course be present at important tourneys and birthday parties, but not council meetings or anything that a ruler lord would take part in. Her education was done at home, away from curious eyes, but in the presence of the best teachers in the kingdom. She received the education of a princess, but not that of the heir of Argidava. Hope remained that upon her coming of age, she will officially be made heir and follow grew into her role. But even that hope was shattered when at 15, Durian was proclaimed the heir and she was left to wonder what happened, as the rest of the world. She was only 17 and her worries and longing for her father transformed into contempt, but never hate.
For the following two years, theyve only met twice alone. Both times Iris insisted she receive an explanation, she deserved it, but the duke only said he had big plans for her and that she should just wait. He only added There are eyes on us. What eyes, she never knew, so her life went on, with her lessons, and balls, and gossip heard from others.
Until his disruption that night in the garden and his opposition that followed. To his credit, her father tried to meet her afterwards, probably to offer some explanation, but it was too late for Iris. She didn want to hear any of it. In the end, they found common ground only when whispers of the little duchess Martel who seemed to have too much fun that night reached them. So the duke had no other option than to agree with the union of her daughter to that low scum of a lord as he called his future son in law.
But now he was apologizing.
”Sorry for what? ”
”For so much ”, he answered, smiling sadly. ”I was so scared that we have a spy in our home that it seems I neglected you to the point that I don recognize my own blood. ”
”What spy, father? ” she felt tired of the same old thing he repeated over and over again.
”Someone is watching us, but I don know who or on which side he is ”, he whispered so low that Iris had to draw closer to hear him. ”The king is old now and the crown prince is cruel, but we are working on crowning the second prince instead. ”
”Fredrik? ” she almost shouted before her father shushed.
”If the gods are by our side, there won be a war, but you look for every sign that might indicate it. I don know your husbands intentions… ” she hardened, but he didn notice, ”…but if anything worries you, come back home. This will always be your home and… ”
A knock on the door interrupted them and Gildas voice could be heard through it.
”The lord says its time for departure, My Lady! ”
”In a minute, Gilda! ” Iris answered before turning back to her father. ”Benjamin has no such plans or else he would have mentioned it the past months. I believe in my husband! ”
”I hope you
e right, but remember what I told you. This will always be your home, Iris ” he said again and caressed her cheek, ” You are a clever girl, but still young and innocent. Im sorry I left you in the dark and Im sorry we don have more time. ”
He paused and studied her face, his eyes becoming watery.
”I love you, Iris. I have always loved you and always will, although my way of showing it is lacking. ”
The declaration moved her heart and she finally heard the words she waited for so long. It was not too late to repair their relationship, not too late to be father and daughter again and in the future she will come and present his grandchildren to him. And by then every wrong thing will be forgotten. She hugged him.
”I love you, pappa! ”
They stayed in the embrace for a long moment and finally, it was time for her to leave and to move to her new home. But her fathers words remained with her. This will always be your home, Iris.
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