Children of Earth and Fire

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 28 (v.1) - 28

Submitted: February 12, 2020

Reads: 14

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Submitted: February 12, 2020

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Dressed in a castoff from the arrogant woman, Meckil waited with hunger gnawing at her.  She had been promised that she would be fed after her duties were done. Clearly the woman feared that a full stomach would leave Meckil less amorous than expected.  She wondered if Arabella would watch again when her husband came to visit. It did not surprise her that the woman bore witness, for she wasn’t the first.

Meckil saved her tears.  She felt saddened, but her people would come in the new year when the snow and frost were gone.  They would take her and everything that she managed to liberate. She missed them though. She had never been away from her family for more than a single night, and to manage three seasons away?  It was going to be difficult, especially as a new bride. She had hoped to settle with him, and so they were in a carriage they had built together, a space for a crib tucked at the foot of their bed.

She had hungered for children as much as she had wished to keep Kaelev as her own.  A kind and gentle man, even though he could be obnoxious and too bold. He would make a good father, she could see that in the way he treated the children that ran around their camp.  Though, through the time apart, would he remember her in his heart, or would his gaze turn to another? Meckil prayed her older sister would leave him alone, as she had tried to lure Kaelev away from Meckil more than once when it became clear that he wanted more than her body.

Lingering in her pains and worries, Meckil heard people at the door.  She crept to it and listened.

“For all the time I have known you, you have never offered me something other than grief,” a man’s voice declared, his irritation plain.

“And now I give you this,” Arabella’s voice returned, her tone taut.  “And from your hand, you may give it to your brother as a peace offering.  He needs to be pacified, and while you keep such matters from me, I suspect he would appreciate a—”  The door opened a crack, and Meckil ran to the bed, turning quickly and sitting down. She was not caught in her spying though, as the conversation continued outside.  She took a deep breath and held it to calm her lungs before releasing it slowly.

“You bought a woman?!”  The man said, his tone distressed.  “I will not have slaves on this land.”

“Hardly a slave, more a concubine,” Arabella said lazily.  “It is better for her here, anyways . . . would you rather her travelling the land, being victim to disease and ignorance?  These people have the minds of cattle, she would be better protected here, under your eye. She would be little better than a child.  I am certain that you can understand how vulnerable she might be out amongst the rabble.”

Meckil felt her fingers tighten on the blanket beneath her.  Her mother told her that she was too proud, too stubborn. It had caused problems before, especially with men.  Dare she think she was an equal? She would settle for not being treated like shit between their toes. This woman . . . was it not for her fortune, what would keep her from riding with Meckil’s people?  Surely with her skin and face, she would not be seen as out of place.

Swallowing her upset, Meckil listened with care, for the man had a soft voice.  “What are you planning?”

“Planning?”

The door shut slightly, as if they had forgotten that there was a living person behind it, rather than a thing as Arabella had referred to her.

“You may see yourself as opaque, but I have eyes that can see you when you are scheming,” he said, and Meckil could hear in his tone a sort of anger that set her on edge.  She had trouble trusting men, least of all men who worked the lands instead of living through them. She supposed even less so of men of power. How quick to violence was he?  It wouldn’t matter for Arabella, but Meckil was less than a wife even, and she would be treated as such. Men who could be saints for the cause of their wives, seemed to have no problem beating a woman like Meckil to death or near so.

“Look upon what I have brought, and see if you do not understand, husband of mine,” Arabella said, and Meckil could hear the humourless smile on her face.

Slowly, the door eased opened, revealing a giant of a man, his build slim, and his face practically scalped of his beard.  He looked at her with sharp eyes, unable to help himself from running his gaze over her. She stood up, bowing at the waist, her hand over her heart as she lowered her eyes.  “I Meckil,” she said, far too aware of how fractured their language was on her tongue. It could not be helped. Their language was not spoken in most places. It was typical of her people to only learn enough to get by.  No matter the place, the requests were the same.

He inclined his head to her, moving to mimic her by touching his chest, but he caught himself with his hand half raised.  “I am Prince Louis of the Hume clan, lord of this wold,” he told her, and Meckil’s head snapped up, her eyes darted from him to the woman behind him, Arabella’s expression unreadable.

The prince frowned at her shock, and she would admit, fear.  “Were you not told? Did my wife not tell you?”

Meckil opened and closed her mouth, swallowing her nerves as she was bombarded by thoughts, trying to figure out if she had a firm enough grasp on their language to state that, no, she had not been told anything other than the fact that his wife bought her in hopes of escaping the marriage bed.  No, she had not been told that she had been bought by royalty, otherwise she would have demanded the proverbial ransom. No, she had not been told, because that would have ruined the lie, wouldn’t it? That she was a gift for the prince to give to his brother, to soothe him or whatever, her audition with the bald man apparently reassurance enough for the lady’s approval.

Instead, Meckil took a deep breath and shook her head.  “Not know. No,” she told him, and he glanced at his wife, but said nothing.

He picked up her hand, holding it in a way that all men seemed to think of as comforting.  “Do you know why you were brought here?” He said, his voice filled with pity that stuck in her throat.  She wouldn’t allow it, she would not allow them to pity her when it was their own possessiveness and lust that kept her low.  She lifted his hand and pressed it to her chest.

“I yours,” she said quietly, tipping her head as she took the time to examine his features.  It was a strange face, but not unpleasant. One she could grow used to, but had no interest in doing.  She looked at Arabella, who nonchalantly stared back. “She pay.”

He sighed, looking at the floor before wetting his lips.  “You—”

“Louis,” Arabella said, and he looked at her.  She crooked a finger at him, but he turned back to Meckil, his face telling her that he wanted to say something else, but he couldn’t.  He dropped her hand and went out into the hall. Arabella shut the door, blocking Meckil from the conversation, though truthfully, Meckil didn’t believe she could garner anything else useful from listening.  She decided to curl up and lay down instead.

When the prince returned, he did so alone, his expression grim.  Meckil sat up, and he crossed his arms. “You say you are mine,” he said, looking like he would rather be doing anything else than this.

Reluctantly, she nodded.  “I yours,” she hazarded a smile.  “You hers.”

He offered a wry smile.  “You will do as I say,” he said, and she dully noted that that was not a question.  It rarely was once they got used to the idea. “I want—”

Meckil leaned back, looking at the ceiling before deciding to make it easier on them both.  “Give me brother,” she said, and he frowned again. She gestured to the door. “You speak, it open.” He winced, his shame mingling with his relief at not having to make his wife’s demand clear.  She got up from her seat, gesturing for him to lead the way.

Walking through the halls, they went in silence, which was only broken once.  “Meckil,” Louis said, and she looked at him, and he flashed her a smile. “Such a strange name . . . what is it?”

“Mine,” she answered, not understanding, and at a loss, he led her the rest of the way without another word.

Stopping outside of a thick wooden door, studded with iron bolts, Louis said something to the guards outside it, not quite understanding his phrase.  The guards eyed her suspiciously, but truth be told, she didn’t even have shoes, let alone a knife.

The guards let them in, and Meckil followed Louis, her eyes roving the walls and the crooks of the room, taking in all this newness.  Louis stood in front of a man who was shorter than he was, but not by much. Yet, somehow, this new fellow felt bigger than him. Any resemblance between the brothers was unseen by her.  While Louis had a narrow face, this one had a square one with full cheeks. One had too much lip for his mouth, while the other simply had full ones.

The man looked at Meckil, a toothsome smile spreading across his face as devoured her with his eyes.  Suddenly, she was longing for the bald man. He at least had a kindness for all women, even if it was carnal.  This one she wasn’t so sure.

Louis said something about mending, though with her nerves and the barrier between them, most of his words were lost to her.

“So, you brought me a whore,” the new man said, the words far too clear for her.  She clasped her hands behind her, squeezing her fingers so hard that one of her knuckles popped.

“No,” Louis said firmly.  “She is one of Arabella’s maids.  I realized that things may not have been so welcoming for you, especially after the recent loss of your own wife.”  Louis put a hand on the back of Meckil’s neck, urging her to step forward. “She is just someone to keep your bed warm.”

The new man touched her chin, tilting her face so he could examine her better.  “She could be a sister to your lovely wife,” he remarked, and Meckil felt her brow arched.  Perhaps that nasty woman had come from her people after all.

“Arabella has no sisters,” Louis stated, though something in his voice told her that he was unsure of that fact.  “I believe she said that they had died of illness.”

The man smiled at her again, his gaze on her mouth.  “A cousin?”

“No,” she said, touching his wrist and reclaiming herself from him.  “No cousin.”

Her words rang in the room like it was empty.  The man looked at Louis, his amusement plain. “A maid, you say?  It is most strange that I have never seen this one before. Surely I would have heard of such a beauty with such a strange way of speaking.”

“Meckil takes care of the children when Arabella is otherwise disposed,” Louis said, his grip on her tightening momentarily.

“And now that they have vanished with your cousin,” the man said, looking at him pointedly “she has no other occupation?”  He grinned, his humour mean. “I am most surprised that you are not having her warm your own bed.”

Tired of this back and forth, Meckil blinked up at the man.  “No want? No good?” She asked innocently, holding her hands in front of her.  “Bad gift?” She turned to look at Louis, who let his lips part as his nature seemed to be a constant state of being unsure.

Louis looked at his brother.  “Well, is she, Ernulf?” He asked, shrugging.

Ernulf stared at her a moment, before grabbing her upper arm, pulling her towards him.  “I suppose it will be seen,” he said, squeezing her arm. “I will thank you for this thoughtful treat, but I must ask, how good is she?”

Louis glanced at her, then turned his gaze to his brother.  “I would not know,” he said. “To me, my wife is enough.”

“I would imagine too much at times,” Ernulf said, the aggression clear.

Louis was silent a moment before wetting his lips and flashing a quick smile.  “Only for you,” he said, his words seemingly oddly pointed. Then he was gone, leaving Meckil to suffer her fate.  She wondered if she would soon regret accepting the gold.


© Copyright 2020 Twitchycat. All rights reserved.

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