An Arranged Inconvenience


Anonymous Me
@Darker Mornings

Donovan walked the hill country with his father and a few other men. It was too rough here to ride the horses and so the small company of men walked. He'd been told that his betrothed had grown in a lovely young woman, but he wouldn't know that for himself until he saw her. The last Donovan remembered of her was when his father had made the trip years ago to arrange the marriage and he'd accompanied him. At the time he remembered seeing a little girl out in the gardens at play. She was a stuffy little brat from what he could tell at the time. Hopefully she outgrew that.

Then again, he wasn't without faults himself. One of his many faults was broadly spoken of. It was a fault of being outspoken and he frequently said what he thought to be true. That was something he was going to have to put in check for this marriage. At least for the ceremony. Donovan's grey eyes turned toward the overcast sky. They likely had only a few hours more before it was dark.

Pulling the hood of his green cloak a bit higher he covered his already damp curls. His black hair had been drenched in an earlier rain and his boots were muddied and his pants all the way to the knee. If his horse had not splashed him with the mud, he'd sunk in it over the past hour of walking through the rough hill country. Unlike some 'lovely' lads Donovan hadn't taken to the luxury of his soon to be inherited fortress. Rather, the young lord preferred the wild lifestyle of a huntsman. He preferred the outdoors and was known as much for his outspoken nature as he was for his hunting.

A little known fact about the short man was his ability to fight. Donovan could wield a sword as well as any of the king's personal guard, but he preferred not to be found among them. The old man was a tyrant and Donovan had only kept the thought to himself for fear of being branded an outlaw.

When the great hall came into view at last Donovan stared at the large, bleak stone walls. Once he was wed to this girl he would have more responsibilities. A woman was helpful in bearing sons, but she could otherwise cause the court to think of a man and his status differently. As a single man of the court it was expected that he would have wild ways and they could excuse his darker skin from the weeks and days he was off hunting. That was all about to change.


It was not yet dark when they reached the great hall. The gates were still open and Donovan entered behind his father and the herald that bellowed their names. Inside the walls a stable boy rushed to take the animals to be fed and a servant girl showed them to their rooms.

A great tapestry inside Donovan's room blocked most of the air from blowing straight through and the small puddle of rain beneath the window told him it had rained here too. At least the fire was warm. Taking off his wet clothes Donovan hung them on the drying rack near the fire and changed into his better clothes for the night's dinner. Dipping his fingers in the rose petal water he sniffed it before dipping the edge of the cloth provided in it. Using the water sparingly he cleansed his face and behind his ears. With a final swipe at the back of his neck he was about as ready as he was going to be for this ceremony. The party would last for a week at least, but there would only be three days of feasting with the multiple lords and ladies. It was rumored that the king himself would attend to see the two great houses combined.

When Donovan stepped into the great hall he was assaulted by a barrage of smells and sights. There were a few performers as to be expected and a great roasted boar along with a few sparrows. Sparrows indicated that there was a falconer at the palace and the falcons were well trained. Another display of wealth and a bit pretentious. He was guided to sit at the head table and Donovan waited for the lady he was to wed to enter. When she did he would get the 'pleasure' of sitting next to her for the duration of his stay here before he took her back home with him.
A few raindrops, along with a soft breeze sifted through a tapestry in Sabina's large bedroom, giving the woman inside a nice breath of air. She had been cooped up in the room for the day, and her only solace were the numerous maids cooped up with her, braiding Sabina's hair. The women gossiped about all things the went on in the castle, and the noblewoman enjoyed hearing about the lives of those around her. Sabina's favorite maid, a young woman named Alaine, was sitting on a stool in front of her, picking up different jewels and putting them up to Sabina's pale neck, deciding whether or not the jewel fit the occasion. When given a job to do, Alaine was a focused individual, and it would be dull-witted of Sabina to try to speak to her in this moment.

Instead, she retreated into her mind, thinking of her future husband. Her maids had been gossiping about him since it was first announced that they shall be wed, and Sabina had heard a few of the more popular rumors. The one that stuck out in her head were that he was a wild man, one that did not respect a soul, and did whatever he pleased. That image of him was much different than the one that she had seen before, when their fathers had made the arrangement. Sabina thought he was rude, by the way he looked at her in distaste, but not wild. Of course, it had been years since she had seen him, so it was entirely possible that he had changed for the worse . At the very least, Alaine was to be coming with her, along with a few others, so Sabina would not be totally alone in a new land.

Her hair was soon completed, dozens of small brown braids pulled into a complicated bun. Her maids squealed and complemented her, saying how any man would be lucky to have her, but all Sabina could think about was hours they wasted. Hours that she could've been in the mews, saying goodbye to some off the falcons, or the stables, riding one of her many horses. It was a shame, really, but her most of her maids would never understand her complaints. On any other day, Sabina would speak up, complaining anyways, but she had only a week left with some of these maids, and Sabina wanted to keep things positive until she left, which would mean holding her tongue. So Sabina simply nodded and smiled.


Hours later, Sabina was almost prepared. She had been pushed and prodded into a green gown with gold embellishments, the green the same color as her eyes, and then, jewelry was decided. A gold coronet was placed on top of her head, and plenty of ruby rings were upon her fingers. She truly looked like a powerful noblewoman. The only thing left remaining was to walk into the great hall, accompanied by her maids, who were finishing with putting on their own garb. Taking a deep breath, Sabina said a mental goodbye to her unwedded self. By the time she was complete, her maids were finished.

Sabina stepped into the great hall first, followed by the rest of her entourage. Many nobles had already arrived, and Sabina could see their interested eyes, wondering if the future match would be cause for drama in their own lives. Her father, who had entered the room before, quickly caught her eyes, sending her a warning glance, which Sabina fully understood. Do not mess this up. Hopefully, she wouldn't. Promptly being lead to the man she was going to wed, Sabina pasted on a false, innocent smile, saying a few words of hello to him. To Sabina, the rumors seemed false at this point. Her future husband looked like a normal high nobleman, and hopefully, he stayed that way.


Anonymous Me
At last the woman entered the room and Donovan glanced up. It was impossible not to look up when the herald practically shook the walls with his announcement of the Lady Sabina. Slowly his grey eyes looked the lady over. She appeared to be one of tall stature for a woman, slender, and fair skinned. Even if he was not pleased with the arrangement, he could appreciate a fine looking woman. However, he would have to fatten her up a bit if he expected her to do well in childbirth. Her father leaned nearer to him and asked what he thought. Donovan glanced to the man that was to become his father-in-law and answered as truthfully as he could. "She's a soft look for the eye. I was not misinformed of her beauty milord." For her temperament he could not speak, but he would discover that soon enough.

When the young lady was seated next to him she gave a well groomed greeting. It was one that Donovan could have cared less about. Her smile was hardly worth acknowledging. It was clear she did not care for him and he saw no reason for her to. After all, they did not know one another and this was just an alliance. She would do her wifely duties and he would perform as a husband should. After she bore him a few sons her purpose would more, or less be complete. Meeting her gaze briefly he matched her empty smile with one of his own. "Tis a good evenin to milady as well. Good health to you and may your many years be prosperous."

Turning toward the guests again he saw a few of his travelling companions nodding along in speech. If he were a little closer it would be far more engaging conversation. Perhaps a few of the other lords were speaking of a hunt. Making conversation with a lady of the court was difficult business and Donovan tried to think of what he could to say to his betrothed. Asking about a hunt would be an ill choice and inquiring after needlework would be a conversation he would loathe to start. After a few seconds he decided on what should be a safe topic. "Milady, what instrument do you favor? Are you well versed in the instruction of the instrument?" Those were all safe things to ask and he hoped it wouldn't prove to be a conversation boring, or too lengthy. Perhaps something that would simply show his good humor for this event.
As soon as Sabina sat down at her seat, she did what she could all she could to ease her nerves. From an early age, Sabina had trained at how to please a man, how to care for him, but the woman had seen first hand how terrible a man could treat a woman. A handsome man could get away with almost anything, sins forgotten with a single wink or smile. Sabina's betrothed did not look like the other nobles, but he was handsome nothingless. As she walked into the room, Sabina had seen her father ask the man something, no doubt about her appearance. Internally, Sabina's anger blazed hot. She was not a piece of meat, but it seemed every man in the room thought that of her, no matter what she did, or did not do. However, screaming and throwing a fit would not help. Instead, Sabina smoothed out the skirt of dress and looked at her betrothed kindly, internally waiting for when she could show him her true personality.

The man had given her a false smile back, exchanging pleasantries back to her. A hint of a real smile came upon the noblewoman's face. It looked like he didn't want to marry her any more than she did him. Alaine had caught her gaze, sending Sabina a encouraging smile. The maid would want to know everything the next time they got the chance to speak to each other, and hopefully, it wouldn't be too long away. Alaine was one of the only people that Sabina truly trusted in the court, and the maid knew most of what went on in Sabina's life. However, as soon as Sabina could blink, the smile was gone, and the noblewoman was alone in a crowd once again.

Bringing her attention back to the nobleman, she waited calmly for him to start the conversation. With so many nobles close by, Sabina had to watch her mouth, even though her family outranked each of them. Oh, the joys of being female. But Sabina didn't have to hold her tongue for long, for the man started the conversation promptly, asking what instruments she prefered. Now, Sabina didn't particularly like instruments, but her father had forced her to learn the art of the harp from an early age. "I consider myself fairly versed in the harp. " she said calmly, before deciding to bring up a riskier topic. "I have heard you enjoy hunting?" Sabina said quietly, hoping he would sense that she enjoyed the topic.


Anonymous Me
The young woman was apparently one to keep her ear open at court based on her response. Donovan studied her face for a short moment and then answered as carefully as he might. There were still expectations that he would follow through with and the last thing he wanted was to have one of those favorite rumors from court emerge. A few rumors were more common than others, but it was the uncommon ones that he didn't care to have brought up. "Milady, have you been listening at court?" With a bit of a smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth he continued, "It's true I enjoy a good hunt. I've been promised a hard ride and challenging hunt tomorrow. Where does your ladyship intend on spending her day? It will be one of your few remaining days here."

For his part Donovan was sure that the lady would stay at home and clean, play her harp, direct her servants and prepare to leave. In a few days time he would be helping to load her things out into a cart that the servants would bring the rest of the way tomorrow. It traveled far slower coming here and he would have a much longer trip home with her. There were other women he would have preferred, but that was something he kept to himself. She was his betrothed since childhood and he had no other choice. At least he could satisfy himself with the fact that she was pretty.

A small burst of music announced the incoming food and the first table was served with a heaping platter of meat and roasted vegetables. Donovan waited patiently while his host was served first. Following her father being served Donovan and his father were served next and other lords before they served the women. Some of the more important women were served before a few of the lower lords. It was all a game of status and if he wasn't a guest of honor Donovan knew that he would have been served after a few of the ladies, including his wife to be. She would elevate his status in court, but she was hardly more than a little game. Her father was giving her in marriage in exchange for some power. He had the wealth and title, but he lacked the brute force to hold his own when the king passed on. The king was an old man and he had no heir. Naturally the king would name a successor, but that wasn't guaranteed to be a smooth transition. When it happened her father wanted to maintain his estates and he'd purchased a small army of strong men from the mountains and hill country to do it. All of this was the price for more money, greater title and a fair haired woman to bed and give birth to his children. These were the arrangements of old men preparing their households for greatness. One day he'd be doing the same for his own son, or daughter.

Taking the goblet from in front of himself Donovan took a long drink of the sweet mead. It was enough to wet his mouth and help him pretend to have appetite. There were plenty of things to dampen his appetite and one of them being the way her father watched him. No doubt the man had heard the rumor that he was not the son of his father's bride, but a bastard child that had been taken into the household. The rumor was mostly kept to his home region in the mountains, but her father had been listening at court of a long time and it was possible he would choose not to make this alliance if he thought that he would 'dirty' his fine family lineage with a wild man and son of a slave. All he had to do was get through the next several days and show himself every bit of a lord as any other man here and 'prove' his worthiness of such title as he would be graced with after he wed the slender, pale woman next to him.