Nyssa’s life was given away with a single signature. As of her father’s new laws, he had ownership of her until a deal was made to sign her away to another. It made her stomach curdle thinking of all the times she’d tried to gain her father’s love. From the youngest age she could remember she’d taken his looks of dismissal as disapproval. Nyssa was supposed to have been born a boy. Her mother had told her, the maids had told her, even her father had discretely told her. She was the result of their parents final effort to produce an heir out of love. Eirian had been the product of a drunken night on her father’s part, an accident, he’d called it. No wonder Eirian had runaway.
Nyssa stood sombrely watching as her things were packed for her. Sir Jalin Peredur was in the hallway, waiting to take her away. She hadn’t spoken to Geraint, she hadn’t even seen him around the castle which was unusual. Rei had said he’d snubbed her out in the gardens, which was even more unlike him. Her mother tried to say he was too busy, handling the search parties being sent after the caravans for Iridia.
She had known Geraint since she was an infant, she looked at him as she looked at the maids folding and sorting her clothes. He was a servant, perhaps a little higher up, but either way, he served the king just as the rest did. Now she was to look at him as her, what? Her husband? Surely not. She was only fourteen years old, a young age to be married even when marriage was practiced. Jalin had tried assuring her the agreement would not be consummated till she was sixteen, meaning they would give her two years to adjust before expecting children from her.
In a way she couldn’t see why she was so pained, it’s not as if she had had any hopes of something more for herself. She was not like her elder sister, she did not dream of love. And she wasn’t like her younger sister either, she had no quarrels with her duty as princess. Yet now the time was upon her, to be ripped from her childhood home and thrown into another, it did not seem real. Geraint’s mother was said to take over her education, and Nyssa would join Geraint’s younger siblings in their family keep. They were of noble blood, loyal to the crown, and said to be good people. But that did not quell Nyssa’s fear of change.
Nyssa recognised Geraint’s voice instantly, she turned to the doorway where he had just entered, and attempted to curtsy. Geraint was appealing to the eye, with a type of brutal presence her elder sister often admired. He bowed to her.
“Sir,” she said, studying the floorboards thoroughly.
“If I could be so bold to ask for a moment of your time,” Geraint said.
Nyssa straightened turning to those at work, “All of you, leave.”
There was a quiet mumble of hurried goodbyes as they exited.
Geraint looked as if something tragic had happened to him, and he had yet to address the problem. “I’ve come to apologise at my father’s insistence. I haven’t found the time to express my gratitude to you and your father.”
“It has been on my mind for some time now to find a partner, unfortunately my job here prevented me from seeking one out on my own, so my father took it upon himself to search.” He cleared his throat, “I had not thought that my father would be so daring to approach the King.”
Nyssa raised her eyebrows, “Is this an apology, sir?”
Geraint nodded guiltily, “I am not a complicated sort. I am dedicated to my work, and I have watched you grow into a beautiful woman, but I had never thought of you in any way approachable as my father has.”
“He’s forcing you,” Nyssa watched as the knight winced a little at her words. “Like my father is forcing me.”
Geraint nodded again, “I have a hope that we can come to some kind of agreement between the two of us.”
Nyssa admired him a little closer. Geraint was very handsome, with a devilish face that held a sense of mischief whenever he smiled. His bearded face was slightly marked with smile lines, and his eyes seemed to sparkle each time he looked at her.
“Go on,” she told him.
“I have no thoughts of leaving the castle, but it is the wish of my father that you return to my home where our children will be expected to be raised,” he said carefully. “I propose that, in the next two years and after, you do as you wish, under the protection of my father’s household.”
“But after I am sixteen?”
“I will be required to make frequent visits.”
“Until I give you a son.”
Geraint looked ashamed, “It isn’t my wish. But it is necessary.”
Nyssa felt something inside her ache. If he could try to love her, maybe they could be happy. But it seemed he was neither interested nor inclined. He saw her as a child and perhaps that could not be helped, perhaps it was better that way.
It isn’t my wish. But it is necessary. “That is agreeable, sir.”
He looked at her, his eyes holding hers.
“Thank you, Nyssa.”