Reina was seated by the fire waiting for the man Taol had sent for, the sun had set several hours ago, and many within the castle had retired to their chambers. The lord of the castle had assured her that no time would be wasted, and that Rionna would be married within a day. Taol was sitting across from her, and it was the first time since her visit that she had seen him without a cup of wine in his hand. Up close, she noted the lines in his skin, the absurd look of displeasure that he wore, as though nothing was quite fit to his liking. The only time she had seen Taol genuinely smile, was in the presence of his daughters.
She glanced at the table before her, admiring the markings that had been worn away by time. It seemed that the Draki family preserved everything from their ancestors, as she’d looked around she had seen books and furniture older than herself, and still in use. In a way she found it comforting, that some things so ancient could still be of use and appreciated, but she could not bear to trust the shabbier and less sturdy of the furniture. Her thoughts had been mostly of her daughter Rei, since her arrival, but one thing had struck her interest concerning the Lady Janoah.
“I’m curious about your wife’s religious practices,” She said to a slightly startled Taol.
“I hope you don’t believe the talk – there are no grisly rituals or anything alike.”
Reina smiled, “I understand there are a group of followers living in one of the druidic ruins – not far from here.”
“I am not knowledgeable in any of it; however I support my wife and her beliefs.” He said, “My daughters also believe in the old ways.”
Reina went to ask him another question, but there was a loud bark as one of Taol’s hounds yelped in excitement. Taol stood to greet of the new arrivals, and Reina looked at them with a shy smile. There were two men, the younger with short blonde hair and a braided beard. The elder appeared familiar to her, and she recognized him to be a skilled physician the king had employed several times over the years.
“Martainn, thank you for coming” Taol smiled familiarly. “And you Shonn, how goes the caravans?”
“We’re still awaiting a few more deliveries,” the young blonde one said. “But I’d conclude we’ve had a decent haul for the winter.”
Taol nodded, “If we run low on storage rooms for the preserves, let me know.”
The physician spoke then, appearing unhappy. “Why have you dragged my old bones from my bed this time, son?”
Reina was shocked to see how coolly the old man spoke to his lord, but the physician looked to Taol with warmth in his eyes, and she felt she could almost declare it love.
“I have a proposition for you,” Taol winked at the elder man. “Tell me, Martainn, how long has your son been without an heir?”
Martainn smiled, “Hear that, boy?” He gestured to the blonde, “Your lord has found you a wife.”
Shonn seemed suddenly on edge, he smiled begrudgingly at his father’s lifted spirits. Neither of the men seemed to have noticed her seated there, and Reina was privately relieved.
“She will birth fine sons, I’m sure.” Taol said seriously.
“Of noble blood I presume?” Martainn asked.
“Leolin,” the lord of the house replied.
The older man looked impressed and nodded his appreciation, then turned to his son. “I have waited too long for you to make a damn choice of all the women in these parts; this is good fortune to be gifted a wife of such standing."
“Father, I’ve no reason to take a wife –”
“Nonsense! I won’t have bastard heirs for my son, the new laws be damned. Take as many whores as you like but don’t tell me to accept your bastard sons as grandchildren!”
The men seemed completely oblivious to her presence there, and Reina jumped a little when the old man growled at his son, shocked to see the outright dismissal of her husband’s new laws. She smiled a little imagining how Conri would react to witnessing such a thing.
“Come, we are in the presence of a lady” Taol cleared his throat. Reina sighed inwardly and straightened, but Taol had not been speaking of her. “Little miss,” he said to the figure appearing from the hall.
Reina recognised her as Lady Kyra, betrothed to the crown prince, and one of the twin daughters of Taol and Janoah. She had the face of her twin, but her eyes were the colour of the sky on a clear day. Taol was eager to embrace his daughter.
She smiled at her father, “I hope I am not interrupting.”
“Not at all, we’ve just agreed to host a wedding for this lad here” Taol grabbed Shonn by the shoulders and pulled him to his side.
“Oh, congratulations Sir Shonn” Kyra smiled. “Father, may I ask why her majesty is sitting all the way over there, excluded from your conversation?" The girl made eye contact with Reina and smiled.