Rionna was resting, waiting for her brute of a husband to come and assault her. She hummed to herself, smiling a little. Grandmaster Pwyll had told her that it was her duty as a wife to provide her husband with an heir, and somehow when he said it, having a son to Shonn didn’t sound so bad. She had been visiting the cathedral every day now, taking Theda when she got the chance. Slowly she had been learning about the old religion, they called themselves druids – disciples of the fey. Commonly, the fey were called Oracles, but Rionna had learned that only the strong fey were granted that title. It was similar to being a Lord a Lady, the Grandmaster had told her. The druids were formed to await the arrival of a prophet, who would lead them into a new age. Until he comes, the Grandmaster said, they must sustain the memory of the fey, their teachings and honour them from afar.
Rionna knew that the Oracles – or the fey – would sometimes impregnate mortal women. For decades now this had been frowned on, it was a mark against the woman’s family. The Grandmaster assured her that conceiving a child through a visit from a fey was in fact an honour. It had been foretold that the prophet they awaited would be born of such a union, and that the king himself was descended from a similar arrangement. She had still not had the chance to see her younger sister, to her dismay. Anger still burned in her chest, in spite all the peaceful words of encouragement from the Grandmaster.
Suddenly she heard the sound of heavy steps, and she sat up. She had managed to endure sex with Shonn quite often, but the sound of his drunken muttering put her on edge. He got violent when he was intoxicated. She hunched over as the bedroom door swung open, and felt the sickly presence of her husband. The Grandmaster had told her that all she needed to do was provide him with one son, in accordance with the ancient contract of marriage. If she could do that, the Grandmaster would accept her into his following with open arms, and she could gain access to Idelisa.
“Woman!” Shonn yelled demandingly.
She began to pull up her nightgown, hoping for a quick one. He moved around to her side of the bed, and she hesitantly looked up at him. She stopped dead, dropping her dress and letting her jaw hang. His hair was gone. Not just his beard had been shorn off – even the hair on his head was gone. His eye was almost swollen shut and bruised purple, and she spied an obvious lump on his bald scalp.
“H-Husband,” she stuttered after a few seconds. “What – what happened to you?”
He had tiny specks of blood all over his head, and he was visibly bleeding from his chin. His drunken gaze was unsteady; he blinked at her, and seemed to collapse onto her. She pulled away from his fumbling hands, his lips were puckered and searching for hers, she could smell a mix of piss and vomit on him. In revulsion, she pushed him away.
He fell to the floor with a heavy thud. For a moment, she waited to see if would get back up, but Shonn just mumbled a little with his face pressed to the wooden floor. Her mind ticked over, he was clearly unwell. She knew that men had died from drunkenness before, but she didn’t know how to tell if he was that ill. Her first instinct was to awaken Martainn – but he had gone to visit his daughter at court. She heard Grandmaster Pwyll’s voice in her head, and wondered if she would be failing her duty as wife if she let him die before they could conceive a son.
She stood and leaned down at him, thinking that he seemed plenty eager to perform, although he probably wouldn’t be able to complete the task. With a sigh of resignation, she stepped over her husband, intent on making her way downstairs to fetch someone that could help. She had a feeling that one day, she would look back and wish that she hadn’t.