After supper Mildþryð took Ælfwine on a ride around their lands. To review them ‘properly, this time.’ To Ælfwine’ discomfort, she also invited her mother to join them. But Lady Valdis, for all the Dragma reputaion for crudity and aggression was a delightful companion. As they rode she sang and chanted some of the shorted ‘sagas’ of the Dragma, including the story of the Ancestors arrival on this world. Though she insisted she was no ‘Singer’ Ælfwine swore that she would be welcomed at any noble court.
Around Lady Valdis, Lady Mildþryð also relaxed, teasing and laughing. They returned shortly before last meal. He had, thankfully, had a chance to tell Lady Mildþryð that his knights would expect to be seated at the high table in acknowledgment of their rank. The Lady had agreed to adjust her own customs, but added to the table the priest, Armsmaster, and Seneschal.
Ælfwine had feared an awkward and uncomfortable meal. He hadn’t counted on Lady Valdis. She easily picked up their earlier conversation and quickly involved the priest and Damian in a comparison of their people’s different stories of the landing. The priest was obviously (and unsurprisingly) well familiar with the lady’s Dragma heresy and responded to her outrageous statements with good humor and confident rebuttals. Damian, spurned out of his usual silence by a chance to learn something new, took his cue from the priest.
The rest of them had no need ot try to make conversation, though Ælfwine noted Lady Mildþryð jumped in from time to time, alternately skewering one of the partisans or presenting a perspective which unified seemingly conflicting views.
She fascinated him. If he had only been permitted to take her as wife in truth, and not this mockery that left him half a man, he would have counted himself one of the luckiest men in the world.
He did his best to push aside his bitterness as Damian launched a fresh offensive against the priest’s ridiculous claim that the Ancestors had slept away thousands of years in their voyage to this world.
After last meal, he followed Mildþryð to her rooms, where she once again took him in her bed. This time she did not restrict his hands, and he was able to finally wrap his fingers around her curves, palm her breasts, and give her some small portion of the pleasure that should be his right to bestow as her husband.
The fell asleep together, but during the night he woke and removed to his own rooms. Henre was there, sleeping at the foot of his bed, as was proper. But he found himself wishing that the boy had been a bit less… eager to take up his new duties. For even in his own rooms, he could not have privacy.
The next morning, Ælfwine was permitted to break his fast alone, but a message came from Lady Mildþryð as he finished. She asked his plans for the day. A perfectly reasonable question from a new wife. Except that she would pass judgement on his plans. Except that he hadn’t even been sure he would be allowed to plan his day.
Except that he was on his knees before her.
But she said only that it would be a relief that have him take over managing the defense and land and let her returning to only managing the castle.
It occurred to him for the first time that the king’s edict would not be the only reason she had wished to wed. She had been doing the job of ruling lord and lady since her father died.
After Ælfwine set out to review their defenses with Wigmar, Mildþryð asked her mother to join her in the solar.
Unsurprisingly, the blunt Dragma lady immediately did exactly what Mildþryð hoped she would: asked about sex.
“Even knowing you all my life, mother, I still don’t know how you can be so forward about it, but right now, I’m grateful.”
“Problems? Tell me the nit didn’t make you bleed, or I’ll bleed him for you.”
Mildþryð laughed ruefully. “No mother, I remembered well enough your lessons and everything the cousins told me.” She shook her head. “Ancestors know you and they certainly shocked me enough I had no chance of forgetting.”
“So you always say, mother.” She sighed. “I think I’m doing something wrong.”
“Bah. Either you remember you lessons or you do not. If you do, how could you go wrong?”
“It’s… For my first experience, it went well. Wonderful, really. But… I was the only one who was relaxed afterwards. Ælfwine had his release, but instead of drifting as I did, he remained tense and stiff--”
“His muscles, mother, not...”
“Ah.” her mother was silent for a time. “And it was good for you? No, I do not ask for details. Not from my so-Anglish daughter. But tell me true.”
She blushed. She couldn’t help it. “Ah. Hm. Yes. You warned me that the first time I wasn’t likely to… ah… And you were right. But if I can have that again, then I don’t think I care if I ever get to… ah...”
Her mother nodded. “Some never do. For me, I will say it was the one thing your father--”
“Mother!” Mildþryð covered her ears. Really, even for Dragma there should be limits!
“Ha! Anglish, as I said. Very well.” Valdis was silent again. “It may be, daughter, that you were too focused on yourself. Release is always good for a man, but there is a difference between good and wonderful, yes?”
Mildþryð nodded, frowning.
“No! I do not say you did wrong. I know you daughter. For you first time to focus mostly on yourself is good. But see, perhaps, if you can focus on his pleasure this night. That may make much difference.”
Mildþryð nodded again, smiling this time. “Thank you mother. And I think I know exactly what I’ll do.”
“It is good. Now, shall we ride?”