Story Content Notes: Coerced consent, violence, patriarchal societies with deeply ingrained sexism (doubly so for the Norns), a woman with her own ideas, and some on-screen sex.
Reimund was sorry when the day ended. He had learned a lot about the defensive set up of the keep, and the state of the lands. Integrating the Nornish and Anglish warriors would be a challenge. Already in training, a fight had broken out when Taylor refused to fight alongside a woman.
The idea was outlandish to Reimund as well, but having seen the woman in question with a spear in her hands, he wasn’t inclined to argue. Not yet anyway. And he would not soon forget who had been soundly defeated when his forces and the Anglish last fought.
But he also realized that the Anglish fighting style was most suited to the forested mountains. If they had managed to catch his men in the open fields, there likely would have been a much different outcome.
He said as much to Wigmar and was pleased when the armsmaster didn’t get defensive. “Aye, and that’s how your conqueror took us. Lured our fighters out into the open and your cavalry cut us to pieces. But we might have surprised you yet, m’lord.”
And for a time, while he learned his new warriors, reviewed the accounts with the seneschal, began teaching Henre the rudiments of the knight’s art… he was able to forget.
But now last meal approached. Lady Mildthryth awaited him. And he could no longer have the luxury of denial.
After the meal, he again went with her back to her chambers. He told her of his day while her attendant brushed out her hair and helped her ready for bed. She reciprocated. Most of what she shared was not relevant to his duties, household management. But he listened respectfully and learned a few things – about the available stores and the needs of the keep – that were of interest.
He found he truly enjoyed talking with her. She listened and commented intelligently. And while she lacked a great deal of knowledge of warfare, her knowledge of the land and people was impressive.
Her servant finally departed.
Alone with Lady Mildthryth, he forced himself to cross the room and kneel at her feet.
She smiled and patted his cheek. Like a girl rewarding an obedient dog. “I am pleased you remembered my wishes.”
“I am not likely to forget, my lady.” Somehow, the words came out almost normally.
She continued the conversation as if nothing had changed. But the small pleasure Reimund had been able to take in it was gone.
Finally, they retired to bed. He had hoped that at least here she would permit him to be a proper husband, but that hope quickly shattered. She did not even remove her shift, instead having him strip and sit on the edge of the bed.
It felt like a mockery, for her to kneel before him here while denying him everything that should be his. And yet, when her mouth closed over him, and her hands began to caress his thighs and sac, he lost himself in the pleasure that she brought him.
He had not been a virgin, of course. But nor had he been one to spend overmuch time on his pleasures, preferring to practice and learn so when the time came, he could properly bed his wife. She wrung more pleasure from him than any had before. She watched him, paid attention, and responded to him. And when he released, it was beyond anything he had ever known.
Was this, he wondered as he dressed later, why men were commanded to please their wives? To keep them in this mindless state of pleasure? He feared that if she continued this assault on his senses, she would not need his oath, she could lead him around by his shaft.
But not once had she allowed him to touch her.
Why would she not permit him to give her pleasure? Had her lovers never been able to bring her to this peak so she didn’t know to crave it? Or… did she not crave it from him because she still saw them, and had no intention of permitting him to fulfill even his most basic purpose as her husband?
“Did I displease you last night, my lady?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then why do you not let me bring you pleasure?”
She smiled. “I can tend my own pleasure well enough.”
“My lady will do as she wishes.” Somehow he kept his tone even, though he knew he had failed to fully control his face. He had been a fool. She had needed the marriage consummated, of course. But he had known from the beginning he would be no true husband to her.
“What is it?” the lady asked. “I thought you enjoyed yourself well enough.”
He owed her honesty. And even if she had changed her wedding vows, still she had made them. Perhaps she would care enough to listen.
Reimund took a deep breath and braced himself. “Lady, I know ours is not a… regular marriage, but I am your husband.”
“Of course! Has any dared say otherwise?”
“I… not…” Was she being deliberately difficult? Did she truly not understand? “I had hoped that if I pleased you well enough, you would give over your lovers, my lady.”
“Lovers?” She blinked. “Why would you think I have lovers?”
“Give me the respect of honesty, at least, my lady. There was no blood between your legs after you first took me to your bed. And no virgin would know so much of sex and pleasure.
“It is my duty and privilege as your husband to give you pleasure. Even if you would continue to…. Am I not man enough to be even one of those who bring you pleasure?”
As he spoke, her expression changed, from confused, to incredulous, to angry.
“You wished me to bleed?”
He blinked. “What man does not wish to see virgin-blood when he first beds his wife?”
The blow took him by surprise, opened handed but hard enough to have done injury if he had tensed for it.
“Get out of my sight.”
He bowed and left.