Bound by His Oath, Finale

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.

King Marcel, known among the Anglish as ‘the conqueror’ (to his pleasure or displeasure depending on the day) was not happy. William the Black was currently out of favor with his majesty, his ambitions having exceeded all reasonable bounds. Marcel had traveled halfway across his kingdom in hopes of finding some justification for stripping William’s son of the lordship he had against all expectation or reason, laid claim to.

Unfortunately, Reimund was as clever as his father, avoiding every trap the king had laid for him. Even insults that would have brought most men to the point of drawn steel he met with a calm face and a cool deflection. And an invitation for any of the king’s men to spar with the keep armsmaster. The king’s knights reported that Reimund’s knights referred to the armsmaster as ‘that Anglish bastard’. Seeing that old bastard hold off his best men gave Marcel a new understanding for how a mere woman had held onto her father’s keep so long.

And whatever else that unnatural woman was, she knew how to manage a household. The way her people had turned to and provided feasts, bedding, and stabling for all Marcel’s retainers on such short notice was proof of that.

No, Marcel the Conqueror was not a happy man.

Finally, he accepted that he had no choice. He had promised a boon to the man who brought the bitch to heel. And whatever his… unconventional methods (and how had he maneuvered his way from prisoner to lord?), Reimund — Lord Reimund of Oak Haven now, damn him to the darkness — had managed it.

The offer of a reward took Reimund completely by surprise. He and Milthryth had been so worried about the Baron’s threat, they had forgotten the king’s promised reward. He had been relying quite heavily on what Mildthryth called his ‘Nornish mask’ and other skills from court. That mask kept his surprise off his face, but didn’t help him find an answer for the king. Reimund was not unaware of the king’s hostility. He needed to ask for a boon that gave him a clear benefit, one the king could understand or his Majesty would look for a hidden benefit. If he could, he needed something that made it clear he was not his father’s ally or tool. And if possible he needed something that Mildthryth would approve of.

They had been getting better at working together. Helped somewhat by Reimund spending time with Lady Valdis, learning more of the strange Dragma customs. But while Reimund no longer knelt to his wife, while he understood now what she wanted from their marriage, he didn’t forget that he had sworn liege-oath.

Even if most days it still rankled — a little less each day.

Unfortunately, more than anything else he needed an answer quickly.

When an idea came to him he bit back a chuckle. There had been a thing he had been thinking of late. A thing he had thought there was no way to make happen. But the king could make it happen…

“Majesty, if it is not to much to ask, I would like you to grant me wardship of my sister, Eveline.” He paused and allowed himself a slight smile of triumph. “And for your majesty to provide her dowry.”

The king stared at him a moment, then chuckled. “So, not your father’s man after all.”

Reimund snorted. “I suppose I owe a debt to my father. In a sense. If he had been willing to pay my ransom, I would never have achieved this,” he gestured around the room, to Mildthryth sitting next to him, her eyes properly lowered. “But I think the ancestors will forgive me for holding a small grudge.”

“Good, good.” Marcel grinned. The king could afford to dispense with the mask. “Yes. I grant you wardship of your sister – and any alliance you can make for yourself with her hand in marriage. And a reasonable dowry from my own funds, so you won’t lose a penny in the bargain.”

“Thank you, Majesty.” Reimund said.

The king ate for a few minutes, thinking through all the implications of Reimund’s clever boon. He paused to savor a bite of roast and it was his turn to snort. “Perhaps your wife can teach her to manage a household. I’d feel much more kindly to your father if I didn’t feel I was risking my life every time I ate at your mother’s table.”

“As a dutiful son to my mother, I cannot in good conscious agree with your Majesty.” Reimund murmured. “But your Majesty may wish to save some room for dessert.”

The next morning, the whole burg gave a sigh of relief as the king and his entourage disappeared around a bend in the road. With luck they would not draw his attention again until it was time to celebrate the birth of an heir.

As they watched from the tower walkway, Mildthryth finally asked the question she had been biting back since dinner the night before. “So why did you ask for your sister as your ward? I know it wasn’t just to use her as a bargaining chip – if only because you know exactly what I’d think of any such thing.”

“I am trying to be a dutiful husband, my lady.” Now he grinned, a mischievous expression Mildthryth once would have not believed he was capable of. “Could you not believe that I have family feelings for her?”

“Reimund, until last night I didn’t even know you had a sister.”

“I do care for her,” he said. “And she deserves better than whatever marriage my father would force on her.

“But mostly… Ancestors’ witness, but I’m starting to believe John was right to call you witch. Why else would I think…” he trailed off.

Mildthryth tried to glare, but couldn’t stop the corner of her mouth from twitching. “Out with it, sirrah. Or you’ll sleep in your own bed tonight.”

Reimund took up her hand and kissed it. “I thought she could use a better role model.”

It was several minutes before either of them could speak again. But when they finally released each other, he said, “And my mother’s table really is deadly.”


All’s well that ends well. And maybe we’ll peek back in on Eveline in a few years.

Next week we’ll be starting How NOT to Save the World (season 1)

They are a plucky band of rebels, fighting against a tyrant who overthrew the rightful government and is supported by an army of monsters. The only problem? They think they’re the good guys.

They are family, grandmother and granddaughter. Students of Kabbalah in a world where someone could really create the Golem of Prague. They are done sitting back while injustice takes place around them. The only problem? They’re on opposite sides.

They’re just a kid, trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in this crazy world their father just took over. And their new mentor is trying to kill their father. The only problem? Everything!

They are coming to usher humanity into a new galactic society. They have the best of intentions, amazing technology to sell us, and know exactly what will fix all our problems. The only problem? If someone doesn’t stop them, they are going to destroy the world.

He has a prophecy foretelling his success, a dragon sidekick, and plans for the biggest battle station ever built. He’s going to save the world. The only problem? He’s the bad guy.

The subscription newsletter is already on episode 6 of How NOT to Save the World.

If you are interested, subscribe to get a jump start on the story!

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Bound by His Oath, Ep 1
Bound by His Oath, Ep 16

Continue to:
How NOT to Save the World, Ep 1
The Price of Survival, Ep 1
Meadowsweet, Ep 1 (Coming Soon)

Bound by His Oath, Episode 16

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 looked up from showing Henre how to repair a broken armor scale as Lady Mildthryth swept into the room.

She stopped, just inside the door, and for the first time since their marriage seemed uncertain.

“Henre,” he said, “go to the practice yard. Work on your right overhand until the dinner bell.”

“Yes, my lord.”

He waited till Henre was gone to set the armor aside. “My lady?” he got up and started to kneel, the motion almost natural after all these weeks.

“Stop.” She strode across the room put an arm under his elbow. “I don’t want you to kneel to me again.”

He froze. “I don’t understand, my lady.”

“Oh, for the love of the Ancestors, Reimund, I’m your wife, you can use my name!”

She rubbed her face with her hands.

“I didn’t understand. I knew you Norns had your superstitions and restrictions on women and our behavior. I had no idea just how dark this Nornish perversion is.”

“Are you well… Lady Mildthryth?”

“I’m raving aren’t I? Like a dark-curst madwoman. This is what you’ve brought me to!” And she burst out laughing.

Before he could decide if he should excuse himself and send for the priest, she calmed down.

“I’m sorry, my lord. I’ve scared you, and that was not my intent. Please, sit down. We are going to talk, as we probably should have done weeks ago.”

They sat, but neither spoke. Reimund didn’t know what was going on, and Mildthryth didn’t know where to begin. Finally, she said. “It was Sir John who gave me the first real clue. Oh, I should have known something was wrong when I realized how you expected them to react. But our fears are so often irrational, aren’t they?”

“Fear… certainly can be, lady.”

She grinned a moment. “Humoring the mad woman? I am grateful, I supposed.” the grin faded. “Sir John’s reaction…” she shuddered in memory, the fear somehow worse now than it had been in the moment when he had attacked her.

Reimund saw the fear and bowed his head. It was his weakness that had put her at risk and his failure to guard her that left her vulnerable. What could he say?

Mildthryth reached and put a hand on his arm. “It wasn’t your fault, Reimund. It was my choice to tell them, and if I’d trusted you about how… badly they might react I would have been prepared myself.

“I doubt,” she mused, responding to the doubt he didn’t voice, “that Sir John ever told you that it was me who broke his nose that day in the chapel. I could never have defeated him, but I did have enough training to hold him off until Wigmar could step in. If I’d been prepared, I could have defended myself — or dodged him — long enough, Reimund. I promise you that.”

It wasn’t clear if he believed her or not, but some of his guilt eased. She squeezed his hand and continued.

“Anyway, that Sir John immediately jumped to witch craft… why would he think that the only reason you might kneel to me would be sorcery? Especially when he knew I held all your lives in my hand?”

She looked at Reimund a moment and he, too, remembered that day. Remembered standing on the walkway of the tower. Knowing John’s life… the lives of all of them… hung on his decision.

“I never meant to shame you, Reimund,” she said gently.

“I didn’t think you did, my lady… Lady Mildthryth. I thought… I remember thinking that you had found a solution to your problems, and if that solution was shameful to one who sought to harm you, what was that to you?”

She nodded. “I didn’t know it would be shameful for you, to kneel to a woman. To your wife. If I had known… that day, I would have done nothing different.

“But I would have done things differently after.”

She stopped a moment, and Reimund remembered also his sense from that day, of one preparing to make a possibly suicidal cavalry charge.

Or, as she would put, the lightning strike. After which everything would be changed and she didn’t now if it would be for good or ill.

“Reimund… I knew among the Norns that a woman could not rule in her own right. I feared you would try to find some way to subvert your oath, that I needed to remind you, constantly, that you had given oath and were bound to me.”

He flushed with shame. “You… weren’t wrong, lady.”

“I think I was.” She waved away anything he might have said. “Oh, the wedding vows, yes. I haven’t forgotten that. But perhaps I remember that day differently than you do. On the walkway, you gave me your word. But after our wedding, you did something different, didn’t you? You gave me your oath, in the words of the ancestors.

“And you never thought to do otherwise, did you? I was too afraid to see it – though I think you saw my fear.” He nodded. “But looking back, you never once thought of using force against me. You gave your oath and from that moment on have done nothing to give me cause to doubt.”

He swallowed. “I tried not to.” A moment. “It has been… difficult, Lady. But it was my choice to make.”

“Perhaps. But I think perhaps you didn’t really understand what I was asking… no, not what I was asking, but what I wanted and didn’t trust you enough to ask for.”

“Reimund… my lord… it was not common among the Anglish, for a woman to rule. But it happened. And when it did, her husband would give her oath, not to be her servant, but to acknowledge that the… the normal manner of a marriage did not apply.”

He thought about that a moment. “I knew that there were ruling ladies among the Anglish. It… never occurred to me they might have married. Or how such marriages might work.”

“I don’t actually know much of how they worked myself.” She grimaced. “Even before the conqueror came, they were rare. But as I believe I have mentioned, I am also Dragma. Among my mother’s people, the idea of making a man make such an oath would be horrifying. Everyone would know that a man of lower rank would bow to his wife, and to ask an oath of him, to suggest that he would even think of usurping his wife, would be an insult of the highest order.”

Reimund shook his head, trying to understand how such a barbarous custom could even work. Then he looked again at Mildthryth… at his wife. “I suppose, if you are representative of Dragma women, the system might work better than I would have expected.”

She laughed. “Is that a compliment my lord?”

“I think… I think perhaps it is.”

“I trust you, Lord Reimund. I trust you with my holding, with my people. I trust you with myself. I don’t want you as a servant, I don’t want to be rubbing your nose every day in my position.

“I want you as my husband. My partner, my aide, my confidant. My right hand as I am your left.”

She said nothing further, but waited his response. It was one of the things he cherished about her – that for all her lightning quickness she could be patient and give him time to think through without rushing or badgering him. He did cherish her. How often had he wished he could be her husband in truth? But she was not a Nornish woman, and he had been blind to what that meant. As blind as she had been to his pain these last weeks.

He knew, he thought, what he wanted to say. But how to say it, that was harder.

Finally, he stood, looming over her as he had after their wedding, but this time he could see she was not afraid. Slowly, he went to his knees before her, surprised by how easy it was. “Lady, I kneel one last time of my own will. If I feel shame in it, that is my failing, for any man should be honored to serve you.” Then he stood and bowed as she said a Dragma man might. “And I am honored to have you as my wife… Mildthryth.”


Looks like they’re actually getting a happy ending. Just one more loose end…

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Bound by His Oath, Ep 1

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Bound By His Oath, Finale

Bound by His Oath, Episode 15

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.

When Wulfrun, the housekeeper, learned that Mildthryth had been alone in her chambers with Lord Reimund and his knights she was quietly horrified. First, of course, that her lady had been alone with four men. While there had never been any hint of impropriety – no hint of sexual impropriety, at least – in Lady Mildthryth’s behavior, tongues would wag. And with the king arriving in the next weeks no less! Perhaps more importantly, that the Nornish lord and his Nornish knights who had so recently tried to conquer the keep were alone with Wulfrun’s friend and lady.

Wulfrun had formed a reasonably good opinion of Lord Reimund since the wedding. But she would not soon forget or forgive what he had meant to do to her lady. So without saying anything to Lady Mildthryth, Wulfrun had a quiet word with servants she most trusted.

The next day, Sir Damian accompanied Lord Reimund into Mildthryth’s quarters for what had become their nightly conference. Not one, but two maids remained in the lady’s rooms until after Sir Damian left. They were there again two days later when Sir John joined the lord and lady for a private breakfast.

Mildthryth decided to be amused by Wulfrun’s caution. Reimund, after thinking about it, sought Wulfrun out and thanked her for her concern for Lady Mildthryth’s well being. If her concerns were insulting – and they were – he had had a great deal of practice in ignoring insults of late. And if ignoring this insult gained him some trust from one of the most important people in the keep, so much the better.

A few months ago, it would not have occurred to Reimund to view a servant woman as one of the most important people in the keep. Nornish keeps didn’t have housekeepers. But Nornish ladies weren’t as… involved in the running of the keep as Lady Mildryth was. The keep and everything in it not directly involved in defense was, to the lady and her fellow Anglish, the lady’s domain. Within that domain, Wulfrun ran their actual household – ensuring meals were served on time, laundry was done, rushes were changed, and everything else that made the living areas of the keep… livable.

Reimund was not inclined to find his quarters in disrepair and meals cold because he slighted the woman who ensured they weren’t.

Only Wulfrun said or did anything, but many people noted that their lady was spending more time with the Nornish knights. Wulfrun was likely overcautious. Overall, the Anglish of the keep thought it well. Lady Mildthryth knew how to win a person’s loyalty – didn’t they know it! If she could win the loyalty of these knights, then everyone could trust them and the keep would be stronger for it.

And if Lord Reimund seemed ill-tempered, who could blame him with the conqueror descending on him and the Baron’s not-so-subtle threat?

Still, Lord Reimund wasn’t a fool, and Lady Mildthryth was a gift from the Ancestors themselves. They would find a way to outsmart the conqueror and they could finally get on with their lives.

Mildthryth did not have her people’s confidence. She did not forget Reimund’s words – “…do not mock me so. Better to say I am your servant. Or your dog.” Her husband had regained some of his surety now that he knew his friends stood by him, but there was something… something that lurked behind his pained words that day.

She could ask him. He would not, she was sure, refuse her. Not after their last… discussion. But she did not want to hurt him so again. Not if she could avoid it. Which had led her here, to the room Wulfrum had finally cleared for the Nornish knights.

Twice Mildthryth nearly turned away. Her mother would laugh to see her. Her grandfather cringe. A daughter of Dragma, hesitating! But somethings were more intimidating than a charge of Nornish calvary.

Finally, laughing at herself, she raised her hand and knocked.

Sir Damian answered the door to the knights’ quarters. “My lady?”

“I wish to speak with Sir John.”

The quiet knight stepped back from the door, allowing her entry.

Sir John was seated on a bench, mending a torn strap on his armor. He looked up as she entered and grimaced. “My lady witch.”

“John,” Sir Damian chided.

“No,” Mildthryth said. “That is precisely why it is Sir John I wish to speak with. He will tell me his truth where my husband and Sir Hereweald will give me courtly faces and you, Sir Damian, hide behind dignified silence.”

Sir John laughed. “You are right there, my lady witch.” He took a deep breath and let it out with a hiss. “So which of my lord’s secrets do you come to me for?”

Mildthryth smiled. “Actually, Sir John, I’m here for your secrets.”

He stilled and set down his work. “I have no secrets. As you rightly note, my lady, I am an open scroll.”

Something in that sent warning notes down Mildthryth’s spine, but she didn’t let the hint of threat deter her. “I suspect you have many secrets Sir John, but I expect the one I am after today you scarce consider a secret.

“Why do you hate me, Sir John? Why do you call me witch and burn with anger to see my husband kneel to me?”

Sir John growled. “I would have thought mockery beneath you, witch.”

Sir Damian shifted but stayed where he was.

“My lord said something painfully similar before I had him send for you the other day. You both are acting under a false assumption.”

“What would that be? That we are worthy of your mockery?”

Mildthryth laughed. She couldn’t help herself. “Ancestors bless, Sir John, I swear you are a breath of fresh air after weeks of seeking answers from Nornish stone! You are almost as honestly expressive as a proper Dragma warrior.”

For the first time, he looked insulted. “My lord’s liege or not, call me a blighted barbarian again, and I’ll cry challenge for the insult.”

“I mean no insult Sir John, and I care nothing for your challenge. As you and my husband seem to have forgotten I am an Anglish lady and daughter and granddaughter of Dragma ‘barbarians’. Cry challenge on me and my mother will demand the right to be my champion and turn you into steaks.

“But that is not what I am here for. I am not Nornish, Sir John. I have no knowledge of your cursed ‘civilized’ ways. Until your darkened Conquerer tossed me to the wolves I could count on my hands the number of times I had seen Norns.

“So no, Sir John, I mean no mockery. I have not one star to guide me in this matter. Tell me, Sir John. Tell me why you hate me. Tell me why kneeling to me is a shame that is destroying my husband. Tell me what I need to know to save him.”


That’s coming straight to the point…

Return to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 1
Bound by His Oath, Ep 14

Continue to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 16

Bound by His Oath, Episode 14

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.


“I bend knee every day to my wife.”

Almost before he stopped speaking, John yelled, “Witch!”

He whirled around to see John, with his blade out, advancing on Lady Mildthryth.

“No!” He threw himself at John, knocking his friend to the ground and the sword from his hand. Somehow, Reimund kept his own feet. Terrified of what he would need to do, Reimund drew his own sword. By the time John found his feet, Reimund’s sword was at his throat. “Stand down, Sir John.”

“She’s bewitched you, Reimund, can’t you see?”

“By the Ancestors and your oath, stand down.”

Hereweald came up beside John. For a moment Reimund feared he would need to face down both of them, but the big man grabbed John’s sword and passed it to Damian.

For a moment, he couldn’t make himself speak, couldn’t do what came next. “John. Damn it, John,” he whispered. “Sir John of Kaldon,” when he spoke again his voice was harsh and weary, “I place you under arrest for–”

“Lord Reimund.” Mildthryth interrupted him.

What now? Why now? Was his darkness not deep enough? “Yes, my lady?”

“Come here, husband.”

Reimund took a slow step back, watching John and Hereweald. John’s face was still frozen in shock, but Hereweald nodded and put a heavy hand on John’s shoulder.

Trusting Hereweald to keep John under control, Reimund slowly sheathed his sword. He turned and walked toward her, each step seeming to echo endlessly. They would see now. They would see and despise, as he despised, and he could nothing but obey for though he was close, so very close to breaking, he was not broken yet.

He knelt before her. Displaying his degradation for those he loved best to see and understand. “What is your wish, my lady?”

She was as calm and poised as if a warrior twice her size hadn’t just threatened her life, and she smiled at him. “I’m afraid I became absorbed in my embroidery.” Her voice was loud as if… as if she weren’t speaking just to him. “I’m afraid I missed part of your conversation with these good knights. Of your courtesy, did you discuss anything of import which I should know?”

He stared, unable to believe what she seemed to be telling him. But she raised her eyebrows and almost he thought he saw her wink. “Nothing.” He whispered it, barely daring to hope.

She gave the faintest nod and smiled.

He cleared his throat and spoke as loud as he could. “Nothing, my lady. You missed nothing.”

She smiled more broadly and placed a hand again on his shoulder.

Relief flooded him, taking away his strength. He bowed until his forehead nearly touched his knee. “Thank you, my lady,” he choked out.

He heard, as if from a dream, Lady Mildthryth speak again. “I hope you will forgive my inattention, sir knights. I fear it has been a long day. If you will excuse me a minute, I will summon refreshments for us. I doubt I am the only one that needs them.”

She dropped her embroidery and, ignoring the speaking tube in the corner, walked out of the room. The embroidery hoop fell within Reimund’s view and he stared for a minute. “Absorbed” indeed. He was no expert in embroidery but if she had made more than half a dozen stitches he would eat his armor.

He stood and turned back to his friends.

“I warned you once before John, against raising a hand to my wife. Believe me bewitched if you will. Scorn me as unmanned and unworthy if you will, but do not doubt how serious I am. It would break my heart to kill you, but I would shatter my heart before I betray my oath.”

For the third time, he was met with stunned silence. But this time he held firm and did not look away.

John shook his head. “Unmanned? Unworthy? You were the best of us, how could you even think–”

Reimund laughed bitterly. “Yes, I was the best of you. What am I now? Do you think I don’t feel the shame of it? That I go out there,” he swept a hand towards the door, “where I am ‘my lorded’ and deferred to and know it is all a sham? Do you think it doesn’t pain me every time I kneel to her? There are jokes about men who are ruled by their wives, and I’ve heard each of you make them. Just as I have made them.

“I wish I were bewitched.” The last words slipped out before he could call them back. Tears dripped down his cheeks, his mask shattered beyond repair. “How could I not think you would despise what I have become? Darkness knows, I despise myself enough for all of you.”

“Why?” Damian blurted out. “If you hate it this much, why would you do such a thing?”

He closed his eyes and again dropped his head. “I told John that she was in a position to set demands upon our marriage, and knew it… I just… never told any of you what her greatest demand was.

“If it was just myself, I might have refused and hoped for ransom. I don’t know. But I couldn’t risk your lives on the chance of my father’s generosity.”

He shook his head. “The why doesn’t matter. This is my life now, and if you continued to serve me, then your service will be to her.”

John was turning purple. “You thought…” he finally took his sword back from Damian and resheathed it. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so insulted in my life.”

It hurt, even more than Reimund expected, but he stood firm. “If the insult is too great for you to bear, then I will release you from my service and you need not concern yourself with me further.”

“You benighted fool.” Suddenly, John was upon him, pulling him into a great hug. “You think I care about that? I can’t believe you thought we would abandon you. Especially after you tell us something like this!”

A hand on his shoulder and Hereweald said, “John’s right. You are our lord and we’ve worked and waited years to serve you as such. And to endure this for our sake? You are more a man, more a lord, than anyone I have ever known.”

Damian said nothing, but his hand rested on Reimund’s other shoulder.

For the first time in his memory, he broke down and wept like a child. But here and now, with these men, his men, he felt no shame in it.


See Reimund? Talking works. (Enjoy your friends’ support — you’ve earned it.)

Return to:
Bound By his Oath, Ep 1
Bound by His Oath, Ep 13

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Bound by His Oath, EP 15

Bound by His Oath, Episode 13

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.

Mildthryth had ample opportunity to regret her poorly chosen words.

It had created a strain between them that she didn’t know how to fix. Especially when Reimund avoided her as much as possible. Including sending several rather flimsy excuses for not coming to see her in the evening the last several days. When he couldn’t avoid her, he continued to hide his feelings behind that damn Nornish mask.

She was on the tower walk, brooding, when a throat cleared behind her. She turned to find Sir Hereweald waiting at the top of the stairs.

“Pardon the interruption, my lady. I was hoping to find Lord Reimund with you.”

“No pardon needed, Sir Hereweald.” And she would not shun the opportunity. “I’m afraid I don’t know what his plans for this afternoon were.

“But tell me, have you spent time with Lord Reimund recently?”

“No, milady.” Sir Hereweald had spent little time in Lady Mildthryth’s company. But he considered himself a good judge of character, and for all her strange ways Lady Mildthryth did seem to care about Reimund. So he took a chance. “My lord has been… very busy of late.”

“Ah. I have been… concerned. As you say he has been… very busy.” Mildthryth and Hereweald shared a look, joined in their mutual concern. “If you do find him…”

The knight gave a courtly bow. “Shall I let him know you wish to speak with him?”

“I… Yes, that may be best.”

Reimund wearily climbed the stairs to end his day by reporting to his lady-wife. He had always counted himself a strong man, but he was being sorely tested. Like a man who stood sentry too long, he was losing his edge, getting worn down from the constant strain. And now to have his friends carrying orders from his wife… friends who would scorn him if they knew the truth.

He opened the door and slipped inside. Lady Mildthryth was working on some piece of embroidery.

“How went your day, my lord?”

She couldn’t even bother to look at him.

“Don’t call me that!” he snapped.

He cursed himself as she looked up. Seeming more confused than angry. “What?”

He grabbed hold of his temper, but with temper restrained he had no mask for his pain.

“Please, my lady,” he cringed as his voice broke, as it hadn’t since he was a stripling. “In public, we must play our roles, but here?” the words poured out past his ability to stop. “We both know I am no lord to you. Of your mercy lady, do not mock me so. Better to say I am your servant. Or your dog.” He ended on a bitter whisper, shamed past bearing by his loss of control.

He turned to flee, but before he could open the door her voice rang out. “Stop.”

Almost he kept going. But he held to honor by a thread.

Mildthryth stood and walked over to her husband. For once, he wore an actual expression. For once, he told her what he was thinking, what he was feeling. And she had not the first clue what to do.

His face was turned away, his hand still gripping the door handle until his knuckles turned white. As if he was still on the edge of running. How had she broken him this badly, brought him to the point of abandoning his honor, and not known it? She laid a hand on his shoulder and found he was shaking.

“Reimund, I swear by the Ancestors, I intend no mockery.”

He turned to look at her, tears gathered in his eyes, though not yet falling.

“By the dark, I wish you would do this more often. Then maybe I’d have some idea what was going on.”

He laughed harshly. “Does it please you for me to shame myself, my lady?”

“No. It pleases me for you to express yourself. To tell me what you are thinking and feeling. I have no idea what is going on right now except that you are upset. You are my husband, lord to my lady. How is this mockery? Servant, yes, if you wish to see it so. I forced that oath on you. But dog? What have I done that you would think such a thing?”

“I come at your call, sit at your feet, speak on your command. When you are pleased with me you even pat my head. In what way am I not your dog?”

“Reimund…” She reached for him, but he stepped away.

“Don’t. Of your mercy lady, don’t.”

She stopped. Bewildered. “Is this why you have been avoiding me? Avoiding your friends?”

For a long moment, he said nothing, then he laughed again. “You will have the last bit of me, then. Destroy even the dregs…

“Yes, my lady, this is why I avoid them. I cannot stand to lie to them and cannot face how they would scorn me if they knew the truth.”

“Scorn you?” There was something here. Like when her mother forced them to confront each other those weeks ago, something that she was missing. And perhaps something he was missing as well. She could feel it there, the edges of it. But not understand it.

Picking her words with the care she started with what seemed to her to be obvious. “Reimund, whatever else may be between us, you are my husband. Any who would scorn you, for any reason, has no place in this keep.

“Send for your friends. I think they will prove true friends to you, but if not? Then best you know sooner.”

“My lady…”

“Send for them, husband. This, at least, we can solve tonight.”

Reimund bowed and stepped into her sunroom. Her maid waited there, he was able to send her to find and summon the knights. The maid left quickly and Reimund took a few moments to brace himself for what was to come.

When he stepped back in, Mildthryth was waiting patiently, once again working on her embroidery. “My lady… what did you mean… that you wish I would express myself more?”

She took a startled breath, wondering if she was not the only one groping in the dark for understanding.

“Do you remember when my mother forced us to speak on the tower walk?”

“I will not soon forget, my lady. Neither that conversation nor what came after.” Her heart lifted to see a faint smile on his face.

“You seem to have some… Nornish belief that it is shameful to show your feelings. You do not tell me when something bothers you. You seem to wear a mask, always calm, always polite.

“I know this was not the marriage either of us expected. But I’ve come to care for you. I want you to be happy with me. To be… to be a partner to me. How can I help, how can I provide for you as I swore to, if I don’t know when something is wrong?”

He blinked. “I… had not thought of it that way. I am used to court, where manipulation and intrigue make it dangerous to show your true face. I have, indeed, masked myself for most of my life. I don’t know if I can stop. But… I will try.

“I have come to care for you also, my lady.”

Reimund stared out the window and listened to Lady Mildthryth pace. He recognized her pacing as a sign that she was thinking deeply. And that opened up the understanding of why she was so frustrated with his mask. Why his hard-won control was doing him more harm than good with his lady wife. It was time to relax that control.

A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. “Come,” Mildthryth said. Hereweald entered, followed by John and Damian.

“My lord,” John, as he frequently did, spoke for them. “Is something wrong?”

Of course, they worried. He had never brought them into these private rooms, always going to them and keeping a distance between them and Mildthryth.

“No,” Reimund made himself say. He glanced at Lady Mildthryth, but she simply nodded, leaving the conversation to him. “Everything is alright… For now, at least.” He took a breath. “I have something I need to tell you, but it must not go beyond this room.”

The three exchanged glances, “Is it the king?”

“No.”

“Of course, if you wish it kept private.” The other’s murmured agreement.

Reimund shook his head. “Your oaths. That even if you choose to… leave my service you will never speak of this.”

That stopped them. John clenching his sword hilt, probably angry at the implied insult. Hereweald even blander than usual. Damian simply wide-eyed in shock.

Mildthryth stopped her pacing and came to rest a hand on his shoulder, as she had earlier during his… episode. “You should know,” she said, “That it was my wish to keep this matter hidden. I fear the… king’s reaction should he learn of it. But it has weighed on Lord Reimund to keep it from you, and as he trusts you, I will trust you.”

She stepped back and seated herself, picking at her embroidery, giving them the illusion of privacy, if not it’s reality.

Hereweald came and knelt before him. “Lord, I swear by the Ancestors I will keep your secrets unto my death.”

A moment later the others were beside him, swearing likewise.

“Thank you, my friends.”

For a moment, no one moved.

Damian popped to his feet and smacked Reimund’s shoulder. “And now that you’ve scared us all half to death—oh, and insulted John’s ever-fragile honor—tell us what by the dark is going on. What could shake you so?”

He licked his lips and decided that sometimes the suicidal charge had its virtues.

“I do not rule here. Before our wedding, I took Lady Mildthryth as my liege and I renewed that oath after we were wed.” He turned away, unable to bear watching their shock turn to disgust. “I bend knee every day to my wife.”


Breathe Reimund, you’ll get through this.

Return to:
Bound By His Oath, Ep 1
Bound by His Oath, Ep 12

Continue to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 14

Bound by his Oath, Episode 12

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.

Last meal went well. While their stores were low, Mildthryth and the cooks were able to come up with enough ‘fancy’ dishes to make it clear they were honoring the king’s baron. And Mildthryth had time before the meal to warn her mother. Lady Valdis, much to Reimund’s relief, decided she was ‘unwell’ that evening and would take her meal in her room.

That evening, when the baron was finally to bed for the night, Reimund went to Mildthryth’s rooms.

It was late enough that her maid was already sleeping in her public room. Reimund stepped around the woman to knock gently on Mildthryth’s bedroom door.

“Come in.”

He stepped in quickly, closing the door behind him.

“I was beginning to wonder if you would be attending me at all this evening, sirrah.”

He crossed the room to kneel before her, hoping the maid was not a light sleeper.

“I nearly didn’t, my lady. Lord Bernard will think it odd that I come to you, rather than summoning you to me.”

“And we must keep Lord Bernard happy.”

“My lady.” His liege, he reminded himself, had a right to speak so. “I understand your anger lady, and I thank you for your trust this day. Yes, we must keep Lord Bernard happy. He told me today that the king is coming and if the king is not pleased, he may deny my lordship here.”

“He can’t do that!” Mildthryth jumped to her feet, aghast. “I followed his edict, he has no grounds to deny me…”

“No grounds to deny you, my lady.”

She stopped, stared at him a moment, and cursed.

“So we must keep the king happy, which means keeping this baron happy.”

“Yes.”

Mildthryth sighed. She was ready to damn all Norns to the endless dark. “We will need to talk about how to go about keeping the king happy, but for now, it is late.” All but one, perhaps.

“Of course, my lady.” He stood, taking her words as dismissal. But she caught his hands.

“Come to bed with my Lord Reimund.” She grinned. “I see no reason to let this intrusion deprive us.”

Surprised, and pleased, he did as she asked.

The next day they were both grateful to say an early farewell to Lord Bernard. The king, he said, would be expecting his report. They spoke briefly after he left, making their plans for the day. Then Reimund called Wigmar and his knights while Mildthryth gathered up Wulfrun and Cook. They had less than a month to prepare for an invasion by the king and his entourage. There were supplies to be laid in, defenses to increase, meals to plan, entertainment to arrange.

It would be a very busy month and they both prayed to the ancestors for light to guide them through it.

That night, after discussed the work of the day and they had made plans for the next, he had every expectation of being welcomed to her bed. But for the first time since Lady Valdis had forced them to talk, she turned him away. Her monthly time had come, and she would not permit his touch. She was also more disappointed than he expected that she was not with child.

He was disappointed himself – they needed heirs. Nor, of course, did he like being barred from her bed. But childbirth… she was still recovering from the strain of the years since her father’s death.

“We have time, my lady.” He tried to reassure her. “Waiting a few months more is not a bad thing. And childbirth can be dangerous. Are you so eager for that risk?”

Mildthryth hid fear with irritability. It never occurred to her that the king would continue to cause problems after she wed. An heir on the way might help sway the king, but she had failed in that, and what if… she shrugged, trying to push away her fears “What is the worst that can happen? That you will hold here alone? Surely that is not so distasteful to you.”

Reimund ground his teeth, biting back an angry retort. Did she think so little of him? He had hoped her trust the day before had meant something. He had been a fool.

“By your leave, my lady.” He bowed and, not waiting to hear her response, left her rooms.

Mildthryth watched him stalk out and cursed her runaway mouth. The first day or two of her flow she tended to impulse, both in word and action. She had learned to speak little and make no important decisions during that brief window. But Reimund had surprised her and the words slipped out before she realized how they must sound to him.

But just as truth could be found in the bottom of an ale mug, it sometimes slipped out on impulse. She hadn’t realized how deep her distrust still ran. Or perhaps distrust wasn’t the word. He would keep his oath – she trusted in that. But on some level, she still saw him as an enemy. As one who would strip her rights and holding from her if he could have.

The recent reminder that to the Nornish king and his nobles she had no rights had been the spark that brought light to her fears.

The next morning Mildthryth sought Reimund out and tried to apologize. Whatever her fears, he had deserved better treatment from her than that. She told him it was her pain and fears speaking. That for all her fears his presence reassured her. If anything happened to her, in childbirth or otherwise, he would be here to take care of her people. She reached out to him, missing his touch. Wishing that his Nornish stoicism would allow him to touch her outside of the bedroom. Touch was one area they seemed to mesh well together – now at least.

Reimund accepted her apology. Even he could not have said if he fully believed it, but those doubts were unworthy of his service so he pushed them down. Her touch… she reached up and run her hand over his hair. Once again petting him, as one would a dog. He found himself leaning into it, eager for this small touch which was all he was permitted until her time had passed.

But his soul shriveled in shame. Why, he wondered, did she feel the need to denigrate him so? And how low had he fallen that he would take her touch in any way he could – even as her pet?

Reimund threw himself into his duties. There was still much to do to prepare for the king’s visit, never mind all the work they had already been doing. That added strain to what he had already been enduring. Barred from Mildthryth’s bed — and the small ease that brought — the falseness of his life, of his unmanned state, wore at him more deeply than ever. He found himself avoiding his friends, unable to hide how badly he was doing and unable to continue facing them with lies on his lips.


Oh, Reimund…

Return to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 1
Bound by His Oath, Ep 11

Continue to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 13

Bound by his Oath, Episode 11

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.

The next days continued difficult for Reimund. But each night she took him to her bed. She no longer gave commands in bed. Instead he saw to her pleasure. The chance to in this one way be a true husband to her washed away the worst of his strain. Still, it built in him, each time he lied to his friends. Each time he knelt to her, each time he had to defer a decision that should be his to make, because he did not know what she would want.

Yet, as one week became two, he deferred fewer and fewer decisions. For matters of defense and training, he found she truly meant for him to manage as he saw fit. More, when she did disagree with what he wanted – mostly in matters of managing the land and peasants who worked it – she did not hand down orders. They discussed the issue, and he persuaded her of his view as often as the reverse.

His state was, he knew, far better than it could have been. He held that thought to him when the strain began to wear, and tried to keep busy. There was, after all, much to do.

Aside from nights and last meal, they saw little of each other. Mildthryth, much like Reimund, buried herself in her duties. While she had managed to fill the roles of both lady and lord, it had been difficult. Many small things had been allowed to slide from that alone. Add in the amount of time and resources that had gone into fighting off her many ‘suitors,’ and there was much to be done.

They were not trying to avoid each other. But they didn’t make any effort to spend time together either. Lady Valdis watched with disapproval, but said nothing. The rest of the keep thought it unsurprising in a political marriage. They were simply relieved the new Nornish lord did respect their lady and hadn’t overturned their daily routines overmuch.

Everyone was beginning to settle into their new normal when the messenger from the king arrived.

Reimund was finishing a training bout with Wigmar – spear vs the great ax the Dragma preferred, a weapon Reimund had not come against before – when one of the men who had been on patrol came cantering up to the gates. “Strangers on the south road!” he reported. “Three mounted and a dozen on foot. Banners green over yellow with a black horse standing.”

“Lord Bernard of Ashby, Baron of the king,” Reimund identified the banner. “He would not come this far from his lands during growing season unless the king sent him.”

Wigmar nodded. “It’s been long enough for the king to receive word of your marriage and send him back here.”

“Yes.” Reimund waved Henre over. “Run and tell Lady Mildryth that we have company, then prepare me a hot bath and lay out my formal wear.”

“Aye, milord.” The young Anglish took off at a run. He had a ways to go yet as a squire, but Reimund couldn’t fault his willingness or obedience.

“Wigmar continue the training. Have Damien at the gate ready to greet Lord Bernard if he gets here before I am back.”

Wigmar looked long at Reimund, and Reimund met his gaze, the two measuring each other as they had not since Reimund’s first few days as lord there. By rights, it should be Wigmar as Reimund’s armsmaster who stood in for him. But Wigmar didn’t think the lord was slighting him. No, Damien was a Norn and the best of the three knights at courtly matters. Let him keep the king’s spy placated in the belief that the Norns held full control finally of the keep that had long been a thorn in the king’s side. And if the king was not placated, their warriors would need the best training possible before too long.

So Wigmar nodded. Reimund returned the nod and strode off.

Either Lord Bernard was moving slowly or the patrol had seen him from further out than Reimund expected. He and Mildthryth not only had time to prepare for his arrival, but ended up waiting several minutes.

Mildthryth paced as they waited, betraying an agitation that surprised Reimund. Had she not expected the king to send anyone? Or had she expected a lesser ranked visitor than one of the king’s Barons – those directly sworn to the king’s service who, when not administering their own lands, carried the king’s word throughout his domains.

He moved to stand in front of her and reached out a hand. To his relief – and some surprise – she accepted it and came to stand close. “I fear I have failed you, my lady,” he murmured. “I knew the king would likely send one of his Barons and didn’t think to warn you. Nor did I think to discuss with you how we must handle him.”

She said nothing for a long moment. Reimund kept his eyes down. They both ignored the servants who moved in and out of the Great Hall, preparing for last meal and the last-minute feast which would welcome their visitor.

“I take it you have a plan, Lord Reimund?”

“A plan?”

“For how best to deal with our unwanted guest.” She began to tap her foot.

Reimund took a deep breath and said, “Not a plan, exactly. But I’ve spent enough time at the king’s court to know how to keep the barons happy, my lady. Will you trust me?”

It was a hard question. It had been less than a month since their wedding and Reimund’s attempted betrayal. He had done nothing to raise her doubts since then, but with a fellow Norn at the gate, she had to wonder where his loyalty to the Nornish king would take him. But did she truly have a choice?

“Yes, Lord Reimund. I will trust you.”

Through the open doors of the hall, they heard the gate guard called a demand to stand and be recognized. Reimund bowed and offered Mildthryth his arm, “Let us greet our guest together, milady.”

The official greetings took only a short time. Bernard was impressed that they were already on hand and ready to greet him – either he hadn’t seen the patrol or hadn’t expected the Anglish warriors to send warning to their new Nornish lord.

He was condescending and insulting to the Anglish in general, the keep, and the state of the lands. Reimund ignored or deflected as needed. Long experience with the Nornish court meant his polite mask never wavered. Bernhard was wise enough to keep his mouth off of Lady Mildthryth or anything else which would force Reimund to cry challenge.

With Mildthryth still on his arm, Reimund escorted Bernard to his study. Before they were even seated, Bernhard suggested it was time for the men to speak without womanly interference. Reimund had expected the ‘suggestion’ and brusquely sent Mildthryth to see to the preparations for last meal. She left, her eyes down, as was proper for a Nornish wife but Reimund knew she wasn’t being demure – she was ensuring Bernhard didn’t see her anger at that dismissal.

Reimund took a moment to thank the ancestors he’d had at least a few moments to speak with her before Bernard arrived.

The truth was that Reimund would never have been so harsh had he truly been her lord. It was disrespectful, insulting even. But the Baron needed to be convinced that Reimund held the reins here and the unruly lady was firmly under his thumb.

Once Mildthryth left, Lord Bernard got straight to the point. “I’m sure you expected my visit, or another like it, Lord Reimund.”

“Yes, Lord Baron.” Reimund offered to refill the man’s cup, which he had already emptied. “Given the… difficult attitude of this keep in the past and my own… unconventional claim to the lordship of course the king would wish a report on matters here.”

“Hm. Unconventional is one word for it. The report you sent the king was very scant on details, but your messengers were not averse to gossiping.”

Reimund shrugged. “That does not surprise me, Lord Baron. I will admit, at the time I was not sure how firm my hold on the keep was.”

“You are sure now?”

“Completely sure.” Which was, Reimund reflect, absolute truth. He was completely sure he had no hold on the keep at all. “While they were loyal to Lady Mildthryth, many of the Anglish here were uncomfortable having no lord.” Also truth. “I have had, and expect, no problems so long as no public insult is given to Lady Mildthryth.” He shrugged again. “Many of them grew up in service to the old Eorl, so some lingering loyalty is to be expected.”

“I suppose so.” Bernard grimaced. “Well, Lord Reimund, the king is not inclined to ask too many questions about how you brought the bitch to heel, so long as you did it. To that end, I have been sent ahead as his messenger. He will be coming to assess your holding here and confirm – or not – your lordship. You may expect him in four weeks or so.”

“Of course, Lord Baron. I look forward to it.” That, of course, was no bit of truth. And Lord Bernard knew it.


Well, they do say a common enemy brings people together. Right?

Return to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 10

Continue to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 12

Bound by his Oath, Episode 10

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 barely slept that night. The next day passed in a haze. He must have made some explanation for the bruise on his cheek but didn’t recall what. His thoughts were dark and he worked himself into exhaustion to silence them. He took last meal in his rooms and slept restlessly, waking at the first sign of dawn.

The next day repeated the pattern. He avoided Lady Mildthryth and she allowed him to.

Shortly after last meal, his door burst open. Lady Valdis stood glaring at him. “You. Come with me.”

“Lady Valdis…”

“No. You will come and you will listen. As will my foolish daughter. This has gone on long enough.”

“I don’t believe–”

“Did I ask what you believe? No. Come. We will talk somewhere private.”

He saw no option other than physically forcing her from his rooms – which would be not only undignified but likely rather difficult – so he went with her.

She led him up to the tower walk. He was not surprised to see Lady Mildthryth waiting, though she seemed surprised to see him.

“Mother–”

He walked to the low wall and looked out into the darkness. The stars, the steady light of them, soothed his soul. They had guided the ancestors through the heavens, could they guide him?

“Ha. I was right. Sex. Nothing else makes you blush so.”

A knight must rely only on his own strength, or so he was taught, but he had long known that teaching was a lie.

“Mother!”

Yes, he would turn to the ancestors. No one could object if he began spending more time in the chapel.

“Now you will listen to me. Both of you, Lord Reimund. When you have listened, then you may talk.”

He turned back to Lady Valdis, clinging to the peace the stars gave him.

“Sex makes fools of us. More than anything else except pride and wealth. You were strangers to each other, just beginning to build something. You will not let sex tear you apart before you have found if you have anything to build.” She snorted. “Even your father was not that foolish.”

“Even my father was not so foolish as to make you bleed!”

“So? You told me there was no blood.”

“He wishes there was!”

“So…”

They were speaking words he knew, but nothing they said made sense. Was it normal among Dragma for a woman to take lovers before her wedding? “Is it such a crime to wish my bride a virgin? To wish I were the first to bring her pleasure?”

Mildthryth snarled, but Lady Valdis held up a hand and Mildthryth said nothing. “Do you say that blood is the sign of a virgin?”

“Of course it is!” Was the woman mad? “Even the Dragma must know that. The first intercourse pierces a woman’s veil and there is always some blood.” Whatever peace he had taken from the stars was stripped from him.

Lady Mildthryth stared at him as if… as if a star had come to alight on his head. “You thought that… because I didn’t bleed, I must have had lovers.”

“What else am I to think?” He took a breath. Glanced at Lady Valdis and away. “Lady Mildthryth, I don’t… that is–” he had no idea how to continue with Lady Valdis standing there. But he didn’t need to.

“Be quiet a minute, Reimund.” He obeyed. What else could he do? “I don’t know where to start with your ridiculous beliefs. But I swear to you, there was no one before you. There is no one else now.”

“My la–” The words burst from him before he could stop them.

“No.” The word was soft, gentle even. “I know you have little reason to trust me. Mother is right, we have only just begun building something between us. But I promise you by the ancestors. There was no one else.

“You’re wrong about this ‘virgin blood’ – but even if you weren’t, do you think I never touched myself? If I ever did have any such ‘veil’, I would have pierced it with my fingers long before we met.”

The blood drained from Reimund’s face. It had never occurred to him that a woman might pleasure herself. That… he swallowed… when she said she could see to her own pleasure, she had meant it literally. That she needed no one else.

“As for my knowledge… Reimund have you never seen a Dragma longhouse? They are one great room, with no walls, no privacy. I couldn’t have avoided seeing if I wanted to.”

No walls? No privacy? That was… well, yes, barbaric. But it would also explain so much. So very much.

“If!” Valdis cackled. “You delighted in it.”

By everything he had ever known, he had been right. But all he had known meant nothing in this mountainous land. And he realized it too late.

Moving as stiffly as an old man, he lowered himself to his knees and bowed his head. “My lady, there is no excusing the insult I offered you, nor will I try. I can only hope in time I may atone for it and earn your forgiveness.”

Did he serve any other, they would cast him off for such an insult. But he was her wedded husband and she could not sever that bond. However much he might deserve it.

“Reimund.” A gentle touch on his face, a hand under his chin. “Stand up, please.”

Of course. Even now, he must keep up the pretense.

“Is that what was upsetting you, my lord? That you thought I had taken lovers?”

“No, my lady. Not exactly. But please do not trouble yourself with it. I have not the right…”

“You asked me to let you pleasure me.”

“Yes, my lady.”

Suddenly she was pressing up against him, rubbing herself on him. “You didn’t care if I had lovers or not?”

He closed his eyes and braced himself to stand. There was more than honor between them now, there was insult. And if he didn’t understand what she was doing or why, he still had no right to question or protest. “I did care, my lady. But I could have accepted. But to be denied the right to pleasure you…” Her hand wrapped around his shaft and began slowly pumping.

Dimly, he realized that Lady Valdis had left. Lady Mildthryth crouched down in front of him and began unlacing his pants. He clenched his fists at his side, longing to reach out and touch her but knowing he had forever lost the right.

Her hand was on his shaft, her tongue licking him.

“Explain it to me, Reimund.”

Why? But she asked so he must answer. So he found a way to put into words what he had known for as long as he could recall.

“A man who cannot bring his wife pleasure is no true man. Ah!” Her tongue flickered inside his slit and he struggled to stay on his feet. “Such a man is below contempt…” a scrape of teeth made him gasp “…he has failed… as a husband and…”

He struggled to remember what he was going to say. “It is… shame…” The pleasure washed through him and he lost the thread of his words. It built and built and…

Cold air washed over his shaft. He opened his eyes to see Lady Mildthryth stand and step back from him.

He said nothing. What was there to say? He tucked himself back in his pants and bowed. “If you will excuse me, Lady Mildthryth. I should seek my bed.”

She took his hand. Gentle, her face soft. Now, of all times did she let him see the woman who lived behind the mask of the ruling lady.

“Is that all?” she asked, “You have nothing else to say to me?”

“No, my lady.” He bowed his head. “I am sure I have said enough and more than enough to last us both a lifetime.”

“Then come with me, Reimund.”

Confused, helpless to do anything else, he followed her to her bedroom, where she immediately stripped off her clothing. His eyes drank her in.

She sat on the edge of her bed. Opening her legs to show him her petals, already glistening in the lamplight.

“Lord Reimund, I am used to taking care of my own needs. But I would be honored if you would help me tonight.”

Hardly daring to believe his ears, he walked to her. One step. Another. And squatted down between her knees.

“My lady? Why?”

“Because I didn’t understand. Because I never meant to shame you or deny you your place as my husband. But I did insult you, didn’t I? Even on our wedding day, when I didn’t allow you to touch me.”

He nodded, hardly daring to hope, but said “I am your sworn man. If you did not wish…”

She stopped him with a finger over his lips. “My husband, we have, all unmeaning, traded insult for insult. Trade with me now pardon for pardon. And seal the exchange as the Ancestors did, with a kiss.”

“As you wish, my lady.” With a prayer of thanks to the ancestors, he kissed her. Gently at first. Then nibbling around her petals. Teasing her with his lips. And as her whimpers became moans and moans became cries, he plunged his tongue into her depths.


See how well things work when you communicate?

Return to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 9

Continue to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 11

Bound by His Oath, Episode 9

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.

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Bound by His Oath, Ep 8

Continue to:
Bound by His Oath, Ep 10

Bound by His Oath, Episode 8

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.

Mildthryth entered her sunroom and sat in her favorite chair. It was placed to best catch the sun at any time of day. The lady of the keep’s sunroom had more windows – and thus was more exposed – than any other room in the fortress. That was why it was on the highest floor of the keep, and the windows – though many – were small and narrow.

Reimund followed her a short time later. She glanced from him to the floor by her feet and back. He took a breath then came to her and knelt, with his accustomed grace.

She put a finger under his chin and lifted his head so she could see his eyes. As always, his face was a mask that told her nothing.

“I prefer that you kneel when we are in private here or in your rooms, my lord.” That should do for reminding him of his place going forward. “In other areas or when we are not alone here, you may sit or stand as you prefer.”

“Yes, lady.”

“Henre studied warfare under my father until his death. Similar to what you Norn’s would call being his squire. I understand you did not bring a ‘squire’ with you. I wish you to take Henre.”

His eyes flashed but he only said, “As you wish, Lady Mildthryth.”

“Sit now, my lord. It won’t be long before he joins us.”

He stood quickly and moved to the chair opposite hers. “Thank you, Lady Mildthryth.”

They sat in silence until there was a rap on the door and Henre slipped in.

“You sent for me, my lord, my lady?”

She said nothing, looking at Reimund. He met her eyes for a long moment, then turned to Henre.

“You are Henre, yes?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Lady Mildthryth has recommended you to me. I am in need of a squire as well as someone I can trust to help me learn Anglish custom.”

He turned and met Mildthryth’s eyes. “Somethings here will need to change to the Nornish manner.”

He was right, she realized. It would look strange if a new Nornish lord did not institute his own ways and customs. And, quick-witted, he had found a way to tell her so without making it an order or a request. She nodded and he turned back to Henre.

“But I would prefer to avoid disrupting the routines or distressing the cook.” He winked and Henre chuckled. Mildthryth smiled and shook her head. For all the stone face he had shown her so far, he knew how to charm another warrior. She had been right to take this man as her lord. If only she could trust him to be a true consort to her, a partner she could rely on and not a threat she must guard against.

And on that thought… “Henre, I agree with everything Lord Reimund has said, but Lord Reimund is right about not understanding our ways or people. If you have any concerns I expect you to bring them to me as well as Lord Reimund so I can guide him as he requires.”

Reimund’s good humor disappeared in an instant. But he nodded his agreement. “As my lady says, Henre.” He took a deep breath. “She is still lady here and I wish her to be obeyed as myself.” He turned to speak with Mildthryth, “I doubt those who have been loyal to you so long need it said, my lady, but I will make sure that… our Nornish warriors understand as well.”

“Thank you, my lord. I am sure you are correct, but it is best to be sure.” And reassuring that he would make it clear.

“I believe,” he continued, still looking at her, “That my lady would prefer to have me to herself for today.” She nodded, surprised, and again pleased that he didn’t take the excuse of Henre’s new duties to evade her. “Move your things to my quarters today and then speak with Sir Hereweald’s squire, Frances. I expect you to report on a squire’s duties and what additional equipment you might need at breakfast tomorrow.”

“Yes, my lord. My lady.” Henre bowed and left in a hurry.

When the door closed, Reimund stared at her, gripping the arms of his chair. She waited.

Slowly, he stood and came, once again, to kneel before her.

“You did well, Lord Reimund. I have set you a difficult task and am reassured that I was right to trust you with it.”

“Thank you, my lady.” He didn’t, quite, wince, at her emphasis on trust. Neither of them would soon forget his attempted betrayal, but he seemed to have resigned himself to her victory over him. There were many ways he could pervert or twist his oath to her and gain power. But he himself was giving the orders that would prevent many of them.

She stood. “Come, Lord Reimund. We have a short time before supper. I will give you a tour of the keep.”

After supper Mildthryth took Reimund on a ride around their lands. To review them ‘properly, this time.’ To Reimund’s discomfort, she also invited her mother to join them. Yet Lady Valdis, for all the Dragma reputation for crudity and aggression, was a delightful companion. For much of the ride, Lady Mildthryth spoke of the land and answered any questions he had. But any time a silence lengthened between them, Lady Valdis had a song or story to share. What she called the shorter ‘sagas’ of the Dragma, including the story of the Ancestors’ arrival on this world. Though she insisted she was no ‘Singer’ Reimund swore that she would be welcomed at any noble court.

Around Lady Valdis, Lady Mildthryth also relaxed, teasing and laughing. And Reimund found himself fascinated with the lady’s Dragma stories and the very different life they revealed. The trio returned shortly before last meal.

Reimund had, thankfully, had a chance to tell Lady Mildthryth 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.

He had feared an awkward and uncomfortable meal. Lady Valdis again saved them. She picked up their earlier conversation and involved the priest and Damian in a comparison of their people’s different stories of the landing. The priest was unsurprisingly familiar with the lady’s Dragma heresy. He responded to her outrageous statements with good humor and confident rebuttals. Damian, spurned from his usual silence by new ideas, took his cue from the priest.

With the three debaters going full gallop, Reimund and the others need only sit back and listen. Though Lady Mildthryth jumped in from time to time, alternately skewering one of the partisans or presenting a perspective that unified conflicting views. It seemed that to ‘strike like lightning’ was indeed a Dragma custom. More than once one of the ladies would sit silent for a time, then ‘strike’ the conversation with a comment that would send Damian reeling. The Priest seemed used to this tactic, adapting quickly to each attack.

After the Priest made one telling rebuttal, Lady Mildthryth burst out laughing, a high pitched giggle that Reimund found delightful. The lady fascinated him. If he had only been able 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, focusing on Damian’s fresh offensive against the priest. Really, who could believe the Ancestors had slept thousands of years in their voyage to this world?

After last meal, he followed Mildthryth to her rooms, where she once again took him in her bed. This time she did not restrict his hands. He was able to 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.

They 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, Reimund broke his fast alone, but a message came from Lady Mildthryth as he finished. She asked his plans for the day. A reasonable question from a new wife. Except that she would pass judgment on his plans. Except that he hadn’t 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 to have him take over managing the defense and land and let her focus on managing the burgh.

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 jobs of ruling lord and lady both since her father died.

After Reimund left to review their defenses with Wigmar, Mildthryth asked her mother to join her in the sunroom.

Unsurprisingly, the blunt Dragma lady immediately did exactly what Mildthryth 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.”

Mildthryth 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 shocked me enough I had no chance of forgetting.”

“Anglish foolishness.”

“So you always say, mother.” She sighed. “I think I’m doing something wrong.”

“Bah. Either you remember your 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 afterward. Reimund had his release, but instead of drifting as I did, he remained tense and stiff–”

“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!” Mildthryth 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?”

Mildthryth nodded, frowning.

“No! I do not say you did wrong. I know you daughter. For your first time to focus mostly on yourself is good. But see if you can focus on his pleasure this night. That may make much difference.”

Mildthryth nodded again, smiling this time. “Thank you, mother. And I know exactly what I’ll do.”

“It is good. Now, shall we ride.”


Cross cultural relationships can have the worst landmines, you know?

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Bound by His Oath, Ep 7

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Bound by His Oath, Ep 9