Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.
Kyria found herself seated next to Dom Ruyven at the dinner following the betrothal ceremony. He greeted her formally and then proceeded to eat his dinner, slowly and silently. It was as if, having discharged his duty, he had no further interest in the Rockraven family…or in her. Everyone else was in a subdued mood, as well. In fact, the prevailing sentiment seemed to be one of stunned relief rather than celebration. Kyria swallowed her food without tasting any of it. She could not have sworn whether she’d eaten rabbithorn or dead leaves. The wine warmed her belly and eventually she was able to draw an easy breath. At a sharp glance from Ellimira, she pushed away her goblet. It was one thing to be less tense or even pleasantly relaxed at such a gathering, and entirely another to drink more than was seemly for a promised bride. She glanced her father’s pensive face as he sat isolated at the head of the table, then at Valdir at his right hand and Ellimira opposite her husband.
One more day, and then I will never sit at this table or see these people again.
The thought sent a pang through her breast. To distract herself, she turned to Dom Ruyven. “I thank you for bringing the portrait of Lord Scathfell.”
“It was my duty, damisela.”
“Nevertheless, I do thank you. Tell me, what manner of man is he, beyond his appearance?”
“He is Lord of Scathfell.”
Kyria looked down at her half-uneaten meal and took a deep breath. “I understand that. But as we have never met and I intend to please my husband, will you not help me by telling me something of what I am to expect? Is he a hunter? A musician? A –” She could not think what else a great lord might do with his time, what interests or concerns he might have. Surely, he need not worry about how to feed his family and household, or where to get the materials to patch this wall or that window.
Dom Ruyven set down his eating knife, leaving only a few bread crumbs on his plate. For a long moment, he seemed to be considering his answer, and Kyria’s stomach clenched. If his own agent, so clearly devoted to him, could not think of anything good to say, what kind of monster was she betrothed to? Then Dom Ruyven’s expression lightened.
“You must understand that my lord has never known a time of true peace. He was but a child when the Witch-Child of Aldaran blasted all the lands around. His brother perished then, and his father too long afterward, leaving him alone to defend Scathfell.”
The Witch-Child of Aldaran? That could not be Great Aunt Aliciane – could it?
“He loves Scathfell above all other things – excepting, of course you, his new betrothed. He would do anything and make any sacrifice to prevent Aldaran from perpetuating a second such outrage.”