Terms Of His Honor
Chapter 13 - Part 5
Princess Sophia of Howicce
bit her lip as she gave both her father and King Festil a respectful
curtsy. The day seemed to be going from bad to worse. Both men stood so
close together she knew must have been summoned for another lecture.
When she straightened, her father met her with a serious frown. "Daughter, have you had any further luck with your husband?"
"What do you mean, Sire?"
"I am asking over the state of your marriage." The Supreme of Howicce folded his arms over his chest. His jaw firmed. "You have yet to do your duty to secure Our heir."
"Forgive me, Sire, but my I have been wed barely a month. Your desire for grandchildren seems a bit premature."
Her father glared. "Daughter, let me be plain. His Highness has evidence that your husband has not been sharing your bed since your wedding night. Is that so?"
Flames lit Sophia's cheeks. How dare he seek such intimate details? "You've had the maids spy upon me?"
"How else am I to find out what the problem is? Of course I have."
She lifted her chin. Let her father remember she was a woman grown, no longer a child he could push about as he pleased.
"His Grace has had other concerns as well you know. Our wedding was a rather hasty one. Perhaps we both need time to settle into our roles."
"Hasty? You were betrothed since you were children." Her father's jowls shook as he turned to King Festil. "You need to have a talk with your nephew, Your Highness. Remind him of his duty."
"Perhaps if we left Gwynedd." Sophia spoke before Festil could reply. The thought that Albion had to be bullied into her bed with threats stung her already wounded pride. "If we were at home, away from distractions I'm certain he and I could begin anew."
Her father shook his head. "I prefer to remain in Rhemuth through the Yule. His Majesty has invited the noble houses of many of our neighbors to enjoy the celebration here. It is the perfect chance to strengthen alliances and show the Eleven Kingdoms that the new ruling house of Gwynedd is accepted by all."
"Perhaps the princess is right." King Festil gave Sophia a smile that relaxed her just a bit. "All the excitement of the holiday is not the most conducive to forming romantic relationships. You want your daughter's marriage to be one of affection and not simple dynastic assurance, don't you?"
Sophia's father shook his head again. "I'll not be persuaded by you, Festil. No matter how good your intentions. I know what is best for my land and my daughter, and I make my own decisions on how to reach those goals."
King Festil remained silent for some time. Sophia wondered if she would have to speak first, if only to end this embarrassing interview before it could degenerate further.
Just as she found the words she wanted the king of Gwynedd broke the silence. "As you say, my friend. I would never presume to lead you down a path that you had no wish to travel. However, I may be able to smooth the situation out with a less forceful, if more devious, solution."
Festil pulled a small velvet bag from the ornamented leather pouch at his waist. With a conspirator's smile he handed the bag to Sophia. Then he winked at her.
"Be careful with this, my dear. It contains a potent love charm, one I purchased from a most competent practitioner in Torenth some time ago."
"And you want me to use this on my lord husband?" Sophia's heart pounded. If Albion ever discovered she did anything like this he would surely leave her.
"He need not know." Festil smiled as if he had read her fears. "You simply conceal this in your chamber. When my nephew enters, welcome him with all sincerity. His affections will be directed to you and I know you can manage to keep his interest from there."
Sophia weighed the small bag. Its contents seemed heavy, hard and cold. She should refuse the gift. That would be the honorable thing to do.
But the temptation was simply too strong. After all, if her father and the King of Gwynedd commanded her to use the charm on Albion what choice had she?
She closed her eyes. Albion's face immediately came to her, devotion plainly written there. She had seen him look that way at Lady Isolde so often it tore at her spirit.
What would she give to have him look at her the same way, if only once?
"I will do as you suggest, Your Highness." Sophia felt her worry slip away as both men nodded their approval.