Season of Sanematsu
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by Kei Swanson
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: Season of Sanematsu continues the story of shipwrecked Aderyn Aquilla and her samurai lord, Sanematsu Yoshihide. Can they find a way to be together without bringing war to his domain in the Satsuma Provinces? Will Aderyn give her beloved the heir he so greatly desires and needs? Will the Emperor of Japan accept the son of a daimyo and his barbarian wife as heir to the Sanematsu dynasty? The saga of a love doomed by tradition in a land where duty comes before all else, begun in Seabird of Sanematsu, travels to the imperial capital of Kyoto, where death hovers outside every door and only the deep love they share may enable Aderyn and her samurai lord to survive and attain the happiness that seems determined to elude them.
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications/Zumaya Embraces, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [532 KB]
Reading time: 318-445 min.
Aderyn woke from her stupor. She would die, and wished it would happen soon. Having forgone trying to mark her days because she slept too often to be accurate, she no longer knew, or cared, how long she had been held captive.
A noise had wakened her. Voices. A commotion. Shouts. Cries. Joy overwhelmed her. Was she to be rescued? Her heart raced. Sanematsu had come for her. Blood pounded in her temples. Her ordeal was over. She would be free, bathed, fed and healed, all by Yoshihide's hand.
Suddenly, silence. Aderyn tried to call out, but her tongue stuck to the roof of her dehydrated mouth. No sound came from outside as she struggled to produce enough saliva to speak. Was there any use trying? Maybe she had imagined it all. Oh, God, she was losing her mind.
A hand pulled back the tattered cloth covering the doorway, and the sun silhouetted a man. A samurai. Unable to see his face for the bright light blinding her, Aderyn would not concede it was anyone except Lord Sanematsu.
It had to be.
"Yoshi?" Her voice sounded cracked. She could manage no more than Sanematsu's boy name.
The horrible roar of samurai laughter preceded the warrior as he strutted to her side. The curtain dropped, cutting off the harsh sunlight. As he knelt beside her, terror rose to quicken her heart. She could only hope to die easily at this very moment. Death at his hands would not be either pleasant or quick.
"No, barbarian, I am not your cherished Yoshi. Do you not remember me?" A sneer curled his thick lips away from his yellowed teeth. Adjusting his swords as he settled a knee on the ground to support his bulk, his black lacquered armor creaked and popped.
Aderyn managed to answer. "Matsumoto."
"Very good." Matsumoto pushed a stray lock of hair out of her face, his palm brushing back over her head. "Our master resides within his castle. So worried about you, he is insane." He threw his head back and bellowed again with evil laughter. His oily hair, dressed in the traditional topknot, moved slightly as his head bobbed.
"Why have you done this to me?" Aderyn choked out. Anger rose, not at his actions toward her but at the pain he had caused Sanematsu. She did not matter. Only Yoshihide mattered. "You have nothing to fear from him. He knows all of your dirty little secrets and still will not hurt you."
"Because I hate Sanematsu-uji."
She could almost feel Matsumoto's gaze as he took in her ravaged body. The burns on her lower legs had destroyed large areas of her skin. The spot where the poisoned dart had pierced her breast was inflamed and swollen. Added to her injuries were days of filth and body waste plastered to her, making her appearance even more repulsive. Yet, she knew the Evil One would not be put off by her condition.
"You add too much to his pleasure," Matsumoto continued. "If I cannot have you, neither will he. Moreover, you know and see too much. Here..." He looked around the straw hut where she had been dumped what seemed ages ago. "...you are no threat."
"Sanematsu-sama does not need anyone to think for him."
Over time, she had become aware of what Sanematsu hid from himself. Responsible to a Council of Elders, he had allowed himself to be directed by the old warriors, appearing to hold to their ideals instead of ruling according to his own. Yet, when she was at his bedside after the battle of Kamaga, where he had been gravely wounded, Sanematsu told her his inner thoughts about the Council of Elders and Matsumoto.
"What is more important," she continued to the karou, "he knows he does not need you." It took all of her meagre strength to confront Matsumoto. Before, she had avoided making him angry out of concern for his retaliation. Now, so near death, she did not fear him.
"You do not know him as well as you think, barbarian. You meddle in that of which you have no knowledge." Matsumoto stood, drawing his sword with a smooth, even motion. "You do not understand our ways."
"You will kill me?" Privately, Aderyn wished he would. She no longer feared the oblivion death brought. However, what of Yoshi? Was he insane, as Matsumoto said? It was not fair for her to wish for death while he needed her.
"No." Matsumoto slid the sword back into its scabbard and adjusted it more comfortably in his girdle.
A short, squat man, he was the polar opposite of Sanematsu. Sanematsu Yoshihide was tall and lean and hard of muscle. Matsumoto had the physique of a warrior hidden beneath layers of fat. Yet now, towering over her, the samurai looked ominous.
"I shall not have to. Death will find you on its own."
He turned and, with a brisk step, exited the hut.
Receding hoofbeats followed muffled sounds and then all was quiet. Aderyn sighed, tears forming. Help would never come. Her eyes blurred, and tears rolled from them.
"God, if You exist in this strange and beautiful land, please take me now."
Closing her eyes, she let emptiness descend over her. Before long, she was released from her agony.