A Singing In The Blood [Book Three]
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by Toni V. Sweeney
Category: Fantasy/Dark Fantasy
Description: Riven kan Ingan has reached his middle years, settling comfortably into the life of a country giarl, and Life, in general, is good. Oh, there are a few things which could be better--such as his less than congenial relationship with son and heir Val or his discovery that second son Ilke wants to become a priest. At least the other children are still under control, and his beloved Barbara is just as loving and fiesty as ever. A treaty has been made with the Ghermians, and the barbarians are settling peacefully within Francovia's borders. Too soon, however, their little bubble of contentment bursts. When a new sovereign comes to the Throne, civil war erupts between native Francovians and its foreign-born citizens, and Riven's home and family are threatened as he is forced to choose between swearing loyalty to a madman or becoming a traitor to the country he loves.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon Publishing, 2010 Double Dragon eBooks
eBookwise Release Date: June 2010
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [421 KB]
Reading time: 261-366 min.
Torghan, steward of Lindenscrag, was worried.
It wasn't his Lord's calling for the estate ledgers which caused him such anxiety, for he knew his accounting of the yields and harvests, as well as the annual custumal paid to their sovereign, to be correct. No, 'twasn't that which caused him such apprehension, but as he stepped from the little office onto the gallery to cross to the stairs, holding the thick, leather-bound volumes balanced against one arm, he had looked down into the Great Room below and there saw the object of his delight and his sorrow--Brunne, sister to his Lord's dead second wife, who had been brought to Lindenscrag with Lord Riven's motherless infant son.
Looking at her, the feeling which he had kept at bay these two years, suddenly sprang again into being.
His first sight of her had been enough. She had appeared so small as she stood in the shelter of the Giarl's arm, eyes staring wide in wonder at the foreign place which was to be her home. Torghan had looked upon her and, with that one glance, lost his heart, and since that moment watched and wished and ached as the feelings within him grew.
Sitting on a tussock before the hearth, she was singing softly in her native Ghermian, oblivious to the emotional scrutiny above her. 'Twas early autumn and still too warm for a fire to be lit, so the hearth was bare. Upon her lap, she held a small kitten. One pale braid fell over her shoulder to swing like a gilt rope against her breast and the kitten's dainty paw reached out to cuff the moving plait of hair, its claws entangling in the strands.
Today, Brunne was wearing a gown sewn in that wicked new fashion which was flourishing among the womenfolk. It had immediately been denounced by the priests and elders though greatly appreciated by younger men like Torghan and the Giarl himself. Cut from soft and clinging cloth, the bosom was fashioned with seams that formed little pockets into which her breasts rested, the fabric leaving their soft shape clearly visible just as the low neck revealed a swell of fair flesh suggesting a maturity of body beyond her true years.
Brunne cuddled the kitten to her breast, its furry gray head resting against the hollow of her throat.
Closing his eyes with a sigh, Torghan wished fervently that, however briefly, he could exchange places with the little cat, then abruptly opened them again, angry that he had allowed such a thought to enter his mind. She's a child! In spite of her body's growth, Brunne was still a little girl while he was many years man-grown and old enough to be able to curb his mind's caprices!
Tightening his grip on the spine of the heaviest ledger, he was glad of the weight against his arm; it forced him to concentrate on the forth-coming interview with the Giarl, reminding him to hurry to attend it.
As noiselessly as he had entered it, Torghan fled the gallery
While he hurried down the dark and narrow stairs, his mind continued to dwell on the predicament into which he had entrapped himself. As far as he knew, he was the only one aware of it. At least, he hoped so!
Once again, he was mindful of the solitariness of his position at Lindenscrag. Seneschal to the Giarl. Freeman.
There were few Freemen in the castle. The varls made up the majority of the labor force so there were none to whom Torghan might confide his feelings or ask advice.
Lord Riven's White Shields were nobles' sons, but in the hierarchy of the castle, the Giarl's steward might not consort with the soldiery. Anyway, he knew what their advice would be, for he'd witness their behavior with the serving wenches many times--a cornering on the stairs, and a stealing of the treasures desired--and had often censured them for their conduct.
Besides, that wasn't what he wished for Brunne and himself.
Only Ynes, the Lady Barbara's serving woman was even vaguely his equal in status, being both Freefolk and a house servant but he couldn't bring himself to speak of such to her. As outspoken as Ynes herself was at times, 'twould be too indelicate.
If only I could speak to my master! He was certain, however, that Lord Riven would be less than understanding if he knew the thoughts his steward had for his young sister-under-the-Law, for like most men who had been overly-free with his own favors before his marriage, now that he was wed, his Lordship was violently protective of the females of his household.
Torghan's gaze fell to the floor, and as his chin touched the stiff fabric of his collar band, snapped upright again. He disliked these new tunics with their wide, thick collars, which prevented a man from lowering his head. The fabric was so stiff that it chafed and scratched if skin touched it, as Torghan had very painfully discovered.
Raising his head again, he saw a serving wench at one side of the hallway, mop and pail beside her. She was dipping the mop into the bucket, then determinedly scrubbing the floor. Suds and water covered the path where he had to walk and suddenly, this little inconvenience angered him so that he turned upon the girl, giving vent to the frustration he felt.
"What do you call yourself doing?"
"Sir?" Bent over the handle of the mop, she looked up at him in surprise. "W-why, I'm cleaning the floor as I always do on this day of the week."
"Then do it! And make certain no suds are left to cause the Lady Barbara or one of the children to fall. Use that mop well to dry the floor!"
"Yes, Master Torghan." Under the force of his anger, she grasped the mop and wrung it with hands already red and wet, then dropped it to the floor again.
"Get on with it!" He turned and stalked off, hefting the ledgers.
Returning to her task, the girl didn't speak again but the thoughts in her mind were angry ones. She didn't understand the reason for the steward's anger. I clean the floor as I always do. There had never before any complaints, and as for the Lady slipping, the floors were always dried afterward.
She was only one of many who had lately been the subject of Master Torghan's unreasonable wrath, and she didn't know why.