Calysta woke up feeling violated after her first night. I didn’t ask for this, she thought. In war and in love, she had had no choice. She felt a hand reach for her bare breast.
“Good morning, my love,” Gillireth murmurred.
Calysta wanted to tell him to never to call her that unless he meant it, but she held her tongue in resignation, as always.
“You’re very quiet, I’ve noticed,” said the young king. “Not a bad thing for a lady to be. But I’ll bet you’re missing your father.”
“I don’t want to talk about him,” she said as submissively as she could. “Will we be leaving for your castle today? I would like a word with Hemming before I depart. And I would like to bring my ladies-in-waiting, of course, if you would allow.”
“It’s a wonder you’d like a word with anybody,” Gillireth laughed. “We will stay here another day or two. I’ll have Zolan ride out to the encampment and tell the men to head back without us.”
“Will he be leaving with the men, as well?” she inquired.
Gillireth’s eyes narrowed. “What does that matter? Yes.”
“It doesn’t. I’m just too curious for my own good sometimes. That’s what Father used to say.”
“And here I thought you didn’t want to talk about him.”
“I don’t, it’s just-- I wanted to explain myself.”
“Well, you might not be very good for conversation, my queen, but you are excellent in certain other areas,” he winked and grinned.
Calysta’s stomach turned. Brute of a man, she thought.
Later that day, while Gillireth was occupied with giving orders to Zolan, Calysta slipped away to meet Hemming in the royal study.
“You told him nothing, I presume,” he said.
“Of course I told him nothing. He wouldn’t care about what I had to say, anyway,” she looked down.
“Quit feeling sorry for yourself,” Hemming said. “There was doubtless nothing else we could do that would keep that imbecile from destroying us utterly. You won’t be stuck in this forever. We just need to bide time while we regain our strength. Then we can attack when they least expect it.”
“I wish I had had to marry the other one. Zolan. He has more than lust swimming around in his mind,” she grimaced.
“Either way, if things go as planned, they’ll both be killed. This way you’ll be more pleased about it when it happens, yes?”
“Nothing about this season of death will ever please me,” she said.
Three months crept along languidly in which Calysta remained Gillireth’s pet. She now lived in the castle of Eirethstead’s capital city. The only Dechi allowed to live in this fortress were the queen and her two ladies-in-waiting. The king was often away leading skirmishes against various peoples. All the better, Calysta thought. She had not grown any fonder of him with absence or presence. It was not like her to coquet, but she had tried to make advances with Zolan out of sheer boredom whenever she could. It never worked. He was too prudent a man to let her get to him.
One day, a long-awaited visitor arrived at the castle door. “Hemming!” Calysta greeted him eagerly but unhappily. She took him directly to a private room where they could speak away from the guards.
“I come bearing ill news,” Hemming frowned. “Gathering troops has become rather difficult. There is… an uprising among the people against us.”
Calysta smiled cynically. “What does it matter? You’re already too late.”
“What do you mean?” Hemming’s eyes widened.
“I am with child,” she said. Silence followed. “Gillireth knows. He is expected back today. He is having me meet with his mystic so that the baby’s future can be discerned. They will know. They will surely know. And all of this will come to an end,” she said to the cold stone floor.
“Perhaps,” Hemming said. “But these mystics, they can see no more than glimpses of the future. There is always much that Fate keeps to itself." For a fleeting moment, he considered injuring her in an attempt to kill the unborn child, but he realized how risky such measures would be and decided against it. "I will stay to see this fortune told, and if they discover the truth, it is our duty as Dechi leaders to fight until the end. Do you understand?” Hemming looked her squarely in the eye.
“I will fight until the end,” she said.