It’s curious that you can sit across the table from someone hundreds of times (as well as doing other things with them) and never truly take a good look at them. It’s as if your mind gets quick glance and then files it away as “Oh, I know this guy” and doesn’t bother to really register what they look like. This morning as the Duke yawned his way through breakfast in his preposterously feminine dressing gown I really took a look at him – I mean really.
He’s not a bad looking fellow. He’s no lady killer either, if he wasn’t the third richest and most powerful man in the kingdom there wouldn’t be legions of maidens swooning over him, but he’s attractive enough in his way. He would be much better looking if he was a little less soft and had a little more color to him, but when you’re born live and die in the lap of luxury it’s hard to stay trim and tan. But compared to a lot of his fellow nobles – flabby pasty phlebitis-ridden gouty in-bred hunchbacks – he’s the absolute picture of manly ruggedness. By comparison.
His one eye is slightly lazy but not so much so that it detracts from him appearance overall. He’s probably a couple inches shorter than me but somehow gives the impression of being taller than he is – something about his carriage or maybe just his demeanor. He has the easy air of authority and relaxed command that many of his peers never manage to master. That probably makes him seem more physically impressive than he literally is. Only someone born to power can cultivate that aura, but not everyone born to power has it.
He does have surprisingly strong and muscular looking legs for someone who’s never known a hard day’s work (or any other kind of day’s work) and his style is always impeccable – I’ve never see his beard look shaggy or unkempt and his clothing is always of the finest quality and well worn. Some men can never look good no matter how much they spend on their wardrobe, the Duke knows how to make fine clothing look even better. And best of all he never wears any jewelry – I cannot stand a man with ornaments, never could. If you’re going to drape yourself in jewels just go all the way and put on your wife’s party dress and sashay your pretty little self around the town square. You can make good money doing that in some parts of the city you know. As I was examining him the Duke looked over, fighting his way through another lawn, and gave me that little grin I hate. The kind where he seems like a delinquent juvenile – I thank the Gods this is as close as he comes to any sort of perverse mother stuff with me.
He talked through a second yawn, another coming hot on the heels of the first – it’s exhausting being idle “It turns out that you really are married my little songbird.”
I chuckled obligingly “Of course I am Your Grace, and yet you took the bride to bed on her wedding night.”
His little grin turned into a bigger grin “No, I mean you’re actually married, that fake priest wasn’t a priest of a real God but he was a priest of some kind. A rural God the people out in the counties sacrifice corn to, probably has bull horns on his head!” He laughed himself into a coughing fit that had to be stopped by some hundred gold champagne mixed with juice from the Southern Isle “Trust that moron Hanrahan to find a fake priest that is actually a holy man. Can you beat it?”
I threw my head back slightly (still demure) with a compulsory laugh “Oh Your Grace, how delightful!”
It wasn’t delightful at all. My mind was working a mile a minute trying to figure out if it was a real mistake or the kind of mistake you make when you’re going to run a game on someone. Hanrahan is a moron so if he did it on purpose he wasn’t behind it – someone had to put him up to it. What would anyone have to gain by seeing me married to a minor knight like Master Azul Chagarshah? Is he heir to anything of value? Some land that’s going to become more valuable soon based on the pending war? Did someone else die recently putting him the line of succession of something worthwhile? Could it be just to humiliate me? I’ll have to spend some time thinking about the possible motivations and matching them up to who could be behind it. Assuming that it’s not just an accident. I’ll have to see if I can track down that priest. What was his name?
The Duke slurped his breakfast soup irritatingly “I suppose I’ll have to call you lady Chagarsa now.” He laughed and then this face fell into a pout “Hopefully this will stop the rumors about us from getting to my wife.”
Now that’s something that I hadn’t considered. Maybe this is what the Duke intended all along. This seems like exactly the kind of harebrained ridiculously circuitous plan that he would come up with. His wife is getting on his case about his mistress – so what does he do? He comes up with this outlandish plan of a fake wedding so he can “pretend” to cuckold someone meanwhile setting up a real wedding for the mistress because he thinks that’s going to accomplish anything. The Duke being behind it for real would make a lot of sense. On the other hand a fake wedding and a fake cuckolding his also the kind of ball-less bored and stupid scenario that he would cook up without any ulterior motive.
One thing I’ll need to establish is what any of this means legally. What does it mean under the King’s law if the servant of some country god that no civilized person has ever heard of marries you? Probably nothing. I’m pretty sure that under the laws of the land only a marriage performed by an anointed priest of Adariel or Odobenine has any legal standing. I need to check the case law on that. No matter what was intended or not intended I doubt I’m actually married. It was probably that dunce Tullia Diana – this seems like her kind of poor marksmanship. She’s clever enough to cook up a scheme but foolish enough not to do it correctly. But then again she’s also a good patsy for that very reason, someone may well have put her up to it. I’ll need to find out who she’s been talking to lately. And Azul as well, he might have been a part of it. If there’s anything to have been a part of.
“Anyway my little nightingale, I won’t be seeing you tonight, I have that event with Duke Guenveur’s nephew and the ambassador.”
I hadn’t been listening to him but I have perfected the ability of looking like I’m paying attention while thinking and then anticipating when he’s going to say something that requires me to respond. There are many useful skills that I’ve mastered but that one is perhaps the most valuable. The Duke, as you might imagine, spends a great deal of time talking just to hear himself talk so I free up a lot of mental space by letting my mind wander and then detecting when I need to pay attention. It’s a gift that I have. I sulked and simpered appropriately at his dismissal, glowing on about how I would simply die without seeing him and so forth, but I was even more glad that usual that I wouldn’t have to play pretend with him that night. I have a lot of work to do to unravel this fake-not fake marriage fiasco.
Inventory: Courtesans’ Outfit but you know, like a super fancy one