Marking of the Days

by Sincline Koutaishi


This new dawn is entirely different in the most wonderful of ways. I have woken to a kiss and her hand slowly exploring my body. It seems that she is less shy about learning more about me now that the stress of worry over being together for the first time has passed. Or perhaps she is still half sleeping, just as I am. Her hand reaches my stomach and I sigh deeply, relaxed by her caress. I am already responding to her, the pleasant desire to make love to her rising in me. Her hand moves to my hip and she is surprised when she finds the evidence of my growing desire close by. She stops her exploration suddenly and a little blush comes to her cheeks. I shift and smile for her sleepily.

“Sorry?” She whispers.

“Gods, no need to be sorry. I am only sorry you pulled your hand away.” I say quietly to her.

“Is it... all right to touch?”

“Oh yes. I encourage it, in fact. Gently...” I take her little hand and bring it to me, sighing as I feel the contact and show her more of how to touch me... “Mmmmhhh.” My eyes close and I reach for her, kissing her slowly, seeking out her warmth, listening to the way her breathing changes, bathing my senses in the scent and taste of her all over again.

“Make love to me...” She breathes and kisses my ear, “Make love to me.”

I am so glad to oblige her and this time for a much longer while. I am again unable to hold back once she cries out in her pleasure... I am spent and exhausted and as pleased with life as a man can be, falling into sleep beside her yet again.

My next waking is to the sound of a rather loud bird calling outside of the house.

“Rrrhhh... They are migrating again.” The next two days will be surely be noisy. I can see my wife's brow is furrowed from the annoyance but she has not broken from her sleep quite yet. Slowly, I part from her and my bed, making my way over to the windows, closing them to the annoying bird's song. “Why must nature be so loud?” I wonder.

“Mmh.” My wife responds and turns over, pulling the blanket up over her head.

I smile at her reaction then find my robes and head toward the bathing room to fill what she calls 'the tub'. This will take a while. Back in the main room, I turn on my Katsuna and watch the local news for a while then check the water level again. Bath filled, I return to gather my wife. She is still sleeping quite happily, her head still underneath the covers and hiding from both the sun and bird songs. I climb back onto the bed beside her and kiss her until she wakes, half opening her eyes.

“Good morning.” I say and she smiles.

“Good morning.” Yawn.

“Ahhlll. I have already bored you. Such a yawn!”

“Don't be silly.” She begins to stretch a little.

“I have filled the bath... Come along out of your sleeping.”

“Mmm... Bath.” She settles her head back into the pillow.

“No, no... Not to dream of. To have...”

“Umm?” She is again dozing so I gather her into my arms and carry her into the bathing room, setting her on the bench while helping to remove her softer nightwear brace, then carrying her into the large bath. She smiles again and sighs in the warm water. “Such service. I feel like a queen!”

“Good, because you are one.”

Suddenly her eyes pop open, “I am... I forgot!... My God... I am Queen of the Empire.” She puts her hand to her mouth.

“Yes you are, yet not just a queen... Congratulations, your evil plan to become Empress has succeeded.” I take a sea sponge from the ledge and fill it with water then squeeze it over her head to wet her hair and break her out of her overly thoughtful stare at the wall. It distracts her well and now she is just angry with me instead of worried. “Highness, your crown is very wet.” I leave the sponge on her head with a smile at her crossed eyes.

“Ooh!” Shortly the sponge is on my own head as I struggle with my queen over her odd new crown, laughing. The argument does not last for long and we settle into the work of washing, “You are very good at distracting me.” She notes.

“It is my life's work, my love, and I enjoy it thoroughly.” I decide to distract her further by helping her wash herself, enjoying that she is happy with this soap and water embrace. She enjoys the pleasures that I give her and I am glad I have been able to please her enough that she is willing to enjoy more. Our lives together will certainly be wonderful. Everything is better than I could have hoped for and I have nothing worrisome to think of and ruin this moment. Still, she is an innocent heart and the blushes that cross her face when she is feeling uncertain of what she is doing charm me to no end. She is much more comfortable with this intimacy but it is still new to her.

“Do you think you will be happy with me?” I whisper in her ear, causing another blush and a smile. Her blue eyes turn to mine again as I have distracted her once more.

“Very.” She breathes back to me, kissing me softly. “Thank you for being so sweet and gentle to me... I wonder if it is so wonderful for all people.”

“For their sakes, I would hope so.”

We finish our bath and I enjoy watching her dry herself before covering herself in one of my too-large robes. She pulls her wet hair back into a tail, humming to herself, and then goes to find some clothing after putting her leg brace back on. Watching her hop about has been quite entertaining. I sigh and wander to the kitchen to make some morning tea then stand on the porch with it, enjoying watching the clouds and the sea birds, even the noisy ones. My new wife joins me shortly in my stare at the horizon.

“What is that?” She asks.

“Morning tea. Would you like some? It is a strong traditional tea that we take at home, yet you may like it even so.”

“That would be nice. Do I have to do anything special to make it?”

“You need merely to sit at the table there and your husband will make it for you.” I lean down, kissing her forehead, “I am almost finished with this myself, so I will go to make yours with my second cup.”

“Thank you.” Her smiles are like the sunshine.

I bring her back a cup of morning tea and sit with her at the table, watching her take in the new scent and then have a sip.

“This is very good!”

“I start almost every day with this to drink. I had forgotten since you have been here. At home, I usually wander off into the courtyard and have my morning tea until one of my attendants comes to chase me back inside for being out in my robes.” I smirk.

“You must be very difficult for them.”

“I will be the first to admit this is true. And now I can be difficult for you as well.”

“Oh, good.” She laughs.

“I would like to go into town for morning meal if that would be agreeable to you.”

“It would be.”

“I feel rather lazy today... Excuse me while I put on something more presentable. Enjoy your tea while I am gone.”

“I will.”

I am glad to be sitting to our meal with her at a restaurant. I simply wish to enjoy my time talking to her, not being distracted by having to prepare anything. I am unlucky, however, for my Katsuna beeps instead of any cooking equipment. It must be of sufficient import to pass my lockout of external signals. From the tone I can tell it is coming from the Eastern Port of Galrea, and that is indeed a bit of a shock.

“Hrrr…” I take it out and read, a mixed feeling of amusement and anger rising inside me.

“What is it?” She asks.

“I am in trouble, it seems.” I mutter.

“How so?”

“I am being threatened by your people. They think that I have made off with you again.” Amusement wins over at this point. “I should just write back to them and let them know I have forced you to become my bride against your will.” I nod dramatically.

“You may be just shooting yourself in the foot! And you say my captain is rash in his judgement...”

“That he is. Perhaps I have learned from him, hnn?” I smile at her, “I will speak with them, but not now. They will not interrupt our time together.”


“I will certainly be interested to find out how they managed to send a signal to me here... What shall we do today, my new wife?” I put away the Katsuna to turn back to our more peaceful lives.

She rests back in her chair and thinks of my question, appearing to enjoy the cool breezes that pass over her on this warm morning, “I know. Can we do what your friends were talking about? The boating on the river?”

“That would be fine. I have been so lazy lately. It will give me some exercise.”

“I can hardly wait! This is the best honeymoon I could have hoped for.” She clasps her hands together joyfully.

“What is 'honeymoon'?” I ask.

“Oh! It is what you do after you get married. Usually a couple will go off together to just be alone and get to know one another as husband and wife. To have some fun together in a nice place. Just like this.” She gestures to our surroundings.

“Ahht! I understand. I did not think of it that way... If you would be in agreement, I would like to return here next cycle at this time as a remembrance of our joining. I believe by then we will both be wanting another vacation.”

“You are right about that.” She sighs and purses her lips, thinking as she looks into her water glass then she looks back to me and her smile returns, “It is so difficult to keep my mind off all of what will happen next, but I always come back to one thought, and it seems to settle my mind.”

“And what is that?”

“You are my husband now.” She nods, “And I am happy that we still have some time together before all of that which will come of it.”

“That same thought comforts me.” I can feel my smile growing and I laugh, “Amazing...”

“What?” She takes up her glass of cold tea and sips.

“I am a husband.” I say, listening to the sound of it, “I have a wife... I am joined. Paired. Completed? Nnnhhh... I am a lucky man. I have married the woman I love instead of taking an arranged marriage. Thank you, Gods!” I raise my cup to them, “Though your plans for my life have been strange, I do appreciate your scheming now. Look upon my beautiful wife. She is an incredible thing!” I smile across the table to her, “I... am your husband. I do enjoy saying that.”

She laughs at me finally, shaking her head, “You are so strange...”

“Perhaps... Yet I had never desired marriage for my life. Now I simply find it quite enjoyable. It is a good feeling. I look forward to this partnership we have. To seeing it grow over the years.”

“I can hardly imagine what will happen after this. Do you have any thoughts on how we'll manage?”

“I do. We have time to spend here working on this problem together. Not today, if you will agree.”

She nods, “I would love just to have this whole day for us and not our future troubles.”

“I will say one thing of the future that comes, if you will allow, for it is not a worrisome thing.”

“All right.”

“I would like for you to see the harvest festival this year. It is a time of great joy and romance for our people as the seasons change. The most anticipated celebration. I have often thought I would like to have you see that. It is a wonderful time to be at home.”

“Sounds wonderful. I can't even imagine what it might be like to be amongst your people. We've spent so much time fighting that I can hardly think of your people celebrating.”

“We are very much like your own people, my love. You will see... Also, when first you come to my home I have something I would like to give to you.”

“Oh?” She tilts her head to the side.

“In my people's tradition we wear symbols of our pairing, of our union with our mates. They are rather intricate bracelets. The husband wears his on his left wrist. The wife wears hers on the right. It means that the wife wears the husband as her strength, the husband wears the wife as his commander. There is much that it means to us. It would be a symbol of my love for you and commitment to our future together. Would you consider wearing this?”

Her smile has been growing while I have been speaking and so my hope is that she will agree, “In my own culture we do something similar. We wear rings on our fingers. By tradition the man gives a ring to the woman to wear as a gift when he asks her to marry him. When we get married at last we move the ring from our right hand to the left and the man wears a ring of his own.”

“Ahhll... Have I disappointed you by not presenting you a ring?”

“Goodness, no. Actually, I really like the idea of wearing a bracelet instead. I've never felt comfortable with rings.” She wiggles her empty fingers, “You've never seen me with one on, have you?”

“I have not. The only such adornment I have seen upon you has been the little gold circlet and the necklace you often wear to formal occasions. Come to think on it, where is your new headpiece?”

“I packed it away when I got here. I just wanted to be myself with you.”

“I see.” How much more can my smile grow?

“So, yes I'd love to do that. Do we have to pick them out? Or are they all standard?”

“They are all different. Typically they would be selected... I have a set that I acquired a while back... Very old.” I can feel my face heating again. Damn my blushes. I have never done such an embarrassing thing with such regularity.

“Why are you blushing?” She leans forward and takes my hand where it lays on the table.

“Hnn... I just hope that you will like it.”

“Tell me the story behind the blush, silly.”

“If I must... I found this set shortly after I had first met you.”

“Yes...” She presses, leaning forward more.

I growl slightly from my embarrassment and confess, “I had decided upon you for myself and through that decision I brought great shame upon myself. For my failure at capturing you, mostly. My foolishness... There were times I simply had to separate myself from things to just forget. I would wander in the markets in the old part of whatever city I might be in. There are many shops there that sell old things, for our people have been around a very, very long while. This particular time I found the set I speak of after digging through a pile of old texts, looking for something to read to take my mind off of my most recent failure. It was in a very old box, just buried in the back of a shop. I was surprised to find a box in the pile and sat down to open it. There sat a very old 'matrai shimu'—a joining pair—darkened from its age and lack of cleaning. What surprised me about it most was that the female of the pair bore the character that resembles your name's first character. I thought it must be a joke and then I thought it just a wonderful coincidence. Then looking at the male of the pair it was my own first character in Southern. And so I bought the pair along with three books and brought it all home. I cleaned them up and renewed my belief that one day you would be mine. They are quite beautiful. The male of the pair fits me perfectly. The female pair is rather small. I believe it will fit you perfectly.”

“That's wonderful.” She smiles sweetly at me. “It's so nice to hear that you really have cared for me, even through all of the mess.”

“I have. Very much.”

“I'll wear it proudly.” She says.

“As will I, my love... Gods, you are beautiful.”

“I wish you would stop saying that...” She takes a turn blushing now.

“Why? I speak only the truth.”

“I don't think I'm beautiful at all.”

“No? Well, you are. Perhaps that is why I have been so lucky. You do not think yourself beautiful and so you do not think you could do better than I!”

“Silly... One minute you say you're the most handsome man in the galaxy and the next you think I could have done better.”

I shrug, “I am not too a bad catch.”

“Not too.” She giggles.

“I can hardly wait to walk with you under the trees. They are so beautiful at harvest time—covered with the fall flowers and their leaves turn the most fiery of colors. The air is so crisp and filled with the scents of seasonal cooking. Banners of all sorts hang from the palace walls, inside and out. The priests and priestesses sing ancient songs for the people. I know you will love it.”

“It sounds wonderful.” She smiles dreamily, seeming to imagine it and then stops, “Trees?”

“Yes. Trees... What is that look on your face for?”

“There aren't any trees on... your planet.” She fumbles, in the case that someone might overhear.

“Of course there are...” But then I realize, “Ahhhllll... I have been speaking as though you know. Gods, forgive me, my wife... What you think is my home world, is not.”

“It isn't?” Her blue eyes blink in surprise.

“No.” I lean closer and speak quietly though no one here has ever heard the sounds of human language, “That place you see is only a military port. That is all. Our far eastern port.”

“But... for so long we've all thought that was your home world...”

I shrug, “Your people have thought many things that are not true. They are assumptions based upon what can be seen of The Empire from your vantagepoint. Our home world is very beautiful. Just like its newest citizen, by grace of marriage.”

“Incredible...” Her eyes are wide at the news.

“I will tell you more later, when we are alone.”

We finish our meal in peace and then return to the skiff, which I allow her to pilot back to the house.

I am in hopes that she will learn to fly it enough that she can use it on her own if she wishes to go somewhere without me. It is not too difficult for her to fly, yet took some getting used to, especially as she couldn't read the labels on the controls. She manages to set us down on the landing pad at home without too much shaking. It has been a bumpy ride.

“I think I am going to be sick...” I make a face.

“Stop that. I did fine. Especially with this brace on! Give me some credit!”

“Ahhhlll.” I release the canopy and climb out of the skiff, going to my hands and knees and kissing the ground, “Blessed safety of soil.” I lay on the ground with a sigh, then roll onto my back looking up at her.

“I am not a bad pilot!” She insists and stands up in the craft, knocking her head on the canopy. “Ouch!” She sets her teeth and frowns me as I roar with laughter.

“Get out of there before you hurt yourself more!”

“I can't believe I married such a horrible man!” She climbs out of the cockpit with some effort and stands over me with her arms folded indignantly across her middle, watching me laugh myself out, “Are you almost finished?”

“Oh... I think I will never be finished from this. I will be remembering this moment for a very long time!” I pull her down on top of me and she squeals with surprise then quiets as I kiss her, “Will you always entertain me so?”

“Probably.” She relents, “I'm glad at least that you are amused by my clumsiness.”

“That I am.”

Inside the house I attend to finding out what the latest annoyance is that is coming from her world. I first contact my communications staff, following the trail that they carved in order to reach me... and find that the Communications Ministry had been hailed constantly by her guard for the past three days.

“Majesty, they insist upon speaking with you. They are threatening to attack if you do not respond. We have told them that you are on a vacation and it will be difficult to reach you if we are able at all. What should we do?”

“Hail them. Route their communication to me. I do not want a straight feed so they cannot find out where I am.”

“Yes, Majesty. Please wait a moment while we prepare.” The screen goes blank.

“I would also like to know how you managed to reach me here... It seems that my privacy has been broken in some way...” I mutter, casting a look toward my new wife where she is sitting, out of the way of the video feed and looking a little guilty, “You know something, don't you?”

She shrugs slightly, “Mmmaybe?”

But I do not have time to question her further. In a few moments I have a line through to the Altean castle and again I am face to face with these people who hate me, “What do you want of me now?? Why are you disturbing my rest again??” I attempt to be appropriately irritated with them, while being distracted by the scolding looks she is giving me out of their visual range.

“Where is she??” The captain is filled with venom and is quieted by the minister.

“You have lost your Princess again.” I smirk, “I see now why you are bothering me! Did I not tell you to keep better watch on her, boy??”

“Forgive us, but we are concerned for her and know how she was feeling when you left. We were thinking she might have come to find you.”

I shrug and fail to answer their question directly, “I would not worry for her. She seems clumsy and suffers from wanderlust, but she also seems to be protected by some enormous amount of luck. She will come back to you when she is ready.”

“Thank you for your time, your highness. We will trouble you no further.”

“Good. See that you do not until I am at least back to my working days.” With that I cut the channel, thank the communications officer then terminate the session completely. I turn to see my queen biting her tongue, “You didn't like my comment about your clumsiness.” I smile proudly.

“No. Were you trying to make me give myself away?”

“I was simply enjoying the fact that I can have fun with you.” I come to her now and kiss her where she sits perched on a stool in the kitchen.

“I have to remember something about you...” She says, looking at me quite sternly.

“And that is?”

“That while you may not be lying outright, you may merely not be acknowledging the truth. Nicely done.”

Ah, she is proud of me and annoyed with me both, “Thank you. It comes from many years of practice.”

Years... How old are you, by the way?”

Now there is a question I did not want her to ask!

“Old enough to know better than to tell you.” I raise an eyebrow at her.

“You look young enough... but you also looked this way four years ago when first I saw you. I have changed a bit since then...”

“Go and get dressed for the river trip.” I attempt to change the subject.

She smiles wryly at me and I realize I have failed in my attempt… It is her turn to have some fun at my expense, “Come on. How old are you?”


“Are you much older than I am? How long do your people live?” She follows me down the hall to our room, hopping along to keep up.

“I am older than you are, by a good bit.” I grumble, “Are you satisfied?”


“I feared as much... Less talking and more changing.” I tap her nose with my finger.

“Why won't you just tell me?”

“It is more fun to have you guess.” She watches me as I pull off my shirt to find one a little more suitable to this exercise.

“Are you 30 years old?” I ignore her. “40??”

“Tsshhh... You are making my brain hurt.” I scold.

“Older than that??” Her eyes are wide.

“I did not say that.”

“You didn't not say that.”

“And what if I am older than that?”

“Then I have married an old man!” She laughs

“And I have married a very young woman. Lucky me!”

“Tell me the truth, why don't you?”

“Are you certain you want the truth? Would you care for me any more or less if you knew?”

“No... I just want to know my husband.” She smiles sweetly for me.

“That smile will be my end.” I sigh and pull on my new shirt, yanking my long hair out through the collar and pondering if I should tell my 19-year-old human wife how very old I am in comparison. She has the right to know... “It is true, I am an older man. My people age much more slowly than yours. I have found that I will age more as my father's genetic side of the family than as my mother's.” I am so glad when she comes and hugs me. She can sense this is not something I am eager to share.

“It doesn't really matter. I just like to have fun with you the way that you like to with me.”

“I think it will take me some time before I feel a bit less sensitive. Everything seems to matter so much more to me now. I should not be so afraid to tell you the truth in all things. No matter what I have said to you, you have always left your heart open to me.” I hold her away and stroke her cheek with my thumb, confessing, “Your husband has been wandering the universe for a long while. I am coming up on fifty cycles of age.”

“Wow.” She smiles.

“I have been alive before you were born... A good long while before you were born.”

“How old was your father when he passed?”

“He was over 300 cycles old. The old thing hung on for a long while.”

Amazing... Then, when I am old and gray you will still be young...”

“Depending on how many children we have, I may be just as old and tired as you are by then.” I smile again and then soften, seeing her worry, “I will not desert you as you age, if that is what you think. I will love you and keep you until your end. You will never be wanting for my affection or attention.”

“I am so glad.” She sighs.

I lean in and kiss her sweetly, “Now change your clothing so we may go.”

“Umh hum.” She nods and kisses me back and then goes about her changing.

She again warms my heart... She is so patient with me, so understanding and accepting of all I tell her. I have thought before of our ages, and that I will long outlive my sweet one. I could never desert her in her age... I will always love her, always be there beside her... And when she passes I will be broken. I will carry her ashes with me much as I carry the little metal rod that reminds me of the Alliance's dishonor toward her... I wonder if I will be able to carry on living without her, without this bond that I feel between us, without her love for me.

Stop thinking so far ahead, idiot... You have many, many years before that. Be with her now.” I scold myself as I watch her rearranging her leg brace. “Thank the Gods you are putting that back on and covering your ugly little leg.”

“Oooh! You are so mean.” She snatches a pillow from the bed and hurls it at me so I dodge.

“Yai, and you throw like a girl.”

“I am a girl! I would think you would have noticed that!” She blushes again, thinking about what she has alluded to and I laugh, leaving my dark thoughts behind. I come to her and lift her into my arms.

“I have certainly noticed and I appreciate every part of what that means. Let us go boating now.”

“Then you can make fun of me on the water. What a pleasant change for you.”

“Indeed. We go!” I heft her over my shoulder, listening to her surprised squeal and laugh. In this way I carry her to the skiff and place her in the passenger seat.

“Not ready to be made ill again from my flying?”

“Not quite.”

I bring her to one of the places inland where narrow boats are for hire and place her in the front of one of them there on the river Fyhle. She calls them canoes.

“Don't let go of that rope!” She says nervously, standing on wobbly legs inside the shallow craft.

“I will not. My Katsuna is in the boat. I would not want to lose it.” I smirk at her.

She sticks her tongue out at me but pulls it back in quickly as the boat rocks when I climb in. She clings to the sides with a yelp, sitting down quickly.

“Come now. You know how to swim!”

“I do, but I don't want to have to prove it right now!”

Finally settled into the thing, I show her the map, letting her pick the course and teaching her how to row properly.

“Your job is to watch out for rocks that are too high. If we hit a rock, you might have to show off your swimming skills.”

“I will be very good at finding rocks.” She assures.

“Then just use the oar to push the end of the boat away from them.” I pull the rope into the boat and we are set adrift on the current.

“Seems simple enough.”

She takes to the rowing well enough. I have been needing some exercise and take to it a little too quickly. My little warrior's muscles are not quite as plentiful as mine, but she does have determination. I slow the pace in a rougher area, telling her to take in the oar she holds and just keep it handy for any rocks she might spy. When the water slows she takes up the oar again and we row on slowly. She is quiet, but I can almost feel her mind at work where she sits before me, looking about at the scenery.

“What are you thinking of?” I ask her.

She turns in her seat in the front of the narrow boat and smiles back at me, “Just that I love you.”

Just.” I smile back and then say, “Rock.”

“Agh!” She turns around in time to shove us away from it.

“Good work. I should have thought twice before coming into a river with the Princess of Clumsy.”

“I would be quiet if I were you. I may just let us hit a rock to prove you right.” She takes her hand off the oar long enough to wag a finger at me in warning.

Eventually she becomes tired of rowing and moves to the back of the craft to rest against me, stretching out to let the sun warm her. She is listening to my stories about the things that are on the shores, watching 'frogs' jump from their sunny spots on logs into the river as we pass.

I think of our future together as she rests against me. I wonder at our having children and feel glad that she would enjoy that, too. Never did I think that I would fall so hard to the bonding and parenting urge. I had always avoided such things in favor of easy pleasures, telling my comrades that they were fools to want families so much as one by one they fell to those urges. Especially Shilne with his deep desire to have hundreds of children. Now, I want the very same. I ache to hold our first child.

As I watch, she sighs and her hand comes to rest on her belly... By Gods, our minds are working together... Is she somehow aware that she is carrying our child already? Or is she merely feeling hungry? She did not seem to be in season, but then perhaps such things are different for humans. I had not thought to ask or even to restrain myself accordingly if she was not ready for children... Perhaps I have erred already as a husband? I want to ask but keep my tongue still. Hanta has often told me to keep my mind out of the affairs of women. If she knows it and wishes to tell me, she will in her own time. Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part. I have been getting ahead of myself very much lately.

“What will we do when we leave here?” She asks quietly, breaking me out of my thoughts. Now she is getting ahead of herself. It seems that our decision not to worry about the future has ended for I am feeling rather anxious to talk of it myself, “Since we're alone now, is it all right to talk about it at least a little?”

“Hnnh... I suppose that I will return to see to the business of the Empire and you will return to see to your own people's needs. They will likely be missing you a great deal by the time you are home again, since they have gone to such great lengths to track me down here… I would like to go with you, yet I suspect they would be less than happy to see my face again so soon. If I felt you would be unsafe, I would of course insist upon going along... If you will allow, I would like to have my men remain in your space to keep the area protected. Please do not take this to mean I wish to claim rights there, just that I am overly concerned for your safety. They will remain out of range of your scanners but close enough to assist, should the need arise.”

She nods sullenly, “When will I see you again?”

“When you feel you are ready, simply tell me to come to you and I will do so immediately.” I take up the oar and place it in the hooks along the side of the boat so I can concentrate on her questions instead of piloting. The current is carrying us along nicely enough.

“Is that all I have to do?”

“Yes. All you ever need do is call to me and I will be beside you...” I smooth down her hair, watching her settle a bit. She is afraid of parting with me. Perhaps she fears that I will not return? I cannot fault her for this after my most recent parting with her, “You should likely also do what you can to smooth the way, decide whether or not you wish to let them know we have married... If you feel your people are not yet ready for that information, we will do what we can to ready them. I will put on my best face until they will tolerate me... Your captain may never tolerate me. I fear that in his own way he is in love with you. The kind of a love that a sworn protector feels for his lady.”

“Do you really think that's true?”

“Servants and protectors often fall into a kind of love for their mistresses. Those who write tales have often written of this.”

“Well, I think you're wrong on that. I've known him a long time and, well... I just don't think that's true. But I hope he will come to accept you someday. I would like you to become the commander of the Altean forces, of course. He would be under your command then. He might be able to learn something from you if he comes to accept you as part of my life.”

“He will be difficult. I would have to put him in his place a great deal. It is not a challenge I am afraid of, however. I am worried you would not like how I might do this. You may feel me too harsh with him.”

“I know nothing about being a military commander. I will be grateful for your advice and leadership, trust you to do only that which is necessary.”

“Very good. Then, when I come to you, I will come as an advisor. Perhaps that will be a good way to prove my intention. And one day when you are feeling comfortable and confident of it, you will let them know we are married, I hope.”

“It will be very hard not to tell them immediately. You think I'll want to hide it. I won't. You may well have to restrain me from it until the right time!”

“We may have to restrain each other.” I stroke her cheek and lift her face to mine to lean in and kiss her slowly, “I do love you.”

“I love you, too.”

We kiss there in our boat under the bright sun until we are disturbed by a bump from an underwater rock.

“Shame upon you, my wife. You are neglecting your job.”

“I was distracted.” She smiles and then looks over the side of the boat, “Looks like clear sailing for a while.”

“Ah, good...”

“So... What is the name of your true home world?”

“Forth... Since my father's passing and the destruction of Galrea Castle, I have lived on Forth in the palace where I grew as a small child. That is where we will reside whenever you choose to come to Forth—the palace Manaleh, in the city of Namida, Satnatari prefecture, the Northern Territories. I hope that you will love it there as much as I do. The palace is in the hills above a valley where the city is settled. It is a magnificent view. You can see all the way down to the lake and beyond. Every morning, as the sun rises, the Priestesses come to the balcony and sing the morning song for the people, to bring the city to life. Their voices carry all the way down the hills into the valley below where the city sleeps. I love the mornings there.” I smile in my reverie.

“I can hardly imagine that you are from a world like you describe. I always thought you lived on Doom, that barren planet with that horrible castle as your home.”

“No... It is just a military center. And while I have lived a good part of my life there, it was never a home to me... and it is not pronounced 'doom'. It is Dhoume—named after a god of revenge. Galrea is a god of war.”

“Dhoume...” She tries the name on her tongue anew, “What about the rest of your empire? The Alliance always speculated that it might be 4 or 5 planets.”

“There are 25 inhabited planets that are part of The Empire. 20 more that are fully aligned worlds. 30 more that are friendly worlds and even more that are trading partners. That does not include the number that are colonies. And all of this, you are now queen of, the Empress... Or as we say it—Alta and Eshinoa.”

Goodness... What have I gotten myself into?” She looks back up toward me with a very worried expression.

“Even more boring social obligations than you can dream of.” I kiss her furrowed forehead, “It is nothing for worry. It will all come to you and I will always be there to help you.”

“I'm glad about that... I'm not even very good at being a princess of a very tiny world... Mostly just a big colony. We're only on one continent! Your empire is even larger than the Alliance... How do you do it all?”

“I have been in the military for years, my love. As you know, I am an old man.” I smirk and she laughs, “I was trained to be a leader of people. While at first that did not translate well into seeing to civilian needs, I adapted my skills. You learn to place those in command who you trust, who you can depend upon. You let them do their work and not worry much over it. I do my best to simply find those who are best and trustworthy and who have a care for our people. They make my work quite simple. I do my best to stay out of things unless there is something going wrong. While those I trust take care of the smaller things, I look at the broader landscape to see where it is we should be going, how best to get there. I also deal with the assorted royalty and their foolishness. They like to assert themselves quite often. I like to remind them who is their Emperor.”

“Assorted royalty?”

“Yes. There are 38 royal houses. Each held a separate kingdom for many years. We were a people constantly at war as a result of the many egos of the many houses. I will praise my father for this one thing... He took the throne of the Forth house—the most difficult to achieve—and then he united all of the others under his rule. He became the first emperor of all the nations—something that had never been done before. For hundreds of years he ruled them all. And he raised me to be his successor by finding the best to train me for the work. I will admit he did a decent job of it for I have kept the empire solid.”

“Do you enjoy it? Do you like being emperor?”

“I do, rather. I trust my judgment these days. I did not, before. I have come a long way these past two years. It was a great learning experience to go through all of what I had to in order to repair the foolishness my father had wrought upon the civilian population. I think you might be proud.”

“I know I am... Maybe I should have been in the military. Maybe that would have helped me.”

“It would have helped you to have a father to teach you more. It would have helped you to have the Alliance not treat you so poorly. It would have helped if our troops had not been assaulting your world in order to swing things in another direction—starting to take territory from the Alliance as they had been taking it from us over the years... I will do what I can to be of counsel to you and to teach you what it is to rule effectively. I believe you have some instinct for it already, yet your people often tend to think of you simply as a sweet child in need of protection.”

She nods, “You're right about that. It's my own fault, really. I have a very hard time being firm and quite often I find myself giving in to what local ministers want even if I think it's wrong. I just feel so guilty if I tell them I disagree. It's awful. I bet you don't feel like that at all.”

“Far from it. I tend to become rather... annoyed if my subordinates disagree with me or attempt to question my decisions. You and I are quite opposite in our temperaments.”

“I would have never guessed.” She laughs and reaches up, stroking my cheek, “You can be very angry very quickly from what I remember.”

“With great speed.” I agree. “My advisor often disarms me before meetings with the trade ministers for fear of what I might do. It is a different thing to command troops. They are all very predictable. They obey in a moment. Ministers and politicians seem to think I care what their opinions are. I rarely do.”

“What happened to trusting your subordinates?”

“I trust them. They do their jobs very well. These others are generally the smaller local government representatives who like to take a chance at arguing with me. It can be quite humorous if I am in the right state of mind.”

“Maybe... you can teach me to have some impatience and a little bit of anger.”

“I can teach you to show your people that you are determined and you will not back down from your opinions. I can teach you to assert yourself and perhaps feel less guilty about it as time goes by. It would not serve me well to teach you impatience and anger for you will need plenty of patience in your life with me... I have seen your anger before and would not want to see much more of it directed toward me.”

“Don't worry.” She turns a little more and hugs me.

“Ahuu, but I do. That is one more thing that I can do very well.” I laugh, “Now... Why not tell me about the guilty look you wore earlier? You do know something about how they found me, don't you?”

“I was sworn to secrecy.” She tries.

“Hrrhh... Then it is Shilne. There is no doubt.”

“He only worries for you.” She goes to defend him.

“And you have just given him away! Well done.”

“I didn't say it was him.”

“You have said enough. Only he could have helped you on your way. Only he would have the resources to do something of the sort. So tell me... how is it that he can reach me here? I am curious.”

“I honestly don't know the specifics of it all, but I know there is nothing malicious involved. He's just concerned for your wellbeing, and for mine, too!”

“Still, it lets me know that he is keeping things from me.”

“Not in a bad way.”

“True... I am proud of him. Well done, Shilne. I am not sure whether to punish him or reward him.”

“I would stick with the reward, if I were you.”

“Yes, you would... You have already proven yourself a fine Empress.”

“I have?”

“Conspiring against me with those who have served me for years... Certainly you will do well!”

Conspiring... Such an imagination!” She shakes her head at me.

Midday meal we take on the shoreline of the river and then I force her on a walk to keep her leg exercised. We reach our home again in the evening and settle together on the porch watching the sun fade in the sky.

This is what a vacation should be.” I say as I bring her food for late meal there on the back porch.

“What do you mean?”

“Toiling at doing nothing much, enjoying the art that nature creates, peaceful moments spent with one you love only split by eating whatever vathu you want to for your meals.” I laugh and take my seat beside her on the bench at the table. It is much nicer than sitting separately and she seems to agree.


“A bad Northern word.”

“Will you ever teach me any good words??”

“If you are nice to me.”

“I am always nice to you.” She starts to pick at her food.

“Sha sha. So you are... What would you like to know how to say?”

“I love you.” She says with no hesitation.

“Yon t'sheahr.”

“You've said that to me before.” She realizes and looks at me sidelong. “When I was falling asleep on your cruiser when you rescued me.”

“Indeed. For it was as true then as it is now. I wished to speak my heart to you, yet knew you would have nothing of me. Since it was one sided, so was my speech.”

“Say, 'I miss you'.”

“Yon t'menai.”

She nods, her eyes tearing.

“What is it?”

“I don't want to part with you again... Not even for a little while. I don't want to miss you again. It hurt so much when you left me on Altea...” Her brow furrows.

“My love, it will never happen that way again. So soon you worry of our parting... You are learning to worry too much from me.” I take her hand in mine, “Ehren en shier fa kosta noh. Ye fonai, yeh chien, yeh v'terna. Nothing will come to break our bond. No person, not time, not any distance... Know this.” I am in amazement as she comes into my arms again and I hold her to me. “I will always be with you, my love. Never fear our partings.”

Promise you will come back to me.”

“I will always come back to you.” She sighs and I feel her arms squeeze me, “If you wish it, I will return to your home with you. We will not have to part. Yet when we spoke of it earlier we had thought it best for you to go alone.”

“Yes. It is best that way, just not for me.”

“Who ever would have thought that the princess would love the tyrant so much?”

“Me.” She smiles a bit.

“Have your meal. There has been enough crying. We should be happy now.”

“I know. I'm sorry.” She lets go but before she can go too far I take her face in my hands and kiss her.

“Trust what your heart says to you... not what your fear says.” I tell her what Midiri once told me and it seems to settle us both so that we can fall back to talking about easier things. My desire to be a good husband is growing more and more as the hours pass—the desire to be protective and soothing to my wife. It seems to be working and coming quite naturally, too. I feel rather pleased with this.

I have promised myself that tomorrow she and I will sit down and discuss at length some of the mechanics of bringing assistance to her people. It should prove to be quite the task, but necessary on many levels.

After late meal is done, my Princess pulls her knees up to her chest and hugs her legs to her, looking out over the surf at the moons and stars that have appeared in the sky.

“May I say something rather... improper?” She asks.

“I can see no reason to avoid it. Go on.”

“Perhaps not so much improper as just personal or delicate...”

“I can hardly wait to hear.”

“I never learned about... relations between men and women other than what I learned in biology about birth and pregnancy. My mother died when I was very young and I think she would have told me more about it... But as it was, the only girls my age were servants of the castle and would never dream to talk to me about such things. My father... I am not sure he knew what to say to me other than to keep clear of you. And the defense team would never dream of bringing up such a subject. When I tried to ask my nanny she would just brush me off or tell me that it wasn't something that a proper young lady should talk about. She would say that it was something that someone saved for their husband. But other than that, it seemed to be rather a dirty thing that people just avoided talking about at all costs… She was also very clear in saying that I should stay away from you because that was all you wanted from me.”

“I seem to remember asking for your hand in marriage, not to take you into your womanhood before your time... though I do realize now that you were too young when first I began asking...”

“You 'asked' too many times.” She rolls her eyes at me and then smiles.

“Persistence has paid me well.” I raise my glass of water to her in a toast to myself, “For now, you are my wife!... What are you getting to?”

“Ummm...” She bites her lip, “I suppose what I am trying to say is that no one ever told me about what would happen between us last night. I had no idea of what to expect... or what to do. And you made it all very wonderful. Even if I really can't bond in the same way you can, I felt as though I did, and that I was growing so close to you in a way that I don't think most people get to experience... I had no idea that something that no one would talk to me about could feel so good. Nanny had me thinking that all one did was simply lay there until it was over and that it didn't feel like anything... So is this how things really are?”

“How do you mean?”

“Well... I felt like there was so much energy rushing through me... and all I wanted was to feel more of you, to be closer to you... And there was this incredible feeling that washed over me all of the sudden. I could have never imagined anything like it! I thought it must be something that would happen to me once... but then in the morning it happened again. It was different that time, but still the same. Will... that always happen?”

“If I do my job well, it will.” I smile, understanding where she is clumsily trying to go with her words.

“So, it's not unusual? There is nothing wrong with me?”

“Gods no, there is nothing wrong with you. It is a very normal thing. We think of it as finding your pleasure. I am glad you have found yours with me, much as I have with you.”

“I see... Do you mind my asking these questions?”

“Not at all. I want to know all of what you are thinking. What else would you like to know?”

“Have I... done anything wrong?”

“No. Not even close.”

“Do I bore you because I have no idea of what to do?”

“You hardly bore me. That is simply not possible.” I chuckle at the notion.

“What else should I know?”

“Things that will come with time. I cannot tell you how to find your pleasure... You will learn over time what is best for you. We will both learn.”

“I'm not sure you have anything more you can learn.” She sighs and hugs her knees to her more tightly.

I place my arm over her shoulders and kiss the top of her worried head, “And yet I have learned the first time and the second... of softness and of the feelings that I have for you that are not simply driven by my lust. There will be more to our passion, yet you must promise me that you will always tell me if there is something that you want or something that bothers you. Nnh?”

“I promise.” She leans against me.

“Then all will be well.” I stroke her cheek, “Let us have a bath before going to sleep, and we shall see if we can learn anything more.”

After our bathing I bring my love back to our bed and lay her down there with me and show her more of what pleasures can be had.

Making love to her will never be a chore, I muse as she is sleeping in my arms afterward. There are many things I can teach her to enjoy, as my people are given to their passions and the art of love. She will likely blush a great deal when I take her to the ancient passion section of the Namidan archives... and I will enjoy that thoroughly as well.

On to 37