his mare, in one bound and was off to the waterfront before any of the
rest of the household had awakened. He paced the wharf as they docked,
and the little landing boats debarked with their precious passengers and
cargo. He was there to greet the first, a small girl of no more than ten
years. "I am Saheris El Maduc," he greeted her, formally, and lifted her
bodily to the safety of the dry wharf above.
"I am Iliana,
the youngest daughter of Munduk," the girl said brightly. She was stunningly
pretty, with large blond ringlets, and a pure, pale complexion, and she
smiled endearingly at Saheris, as though he was her intended, and she
had already fallen in love with him.
her Ugar fashion. "I am honored." Just as he had straightened up from
his bow to the girl, another was handed up, virtually a copy of the first,
and just as lovely. The girls were almost exact replicas of their mother,
Eldana, who even now stood, imperious, in the bow of the boat, awaiting
the landing vessel. Eldana stood at a considerable height, taller than
Saher, perhaps even taller than Arrus, and for a brief time, Saheris's
attention was arrested. Sahelis had told me about Eldana, and the meeting
in the bedchamber with her and Munduk. He had described her as a magnificent
blonde beauty, breathtaking to behold, and Sahelis had not exaggerated.
The second daughter, Kinlit, awaited his arm, and he helped her up and
gave her a second formal salute.
second daughter, came a tall, willowy, and - to Saheris's great surprise,
dark-haired, dark-complexioned girl who must be at least eighteen years
of age. Her eyes searched the pier, and at once caught sight of him. He
had already been told that Ildico had seen him, though he did not know
where, or how. He found himself hoping that she was as pleased with him
as he with her, but her face gave no indication either way. They lighted
on him, and did not flicker away. Ildico, if possible, was, due to her
dark hair and olive coloring, the most beautiful of the three, and mature.
He could not see much detail of her form beneath the cloak, but she had
her mother's height and delicacy of feature, her nose short but not stubby,
and Saheris spent long moments enjoying the simple vision of her. She
had far more than the requisite number of arms and legs! He breathed in
sharply; his bed would not be empty long. She reached a long, manicured
hand up from the boat, and he drew her up to the wharf. Standing at a
level, she overtopped him by a head, and looked down upon him. Slowly,
she smiled. "Greetings, Saheris El Maduc," she said.
you, Ildico," and he kissed her hand. She bowed her head graciously, then
moved off toward her sisters. He did not want to let that hand go.
Eldana and her
servants followed. When the boat stopped debouching its passengers, Saheris
looked around him in some confusion. "Where is Munduk?"
The queen replied.
"He is a day or two behind. There was some news from the north that he
had to reply to before departing, but decided that it would be unwise
for us all to delay. We are not to change our itinerary in any way."
for horses to be brought for the women, and led them to Zoser's house
and their rest. By the time they arrived, the house had stirred. Arrus,
newly-arrived from Moesia, and Suwetus stood in the doorway to greet the
arrivals and show them to their new homes. Arianus and his wife Brita
arrived shortly thereafter, to greet Iliana, who was betrothed to their
son Arrhadeus, and Linnaeus, who was a widower, was in attendance to greet
and introduce himself to Kinlit who was betrothed to his son Runar. Soon
both houses were bustling with the transporting of trunks and movement
of furniture, the arrival and departure of horses, and the cooking of
food. Saheris lost track of his betrothed, Ildico, among the press of
women who crowded in to assist Munduk's family with their belongings,
and he strode back, alone, to his study. To his surprise, Sahelis awaited
"Is she pretty?
Do you think you want her?"
"Do you know what
you said about Eldana?"
a girl as tall as Eldana, hair as thick and long as Eldana's, face as
delicately wrought. Then, make her dark, brunette, with a perfectly olive
"You prefer them
"Then - she is
what you want. She must be stunning."
"She is. Munduk
knew she is, that is why he never let me see her! He knew I would ravish
her in a minute."
his hands. "Then it will be settled? You are going to go through with
roughly at his brother's arm. "Of course. If I go another month without
a woman I may die. But now that I have seen her, I am completely happy
with the arrangement."
"But now what
about me? Has Munduk married off all his daughters now, leaving none for
"You're too young.
Khan's sons have to be older. The younger siblings get married off to
the lesser members of the house. He has a daughter from his Moldovan wife
who is almost sixteen. When you are old enough, you can marry her. The
Moldovans are dark people too so she would be brunette, like Ildico."
"What is her name?"
"I don't know,
Sahelis, we can ask Eldana. I thought you weren't anxious to marry."
I just want to have the choice."
"I am sure Munduk
has a lot of daughters available."
As promised, Munduk
was two days behind by ship, and by the time of his arrival, his family
were ensconced in Zoser's house. The wedding was due to be held in Saher's
house on the day of Vesta, two days from the time of his arrival, and,
a nervous sailor himself, Munduk spent the first day after his arrival
in bed, recovering from a lack of food and sleep. Saheris was secretly
pleased that he was not the only man who could not abide ships. Heklitis,
too, could not hold food on board ship, and that alleviated much of Saheris's
embarrassment and reticence about sailing.
They dined together
the night before the ceremony, in Saher's hall, which had been transformed
into a feast hall for the wedding. Extra furnishings had been removed
to make room for more tables and guests, and the hanging lamps had been
lifted to provide for more standing room in the main vestibule. This was
the first opportunity for Saheris to speak to Ildico since their meeting
on the pier.
"What do you think of Maduc so far, Lady?" he inquired politely.
"It is much less
cold than Maeotis, and far fairer than Rukath," she said carefully. "And
I have always loved the seacoast. The smell is invigorating." She glanced
sidelong at Saheris, as though waiting for him to speak, and then continued.
"Do you know, that we of Scythia consider Pontus to be the most beautiful
area of this entire region? Except of course for the mountains of Moldova.
But they are only beautiful to the sight, it is frigidly cold there for
much of this season, and wretched to travel through. Scythia is not much
please," Munduk said, his voice only half-joking while he sipped his soup.
"Please do not portray to the Khan that our realms are hostile and inhospitable,
or he will never consent to rule them or even set foot in them!"
She lowered her
eyes. "I am sorry, Father, but I wished to let Saheris know, truthfully,
that his realm is a beautiful one, and far superior in our own eyes, to
the land in which we dwell."
explosively. "I can do nothing with her. You have no fear that she will
attempt to flee Maduc, in any case, Saheris."
"I never doubted
it," he replied, soberly. But he was intrigued at the pains Ildico appeared
to be taking to please him. Had her father told her that Saheris had not
yet made up his mind to marry? He had been told, previously, that Ildico
found him attractive - did she fear that there were other competitors
for him, and that she might lose an opportunity to marry if she did not
please him? It certainly seemed that way. Besides this niggling worry
in the back of Saheris's mind, he paid careful attention to Ildico, and
to her younger sisters, who prattled ceaselessly about the sea and the
ships, which they had never seen prior to their first trip to Maeotis.
They had never been across the Euxine, before, and their eyes were bright
with the pleasure of new experience. Saheris enjoyed it all, and the benevolent
eye of Eldana over them all, watchful and approving.
When the dinner
ended, the girls assembled to provide them with some singing entertainment.
They sang a curious tune which was an anthem for dead warriors learned
from the ancient kingdom of Kvenland, to the north of Pannonia. They then
sang another tune to which they danced, solemnly, arm in arm. The movements
were subtle and complex, and no matter how he tried, Saheris could not
discern the pattern their feet followed. At Munduk's loud applause, they
were dismissed, and filed off to return to their rooms next door in Zoser's
house. Eldana accompanied them.
Only the men,
and the brothers, were left at the table then. "What say you, young Khan?"
said Munduk in his usual blunt manner. "Will you have her?"
"I would be very pleased to have her."
"Then she is yours
on the morrow. And the destiny of our nations will be solidified. However,
there is some news I must impart to all of you which affects us all. This
is what delayed me in Maeotis."
befalls us now, Munduk?" Saher asked, his voice now tired. "There is not
some new levy or troop request from our new eastern emperor?"
"The child Theodosius?
No, somewhat more fateful, my ally. His uncle in the west has proposed
a hostage exchange."
himself with his brother and Saher late. "Surely," he argued, "he cannot
be proposing that one of us be sent to Ravenna."
Saher put a hand
over his eyes. "This was not done during the reign of the old Theodosius
except among the minor nobles. My cousins both spent two years in Rome,
but never did they ask for a direct heir to be sent. In this case, they
have asked for Munduk's heir."
"but - that would be me!"
"Yes, I know,"
he said quietly. "But we cannot let that happen. I cannot rule here any
longer, my health is too poor. And you cannot be spared, even for a season,
to be holed up in some palace in Ravenna, while they send some insolent
patrician's son to snoop for secrets in Scythia. No, there is something
else afoot here, something we do not know about."
"So what will
happen?" Sahelis asked.
"For the moment,
nothing. But I have a very odd suspicion, which brings me back to the
Roman soldier in Amysos. I think it's time we find out who our foreigner
is, and why he was dogging us to the battle with the Alans at the time
he was. There is too much of coincidence in this for Honorius to suddenly
make a demand of this kind, and without argument, it will be difficult
to refuse or defer him."
The wedding ceremony
was relatively straightforward. Elaborate clothes were provided for Saheris
and Ildico, and wine, and Saher presided over a prayer of fertility for
the couple. He then unfurled a length of linen which he then wound around
the clasped arms of the couple, and tied it at the hands. This was the
symbol of marriage between the nations of Scythia and Bithynia. Munduk
made a brief speech about their alliance, and about the happiness he anticipated
would arise from the marriage.
The younger sisters
tossed flowers at them, and wine was served. As the guests fell to for
their feast, Munduk brought a white cloth and placed it upon the tied
arms of the couple. "This must be accomplished before you join the feast."
The cloth, Saheris had been told, was to be placed on the bed to absorb
the blood of their first intercourse. Munduk led them to the room that
was to serve as the marriage chamber, and closed the door behind them.
They spent the
first minutes untying themselves from the length of linen, and as Saheris
unraveled his wife's shoulder, he leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
"You are very lovely, " he said in a soft voice. "May I unravel you further?"
She murmured in response, and began to untie the clasps of the elaborate
gown that covered her. Soon, white linen had spilled across the floor
and Ildico stood nude before him. "Ah," he exhaled, and loosened his own
cloak and let it fall to the floor, then pulled the bedcovering back and
placed the linen cloth upon it.
"I believe we
are ready." He slipped his arm across her shoulder, and walked her the
few steps toward the bed, and lifted her onto the mattress. He kissed
her, and the girl beneath him pressed her mouth hard against his, and
he opened his mouth, exploring her mouth with his tongue. Her mouth tasted
sweet, as though she had just eaten some poignant fruit. The sensation,
and the taste, aroused him immediately. Saheris leaned back onto his knees
and put his hands on her dark breasts, squeezing the nipples to hardness
between his fingertips. Ildico moaned, arching her back toward him. He
played with her breasts then, holding them in his hand and massaging upward
to tweak the nipple gently, and then start again. She moved against his
hands, arching her back to push upward, and grasped his arms with her
hands, urging him to continue. He put his mouth on a nipple then, and
began to suck, while manipulating the other with his free hand. Ildico
had begun to moan in his ear. It was nearly time, but he was reluctant
to stop - it was her breasts he wanted, that impertinent nipple against
he sucked hard upon it, pinching the other more roughly,
and was rewarded with a low sound, and a strong surge of the body beneath
him. Her hands wandered downward until they found what they sought, and
she seized his rigid sex in her hand, grasping it hard.
whispered. He needed little more encouragement than this, and he pushed
her knees apart, and guided himself gently into her. There was a sudden
resistance, an uncomfortable tightness. He thrust then, and there was
a loud gasp from the girl, and he withdrew. Bright drops fell against
the linen and across the surrounding sheet.
"Are you all right?
Does it hurt?" he asked, concerned, his passion suddenly flagging with
the prospect of pain. Her arms reached for him once again and pulled him
"Yes, yes, it
was just a moment. Come to me, come to me." With the breaking of her virginity,
Ildico's passion was unleashed, and Saheris thrust himself again between
her thighs. The low sounds soon became loud gasps, and the pressure he
felt from within her seemed to intensify to an intolerable tightness,
as the pressure increased he thrust harder, until suddenly released and
a wave of spasms engulfed him - color flushed her face from her chest
to her hairline, and a look crossed her face - and her expression went
completely still for a brief moment, and a strangled moan escaped her.
She had climaxed at the same moment he had, and the decreasing wave of
spasming within her pressed him out. He sat up.
There was blood
on the linen, and blood on his thighs, and more blood beading on the small
hairs of the small mound of her sex. They were breathing heavily, hoarse,
unable to speak. Finally, Saheris took a deep breath, smiled, and said
"that was wonderful. Wonderful." To his profound relief, his pent-up rage
with Atthis had fled him, and he felt completely satisfied. "Yes," she
breathed, and pulled his head down again to kiss him.
The couple quickly
reassembled themselves, though not quite as neatly, dabbing themselves
with the bedclothes in order to dress once again. Saheris retrieved the
white linen from the bed, and took his wife's arm. They walked in some
dignity back down the hallway to Saher's main hall, and upon arriving,
held the bloodstained cloth up in the air. There was a loud cheer, and
wine glasses were raised and clashed together. Then, they joined the wedding
at the feast only as long as custom demanded, and then, to the accompaniment
of loud comments and encouragement, Saheris took his bride back to bed.
This time, they were less hurried, and there was no bleeding or discomfort.
They made love long into the night, until they exhausted one another.
At length, they slept.
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