A Kiss Before the Full Moon
“Other than performing the domestic arts like sewing, painting, singing, deciding on menus, bearing children, women are not expected to do anything else other than await the day of her marriage night to gift her husband with her precious gift. After that, she is an empty void until she becomes fruitful”– Anayissa
Lucielle Denielle Brenna Rhosistera Rhyse A’Deanetha, princess of Aestha, and cousin of the bride, performs a series of slow sarcastic claps as the bride and gloom–groom share their first kiss.
“A beast of a man, indeed.” Lucy’s Nivo King Harold knows how to effectively torture her cousin. Where did he find that unseemly brute? Compared to the petite beauty of the princess, with her dazzling, immaculate dress of blue silk and lace, the man standing beside her loomed over her like a hulking savage.
“Lucy!” Rosaline–Rosa, her sister exclaims. The kinder of the two, Rosa is mostly likely more worried about being overheard than Lucy’s actual words. Rosa and Lucy had discussed in the strenuous carriage ride about the dreadful fate of their dear cousin. Ana had always reminded Lucy of Rosa with her sunny, outgoing manner and quick, easy smiles, so to be the witness to her cousin’s demise, Lucy finds it almost rude to not be infuriated.
“What? The man is a giant and a brute. Hmm, should he then be called a giant brute?” Lucy tilts her as if pretending to ponder it.
“Hush, Lucy,” Rosa whispers as an older woman beside them sends them a deadly glower, her creamy complexion brightening with a pink blush, Rosa continues, “It would not be wise to be overheard with his people so near.”
With her strawberry-blonde hair coiled in an elegant twist and her emerald green dress fitting smartly on her slim figure, Rosa has already caught the attention of a flock of Mycean simpletons with her beaming beauty. Lucy looks towards the raised dais and tries to imagine her younger sister marrying a man who does not love her. Anger colors her words red, “Let them come. We Aesthans are made of snow and ice, after all. I dare the savages to defeat our Northerner might.”
Truly exaggerated now, Rosa throws up her hands, “You are insufferable.”
Crossing her arms across her chest, Lucy resists the childish urge to stick out her tongue at her sister. Instead, she smirks, “And you are too sensitive. Toughen up, sis.”
“Lucy the Valiant, you may be, but I did see you shed a tear when Ana came in.”
“Valiant I maybe be but blind I am not. It would have been criminal not to weep at the sight of our beautiful cousin in that magnificent dress.”
“Impossible, Lucy, you are truly are impossible.”
A peaceful hush sweeps across the cavernous room as the man and woman become bound by vows of fidelity, protection, loyalty, and piety. Etched in the floor of the atrium is a peculiar design of the magnificent sun with swirling flames that almost seem alive.
The light of the full moon effortlessly pierces through the glass windows, shattering into fractures of shimmery moonlight, and shadowing the man and women entwined. The candles flicker, as if an ominous wind breezes by, the candles flickering along with the couple’s shadow. The wizened priest drones on as the words become almost corporeal, sealing around the couple as the ceremony climaxes. Bisected by mere yards and years of grief and strain, the Myceans watch with feigned interest. The noblewomen of the Mycean aristocracy spread their Frysessan fans across their lips; the picture of innocence as they smirk and plot the most scandalous and poisonous gossip while their men stare off to the distance, planning to be betwixt the soft thighs of a lucky lady from Miss Verra’s Brothel. Apart from the others, the Rhageons are completely silent as their intent eyes feast on the pair.
Under the full moon, Ana reluctantly says, “I do” to her fearsome groom, then in his language “A di.”
He leans down and presses a soft, chaste kiss to her lips. It is as lightening has struck her. Heat spreads within her at the contact, blood rushing to her cheeks as the Warlord lingers.
Startled by the unfamiliar feeling Ana, closes her eyes and fantasizes that she is another woman, a different woman who is not signing her life away–a woman unlike her in every possible way.
She feels small next to this swarthy warrior, small and weak as his body–that bespoke of sandstorms and battlefields soaked in blood–blankets her.
The amazingly tender kiss suddenly ends and Ana pushes down the sudden, irrational wave of irritation. Ana opens her eyes with a start as polite and precarious applause erupts from her people and steely eyes and fists over hearts thump loudly for the Warlord.
Unable to tear her eyes from her husband’s silver eyes, Ana takes a deep breathe and attempts to find stability in the staggering strength she finds within them. He has scars, she notices, feather thin scars across his cheek, one close to his left eye and a deep scar etched into his shoulder that is covered mostly by his leathers. Silver eyes, she says to herself, silver like the finest blade and cold and merciless like the glaciers that float in the Arlenian Sea. The most lethal criminals meet the fate of those glaciers; murderers, rapists, and traitors are left stark naked on the ice and only the True God, Olliah, will determine if they are able to atone for their sins.
In his eyes, Ana realizes she can hear the screams of a thousand men and women screaming in agony.
Taking a step back from the sheer mass of her husband, Ana tears her stunned gaze from his and focuses on the approaching party.
Noticing the discomfort in her gaze, the Warlord takes a step towards his bride and glares at the potential threat. Nodding his head at his Genrys, the rest of the Rhageons follow the peacocks, trying to blend in and seem non-threatening. The stark black of their leather and toughness of their hides stand out from the silks and satins, marking them as different–predators patiently waiting to pounce. Nortega nods back at the Warlord, palming his curved blade as he glares at the false King, whos with cruelty and hatred shone vibrant in his eyes–eyes the exact shade of the bride.
Ana’s vision is soon flooded with color as the wedding guest start to file out, laughing and snickering as they made their way to the grand dining rooms. As if appearing from the mist, Ana’s papiee approaches her and her stoic husband. His familiar brown eyes are splinter as they meet hers and a paltry attempt of a welcoming smile, spreads across his thin lips. Like a predator dressed in a false skin, the King of Mycea will cheat and bully to regain his pride as he tries to intimate the savage who bested him.
The King of Mycea has brought with his an entourage of his most trusted advisors: Roderick Master of Spies, Cristiano Master of Arms, Lemar Master of Treasury and his rat-faced Steward Brady, also known as her tormentors. These dignified men are nothing but bullies, forcing Ana to agree to the marriage, threatening her with the torture and rape of her beloved handmaidens and burning her treasured collection of books. They will suffer tenfold, a dark thought crosses her mind.
The most important men in Mycea, whom have their fingers in every pie of scandal and power, halts a few feet away from the raised dais. Ana faintly grimaces. To her surprise, Ana notices how fat her papiee has gotten. The bulbous flesh presses tightly across his tunic and there is already a sheen of sweat wetting the top of his groomed mustache.
The tension in the air thickening, Ana unconsciously steps closer to her husband. As the two parties proceed with the glaring match, servants race by to set up for the wedding feast and a heavily-rouged woman cackles, throwing her head back as she flirts with a dapperly dressed man.
Sensing her discomfort, the Warlord possessively wraps his arm around Ana’s smaller waist, turning her body closer to his and sliding his fingers against the slippery material of her wedding gown. Ana shivers as his rough and callused fingers find purchase and rubs his fingers against her inner wrist. Sweat collects on her lower back as his battle-worn fingers still on her scars.
Squeezing her wrist, the Warlord finally acknowledges the king’s presence with an almost undetectable nod.
“Congratulations, daughter, Warlord Torien,” the King announces, bowing slightly to Ana’s husband and completely dismissing his daughter. The men behind the Mycean king follow suit and bend at the waist. Not surprised by his dismissal, Ana is used to King Harold’s belief that women were not to be included in “men talk.” During formal dinner parties, Ana and Queen Suzette entertained the noblewomen in the parlor room while the men smoked cigars and drank Frysessa imported brandy in the study. Women are not clever enough to understand politics, they claim, their dispositions too delicate for such uncensored discussions.
Ana’s husband responds roughly, as if he has not spoken their tongue in some time. Remembering their vows, Ana looks back and recalls his slight hesitation. Revealing his sharp incisors and mimicking a mocking smile that the Mycean King greeted him with, the Wolf responds, “Thank you, Harold. I am surprised how you could relinquish such resources after my men raided your mills and burned your fields. Myceans are a resourceful breed, aren’t they?”
Pausing and looking towards his genrys with a smirk, as if sharing a joke, he continues, “I am delighted that I have conquered your land guarded by fat men and cowed boys. My country will unquestionably profit from your countrymen’s ingenuity and be able to exploit unexplored riches without further blunder.” Torien jerks his head back from the outwardly stalwart and passive Nortega and then tightens his hold on her. Ana gasps as he continues his pride-wrenching speech. “And do not forget to bow to m’Ysurria. She is as much as my people’s Queen as she is now yours.”
Ana could not believe her eyes nor her ears as she witnesses her Papiee be taken down by mere words.
As a young girl, Ana believed the King to be unbeatable as he ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. Whenever her Papiee sent a scorching look her way or raised a scarred hand towards her, Ana had learned to run away or tremble beneath his power. But as her husband rips apart every inch of her Papiee’s pride, Ana feels a rush of power as the monster sheds his skin and reveals a mere mortal man beneath.
Ana’s spine straightens underneath her husband’s grip, the newfound power making her dizzy and drunk with confidence.
She will never forget as her Papiee and his bullies slowly bent forward as they bow to her, never forget the surprise and pleasure that swept through her, and will never forget the tears of happiness that shined as she caught the surprise in her Namieé’s eyes.
I will avenge you, Namieé–that I promise you.
Looking up at her husband, Ana cannot detect any emotion within the silver depths. Tilting her head back, the sweep of hair her settles around her like a cape. He was a King, not the pathetic excuse for a Papiee and ruler that cowers underneath her husband’s power. But as she rests her eyes on the top of the king’s head, a seed of doubt becomes planted, weakening the stem and damaging her blooming blossom of trust. Will I become like my Namieé as my marriage progresses? At first, a lovely rose in bloom that inevitably browns, loses its petals due to neglect and abuse? Will her husband desire for her to thrive in her own garden or shall she be unearthed, a trophy on his wall that is only taken out when he needs her?
Noticing her furrowed brows and the slight frown that mars the beauty of her stunning face, the Warlord motions for the fat men to stand. Dismissing them with the sharp wave of his hand, the King of Mycea and his men storm off with steam visibly streaming out of their ears.
Genrys Nortega muffles his laughter with the back of his forearm, astounded how fast the fat pigs could scurry away. Shaking his head, Nortega looks back at the altar as the towering warrior help the petite woman off of the raised dais. Spotting the slight tremors in the bride’s form, genrys Nortega looks up to the full moon and recites a soft prayer to attentive ears.
As the night dwindles on and after a wonderfully comical conversation with her cousins Lucy and Rosa, Ana’s mind wonders aimlessly as she pretends to not be hurt by husband’s silence as the Warlord effortlessly ignores her and everyone around them. Sitting to her right, the Warlord is an impressive sight. His leathers a stark contrast against the bright wedding décor, the damask on his lap, and the twinkling candles wafting delicate hints of vanilla, the sight would be laughable if it were not for him. He is a handsome, Ana says to herself, his skin is a delicious shade; a smooth caramel touched with gold, his eyes, how could eyes both so spellbinding and intimidating be so… entrancing? I would love to see him under the moonlight, his eyes aglow and the glorious display of his bone-white hair unbound. He is unexpected. Compared to his countrymen, the Warlord shines bright like an Aestha diamond. Uncut, faultless, a raw gem that many would kill to possess. Ana had already sent a couple of glares towards the noblewomen who had stared at her husband with heated eyes. Uncomfortable with her show of possessiveness, Ana tries to ignore her giant of a husband.
With expected Mycea flair, the wedding feat is overtly extravagant. Their wedding table is not wide but it is very long, at least a few meters. Courses after courses are hurried from the kitchen, servants barring succulent dish after succulent dish until Ana becomes nauseous with the smells of different foods. Roasted chicken stuffed with breaded stuffing and drizzled in a tame raspberry jam, pheasant glazed with Frysessan wine, soaked with juices and garlic, a tenderly roasted duck with cherry-rosemary sauce, choice-cut pork tenderloins drowned in a brown sauce and glazed peaches, and various other rich, succulent dishes. The servants pour goblets of red wine graciously, platters of decadent and savory foods are offered to her plate, and Ana realizes she cannot feign the slightest amount of hunger. Mycean food is too decadent and rich for Ana–an acknowledgement to her Aestha heritage. Her stomach uneasy, Ana has forewarned the king endlessly over the state of her sensitive stomach yet her words fell to unconcerned ears. Opting for wine and shifting the food around the plates presented before her, Ana grimaces.
Taking another sip of her sweet wine, Ana traces her eyes over her husband’s form. He looks standoffish, she guiltily notes, utterly bored yet still looks every part of the threatening warrior as he stares off into the distance. As noblemen after noblemen fight their way to their conqueror’s side, smiling at him with false sweetness as they tried to win his favor, Ana watches as genrys Nortega shoos them away from his brooding Warlord. Taking another sip of her wine, Ana takes a small bite into her seasoned venison and pretends to enjoy the tender meat. The solidary venison dish is accompanied with asparagus and minced garlic, thankfully missing the thick creams and gravies that would have upset her.
To the left of her, the King effortlessly schmoozes with her guests, laughing as he shares a drink with a group of aristocrats. He pauses to take a healthy bite of pork, the juices dripping from the meat trailing on the plate. Though the king eats with manners inborn since he could hold cutleries, Ana’s stomach twists as he takes his fork and dips the meat into the creamy sauce. Ana takes another sip of her wine as she looks across the ceremonial table to her Namieé, who, like Ana’s husband, stares off into the distance, a brittle smile spread across her porcelain skin and picking at her plate, just like her daughter. Ana takes another hearty sip of wine, motioning the servant to replenish her cup. As coffee, tea, and artfully spun sweet delicacies drizzled with frostings and jam and soft pastries are served, Ana pushes away her wine as she begins to feel light-headed as the floor wavers beneath her feet.
Dreading the trumpets that announce that the grand ballroom is ready for the reception, Ana braves a smile. If only time could stop for one moment–a single moment where should could find the ability to cope with what tonight entails–Ana would gladly give anything to avoid the bruised eyes she knows a little too well.
To say that her husband is not a Mycean gentlemen who knows the many complicated steps of the sixteen dances, is a tremendous understatement.
As they led the first dance–the more simple of the dances–two steps to the right, followed by a step backwards, a twirl, two steps to the left, one step forward and finishing with another twirl, her husband, awkward with his stepping and looking utterly out of place on the dance floor, finished the first dance then sauntered off to side, where the Rhageons stared at us as they were another species. Ana’s husband did look ridiculous as he followed her in the dance, his bulky form too wide for the small and dainty steps. He was not ungraceful though, as he caught on, he did not trip nor did he step on her toes, which is a feat in itself.
With much practice, the Warlord of Rhageon can match the graceful moves of any master yet Ana doubts he would make such an attempt as she catches the look of revulsion and befuddlement still apparent on his face.
Turning her eyes away from her husband, Ana is soon swept away into another dancing partner’s arms as the song shifts. Recalling the practiced steps, Ana is glad for the distraction as dread crawls up her spine and the wine soon takes effect as she begins to feel drowsy.
Lost in the movements, the hum of the stringed bass, and the swaying of bodies, Ana feels the gentle hands of Julia and Laura as they began to gently lead her towards the staircase.
As Ana sluggishly takes the steps, finding it troublesome as the floor begin to sway with each measured step, she looks down at her wedding party, catching the blade of her husband’s eyes as he stares intently towards her.
Finally reaching her rooms, Ana gasps as she takes in the transformation of her rooms; candles outfitted throughout, the scent of her lavender perfume misted delicately, and the canopy surrounding her bed like a cape twinkles romantically under the candlelight. Stepping closer to the bed, Ana notices a nightgown lying neatly across the sheets.
Ana is still staring at the beauty of the silk gown as Julia loosens her corset and Laura brushes her hair. The nightgown is light as a feather as it falls across her body, the material caressing her skin, brushing against it and hugging her breasts. The bodice is lacy but also sheer and revealing her dark nipples and the juncture between her thighs. The rest of the material flows sensually to the top of her thighs. Taking the material into her hands, Ana test the bottom, her fingers smoothing across the etched crescent moon embroidered in. This must be a gift from him, she says to herself, from my husband.
“Hush, this is already difficult enough for her.”
Lost in her mudded thoughts, Ana does not notice the worried looks Julia and Laura send her way as they make their way to the door. With a last despondent look, Julia closes the door, leaving their princess in hushed silence.
Unable to think clearly, the taste of the sweet wine still coating her tongue, Ana laughs softly and lays her head on her bed. Her head spinning with silly thoughts, Ana falls asleep with a smile across her lips.
Torien finds his petite bride embedded in moonlight; the shaft of moonlight covering her body like a silvery blanket. Quietly opening the door, the Warlord is taken aback as he is assailed with the alluring scent of his bride and sensuous shadows that caress her. She is lovely, he marvels, with moonbeams in her hair. Her curls are brushed out, beckoning him to touch such a bounty. He had noticed that the other woman had short hair, which he finds ridiculous. For his people, especially expected from him, as he is Lyceria’s Chosen, hair is a symbol of beauty. His leather creaks as he takes his first steps into the room, feeling extremely large and clumsy in the delicate haven of m’Ysurria. The Warlord smiles with indulgence as he steps closer to the bed, thoughts of touching her softly golden skin racing through his mind. But his steps and mind falters as he watches his bride close her eyes and let out a soft sigh as she succumbs to sleep. She is in the arms of Shamala, the God of Sleep. Torien sends a soft prayer to the god, pleading that his wife is untroubled by nightmares.
Shaking his head, Torien remembers that she had been generous in her cups and had barely eaten. Concern for his bride, the Warlord strips of his leathers and hides and slides into bed with his precia m’Ysurria.
Pushing the becoming curls off of her forehead, Torien presses a tender kiss to her soft cheek.
The power that has plagued him, falls silent at his mate falls asleep in his arms. In this moment, he is no longer a demi-god and dual-bodied, he is just a mortal man holding his lovely bride before a starry sky.