281. Menhir, a winter’s tale 2

This is one installment of a twelve part excerpt from Valley of the Menhir. Check December 29 for an introduction to the novel.

Late in the afternoon of the fifth day, the storm abated, and by evening, it was gone. Marquart went out to the rimwall surrounding the top of the manorhouse to watch the sunset and try to guess how long the lull would last. He wanted to visit each of his wardens in his own house before the deep snow made travel more difficult.

The snow had stopped, but the sky was of low, unbroken clouds. The sun was setting red-bronze toward the western hills, painting the mounded snow in blue-gray and mauve.

Marquart leaned on the rimwall and smiled contentedly. Then he heard the cook’s cry; it was time for the evening meal. As he turned away, he realized that a part of his contentment came from anticipation. He was looking forward to seeing Dael. That he was looking forward to seeing her, was both a pleasure and a relief.

There had been plenty of women in Marquart’s life, but he had rarely spent more than a few days with any one of them. Fighting his way up through the ranks, he had always intended to marry, once he reached the station that required a wife. He had never particularly looked forward to marriage, nor was he prepared for the actuality of it, but here it was. And he was finding that he liked it.

In their chambers later, Dael shed her woolens for a light silk robe that clung to her lovely young body. He embraced her, kissed her deeply, and pulled her down beside him on the bed. He said, “What do you think of Clevis?”

Dael had not expected conversation. She said, “He is attentive and respectful to me, and he seems loyal to you. I like him better than the other two you brought with you.”

Marquart smiled. “Yes. Conger, and especially Hein, are a bit rough. They came with me out of loyalty, and that is worth a great deal, but they really don’t fit in here. Clevis is different. Clevis is like your brother Reece. They each came under my command when they were young, and as I trained them in my way of handling men, they became friends.”

“I’m glad you have a friend.’

“Dael, why did you agree to marry me?”

She wanted to give a stock answer, something out of a troubadour’s tale of romance, but she correctly judged that this was a time for honesty. She said, “Because you asked me.”

“I’m glad I did.”

She smiled and laid her head on his shoulder. “Thank you for that.”

“Did you know that Clevis was once married?”

“Clevis again!” she laughed, then sobered at once. “I am sorry,” she said, “Go on.”

“He said that I should confide in you; that I should tell you things I don’t even tell him. That’s hard for me. I almost never confide anything in anyone, but I will try, if you want me to.” continued tomorrow


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