Elfwood is the worlds largest SciFi & Fantasy community.
- 151330 members, 1 online now.
- 14520 site visitors the last 24 hours.
|Della's marriage doesn't get off to a good start.||
The whip had hurt so much that every time she thought about it tears sprang to her eyes and her back and thighs stung in remembrance of the ordeal. Tobin had made out that he wished he did not have to chasten her so, but what was he to do to make his wife respect him and stay at home where she belonged? Love her, she had replied, that was all, and respect her in turn. He had laughed at that, then pulled her into a hug, causing her back to throb and pain to course down her legs.
His moods were very unpredictable. At times he could be gentle and kind, and sometimes he was irritable, quick-tempered and violent. Unfortunately the latter far outweighed the former, for he was grown arrogant and selfish under the fawning of his mother and the attentions of the village girls. Della gradually learnt to anticipate his dispositions and to avoid him when necessary. Her work (which, she discovered, was not very unlike that which she had wanted so desperately to escape from) kept her busy for most of the day and at night she would go to bed exhausted, only to be rudely awoken when Tobin returned from a hard day at the smithy helping his father. He would collapse into bed and begin snoring like a donkey, or else he would shake her and demand her attentions. At these times she would smell the ale on his breath and the sweat of his unwashed skin, and cringe as he mounted her like a prize bull.
She did not make the mistake of refusing him again; neither did she go to the castle for a long time after her wedding day. She sorely missed Hilda and the hustle and bustle of the castle - the anticipation of seeing all the fine lords and ladies arriving from far lands to consort with the king and his advisor. Here, in a house she did not own, with a husband she did not love, she felt very alone and somewhat abandoned, left to the mercies of a man who demanded her devotion as though he were some sort of god. Most nights she cried herself to sleep, finally releasing her pent up frustration and anger where no one could witness.
Every Wednesday was market day, and these Della looked forward to immensely. The trip to the crowded streets of Hgendi on market day was the highlight of her week, for it was when she got the chance to meet Hilda and hear all the gossip from the castle. It was a chance to momentarily forget about her life at home and a time for not thinking about what Tobin would want for his dinner when he got home. She and Hilda would walk together, buying various goods for the table and sometimes trinkets for themselves. The blacksmith"s trade was indeed flourishing as Hilda had hoped, and Della had plenty of spare money set aside for herself. This was one part of the marriage that Della didn"t object to, for when she had been a kitchen maid she had received only a tiny wage and therefore had little money to spend on herself. Now, Tobin brought home a percentage of his father"s profits and entrusted them to his wife, who in turn kept some "for the household". He never objected, and rarely questioned her when she was wearing a new necklace or bracelet. He supposed that she was making an effort on his behalf to look nice, and rather than berate her for spending their money, he would compliment her on her taste. This suited her nicely, for she took it as a sign that she was entitled to treat herself now and then.
Hilda was pleased that Della had settled down into married life and seemed to be happy. She was a little concerned that there were no children on the way yet, for she firmly believed that a married couple could do nothing better to seal their union than by begetting a child at the earliest opportunity. Della herself was also curious as to that matter. She had often heard that women got pregnant after their first time, and though Tobin had had her many times she had not yet conceived. She aired her thoughts to Hilda and was slightly alarmed when she heard the mature woman"s misgivings.
"Still," she said consolingly, "you are young yet."
"Yes, but I can"t help wondering if there is something wrong with me," replied Della. In truth she was not overly worried about her apparent infertility. She had no desire to raise a child of Tobin"s, although she knew that it would surely happen one day, and if it did not then he would probably try and divorce her in order to take a more fruitful wife.
"Don"t you think that, dear," Hilda admonished, a glint in her eye. "It is more likely him with the problem! Although one would think a strapping young man such as your husband would have fathered a small brood by now." Della thought that her husband did not deserve the joy of bringing up children, but outwardly agreed with Hilda.
At last the time came when Della had to return home, and she hugged Hilda, kissing both cheeks and wishing her well until the next time. As she walked home she let her mind clear and her body relax. She would need to be calm and collected when Tobin came home, for more often than not she lost her temper with him and left him to his dinner to go to bed. This was not the wise thing to do, she had learned. Best to suffer in silence and show him that he did not upset her, no matter how crude he was.
To her surprise, Tobin was already at home when she arrived back. He did not usually finish work until early evening, and it was barely mid-afternoon. He was sitting stiffly at the table, and smiled grimly as she entered. Della hadn"t a clue what she could have done wrong, and so remained silent and calm as she had planned, only greeting him shortly before emptying the contents of her shopping basket. Today happened to be one of the days when her favourite jeweller appeared at the market; he was not always there for he travelled from town to town, sometimes not returning to Hgendi for months. He did good trade, for his wares were rare and impressive, yet fairly priced. Della had bought a thin silver chain with a pendant in the shape of a butterfly, its wings inset with small glittering rubies. As she removed it from its box and held it up to the light in admiration of the fine craftsmanship, Tobin stood up and snatched it from her fingers.
"What is this?" he asked harshly. His face was red and his breath stank of ale. He had obviously finished work early and gone straight to the tavern with his father. There was another smell about him which smelt oddly familiar to Della, a sweet, cloying fragrance, like the perfumes that had wafted off so many of the high ladies in the castle. A frightening suspicion sprang to mind, and she backed slowly away from her husband.
"Answer me woman! You seem to have a new necklace every week! Do you enjoy spending my hard-earned money?" His voice was coarse and loud, so unlike his usual menacing tones. He had apparently drunk more than his normal fill of ale.
"It is not every week," she replied as calmly as she could manage, but her hands were shaking in fear and she struggled to keep her voice from trembling. "And yes, I enjoy spending your hard-earned money. It shows people how prosperous we are - don"t you want them to envy us?" She thought she"d scored a point there, for Tobin was nothing if not proud, and he delighted in enlightening people as to the profits of the smithy trade.
He seemed to relax a bit, and a smile flickered at the edges of his mouth. "Yes, you are right, of course. I"m sorry for shouting. I don"t know what came over me." He was apologising! Della stood still, not daring to move lest he was merely playing with her.
"There"s nothing to be sorry for," she ventured, reaching out a hand to retrieve the necklace. Just as she touched his hand, he jerked away and walked around to the other side of the table, jeering and taunting, holding the chain and swinging it provocatively. She did not rise to his ploy, but stood where she was, her hands on her hips. She could see his amusement, and knew that his changing moods, from nasty to nice, were just a result of the drink and that he would likely give up soon and go and lie down to sleep it off.
"Come Della, don"t you want your lovely trinket back? I do wonder why you bother wearing such things at times. You really need nothing to enhance your beauty. Perhaps you wear them to impress another? Someone other than your husband, hmm? Come now, don"t be modest, I know you have many admirers." His voice was low and mocking now, and Della did not like the turn the conversation had taken. He had never accused her of being unfaithful before, and she had never considered the possibility of him believing that she wore jewellery to attract other men.
"Don"t be ridiculous," she said curtly. "How dare you suggest such a thing, I have never been anything but faithful to you, which is more that I can say for you judging by the smell of you!" Her temper was flaring up, and it was rapidly getting out of control. How dare he stand there, drunk or no, accusing her of taking lovers when he was so blatantly drenched in the scent of the local whores?!
"It"s none of your business what I do, or where I go."
"It is when I hear tales of your gallivanting to the brothels!" She was bluffing, for she had heard nothing of the sort, but it was so obvious that she wanted him to feel guilty for making a fool of her. "You can be sure of not sharing my bed again, for god knows what you have caught!" That was over the line, and she knew it, but there was no going back.
Tobin strode round the table again, coming to stand in front of her. His hand came up so quickly that she felt the cold of the chain and then his fist as it smashed into her jaw before she could react. She stumbled, putting her arm out behind her to steady herself against the wall, the other going up to her cheek where she could taste blood in her mouth and feel it trickling down her chin from the cut in her lip. The pain was unbearable. He had hit her before, but this time the beautiful jewel she had bought was the added force behind his anger, and it had scored a line down her cheek. She glared at him in hatred.
"You impertinent bitch!" he growled. "I will sleep in your bed, and take you when I want, because I am your husband and that is your duty! Don"t presume to think that you are better than me; you"re nothing but a lousy kitchen maid! I will take my pleasures where I want, for I seem to get nothing from you. You"re as cold as a corpse, and at least the wenches know how to please a man."
"Well fine! Go to them, for I want nothing more than for you to leave me be. There is nothing I detest more than your grunting, sweaty bulk on top of me. You disgust me and I hate you!" With that she ran from him before he had the chance to strike her again. This was just as well, for the look on Tobin"s face would have been enough to scare her witless.
Out into the street she ran, not glancing back to see if he would follow. She ran blindly, past people who looked at her in alarm and those who cursed her for making them drop their possessions. But she did not run to the castle. This had been her initial thought, borne of instinct and the need to see a familiar face. She knew, however, that this was no longer an option, for that would mean revealing the reason for her running away, and besides, she meant to go home later as a measure of her pride. The need to be on her own was also very great, the need to think and calm down before she returned. She headed eastwards, to the side gate of the city that led out to one of the smaller roads running through the capital, intending to walk for a while in the fresh air. She had not gone more than a mile from the gate when she heard the pounding of hoof beats ahead of her.
|Powers that Divide Chapter 4||Powers that Divide Chapter 12|
|Powers that Divide Chapter 8||The Strength Within|
|Powers that Divide Chapter 14|