Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Night-whispers: 3. III
She awoke to the sound of talking and laughter muted by the closed window. Fountains bubbling. The clopping of horses. A carriage. Fierce sunlight pouring in. And a city awake and active on the sunny winter morning. She turned to her side, pillowed her head on her arm, watched her husband sleeping. His dark curls – too long, she had already told him he needed to see the barber – unruly, wild. Iorlas slept as he always did, on his back, one hand resting against his stomach and the other palm-up beside him. She edged closer, pulled the blanket up, reached out and touched his cheek lightly. His beard was too long, he needed that trimmed as well.
He began to come awake at her touch, and he shifted, already a faint smile playing at his lips. Yet he squinted at the sunlight, and, with a groan, turned to his side, burying his face, warm with sleep, in her bosom.
“We have overslept,” she said, rubbing his neck.
“What time is it?”
“Ana, we have become admirably lazy.”
She laughed, kissed his hair. “Nay… ‘twas last night that tired us, I think.”
Iorlas chuckled. He shifted back so that he was facing her on the pillow. She smiled. She always adored her husband in these moments – still dazed with sleep, eyes bloated, usually eager to begin a lengthy discussion on why he loved her. Even after all these years, he still whispered sweet promises in her ear as he awoke, pulling her towards him and – if they had time – urging that they make love. Today it was Valanya, and she could already see by his darkening gaze and wandering hands that he was thinking they had the entire day to themselves.
“And shall we continue from last night, Ana?”
“Nay,” she said flatly. “You have forgotten: we have luncheon with your brother and his wife today.” Iorlas paused and then, remembering, groaned. “And then we must go retrieve little Menel from my aunt’s, ere she spoils the child senseless.”
At this, Iorlas smiled. “’Twas good of your aunt to keep her for these past few days.”
“Aye…” Ana agreed.
Iorlas ran his hand over her side. His smile broadened. “Know you what little Menel said to me the other day?”
“She asked where does father go every day, and does he go up to the white castle to see the King.”
Ana smiled. “Aye, she oft asks where you are. I do not think she understands yet that the Citadel is where the King is.”
“Perhaps next Valanya we should take her to the Citadel. She’ll like the fountain, and we can show her where the King holds his council.”
“Oh, perhaps when she is older, Iorlas… for I’m afraid she will begin wailing ere we pass the gates. You know how she hates to travel by carriage.”
“Aye, that’s true…” Iorlas murmured, sighing.
They fell silent, lost in their own thoughts. Ana traced idle patterns on Iorlas’ shoulder. He stared blankly ahead, thinking. She wondered if he was still brooding over the quarrel he had had with his lieutenant, Ragnor, not two nights past. Perhaps it had not been wise for her to side with Ragnor once they were behind closed doors, but she knew that Iorlas recognized his own poor temper and that this was one of those instances where Iorlas had simply lost his patience too soon. Strangely, never had he exhibited his characteristic anger with her. Rather, on those few occasions where they quarreled, he would become stony, cold – usually disappearing out the door to visit the local taverns. And when he returned, fuzzy with drink, he would be all smiles and murmured apologies. Once Beregond had told her that Iorlas had two different tempers – one for Men and one for women.
Outside, the tower bells began clanging – it was noon. The crisp winter sun, blazing. It was a clear day. Ana sighed, fell back into the pillow, rubbed the back of her hand over Iorlas’ chest.
“What time are we to meet them?” he asked.
“The second hour after noon.”
Iorlas turned, propped himself up on one elbow, and looked down at her with a wolfish grin.
“That is plenty of time.”
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