Dreamwalker's Bride

“You are the least objectionable groom of all the ones I’ve seen,” Anaisa replied seriously. “Thank you for the glowing compliment,” Trace grinned, “but that didn’t quite answer my question.” ___ Anaisa is an orphan and a pariah. In an ultimate act of betrayal, her father, a Count of the Realm, is accused of deserting and betraying the army in a time of war. Not only is he immediately executed for the offense, but the king declares he must have been a fake all along! His two daughters are stripped of their titles and inheritance, replaced by a distant cousin and cast out of their home with nothing. Anaisa swears someday she will get her title and lands back, but in the mean time, she and her sister Katia have to figure out how to survive. Trace is an anomaly among his people; instead of revealing their son as a magic user and thrusting him into the public eye, his parents kept it a secret to allow him to choose the kind of life he wanted. Trace found himself content to rest and play in his own dream world instead of invading the nighttime visions of others. As an adult, his choice to remain unknown is thrown into jeopardy when a mysterious blackmailer forces Trace to enlist in the territorial war between nations, threatening to reveal his secret if the demand is not met. With the war now over, Trace believes he can finally go home to his farm and live the simple, unremarkable life he’s always desired. When Anaisa and Trace are thrown together by a royal edict, the sisters find themselves unwittingly tangled in the web of mystery and intrigue that surrounds the blackmailer’s escalating assignments for Trace. Anaisa begins to suspect it may be connected to the plot to replace her family in the noble court. As the scheme continues to unfold, lives, loves, marriages, and magic will be put to the test to see what forces in the world are strongest.

TheOtherNoble · Fantasy
Not enough ratings
102 Chs

A frank conversation

Trace's hand hovered over the table, unsure of how to answer Anaisa's question.

"Around here, since we are close to the disputed border, most every family was made to send one man to war." He hedged. "Since I am the only one at this farm, the task fell to me."

She nodded, but kept her eyes on the cooking, waiting for him to continue.

"I was near the front lines," He said. "I don't wish to go into detail about what happened there."

None of that was a lie. He shouldn't feel bad for keeping the fact of his magic from her. He didn't know her character yet, whether she was gossipy, though he doubted it. She'd already expressed a desire to leave. If she did at any point, he didn't want his secret to go with her.

"What would you rather speak of?" She asked diplomatically, and he considered the question. The rain was still pouring on the roof, and he was grateful it had not formed any leaks in his time away.

"I would like to know more of your life before coming here." He told her. "Mine was rather unremarkable. My parents are farmers, as is my older brother and his family. I love them, but things were getting crowded, so I struck out on my own and bought this land."

"You're wrong, that is remarkable," Anaisa said bitterly. "I know of no one with such a story."

"I suppose not, if you're from the city," He responded graciously. "I'm sure there are few farmers there."

She pressed her lips together, and he wondered at it. Clearly it wasn't the farming she was referring to. He opened his mouth to ask what she did mean, but she cut him off.

"I'd rather not talk about my background." She stated flatly.

He blinked, surprised.

"Not any of it?" He frowned. "You mentioned a sister, could you tell me more about her?"

Anaisa's face softened slightly, "I'm sorry. This is all terribly odd. I'm not comfortable talking all about my life to a perfect stranger."

"I'm sure it must be quite odd to be married to a stranger," He quirked a smile, trying to disarm her with a bit of humor. "I can't imagine what that must be like."

His wife–wife!--looked at him sharply, but he thought he detected a note of amusement behind her eyes. He grinned wider, and she finally smiled back.

"Dinner is ready," Anaisa announced. "I'm afraid it's nothing terribly fancy."

"If it's anything like the meal I had at the inn that night, it's far better than what I'm capable of on my own," Trace assured her.

He got out his one and only bowl and handed it to her to portion some food into. She did so, and then looked at him with a question in her eyes. He handed the plate to her and took the cookpot for himself, giving her a fork and sat on the floor to use the cooking spoon to eat with.

After a moment, she sat on the floor with him instead of taking the one chair. He raised an eyebrow in question and she shrugged.

"It seemed silly to tower over you while we eat," She explained, and he chuckled.

"I'm glad you're here," He said after a moment. "The food, and the company, are much better than I would have had otherwise."

Anaisa looked at him strangely, like she didn't quite know what to think of him. That was fair.

"I accept your proposed arrangement from earlier, with a few minor changes." He decided, and she frowned.

"What changes?" Anaisa asked warily.

"First, you only help with the farm on tasks that I approve," He said sternly. "Some things are too dangerous for someone inexperienced to attempt without help and training."

"Like what?" She sat up straighter, and a crease formed between her eyebrows.

"Milking the cows," He explained. "Perhaps you can after a while, but one or two of them are liable to kick. I'll need to teach you before you attempt anything like that."

"I see," She said thoughtfully. "And you mentioned other changes?"

"You mentioned sleeping by the fire. I assume you meant on the floor. I won't have my wife on the floor while I'm in a bed," He saw her begin to react and held up a finger to silence her momentarily. "I will take the floor."

Anaisa deflated into confusion, and looked at him seriously for a moment.

"Why do you insist on making me sleep in beds while you take less comfortable accommodations?" She asked, as if it were the strangest thing in the world for him to do so.

"My mother raised me to treat women well," He shrugged. "Is that so unusual?"

"Yes," She looked down and took another bite, chewing thoughtfully for a moment before she spoke again. "Are the men in town like you? Will Katia be treated well?"

"If she's not, I'll have some words with her husband on the correct way to handle a family." He said. "I've only met Jin a handful of times, but he seems a nice sort of man. If he's not and doesn't listen to me, I'll find his mother and let her put some good manners into him."

"Is that what mothers do?" Anaisa tilted her head as she asked the question, and his heart nearly broke from the sincerity in her words. She obviously hadn't had one, at least not a good one, or she wouldn't be asking.

"I'll take you to meet mine," He smiled. "They don't live far from town, maybe we could stop by there a short while after getting supplies tomorrow."

She remained quiet for a moment, chewing on her thoughts as well as her food. He wanted to prod, but didn't feel it was right to do so just now. Anaisa had already said she didn't want to talk about her life before coming, so it seemed he would need to piece it together from questions she asked.

"Don't be nervous, they'll like you," He assured her, watching her face to see if he'd guessed the direction of her thoughts properly.

No. She seemed surprised by the question. She hadn't been thinking that at all.

"Why would they?" She tilted her head.

That was an exceptionally odd thing to ask. His new wife was a puzzle, certainly, but one he was becoming unusually determined to figure out.

"Because I like you." Trace answered simply, apparently startling her further.

Silence fell again, and they finished their meal without speaking further. Thunder rumbled, shaking the ground, and Anaisa looked up.

"You have built a very sturdy house," She complimented.

"Thank you," He accepted the comment warmly and began to clean up after the meal. "I'm rather proud of it, even though it is small."

He'd have to expand it if… well, he hadn't thought that far ahead until just now, but if someday children should be a part of their lives…

Trace shut the thought down. He'd barely met this woman, and she'd talked about leaving. It was entirely bizarre to contemplate that sort of future with her.

And yet, they were married. There was no changing that fact. Even if she decided to leave, he would be unable to legally take another wife until she died.

If he wanted that life, a wife and family, she was his only realistic chance of having it.

How much his life had changed in the course of an afternoon! Heavy decisions lay before him, and he was going to sleep on the floor tonight. He should be upset by this upheaval.

Why was he so calm? Content, even?

People said that auburn-haired women were prone to fits of temper, shouldn't he be concerned about the aspects of her character he hadn't observed yet?

He shook his head slightly. Worry was useless. Anaisa had expressed a willingness to work hard, her cooking was better than his own, and she was very pleasant to look at. Marriages had been started before on less.

Probably not happy ones, but even so, Trace found himself optimistic about their chances.

"The outhouse is out the front door, directly to the right," He told her, realizing he'd neglected to inform her of the fact. "I'm sure you'd like to use it before nightfall."

It wasn't ideal for her to get soaked again, but the rain didn't seem like it would be letting up anytime soon. He frowned.

"Here," He went to a hook by the door and took down his coat. "It's thick wool felt, so it'll keep you dry, or at least close to it. Do you want me to show you where the privy is?"

"I'm sure I can find it," She put her arms through the coat's sleeves as he held it out for her.

After she stepped out, he quickly straightened a few things and cleaned up. She'd already been here long enough to see everything there was, but it didn't stop him from being a little embarrassed over the mess. He sighed.

Life was about to be very different. 

Rule one of good husbanding is cleaning up after yourself. Well, maybe it's rule four or five, but still. I promise it will make life much awesomer.

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