Chapter 10: Amos's story part 2
Nath sat back looking at her and nodding to himself, so the other him had been an asshole but an understandable one. It would seem as though the then fifteen-year-old had blamed Ellie and her father for the death of his older brother and had thus attempted to lash out at who was responsible for his pain. He had targeted the wrong people for sure, but in his defense, he was fifteen and at that age, Nath would have likely done the same seeing as he lacked the adult reasoning he now enjoyed.
Perhaps he was being unfair, after all, he didn't even know this Amos, had no real familial connection with him, despite his apparent status of younger brother, and as such he could look at this from a third party position and not really feel like it affected him directly. There were a few questions that lingered in his mind, foremost among them was how he could have an older brother, had his parents lost Amos as well as Cara? That seemed like it might be a possibility but it also seemed too well, repetitive.
“I had no idea I had a brother,” he said honestly, and she looked at him.
“I suppose brother is a bit inaccurate,” she said after looking at him for quite some time. “He was your half brother, from your father’s first marriage, from what I know his first wife died in childbirth despite a healer’s best efforts as she gave birth to Amos,” once again that was news to Nath, who was unaware of the fact that his father had married before his mother. Or perhaps he hadn’t in that world but had in this one.
Which brought about an interesting point, James had led him to believe that everyone was the same in both worlds, and his parents had both decided to get married and have a child, him, but if that was the case, then how much free will was there really? After all how likely was it to have the same two people get married to one another given all the different variables in their lives without some form of fate or divine intervention or something, which would negate the whole free will thing wouldn't it?
“I see,” he said, mentally filing that little tidbit away for later, for now, he had to get this story out of her, it was not the intended subject for the picnic he had planned, but it did seem to be a topic that they had to talk about. “So this half brother of mine, he committed some form of treason, and your father was forced to judge him as his job as the Viscount,”
“Yes, Father had to order the sentence he did, there was no way he could have done otherwise, but that didn't make it easy for anyone who knew Amos,” she smiled sadly. “I just thank God he didn't have a wife or child, it would have been worse for them, they would have been shamed for the dishonor of being tied to a betrayer, much like you will be, and after I marry you I will be open to such ridicule as well,” she shrugged, “God knows what he did was the act of a man in love, but the charge of man’s law is clear, he knew what he was doing and still pursued it,”
“His act of treason was love?” Nath asked, looking at her with one eyebrow raised, “I thought he planned to kill a member of the royal family or something, isn't that what treason would be?”
“That is one charge of the crime yes,” she said, “but there are others, the one in particular he broke was when he seduced the prince Johollon’s Wife,” she said looking over the hill at the spread of the grass field below.
“Well I can see how that would make someone upset, but treason, I thought that was relegated to an act that endangered the kingdom or something,” Nath said, still feeling confused.
“This does endanger the Kingdom,” Elianora said, looking back at him, “think about it, any child the prince and his wife bear is third in line for the throne, and if there is any chance that the child is not of the prince’s blood then there could be people who claim that that child, should he gain the throne, would not be a legitimate ruler, it could lead to open civil war, and the truth of the matter is that no one could gainsay the other, as she did become with child either shortly after her encounter with Amos or due to her marriage to prince Johollon, and it is not like the two men are dissimilar enough in looks or coloration for the child to be obviously one or the other's.”
“I see,” Nath said, and he sort of did, if he was being honest when he had been cheated on he would have wanted to kill the other man, or at least that was what the burst of anger that had flared up inside of him had said, he knew himself well enough to know that despite that burst of anger he would have simply beaten the man to a pulp, not to death. The thought that a person could be put to death for infidelity was something new to Nath, after all, where he had come from capital punishment was only every given in the most dire of circumstances, and even then rarely. “And the Prince’s wife? Is she still his wife?” he asked.
“Yes,” Ellie said one eyebrow raised, “she was with child, if he were to divorce her there is the chance that some will say that the child she bore is indeed the prince’s, which would give them an heir behind which any dissent could morally rally behind,”
“Which could also start a civil war,” he said and she nodded. “Well,” he said, “that sucks,” he looked at her and shrugged, putting the ground up sorrel leaves into the cheesecloth he had packed for just that purpose, and he opened the sandwiches up and squeezed some of the liquid onto the meat, cheese, and vegetables inside before closing it up and handing one of them over to her along with one of the wineskins he had procured for the occasion. She took it and looked at him as he picked up his own and took a large bite.
“You don’t seem to upset by this news,” she said slowly, bringing her sandwich up to her mouth and taking a small nibble of its corner.
“Well,” he said brushing some crumbs off the front of his tunic, “I don’t remember Amos, in fact, I had no idea there was anyone even remotely related to me that had that name, let alone a half brother, essentially, this just feels like you are telling me a story about a stranger, someone I had no personal connection with, as such I can’t say I am actually particularly upset by it, I can say that death seems to be a little harsh of a punishment in my opinion, however,”
“Don’t-” she held out a hand palm out in a warding gesture. “Don’t say that again please, not around me, or anyone else that might hear, there are still a number of people who will use such words against you, against us.”
“Okay,” he said with a shrug, “I think I can do that,” he leaned back, pressing into the tree’s trunk and looking over at her, “now, I say we move on from such weighty matters, how do you like your sandwich?” he asked.
“Sandwich?” she looked down at the contraption of bread that held the meat, cheese, and vegetables in place between them. “Is that what you call it?” She used one of her claws to open the sandwich and look inside at the ingredients. “It seems like a convenient way to have your food in one package,” she said with a shrug.
“I wasn't asking about the merits of the sandwich’s construction, I was asking how you liked the flavor,” he said with a laugh, and she gave him a tentative smile.
“It is pretty good,” she said honestly, “and it is nice to be out here without any people around,” she rested back on one arm and took another bite of the sandwich.
“Yeah, that is a huge plus,” Nath laughed, “So, we are childhood friends or something?” He asked and she sort of shrug.
“Not so much friends as acquaintances, as I said our fathers were good friends and had decided almost as soon as you were born that the two of us would marry each other, the actual engagement was not formalized until we were ten or so but we always knew.”
“That never bothered you, you never wanted to make your own choices as to whom you married?” She gave him a strange look at that, “what?” he asked.
“I am a Viscount’s daughter, my position is such that my marriage would have been selected for me, and I was fortunate enough to get to know the man I was to marry from a young age, I am much more fortunate than many highborn women,“ she looked at him with an odd sort of compilation. “One of the things that many, my mother tells me that she was included as her marriage to my father was done before either she or my father had met each other, both dread and are excited about arranged marriages, there is, of course, the fear that the husband that they get is a bad match, but there is also the air of mystery that such marriage brings.” she smiled slightly, “I knew you for a long time, and so I didn't really understand, but now, it is almost like I am marrying a stranger, so I get what she was saying, about the fear and the hope,”
“Well,” he said smiling back at her, “I will endeavor to keep the air of mystery alive for you,” he laughed and was glad to see the look in her eyes clear of the darkness that had seemed to be ever-present before this moment.
They sat on the cloth and ate the food, simply talking as two new acquaintances with no reference to Amos, or the troubled past between the two of them. They talked about her family, his family, and the way Cara clung to him and seemed to follow him around like a little lost puppy. They also talked about his efforts to adjust to his new situation and the fact that he would likely never regain his memories and the way it made him feel like a foreigner in a strange land. He was finding that he liked the way she laughed, it was soft, purring when she reached past him to grab one of the wineskins and came within a few inches of his face. Nath put a hand on her shoulder, making her stop and meet his eyes. perhaps it was the food, the wine, the setting, the company, or some combination of all of those elements, but he drew her in and kissed her.
Ellie was startled and drew back slightly, but when she didn't pull back farther Nath pulled her back against him, and this time they kissed, not just him. Their lips messaged each other, first pressing urgently then softening, then moving over each other exploring. Her breathing deepened as he pulled her in tighter until they pressed together from waist up, they stayed that way for several moments, until they both had to come back up for air. He pulled back, one of his hands still stroking the small of her back.
“Well,” she said, catching her breath with a flushed look on her face. “These picnics can be quite enjoyable can’t they?” she asked, her golden eyes narrowing, the pupils shrinking until there was only a small sliver of vertical black as she looked at him.
“Why yes, they can indeed.”
“We shall have to go on many more in the future,” she leaned forward slightly, and he felt the curl of his lip in answer.
“That sounds like a damn good plan to me,” he breathed back against her lips.