the Love Story of Leith and Kess Continues…
Most of the nights they had slept under the open sky and his Lady’s light, but She moved through Her Dance inexorably, and Her Face was dark when the two in post-rider garb rode a black horse into the ferry-port which sat above the Wizards’ City of Kovelir. And a bit of hack-silver secured a modest inn-roof over their heads.
“We could have caught the last ferry,” Kess insisted, tossing her moon-pale hair free of its braid.
Leith expertly dodged the flying hair, and closed the door. “You slipped out of Esdragon as a post-rider,” he pointed out. “You’re going back as its duchess.”
“You’ll still share my bed. Now that there’s actually a bed.” She slid her blue sark a provocative inch down over her left shoulder.
“I’m a prince of the Isles,” Leith said, with what he hoped was dignity. “I’m waiting for the wedding.” He regarded Kess, with both green eye and brown. “Officially.”
“You don’t just ride in,” Leith said. Careful not to make it an order.
“I don’t?” Questioning whether he would dare tell the Duchess Kessallia what she ought to do. Prince of the Isles or not.
“You should be escorted home,” Leith advised. “After it’s been announced that you’re returning. It will look better than riding in two on a horse.”
“If the horse is Valadan, we could be at Keverne by mid-morning.” Kess nestled in, put her head on his shoulder. Leith could see dawn creeping in around the window-shutter.
“You’ve been away for months. They’ve had no news of you.” He reflected how his luck had changed. Once, dawn would have been leaking through the roof. “Who knows what they’ve got up to at Keverne? But if a post-rider carries a letter sealed with the ducal signet, they’ll be forced to send an escort.” Leith rubbed his thumb over the ring on Kess’ hand, then turned that hand over and kissed her palm. “Meanwhile, Valadan has brought me back here, so the duchess and her betrothed can be escorted to Keverne together.”
Leith watched her out of his green left eye. So close, she was blurry, but she was not angry. “You just won’t give them a chance to lodge an objection,” he mused.
The Street of the Weavers circled on from the Street of the Dyers, which was in the outer ring of the city due to its pungent aromas, still an improvement over the street of the Tanneries. “What are we doing here?” Kess asked plaintively. “I don’t need a tapestry. Keverne is full of them.”
“When you received me in the throne hall at Keverne, I thought you were my Lady come to earth. That’s the Duchess who’s going back to Esdragon. Not a post-rider. So let’s get you a gown.”
“A gown? We don’t have coin for that. Didn’t matter in the Berianas, but merchants here will certainly require it.”
“What are you hiding?” Kess asked sharply.
“Hiding? I’m a priest. I’ve never hidden that.” Leith shrugged. “I was raised in the temple of the Moon Goddess. Even though I don’t serve my Lady there, I still serve.”
“Does she have a temple here?”
“I suppose so…” Leith was baffled. Should they have sought lodging there? It hadn’t occurred to him…
“Did you go begging?”
“No!” Leith was horrified. “We aren’t a rich order! I serve my Lady. When I perform services for others, I am entitled to be paid.”
“Others?” What others were there?
“Your father”, Leith said patiently. “When we buried your cousin Challoner, it was proper that rites be said. I said them. And you father paid me.”
“Paid you?” No coins in the Berianas, her tone said.
Leith sighed. He reached into his belt pouch. Once, he would have found that it had acquired a hole, and held nothing. But Kess was his luck. He held out his hand. A nugget of yellow metal the size of his thumbnail sat on his palm.
“What use does Symond have for these, except to make jewels for your mother? Shall we go in?” He stowed the nugget away, and handed her through the shop door gracefully, as a prince of the Isles ought. “What takes your fancy, my Lady?”
At Keverne, the Ducal Wardrobe held bolts of woven wool in sober, practical colors—and tucked away, lengths of silk that had come to Esdragon with her mother. Silk, Kess thought, and in the pale colors that made her resemble the Lady of the Moon. Could she render Leith speechless? That would be delicious.
“You’ll need something too,” she told him. “You can’t accompany me back in post-rider garb. My counselors aren’t fools.”
“I suppose not.” The masquerade had to stop. A pity—he found post-rider garb comfortable, whereas court dress rarely was. Leith’s attention was caught by bolts of cloth spilling from a shelf. Cloth of a sort he had seen beforetime…cross-woven stripes and checks. He knew the weave, he surely did. His Order’s cross-weave was black sheep’s wool and white sheep’s wool, from the Lady’s own flocks of sheep. These were brighter colors, dyed in the threads, most like. The very fine threads, no humble priest’s garb this. And by the wool, etched velvets such as he had seen worn at his father’s court.
“This cloth was woven in the Isles,” Leith said, turning to the hovering merchant. “How did you come by it?”
The merchant wrung his hands. “Salvage, Noble Sir.”
Ah, he had not known whence the cloth came. Else it would have been more prominently displayed.
“Cast up on the shore, and brought to me as a known judge of quality goods. Come from a shipwreck they said, but the chest was sound, the cloth no worse than damp.”
“You have the chest?”
The merchant nodded, gestured.
“What is it?” Kess asked, leaving the pale silks to see what distracted him. “Oh! How do you make velvet do that?”
Leith let the two-color cloth flow through his fingers. “Trade secret. And I was never allowed near the looms nor the weavers—my curse, trouble probably wouldn’t have stopped at snapped threads. But when they packed me off to wed that foreign princess, they sent a trunk of this stuff with me.” Leith bent, squinted, recognized. “This trunk, in fact.” He turned to the merchant. “I’ll have the lot—cloth, trunk—and the cloth the lady chooses.”
Kess gave direction for her gown, style and measurements. The merchant bowed his understanding, rubbing his hands now with the delight the promise of profit gave.
“You’ll need something as well.” More direction, mainly from Kess, with Leith advising on fashions at the court of the King of the Isles and carefully amending for comfort whenever he could manage it. Cloth was draped, measuring was done, delivery was arranged for.
The trunk was ordered sent to the inn. Leith and Kess strolled the streets of the ferry-port, nibbling segments of sweet oranges, in no hurry to return to the inn, or depart for the ferry. The clothing would be ready in three days’ time. Given Valadan’s speed, Leith would not need to depart for two days. Time enough, he found, to hire a craftsman to turn a moonstone and a nugget of silver into a betrothal ring. Time enough, indeed, to let Valadan carry the two of them back into the countryside so that Leith might present that ring to his Lady on Earth under a roof of cerulean sky as they had grown used to, journeying from the Berianas. His Lady Above was but an eyelash crescent, but neither Leith nor Kess needed light to observe the other, when the touch of hands and lips would do as well.
Copyright Susan Dexter. 2022