Obscured from view behind a pillar, she wasn’t seen by either of them, but she decided to confront Josliehn later that day, when they were alone in the kitchens. Josliehn furiously denied that anything untoward was happening; claimed she had simply gone into Orvec’s chambers to clean; offered up a series of such laughably obvious falsehoods, Guenneth was almost offended that she dared utter them.
Josliehn maintained her denials until that fateful day, a little over a moon ago, when Orvec’s engagement was formally announced during a grand gala hosted by Eitrem and Albalia.
Orvec’s betrothed is Beneth Gastaia. As soon as her name was declared, Guenneth knew why she had been selected.
The Gastaia clan hold considerable influence within the Orsthic priesthood, and Beneth’s parents have long been at loggerheads with the high priestess. Guenneth knows that Albalia has neutralised a significant threat to her authority by bringing Beneth into the family fold. The arrangement has no doubt assured the Gastaias that they will soon get to share in the Pallias wealth, so long as they agree to side with their high priestess on key issues from now on.
This is how upper-class marriages work. This is how they have always worked.
But Josliehn must have truly believed she was in with a chance to be Orvec’s wife. Later that night, when all the celebrations had passed and she and Josliehn were alone again, the girl finally broke down and confessed everything.
She cried that Orvec did love her; he had told her he did, many times. Oh, Guenneth might think little of him. The world might think little of him. Everyone else might regard him as selfish and entitled, but the Orvec she knew – he was different. When he was alone with her, he was kinder, quieter – more melancholy, at times – than his outer persona might suggest. He had told her that he sometimes envied her, for she would never have to step into a role she felt unprepared for. He had told her she inspired him. He had told her she was beautiful.
On and on it went, until Guenneth could take no more of it.
“Josliehn, listen to me. You must heed these words, and heed them well. Forget what he said. He doesn’t love you. He will never marry you. He never intended to marry you. He saw you only as a brief diversion from a life laid out for him before he was even born. You will never be a part of that life, and the sooner you understand that, the better.”
Cruel words? Perhaps. Harsh words? Without a doubt. But words that were, in Guenneth’s estimation, absolutely necessary.
“Now. I must ask this of you, Josliehn: is there any possibility that you are pregnant?”
“No. I have gotten my bleed since we…” She closed her eyes, wiped away another tear. “Since I was last called to his chambers.”
“Well. That is one thing to be thankful for.”
“And I have been using barriers, just so you know. I taught myself how to make them. I inserted one every time. I’m not quite as stupid as you think me.”
Though annoyed by Josliehn’s tone, Guenneth clenched her jaw and decided not to comment upon it.
This piece forms part of a project I’m working on at the moment, set in a fictional civilisation called Aarai, which has a working title of “The Ballroom Project” (a better one will fall into place, I hope). The parts of the story that immediately precede the content of this post can be read here (part one) and here (part two). The word count is listed in the title so that people can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to click through. Time is a precious resource, so I’m keeping the pieces brief for now. 🌹 Do let me know if you have any feedback or suggestions, as I’ve only recently begun to share my writing with other human beings again!