This story was spurred on by the 2/3-Nano semi-burnout and by buying a 2-month-old, 20-meter long dragon as the mate for a 2-day-old, 2-meter-long hatchling.
Despite that, I tried very hard to avoid anything remotely squicky. Also, this is not about dragons.
(these are the dragons it’s not about)
“This is your wife,” they told him. “When she is ready, you two will go to live in the Daughter House to the north-east of the property, and there you will serve her and love her.”
They said it as if they could dictate all of those things. But then again, these strange people treated many things as if they were theirs to dictate, things that in his homeland were left to the individual.
He was a long way from home with no way of getting back, however, and he knew that he was not getting away from this estate without the aid and permission of his new… owners? In-laws? Captors?
It was, however, going to be a while, he hoped, before his new wife was “ready”, as, at the moment, she was nine years old.
He considered the situation. He considered the child he was supposed to be married to – in due time. He considered the family.
“When she is ready,” he said after a while, “I will wed her. But until she is an adult by the laws of your land and my land, let she and I be strangers, so that she does not grow bored of me and accustomed to thinking of me as just another adult in the house.”
He could tell that this was strange to them, but he stood firm and, in the end, they gave in.
As an unmarried foreign husband who would not see his wife for many years, he had no duties in the household. He had his own suite of rooms, far from hers, and he took dinner with the servants, so as not to take dinner with his wife-to-be. He had a tutor in the ways of this strange nation, a retired butler who was living out his pension in a little house on the edge of the grounds. He read every book the house had to offer and read the newspaper when the other adults had finished with it.
And he was very bored much the rest of the time.
He took to taking long walks around the edges of the property – at first with an “attendant” and then, as it became clear that he was not going to attempt to run, on his own.
He found the Daughter House that way – and found that, since the current mistress of the house was the only daughter of her mother and had married late, the house had not been used in some time – not since the late Dowager Mistress had been in her early twenties or so.
The house was hidden from the main house by a screen of trees, and out of sight and traditionally the private domain of the eldest daughter from her marriage until she became mistress of the house, it had become ignored and had fallen into disrepair.
He was not a repairman. But he had books, and the aid of not just one but several pensioned servants, and he had, above all, time.
“I can give her this,” he explained to his “tutor.” “I can’t give her anything else, but I can give her this.”
He bribed servants to tell him a few things about her, to ask her questions in seemingly unrelated situations. What had she always pictured her sitting room like? What colors did she prefer?
He left the paired rooms for husband and wife until the end, until she was nineteen, until he could put off her family no longer. And then he did them both in white, the color of marriage in his nation if not here, and very easy to change at a later date. White paint and white curtains, white linens and white carpets over freshly-sanded and varnished floors.
The house shone. The windows sparkled. The pensioners had made the servants’ quarters their own long enough to stock the larder and the linens, the wine cellar and the whisky shelf, with everything a young couple might need.
All that remained, then, was for him to re-meet his bride.
For the first time since they had brought him here, he found he was nervous.