Of Secrecy and Sanctity
“Lady Delronge thought you had already heard. She sent me to see if you needed anything in this trying time – it had never been my intent to cause you harm, Alasdair.” Darin Eagon sat across from Alasdair in the dining hall of the Thrune home, dressed in black and gold, a dour and intent look on his face. Alasdair spoke softly, his head cradled in his hands. “I had no idea. But it all makes sense. I had the suspicions, my doubts…but I wanted nothing more than to be wrong. Never in my life have I wanted more desperately to be wrong.” Eagon nodded solemnly, a gloved hand reaching out to rest on Alasdair’s shoulder. “It may be nothing more than a rumor, m’Lord. The Delronge have ears in many places, and sometimes the rumors are difficult to sort from the truth. There is no need to act hastily. When the Lady comes home this evening, speak with her then. Let us not jump to conclusions.” Alasdair looked up, eyes red and wet. “You’re right. But….Melodia heard this from multiple sources?” Eagon did not reply, letting the silence hang in the air. Alasdair lowered his head again. “Go, Eagon. You are a good man, and a dear friend – both you and Melodia are for bringing this to me. But I must take care of this.” Eagon stood, calmly collecting his items before leaving. Alasdair waited until he was alone before letting out a small sobbing ‘why’. It took almost a half hour for him to gain some semblance of control, his sorrows hardening into a cold and bitter anger.
He could not blame her, he supposed. It was simply the curse of her sex and upbringing. Judging by her family, she had not been denied much of anything in her life. Were she the daughter of Geoff, he would have expected discipline – but Alphonse and Ella were not as focused. She had been taken advantage of, that was it. Her mind misled and tricked. She was prey to her emotions, and they had carried her off because he had not been beside her to curb them and control them. If she was honest about her failures – if she apologized, and gave him the name of the scoundrel that had misled her, and let him handle correction – then he would have no need to bring this to the attention of anyone else. It could sit quietly between them and Melodia, a secret that would not risk shame. Yet if it got out that he could not control his own wife in his own house, it risked undermining what he had worked so hard for…if it was to be released, he would be the one to do it. But he did not want to.
Somehow, despite it, he still loved her. The thought of her being misled and used tore at him, sharp and small claws rending deep into something beyond his very soul. He sat there for what felt like an eternity before Guinevere came home, his mind racing a hundred directions. When she came into the room, he found his voice – speaking with an unnatural calm and lack of emotion. “Guinevere. We need to talk.” She paused – just a moments hesitation – then continued into the room, sitting down across from him. “Certainly, Alasdair. Is there another political event that you need my presence at? Isadora and her girls have made the most lovely dress for the Masquerade -” He waved a hand dismissively. “Who is he?” Gwen felt words die off in her throat, and she feigned a cough before speaking, her voice quieter than normal. “Who is who, Alasdair? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Alasdair felt a small laugh escape his mouth, a single ‘ha’ noise – deprived of any mirth. “Do you think that I do not hear about what happens in this city, Gwen?” He stood, walking past her and towards the doorway. “Do you and your family all share the notion that I am an imbecile, wandering about blithely? That I do not hear things, that I do not have friends that hear things, that I cannot put two and two together?”
Guinevere felt her hands shake, the color starting to drain from her face. “Alasdair, you must be mistaken. You are a clever man, but perhaps you have been overworked…you are making accusations and ideas that have no basis in fact. I have been at the Clothier’s, trying to get a dress together for the Masquerade, nothing more and nothing less.” Alasdair sighed deeply, turning to face her again. “Gwen…I love you. I have loved you for years. But please….for both of our sakes, do not pretend that I am so ignorant. You are going to sit here, in the home that I have given you, in the fineries that I have given you, and you are going to tell me that I am wrong? I would love to be wrong, but this is not me drawing a conclusion. This is me paying attention. Tell me what you are hiding from me, Gwen…” His voice had become slightly more terse, the volume increasing bit by bit. Gwen stood as well now, her own voice shaky. “Alasdair….please. Calm down. There is nothing hidden here. You are mistaken. I have been out more than normal, yes, but it’s only to try and prepare for the masquerade, to be someone that you can show off with pride, the perfect little bride.” She couldn’t keep the tiniest hint of spite out of her voice.
Alasdair paused, a thin smile appearing across his lips. “The perfect little bride.” He stepped closer to her, his voice raising with each step. “For five years I have stood by your side, I have loved you, I have listened as your family insulted me, I have worked to better myself, I have done so much to help you and to provide you a life that would be the envy of any other woman in Kintargo…” His voice suddenly spiked into an actual yell, the first one in five years of marriage. Gwen stepped back, feeling tears in her eyes. “And yet you LIE to me, over and over? You sit in front of me, pretending that I don’t know what I know? You ignorant childish bitch! Answer me, who is he?” Gwen felt the tears come hot and heavy, rolling down her cheeks in a cascade as she rushed to speak. “Alasdair, please, please….I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt you, I love you. I am so sorry.”
Alasdair turned his back, sighing deeply as he calmed himself again. “If you love me, Gwen, be honest. Tell me.” Behind him, she hurriedly spoke. “I was….I had finished early at the Clothier’s. I went to visit a tavern that I had enjoyed in my youth, and I was given a strong drink – and I so rarely drink. There was a man there, someone that I had not seen in town before. He bought my drink, and another, and we talked….he showed me arts and things from Vyre, wonders that I had not seen in Kintargo. With each drink that he bought me, I fell further under his spell, and I had never intended to do anything more than have a single drink and think of old times, but I was emotional and easily misled. You know how women can get – he took advantage of me, Alasdair. And I did something that I am not proud of, I succumbed to him. But I did not love him. It was a foolish and stupid decision by a foolish girl. Please, Alasdair, I love you. Forgive me for being so weak and failing.” Guinevere was crying heavily now, trying her best to save herself.
Alasdair turned to face her again. “I want to resolve this here. Between us. But if I cannot get the man’s name, I cannot avenge the honor that he took from you. And if word of this gets out, I will be a laughingstock.” He lowered his head. “I apologize, Guinevere. I should not have called you that. Tell me the man’s name, and it ends here – we will work this out. But if this continues, I will have no choice but to reveal your behavior to the Church of Asmodeous before any of my political enemies do. It would look weak for our entire House if I were to be shown as a cuckold to your behavior. I take no joy in the idea of revealing this, but you control that fate. What was the man’s name?”
Gwen paused, the color drained from her face. She wanted to preserve herself, but she knew that giving Rexus’ name was as good as sentencing him. Alasdair was a trained swordsman who wanted to avenge her honor….she had read enough to know what that usually meant. “Alasdair, please…” “Name.” She swallowed heavily. “Alasdair….I don’t know his name. I cannot recall it. I was in an altered state, please…” Alasdair stayed silent, simply nodding. “Go to the bedroom, Guinevere. I will inform the guards that you are not to leave the estate until this is resolved. Either you will get me the name that I want, or I will find it myself.” Gwen started to object, but was cut off by Alasdair yelling once more. “I will not repeat myself, Gwen!” He struggled to speak in a calmer tone, each word sounding on the verge of explosion.
“You have hurt me deeper than you will ever imagine. You acted as a fool and a child, and I will treat you as one until we have an answer for this. Please, make this simple and tell me the man’s name. I cannot trust you to leave the house without an escort, clearly. I don’t know how long until I would be able to do that again. But I know this – for now, you are not leaving the estate. And I do not want to see your face at this time, so that I do not see your failures reflected in it. So please, leave me. Go to the room. I will be up shortly, and we may talk more then.” He waved his head, and Gwen ran for the room, almost tripping over her gown. Her face streamed with tears as she hurriedly looked for any letters from Rexus that she had hidden, rapidly burning them.
Below, Alasdair sat back at the table quietly. He buried his head back into his hands and let out a great choking sob, emotion overpowering him. After several long minutes, he stood and walked out towards the great hall to speak to his guards. He explained that they were not to allow her to leave, nor to have any communication without him present. He then sent an errand boy to speak to Eagon. He would find out who this man was.
And he would have vengeance for his wife.
As any good husband should.