A Different Battlefield

A Different Battlefield

This is just a sweet little scene I put together to showcase the nature of Domerin, Crescent and Rose’s relationship and how they deal with people who don’t understand it.
. . .

Guards were a normal sight around the palace. Usually they faded into the background, forgotten or ignored, a regular piece of the scenery. Domerin didn’t know how nobles learned to converse so freely with two extra sets of ears listening, but he had grown up in a house protected by magic rather than people. If he was honest, neither he or his companion really needed to be here. The queen was more than capable of setting the kind of magic guards that would summon them from outside. Their duty was little more than ceremonial at the moment.

The kind he hated most.

It didn’t help that the duchess’s eyes kept straying in his direction. Probably following the gaze of the young prince, which had been riveted on Domerin for the last ten minutes, making him impossible to miss. But at three years old, he was too young to realize he was breaking one of the nobility’s most established taboos – acknowledging a guard’s existence when there was no danger.

To her credit, the queen paid no attention to the slight twisting of her guest’s lips, continuing the conversation as if nothing was amiss. Her son was well enough behaved that she seemed to think nothing of it when he crawled off her lap and began to wander the room. No one feared he would grab hold of any of the fancy adornments, though he had been known to open and close the curtains for hours on end, a source of endless entertainment for a child his age. The queen merely lifted her tea cup to her lips and sipped deeply, still not missing a beat.

Domerin would have felt better about the situation if the crown prince hadn’t wandered directly over to him, placed one hand on his knee and grinned as he tilted his head to look up at him. Not that Domerin ever minded the sight of his son’s grinning face; it melted his heart a little more every time he got to see it. But now was hardly the time or the place, and he wasn’t sure how to make the boy understand that he wasn’t supposed to engage with him while he was working.

He felt the heavy weight of the duchess’s gaze on his shoulders as he bent and scooped the young prince into his arms. It might have been impossible if he wore the bulky plate many of his companions seemed to favor, but Domerin had always preferred lighter armor that allowed him to move quickly. The leather was soft by now, well worn from years of use, and the pleased prince had no qualms about laying his head on Domerin’s shoulder as he wound his tiny little arms around his neck.

In the past, he had tried sending the boy back to his mother with a gentle nudge. The prince also considered this to be an exciting game, running back and forth between his parents, giggling all the while. It tended to be disruptive, so Domerin had learned to simply give in. But it was hard to tell if the duchess judged him more for being a decent father or a failed guard.

She seemed so offended by the sight of the prince curled against Domerin’s body that she lifted a hand to cover her heart. “Is this regular?” she hissed, as if Domerin wouldn’t be able to hear.

For the first time, the queen followed her gaze, a hint of amusement drawing the corners of her lips upward. “What? For Dormal to seek contact with his father? I would think so, yes.”

The duchess shot Domerin a sharp glare, as if he should know better than to think he could act as Dormal’s father while he was on duty. As if he ceased to have parental rights the moment he donned his armor. Perhaps she should try explaining it to the three year old prince. He’d blow spit bubbles in her face just like he did for everyone else. Domerin would have gotten a kick out of it, though.

When her glare failed to elicit a reaction from the stoic guardsman, she returned her attention to the queen. “Won’t this kind of behavior prevent him from properly doing his job?” She leaned closer when she said it, lowering her voice only slightly. It wasn’t that she believed Domerin lacked hearing; it was that she wanted him to hear her disdain.

He wished he cared less than he actually did.

The queen’s eyes grew wide for a moment, then she laughed. “Domerin? Unable to do his job with a toddler in his arms? You must be an expert at avoiding the news. Perhaps you shall have to advise me one day.”

This seemed enough of a rebuke to force the duchess to relent. She relaxed in her chair and allowed the meeting to resume.

*  *  *  *  *  *

With a soft sigh, the queen sprawled across the couch while she waited for a fresh pot of tea to arrive. She was only grateful the duchess had finally decided to leave. She hadn’t bothered escorting the woman out of the wing; she’d had enough of her haughty attitude for one day. The woman was always somewhat priggish, but her behavior straddled the border of downright insulting since the queen had given birth out of wedlock. As if it were her duty to keep propriety alive among the court.

Rose’s eyes shifted to the door through which the duchess had departed. She seemed to have chosen that exit specifically so that she could huff when she passed Domerin, still holding the sleeping prince propped on one hip. But watching them melted much of the tension she had been carrying since the duchess’s arrival. Dormal was like a tiny mirror image of his father. Dusky skin, midnight hair, and eyes so startlingly blue they seemed out of place on his face. He had the same serious demeanor too, though youth made him much more willing to laugh and play.

She would have to ask Domerin’s mother the next time she visited if he had been as adorable as a child.

She noted the slight sway in the guard’s stance. How long had he been rocking him? And how had he managed to keep the duchess from noticing?

“If you’re going to keep holding him, you may as well sit.” She indicated the empty couch across from him. “Your arm must be getting tired by now.”

Domerin hesitated only a moment before he accepted the invitation. He had finally learned that she was only going to insist, and that she was far more stubborn than he was, even where matters of his duty were concerned.

“Not at all,” he replied with a light chuckle as he settled on the edge of the couch, propping the arm supporting Dormal against the padded arm. “He’s much lighter than other things I’ve had to lug around, believe me.”

“I’m well aware, Domerin. But this isn’t a battlefield and I’d appreciate if you didn’t treat it like one.”

“Are you sure?” a hint of a grin brushed the guard’s lips. “The duchess certainly didn’t seem to see it that way.”

Before she had a chance to retort, the door opened and a stone-faced man set her tea tray on the table, bowing precisely before he turned and left. Rose slid her feet off the couch and poured two cups of tea. She set one on Domerin’s side of the table without adding anything to it, before adding a small spoonful of honey to her own.

“The duchess is old and she clearly isn’t dealing well with the way the world is changing. I wouldn’t pay attention to anything she said.”

Domerin frowned and reached for the tea cup without prompting, a clear sign that something was bothering him. Had it been the duchess? Did he really care what an old prig with an obvious stick up her rear thought?

“Why do you let them get away with it?” he asked softly as he set the tea cup back down. “Judging you, I mean.”

It wasn’t the kind of question she expected Domerin Lorcasf to ask. He had no interest in court politics, aside from where it might pose a threat to her safety. In fact, he hated the games nobles played, often sneered about it while he was off duty and behind closed doors, sometimes even with her. She hadn’t expected it to bother him so much.

“I can’t exactly stop them, can I?”

“Actually, you might be the only one who could,” Domerin retorted, flashing her a shrewd look. “If you made it clear you didn’t appreciate the way the court ladies talk about your personal relationships, they’d at least have to keep it to themselves.”

“That still wouldn’t stop them. Just because it isn’t within my hearing doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I suppose I’d rather see the claws so I know they’re coming.”

Domerin looked somewhat thoughtful when she said that, as if it had never occurred to him to think of the court as a battlefield or a chess game; odd, since he seemed to compare everything else to the two.

“It doesn’t bother you, does it?”

“My son wanting to spend time with his father? No, Domerin, of course not! It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, or what your title is or where we happen to be standing. I always want your son to feel comfortable approaching you, and you shouldn’t let anyone convince you otherwise.”

“Thank you,” Domerin sounded somewhat sheepish. “But that wasn’t what I meant. I mean, the way people act about our relationship.”

This time the queen snorted. “If I gave a shit about what people thought about our relationship, do you think I would have come to you and Crescent in the first place? And I did come to you, Domerin. Crescent might think he batted his pretty eyelashes at me and won me over, but I was just waiting to take advantage of that opportunity. I wanted to have your child. And someday soon, I want to have his. That matters more to me than what idiots are going to write in the papers about my choices. The court ladies aren’t the authority on love, believe it or not. They don’t get to define what makes me happy, no matter how hard they try.”

“You make it sound like having our children was the first step in some personal rebellion.”

She could tell from his tone that he was teasing and she flashed him a grin. “Not the first step, no. It was more like the fortieth. But I appreciate you noticing.”

Domerin chuckled. “You are so unlike your mother. She was a good queen, but I always got the impression she cared a little too much about her image.”

“She did. Why do you think I decided to break free of that cage? Growing up in it was more than enough. Dormal is going to make a fantastic king one day. That’s all anyone outside of our relationship should care about.”

“I just hope he gets his social skills from you,” Domerin replied, brushing a stray lock of hair from the sleeping prince’s face.

“Oh believe me,” Rose grinned as she poured herself another cup of tea, “I intend to make sure all my children are well prepared to deal with the court.”

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