DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
SERIES: The sixth story in the 'there is strength in your softness' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To scotangelina[at]yahoo.com
Holding you, I held everything
Entertaining royals is part of her role, and she prides herself on her ability to hide whatever feelings she may have about them and play the gracious hostess. But self-important princes from minor kingdoms are her least favoured visitor to Aretuza. This one, Karstan of Talgar, is ostensibly here for the purpose of procuring a mage for his father's kingdom. But Tissaia is sure that his father sent him away merely to be rid of his tedious conversation for a few weeks.
He's talking now, and she's listening with half an ear, accustomed to keeping track of several conversations at once without really paying attention to them. She takes the opportunity during one of his long-winded soliloquies to examine him. He is, at best, bland. But, as with many men of his standing, fuelled by unwarranted confidence by virtue of his birth.
After some inept attempts at flirting with her, all quickly and politely rebuffed, he has settled on extolling the virtues of his homeland's new agriculture policy.
A tingle goes through Tissaia's mind. Little more than a buzz of energy, but it takes what little attention she had been expending on Karstan and redirects it to the doors of the ballroom.
They fly open of their own accord and the room pauses, a collective breath held in anticipation of what might enter. Their wonder is not unwarranted, for framed in the doorway is a vision of perfection. Tall and strong, resplendent in a shimmering black dress that plunges low in the front and even lower in the back. Tissaia rolls her eyes, but cannot contain her affectionate smile.
Her companion makes a sound low in his throat that sets Tissaia's teeth on edge. "What a magnificent creature."
The ugly swirl in Tissaia's chest is as much guilt as it is anything else. How much for this beast?
"She is indeed a magnificent woman." She swallows and watches Yennefer sweep into the room, devastating a few nearby dancers with just a smile. "And a little too fond of making a grand entrance."
"You are acquainted, then?" he asks. She recognises the eager tone of his voice. He thinks he has a chance with this 'magnificent creature'. Well, Tissaia will soon divest him of that notion.
"You could say that." Tissaia knows it's petty, but she waits until he has raised his goblet to his lips. "She's my wife."
The trajectory of the wine is fairly impressive. The subsequent coughing fit only elicits a tiny amount of guilt as one of his attendants swoops in with a handkerchief, dabbing ineffectually at the prince's chin and chest.
She allows him a modicum of dignity by redirecting her gaze to Yennefer, now approaching with a twist of amusement tugging at her full lips. A voice sounds in her mind.
I know, I know. I'm late. What's his name again? Prince Chinfluff?
Yennefer. Tissaia warns.
No, but seriously, what's his name? I can't be expected to remember every minor royal from the arse end of the continent!
Tissaia purses her lips to keep from smiling. Prince Karstan of Talgar.
Yennefer arrives just as Karstan's valet finishes wiping him down, offering a wide smile and a curtsey that's not nearly low enough to imply any kind of deference.
"Prince Karstan," Yennefer says, as if greeting an old friend. "How wonderful that you've made the journey all the way from Talgar just to pay us a visit. I trust you are finding Aretuza to your liking?"
"Oh, oh yes. Very much so." He's actually blushing and can't meet Yennefer's eyes. "It's very- that is to say- I do hope that we can-" He pauses. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
It's Tissaia's turn to blush. She had been too caught up in Yennefer's arrival to make proper introductions.
"Do forgive me, Your Grace," she says. "May I introduce Yennefer of Vengerberg."
"Yennefer," he breathes. "Such a pretty name. Do you know anything of its origins?"
One who sleeps in pig shit?
Tissaia turns her face away, disguising her laugh as a cough.
"I believe it means 'Fair One'," Yennefer says out loud. She catches a lock of black hair between her fingers and raises an eyebrow. "So I am very poorly named, Your Grace."
"Oh, I do not think so," he simpers. "For 'fair' can also mean beautiful, can it not?"
Tissaia has to bite her tongue to prevent herself from reciting an incantation to give him an unfortunate case of boils. Luckily, for him, Yennefer wraps her fingers loosely around Tissaia's elbow.
"You flatter me, Your Grace," Yennefer says, with no inflection whatsoever. "Now, you don't mind if I steal the Rectoress away for a moment or two, do you?" Yennefer gently tugs Tissaia against her side, dropping her voice to a register that makes Tissaia tingle. "I have been elsewhere on business for a number of days, you see, and I have not yet had the opportunity to properly greet her."
"Oh, of course! " His head jerks in a quick nod. "May I request that you reserve a dance for me later in the evening?" He glances at Tissaia, as if remembering she is also there. "Both of you."
"I'm sure we can accommodate your request," Tissaia says, with exaggerated politeness, she can feel Yennefer grow fidgety beside her. "Now, if you will excuse us."
Yennefer doesn't wait for him to excuse them before leading Tissaia to a quiet corner of the room, behind a pillar. She takes hold of Tissaia's hands, squeezing them gently and offering a mischievous smile. "Am I in trouble?"
"Almost constantly," Tissaia says, raising an eyebrow.
Yennefer's laugh is like a song Tissaia's heart knows well and it warms her to hear it. Yennefer shakes her head. "Hello, my darling," she murmurs, bending her neck to press a firm kiss to Tissaia's lips.
Tissaia lifts a hand to the back of Yennefer's head, keeping her in place where she would have moved away, prolonging the kiss. Yennefer's hands make their way to her hips and then around to her back, pulling her closer. Tissaia enjoys the touches, the contact. For someone who has gone decades, centuries, with very little in the way of human touch, she has somehow come to crave it.
"I missed you," Yennefer whispers against her lips.
"Not enough to return in time to accompany me to this tedious event," Tissaia says, softening her words with a kiss.
"That wasn't my fault," Yennefer protests, pulling back and frowning. She wrinkles her nose under Tissaia's sceptical gaze. "Well, it wasn't all my fault."
"Oh?" Tissaia tilts her head. "And whose fault was it?"
"Sabrina's." Yennefer widens her violet eyes and nods. "Almost entirely."
Tissaia sighs. "Well, that does sound plausible. You can furnish me with the details later." She rolls her eyes. "For now we have a Prince to entertain." She peeks around the pillar. "One of us really should go and take him up on his offer of a dance."
Yennefer takes her hand, threading their fingers together. "I will not dance with some half-wit Prince from a backwater kingdom before I have danced with my wife." She shakes her head and smiles. "I simply refuse."
"Are you asking me to dance, Yennefer?" Tissaia asks, lips twitching as she holds a smile at bay.
"I thought that was obvious." Yennefer rolls her eyes. "But if you need to be asked formally." Taking a step back, she drops into a perfect curtsey, drawing Tissaia's hand to her lips and kissing it before looking up through her lashes. "Tissaia De Vries, Rectoress of Aretuza, will you do me the great honour of dancing with me?"
Tissaia shakes her head with a soft smile at Yennefer's antics. She squeezes the hand holding hers. "Always."
The smile Yennefer graces her with is nothing short of dazzling. She stands up and leads Tissaia to the dancefloor, their hands held high between them before they settle into the appropriate hold, falling into time with the music.
"I haven't seen you wear this dress before," Tissaia comments, sweeping a hand down Yennefer's bare skin to rest at her lower back, her fingertips creeping just below the fabric of her dress.
"Do you like it?" Yennefer leans in close to brush her nose briefly with Tissaia's as they move around the floor. "I thought it might go some way towards making up for my tardiness."
Tissaia hums her approval, eyes dipping briefly to Yennefer's enticing cleavage. "The view is-" She catches her lip in her teeth before looking back up into Yennefer's eyes. "-not unpleasant."
Yennefer barks a laugh, throwing her head back and squeezing Tissaia's hip. She nods at Karstan as they twirl by him. "Your friend over there seemed a tad more taken by the view, if his ruined doublet is anything to go by."
Yennefer's beauty has always been a source of disquiet for Tissaia. For both of them. It came at such a high price, one Yennefer regretted paying for decades. And Yennefer is more than aware of the effect her looks have on people. She traded off them during her early years in Aedirn and beyond. At times, she still uses her appearance as a test; to see if that's all people are interested in. Tissaia has always been careful not to put too much importance on outward form; her own or anyone else's. She knows, more than most, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
"Yes," she agrees. "I'm sure he was entertaining fantasies of whisking you away to Talgar and making you a Princess when he laid eyes on you in this dress."
"Oh, I'm sure his fantasies were far more base than that," Yennefer says. "You know how simple the menfolk are."
"Indeed." Tissaia smiles. "How fortunate us womenfolk are above such animal instincts."
"Now, I didn't say that," Yennefer says, her grin lascivious as she dips Tissaia backwards and winks. She rights them both, her face taking on an air of contemplation. "But you've given me something no man ever could."
Tissaia tilts her head. "And what is that?"
In the middle of the dancefloor, heedless of its other occupants, Yennefer draws them both to a halt. The noise of the room falls away, faces blurring into insignificance, and Tissaia honestly cannot tell if it's an enchantment or just how Yennefer makes her feel. Yennefer smiles and shakes her head, leaning in to brush a single word across Tissaia's lips.
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