"We hope that you will come and visit us at your earlier convenience. Jenna has asked about you ever since she saw you at the wedding and would be most interested in your presence in Highever." - A letter from Teyrn Bryce Cousland to Bann Teagan Guerrin
Teagan read the letter over again, trying desperately to recall an image of Jenna Cousland. He was aware that he'd seen her standing up at her brother's wedding, but he couldn't remember her face at all. The penned request from her father, most unhelpfully, said next to nothing about the young woman that he hoped to entice Teagan into seeing. The wedding was all shrouded in mist in his memories, there had been a combination of too much wine and other distractions. Oriana, the Antivan noblemen's daughter that Fergus Cousland married had a cousin seated next to Teagan in the lowest cut dress he'd ever seen. He'd spent most of his time talking to the woman with the vain hope of coaxing her out of the revealing crimson dress.
Jenna, he knew she was young, she had dark hair, maybe? That was about all he could recall of her, and she wasn't known at court so he couldn't try to recall one of his painful evenings there amongst the simpering nobles in hopes of making some sort of identification of her face. She was distinctive amongst the Couslands, but not memorable in the way that beautiful or interesting women were to him. Perhaps he just hadn't paid enough attention because she was so much younger than he, even Fergus seemed very young, though his sister had to be of marrying age if her father was writing with such intent. With an effort he cast his mind back, trying to recall her face at one of the pre-wedding events, or even the breakfast the day after, but he had, unfortunately spent his time drinking and fishing, then doing all he could to chat up the Antivan woman. No, he couldn't remember anything about Jenna Cousland at all and apparently he'd just seen her, not more than a year ago. He hoped she didn't look like her father Bryce, for her own sake.
"Eamon, it appears I am going to Highever." Teagan told his brother a week later as he joined him at Castle Redcliffe for dinner. It was their custom to dine together at least once a month, Teagan journeying from his nearby home in Rainesfere to visit. He'd written back to Teyrn Bryce Cousland, Jenna's father, and agreed to a visit, simply because there was no way to not agree. The Teyrn was just under the King in matters of influence and Teagan had no real objections to meeting eligible young women, though he had a fair amount of trepidation about this faceless Jenna. When he'd given it more thought, he was sure that he'd met her several times before, but simply didn't remember her at all. That boded ill for the whole visit.
"Bryce told me of his desire for you to meet his daughter and for a match to be made. Do you recall anything about her from your last trip there? It would have been Fergus's wedding, correct?" Eamon asked. He hadn't been to the wedding, his wife, the arlessa Isolde had been ill and he didn't want to leave her alone with their young son.
"Not at all." Teagan said honestly.
"That's not good." Eamon said, frowning behind his grey beard. Teagan's thoughts were along the same lines, but he felt that he had to speak up on her behalf - his way of giving her a fair chance, though in truth he was already biased against the young woman that had failed to make any lasting impression on him.
"She may be a perfectly fine girl yet, I just can't recall her face and we didn't really have much time to speak." Teagan grimaced, not really believing the words he'd spoken. Of course there had to be something wrong with Jenna Cousland, if there wasn't she would be swimming in suitors. But he didn't think she could be truly horrible, her family was dutiful, well-liked, and delightful hosts, if a tad overbearing at times. He would go to see her, but though he doubted it would be one of his more pleasant trips to the north. He hoped that he could at least go fishing, that would give him something to look forward to.
"Why don't you ask one of the others about her, perhaps Bann Loren or his wife? I think they have a son around her age. They'd be able to tell you something about the girl." Eamon suggested.
"I think not." Teagan replied tartly. "I could do with a lot less of Bann Loren in my life." He didn't like the other man, too smarmy and false. Whenever they met, Teagan got the distinct impression that Loren cared only for his own gain, and would sell anything to achieve it. He found the naked ambition distasteful.
"Couldn't we all?" Eamon agreed. "Well, at least you can go fishing. Always good catch in the Waking Sea."
Jenna Cousland was used to her parents trying to arrange her with different gentlemen, but she usually had little interest in them once she met them. Her mother had just come into her room and informed her that yet another one would be visiting, a Bann from the south was expected to arrive soon. Aside from her sigh, she displayed no outward signs of impatience, though she wasn't happy about being paraded about for another man like a prize mabari. Jenna was barely paying attention as she swept her long black hair into a ponytail, securing it away from her face. She had to concentrate on her combat training, intent on besting Fergus in a match sometime soon.
"I'm sorry Mother, what's his name again?" Jenna turned and looked at her mother, who was sitting on the bed talking as her daughter got ready for her daily weapons practice.
The young woman's trim figure was clad in rough leather armor that her mother helped buckle her into with practiced hands. Eleanor Cousland was proud of her daughter, though headstrong and stubborn, the girl was dutiful and capable, showing a far more intuitive and nuanced mind then her elder brother. Jenna had morphed from a gangly girl into a beautiful woman, though she was told her looked more like a distant relative than her parents. She had full lips and a small, slightly crooked nose beneath her almond shaped grey eyes. Her skin was a dark tawny color naturally but she did spend many hours outside, training, running, playing with her hound and tending to the horses. She loved the outdoors, coming in well after sunset most days, covered in dust and grime.
"It's Bann Teagan Guerrin, Queen Rowan's youngest brother. You remember him don't you dear? He was at Fergus and Oriana's wedding." Her mother reminded her.
"Not the one with the huge grey beard?" Jenna asked, unable to hide her disdain.
"No, that's Arl Wulff, but now that you mention it Wulff does look a great deal like Teagan's brother Eamon. Eamon wasn't at the wedding, his wife had a sickness of some sort and he didn't want to leave her alone with their son." Eleanor explained, her prodigious memory for mundane details at its finest. "Teagan was the youngest of the Guerrins and during the occupation, he and Eamon lived in the Free Marches while Rowan fought with the resistance."
"Fascinating." Jenna remarked absently as she continued to put on her armor and weapons. She was training with Ser Gilmore again today, an even match, though he was a warrior and she a rogue. Her quickness worked well against his strength, though she didn't relish the bruises she would have from meeting his shield.
She'd thought that once her brother Fergus had married and had a child so quickly after his wedding, her parents might give her some space. But it had only proved to hasten their resolve to see her married as well, and thus, they'd began arranging meetings with Ferelden's most eligible noblemen, despite promising to let her find her own match.
Recently, even Fergus had began making noises about her finding a suitor and Jenna rolled her eyes at the thought. The brother that she caught kissing more than a few of the maids had become like another father to her within just a year of his own marriage. It was maddening, though she put it down to the birth of his son. Jenna was quite taken with her nephew, Oren, and forgave her brother his newfound protectiveness.
"He's the Bann of Rainesfere, which is near Redcliffe, darling." Her mother went on, extolling the many virtues of Bann Teagan. Jenna stopped listening, knowing that the teyrna would repeat this same conversation just before Teagan arrived. She would listen then, perhaps she would find something to talk to the man about.
She'd heard more than enough to know that Bann Teagan was at least ten years older than she and had never married. There had to be some compelling reason that he wasn't already married or hadn't been betrothed or at least engaged, and Jenna was not the least bit interested in finding out what it was. Although if she recalled correctly, he was handsome enough and maybe worthy of a visit to her chambers after dinner. She'd done that with a few of the men that came to call, much to her mother's chagrin. It mattered not to Jenna, who wasn't opposed to marriage, but didn't think she would find what she wanted in Ferelden. Perhaps someone more exotic, a Rivaini, like her great-grandfather had run off with.
"Mother, how many more of these men do I have to endure?" Jenna asked, securing a knife to her waist. She had already armed her daggers, but the knife was extra, she didn't like being without it. Too many times in practice she'd been disarmed, knowing that if it were a real battle, she would have been left vulnerable.
"It doesn't hurt to make new friends, and Teagan is quite like you, he loves the outdoors, he's a huntsman and likes to fish. I thought the two of you might find a few things to talk about. He should be here in a few days, according to his letter. Do try and be friendly Jenna, he's a very nice man." Eleanor said needlessly. She was always polite, if disinterested.
"Of course, Mother." Jenna reassured her mother as she took off for her training session. By the time she'd gotten to the courtyard and started swiping at the practice dummies assembled warming up for her bout with Ser Gilmore, she had already forgotten the name of her impending visitor again.
"I don't know what I will find here, but at least the weather has been good on the trip up. I hope that I will be able to get in some sport as we discussed, but I fear Bryce will want to talk politics. I loathe such topics, as you well know. If I wanted that, I might as well go to Denerim." A letter from Teagan to his brother Eamon, a few nights before his arrival in Highever
Bann Teagan arrived in Highever with a small compliment of his own guards in a few days time, their trip from the south had been mercifully quick and relatively free of bandits. The sky was a clear blue overhead and he could smell the salty, slightly pungent fishy scent of the Waking Sea drifing inland towards his route to Castle Cousland. At least the smell was somewhat familiar, though he doubted the fish of Lake Calenhad were anything like those in the sea. As they approached the ancient castle, they were met by some guards dispatched by the Teyrn to make sure they arrived safely. Teagan took the time to discreetly ask a guard about Jenna.
"What is the young Lady Cousland like? I'm supposed to meet her and would like to make a favorable impression." Teagan said to the man walking at his side, dressed in armor and weilding a shield with the Cousland's laurel device painted on it. "Please, speak freely." He added, knowing that the man would still mind his tongue so close to the castle.
"Well, she's quite nice actually." The man said, his discomfort evident as he spoke quickly, "An amiable personality and good with the animals. Not a big talker, you know how some young people are, prattling on about fashions or gossip all the time, but she's a thinker."
"Is that right?" Teagan was slightly encouraged by this description. Too many of the women paraded in front of him had no opinions or desire to do anything but dress in ball gowns, gossip, and eat Orlesian sweets. The man offered no more and Teagan didn't press him, instead hastening his pace towards the castle. The sooner he met her, the sooner he could judge for himself.
Castle Cousland was a grand, old structure, a little crumbling, a tad bit overgrown, but it retained an air of refinement. It was many, many times bigger than the modest homestead Teagan had in Rainesfere, and down every stretch of hallway was at least one guard on duty at all times. The stone walls were lined with carved wood beams and high windows that shone light in from high above. The building was constructed mainly of the grey stone that was mostly found in the north of Ferelden, everything south of Kinloch Hold was wooden, save for the Tevinter relics.
"Teagan!" Bryce Cousland's recognizable voice boomed as Teagan passed through the front gates. He smiled at the grey haired man, and crossed his arms in front of his chest in the proper greeting. Bryce clapped him on the shoulder happily, looking relieved at the sight of him.
"My lord. Thank you for your invitation." Teagan said.
"It's no problem, none at all. How was your journey? No problems, I hope."
"None at all. It was quite pleasant." Teagan answered truthfully. They hadn't even been caught in much of the rain that had been turning his lands into mud as he left, and for that he was grateful.
"Good, good. Jenna will be pleased to hear you've arrived. She's around here somewhere, out on the grounds perhaps." One of the knights behind Bryce replied in the affirmative and he nodded. "Would you like to go and settle in first or go to the grounds to find my daughter?"
"To the grounds I think. I've been here several times but I haven't been in the grounds much." Teagan replied. His true reason was to see Jenna before she knew he arrived and observe her. He wanted to find out something about who she was truly before all the posturing began.
They walked across the grounds, through the tended grasses and onto a part of the grounds that looked more like the coastland it was situated on. It had the soft, half sand, half soil mix of dirt the gave way underfoot, and knee high grasses grew around them in various shades of green and yellow. Jenna Cousland was there, visible at a distance and appeared to be playing with her dog.
Teagan noted that she was clad in leather armor, as though always ready for a battle, weapons strapped to her back as she threw something away from her, the mabari charging off at high speed to catch it. There was a castle guard with her, but he was standing off into the distance, standing at attention as he watched them approach. He heard the guard speak to her without turning and Jenna looked over her shoulder just as her mabari came bounding back to her, knocking her off balance while distracted. Teagan chuckled to himself at the sight of the overeager dog leaping around her feet, looking for praise. He was sure that many men had done just the same as the hound.
Her father was nothing if not predictable, and when she saw a group of men headed towards her, all Jenna could manage was an exasperated sigh. She knew her father would bring Teagan out to see her and she had made no attempts to change out of her armor or to impress Teagan, just as she hadn't with any of the other men that had been paraded through Highever for her benefit. In fact, she wanted to know if she should even bother right away, which is why she'd planned on wearing her armor to dinner. What she didn't expect was to see a man in veridium chain walking towards her, a warrior in his own right, a handsome man at the side of her father. Resolutely ignoring their approach, Jenna continued to play with her dog, Horatio, until she could no longer ignore her father's voice.
"Jenna!" Bryce Cousland knew his daughter could hear him, but had chosen to ignore his summons. She had been angry at him and her mother since this whole nonsense with the suitors had started. He couldn't blame her, but he'd explained it to her before. She was a Cousland, and must uphold her duty, even when it is something like getting married. He didn't have the heart to force her into a marriage, but he was going to do everything within his power to make sure she saw the best of what was available.
"Yes, Father." Jenna jogged over to them with her hound at her side. The hound allowed Bryce to pet it on the head but Teagan didn't even try. It wouldn't allow him until he first found out his mistress felt about Teagan. It was a stately dog, even covered in mud as he was. The mabari wearing a worn leather collar and free from the kaddis that so many wardogs wore when hunting, but he supposed this woman was not a serious sportswoman. He had often wished for his own hound during hunting season, but had never been so lucky as to have a mabari imprint on him.
"Teagan, may I present my daughter Jenna and her hound, Horatio. Jenna, this is Teagan, Bann of Rainesfere, brother to Arl Eamon of Redcliffe and the late Queen Rowan." Bryce gave them a formal introduction, which amused his daughter, as they were knee-deep in muck surrounded by a field of overgrown grass with a filthy dog between them.
"It is nice to see you again, my lord." Jenna said to Teagan. She offered him her hand, the leather glove covered in dirt and drool from her dog. He didn't flinch as he shook it, impressing the young woman. The last arl's son she'd met had ran off to wash himself thoroughly after Horatio gave him an enthusiastic greeting.
According to her mother, he had been in attendance at Fergus's wedding, but she didn't really remember him. Then again she had been part of the festitivities that day, imbibing enough wine to ensure the whole night was a blurry mess of laughter, dancing and frivolity. To say Teagan was a nice looking man would be an understatement to her eyes, he wore his mail easily, his body muscled underneath. His hair held no hint of greying and he was looking at Jenna with a surprised interest, that she was returning, for the moment. She'd been through this before, a nobleman would show up at Castle Cousland, see her and decide that she was perfect, then she'd do something normal, like practice combat or offer her opinion and it would go downhill from there.
"And you as well my lady. Your hound is looking especially well." Teagan replied, speaking more to the dog himself, and earning an approving bark. Horatio didn't wait for Teagan to reach down to pet him, instead jumping around the nobleman, barking happily and splashing him with mud. Both Teagan and Jenna laughed, catching the other's eye and looking away, Jenna blushing immediately, silently thanking the Maker for the dark complexion that hid most of it.
Bryce was convinced that the meeting was going as well as could be expected with Jenna and wanted to absent himself while he could. "I must get back up to the castle." Bryce announced, motioning at the guard that had been watching over Jenna to come with him.
"Of course Father. I will see you for dinner." Jenna said.
"Thank you again for your hospitality, my lord." Teagan said.
"I will have the men put your belongings in your chambers. When you come back to the castle, Jenna can you show Teagan where he will be staying?"
"Thank you, pup." Her father's eyes twinkled at her and she saw a smile twitching at the corners of his tired mouth before he turned away. Damn her father, she thought savagely. She bet he was responsible for Teagan's visit. Her mother preferred to parade her around the local bann's son's, young, impressionable men, but a man of her own interests, this suggestion might have come from her father.
It was her father that encouraged her independence, that brought her dog home with him from a trip. While he often expressed his desire to see her settled, it came from the hopes to see his daughter happy, not a need to control her future. They watched Bryce retreat with the guardsmen at his heels. Neither spoke until he was completely out of sight.
"Why are you here, Bann Teagan?" Jenna asked sharply, wary once the moment of commraderie had passed.
"Please, it's just Teagan. I couldn't refuse an invitation from your father." Teagan explained. Somehow he thought that she just didn't want to hear a lie about her beauty pulling him back in, or that he wanted a wife.
Jenna laughed, a loud, undignified guffaw that sounded around the field they were in. It transformed the air between them, relieving the tension. When he smiled back at her, it was a much truer smile, her laughter calming him.
"At least you're honest. Do you even want to get married?" Jenna was curious, wondering how Teagan, with his connection to the King and title and good looks hadn't taken a wife before.
"Do you?" He raised an eyebrow in challenge as he asked the question back, using time to formulate his own answer.
"Yes, but not if I have to give up having a life that is interesting. I don't like going to court and have no desire to dress in the finest Orlesian fashions."
"What is it that you do like, my lady?"
"Jenna." She corrected. If he was going insist upon using his given name, so would she.
"Jenna. What is it that you like?" Teagan asked again and she shrugged, walking a few steps away from him before she turned back and answered.
"This, being outdoors. Fishing in the Waking Sea, reading, hunting with my dog, practicing with my weapons. Reading books in front of the fire, being solitary but not alone." She looked up at Teagan to see his reaction.
"I would have expected no other answers from a woman I met in the middle of a field, heavily armed and playing catch with a war dog."
"That's all? Aren't you going to tell me how inappropriate it would be for a married woman to do such things?"
"Not at all. I can't imagine how dull embroidery must be if you've been used to combat training. I wouldn't want to take it up, that much is true." Teagan said, and he was rewarded with Jenna's laugh again, this time it was gentler, more in line with her pretty features.
Teagan was shocked at just how pretty she was, and he'd remembered her upon their meeting. She was the one that he had thought a cousin of some sort rather than Fergus's sister, the two looked nothing alike, save for their eyes. But where Fergus was pale skinned and ruddy, Jenna's tawny skin was smooth, her raven hair pulled away from her face. She was quite striking, and he recalled her dancing enthusiastically with many of the men at the wedding, though he hadn't tried his luck.
"And what of you, Teagan?"
"I do wish to be married, but I don't want to have a marriage like my sister had." Teagan spoke without thinking and he regretted it the instant he saw the widening of Jenna's dark brown eyes.
"What do you mean, my lord?"
"My sister Rowan, the Queen, was happy enough by all accounts. She and Maric had a respect for each other that came from duty and familiarity, but I don't think they were ever passionate about each other. It seems foolish to wish for passion, love and respect in a relationship, but it is my desire to have them in my relationship."
"Do I arouse your passions, my lord?" Jenna asked and Teagan blanched at the bold question.
"You are...most delightfully unexpected." Teagan said truthfully. "And you have so far aroused my interest which is more than I had hoped. As for my passions, would you not agree that those are only roused after knowing someone for a time?"
"I would say that time has little to do with how intimately you know someone."
Teagan froze at her statement, the second one in their short acquaintence that hinted at impropriety. Was she flirting with him, trying to entice him into her bed, or was he imaginging it? Whatever it was, it was working, Teagan could feel himself responding to her pretty face and provocative words.
"Shall we go back to the castle, my lady?" Teagan asked, reverting formality in the the face of her impertinent statement and offered his arm to her. He was a little strained, a bit flushed as he ignored the double meaning of her words. Jenna pushed past the awkwardness, locking her arm with his as they started back towards the castle with Horatio trailing behind them.
They spoke about trifles, nonsense, the weather and his trip up, both determinedly keeping the conversation light. Neither cared about the words they spoke, but rather that they liked talking to each other. Teagan felt a light buzzing in his head when they walked, no doubt caused by his fatigue and the unexpectedness of meeting someone charming and interesting. Her aggressiveness had thrown him, but he nearly laughed aloud as he found himself hoping that they could get to know each other better before he left. After all, that is what her parents intended.
"This time it isn't as bad as it was before, though I have to admit that it has more to do with the man than any ingenuity on my parent's part. Was it like this for you, Alfstanna? Did they parade every eligible man in Thedas in front of you? It's like a buffet of poorly made dishes, when you finally get to a good one, you're so damn relieved you partake too merrily and make yourself ill." - excerpt from a letter from Jenna Cousland to Bann Alfstanna
"So tell me, dear sister, are we enjoying this guest?" Oriana shifted the sleeping child in her arms as she spoke to Jenna in a low voice.
"We are. I'm actually looking forward to spending time with him, though I don't know how much that will actually be. Father does like to do business whenever he gets the chance." Jenna said.
After talking with Teagan at dinner the night before, she had woken up without the feeling of dread that usually filled her as she entertained these suitors. In the morning she'd been happy to think of spending more time with him, and they'd spoken briefly, at breakfast. She'd needed to see to her dog, who had somehow found his way into the larder again, and he had been taken on a fishing trip with Fergus, presumably to suss out his first impressions of Jenna. The thought struck her just as Oriana was going to speak again, and Jenna cut her off.
"After they come back, are you and Fergus going to compare notes, then make a report to my father?"
"Probably." Oriana answered honestly. "But that's better than if we could all tell you that you loathed him and were simply enduring the visit. Think ahead, sister. This visit could lead to more."
Oriana had busied herself with the baby, rearranging the blankets folded around him and was diverted from questioning Jenna. The younger woman pondered if she really did want Teagan to come for more visits. After four or more visits, extended of course, due to the distance he must travel to see her, there would be talk of an official engagement announcement. Normally, such ideas filled Jenna with dread, but regarding Teagan, she didn't harbor such feelings.
It wasn't that she was already smitten with Teagan, that was far from the case, though she did like him. It was that she felt, for the first time the possibility of something, liking him, enjoying his company for more than a fleeting moment. If they did not fall in love, Teagan would at least become a good friend to her. The thought turned sour in her mind, recalling his statement about wanting love and passion in any match he might make. There would be no comfortable life of friendship for them, Teagan would simply move on. At such thoughts, an uncomfortable twist made her stomach lurch and she calmed herself by turning back to Oriana, who was watching her with shrewd eyes now that she'd repositioned the babe to her liking.
"Well then, Jenna, pray tell, would you like Teagan to come for more visits? Or are we back to searching?"
"I hate how the whole of the house is invested in my affairs." Jenna grumbled, but then answered her sister in law. "Further visits from Teagan would be appreciated, and I would like to make the most of this one. From what I've seen so far, he is a fascinating man."
"Don't fret, you will have your chance to speak further with him. If not today, then I believe your father is organizing a hunt for tomorrow, since the lord is fond of hunting."
A loud cry from the bundle of blankets she assumed was her nephew cued Jenna's departure from the room at a hastened pace. As a nurse bustled in the direction of the room, she went off to the study to find a book that might entertain her, or at least prove a suitable distraction. She wondered how the fishing was that day, it was a clear blue day with a gentle breeze that wiped away the scant clouds that marred the horizon, and she hoped that Fergus wasn't too blunt in his interrogation of Teagan.
They reentered Castle Cousland, reeking of fish and salt water, both Teagan and Fergus pink in the face from the sun they'd taken in. It was after luncheon when they came back, but Teagan gave no thought to his hunger, but rather wanted to bathe.
The short day of fishing had yielded a fine catch, and Fergus was a fine sportsman, though that was not the real purpose of their trip. He had known that the elder Cousland would inquire about his visit so far, and gather any impressions of his sister. On that score, Teagan was careful. He liked Jenna a great deal so far, more than he wanted to admit to even himself, but he had been through this before. There had been times when a good first impression blown out of proportion, and hurt feelings when the match didn't pan out.
When he hadn't been forthcoming about Jenna, merely saying that he was looking forward to the duration of the visit, Fergus went to great lengths to tell Teagan of the many virtues of his sister.
"Ah, it seems my dear sister is in the courtyard with her weapons. Would you like to see her?" Fergus was polite enough to give him time to nod, but just, before he walked on, growing closer to the middle of the courtyard where the Lady Cousland was practicing a rather complicated set of dance-like movements with a trainer.
She did not turn her eyes from her instruction, but spoke to them as she worked.
"Is that you, Fergus? And here I thought I'd go the whole day without smelling fish guts."
"Now, now sister. We have a guest."
"Lord Teagan." She grunted as she missed her mark, her trainer rebuking her with a strike to her side. "How lucky for you that you get to see me sweating and grunting like a mare in labor."
Teagan laughed, as Jenna executed the move she'd been working on, her feet nimble and quick as she closed in to hit her mark. "I cannot say I smell any better than your brother, but I only sought to greet you before I went off to my quarters."
"Consider yourself greeted most merrily, though distractedly. If you would excuse me." She said through gritted teeth as she rolled away to dodge an incoming strike.
Watching her fight was like watching the ballet, if it were much quicker and performed with swords. Her movements had the same fluidity, the grace that seemed effortless but were aided by practice, dexterity and strength. Jenna was quick and nimble wielding her own weapons, and he could see how she could easily incapacitate even the most heavily armored of assailants. When a strike came down, she tumbled and twisted until she was no longer there, her body contorting as she fought.
It made his mind wander towards other ways such an agile frame could be of a most pleasing advantage, and Teagan nearly lost himself to reverie, but forced himself to concentrate on the sparring. After a few more minutes, Fergus shouted out a goodbye for both of them, but received no response. The pace of the fighting had quickened, neither party able to spare a thought to their spectators. Teagan had to wrench his eyes away from the mesmerizing scene, now truly resembling a fierce dance and he worried that she might be injured. Though Fergus had been talking his sister up all morning, he didn't lie about her battle prowess. Both trainer and Jenna were pushing harder, and he could see the sweat on both of them as they dodged and danced around the other.
Reluctantly, he followed Fergus away from Jenna and to his room, where a bath was already drawn. It was most welcome, as would be the nap he'd take afterwards. Teagan was pleased; for as much as he liked fishing, the highlight of his day so far had been when he'd seen Jenna, not before. Though he'd confide that in no one, it gave him a great deal of confidence about the rest of the visit.
"It feels almost as if it's the purpose of everyone here to convince me of how wonderful you are." Teagan murmured to Jenna, earning an abashed chuckle from the lady, who looked even more fetching with the color flooding her cheeks. It reminded him of how she'd been that afternoon, fighting in the courtyard.
They were in the castle study together, much later in the day. After he'd rested and ate, there was nothing more for him to do until dinner and he retired amongst the books. They'd happened upon each other just as Brother Aldous was launching into a spiel about how well-read the young lady Cousland was, when Jenna walked in announcing that a squire was defacing a history book. The old scholar to rushed from the room in a huff, muttering ominously to himself, and leaving them quite alone.
"They are a bit worried about me, and well, you do seem to suit me much better than any of my previous callers." She admitted. "I wouldn't be surprised if they'd already planned our wedding." Jenna said archly, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Made a bridal chest for you and moved on to naming our kids?" Teagan played along with a wry smile.
Such talk would usually be off-putting to Teagan, but comforted him to know that Jenna found it as ridiculous as he did. Knowing that the motivations of those that sought so eagerly to match them up were kind spoke well of the lady, so many cared about her. That others thought him well-suited to her made a strange kind of pride well up in his chest. It was a strange thing for him to have this easy camaraderie with a woman to whom he was attracted. Usually, he exhausted himself during an extended visit, and was reduced to awkward small talk and smiles. Conversation and even the occasional jest flowed easily between the two, and he felt promise in the match.
"Lord Teagan, please." Jenna made a face of mock outrage. "We Highever maids have our bridal chests made as soon as we are even old enough to marry. I'm sure mine is filled with seashells, arrows and mabari treats, unless my mother has redone it for me.
It was Teagan's turn to laugh now, picturing a younger Jenna filling the grand ornately carved wooden chests that it was custom for a young bride to take with her when she left home. She probably only even had one at her mother's insistence and a picture of her wearing a scowl as she dumped an armload of arrows into the chest appeared in his mind. He wondered if she had filled the chest today if the contents be very different from what she described.
"You use the bow as well, then?" He asked. When they'd met she'd had daggers strapped to her back, though he hadn't given them much thought until he'd spied her earlier in the day, doing her training.
"Mother is quite proficient with a bow. She taught both of us, though Fergus is still dreadful. I had to learn to use a bow before she'd let me move on to daggers."
"You Cousland women are something else." Teagan muttered, more to himself than to Jenna, and she smiled at him.
"Just wait until the hunt tomorrow." She said. "I'm sure mother will come, though perhaps not Oriana. She's never been much for any sort of weapon."
"I'm surprised your brother married a woman that couldn't best him at swordplay."
"Oriana would say that she's quite dangerous wielding kindness and poison, as are most Antivan women." Jenna remarked, smiling as she thought of her beloved sister.
"Ah, now that makes much more sense. Perhaps there is a benefit to being skilled in the more subtle arts."
Giving a short laugh, Jenna said, "And my mother would say that I wouldn't know anything about subtle, but I am quite handy with poison."
Teagan was only able to respond with a bleat of laughter before a bell chimed calling them away to dinner. Eleanor was certainly correct in her assessment of her daughter, Jenna didn't excel in the tricky conversations and clever wordplay of the courtly ladies he'd met before, but he found her beguiling all the same. Extending his arm to Jenna, excitement trilling up his spine when she accepted, pressing her side into his, as he led her into the dining hall.
"We go for a hunt tomorrow, and according to Bryce, there's plenty of game around their land. I hadn't much thought of it before this visit, since the fishing is so good, though I doubt my skill in these foreign lands. But of course you'd want to hear about how I am getting along with the young Lady Cousland, though I prefer to keep that to myself for the moment. Suffice it to say, the visit is more pleasant than I anticipated." - An excerpt letter from Teagan to his brother Eamon at Castle Redcliffe.
That morning a maid had come to deliver proper hunting clothes from Fergus's collection of castoffs, for the clothes he'd brought were all too formal for a hunt, and his chain mail was unacceptable for the wet conditions and humid climate. He had never given much thought to the inland parts of Highever, for the money and the living came mostly from the bounty of the Waking Sea. They had no great forest resources like Gwaren, the sea plains extending well past the harbor, but the skies were bountiful with both water and game fowl. As Bryce explained that morning over an early breakfast, that only increased the challenge.
"We'll hunt birds and small game, using the dogs to draw them out. It can be more difficult to catch them in the tall grasses, so you'll need a sharp eye."
"I'll keep that in mind." Teagan said. He was an avid huntsmen, though he didn't think wading through murky swamps and reedy grass with muddy dogs would prove very successful.
"Don't worry," Jenna said from his side, "my hound is well trained. I'm paired with you, and know the land well."
"That is reassuring." Teagan answered, giving her a wide smile.
Across the table, Eleanor squeezed her husband's hand, observing the interaction between Bann Teagan and their daughter. She would never have admitted it before, but Teagan was a very inspired choice of a suitor. Her doubts that he would be too old or ill-matched had faded as his visit wore on, and she watched both him and Jenna seeking the other out. After this, she'd arrange another visit, something more formal to get him to come back for an extended stay, though she didn't know if he would be able to stay away from his bannorn for very long.
Fergus was oblivious to the closeness between the two, and was still endeavoring in earnest to get them together by listing Jenna's qualities. "Jen's a crack shot. She hits most of birds from the ground before they even have a chance to take flight."
"Then I'm very lucky that you're so skilled." Teagan said.
"I'll say. She's usually my partner." Fergus said jovially, happy that he was doing his part in helping his sister. His count was sure to suffer without her at his side, but he could manage well enough on his own.
The hunt started not soon after breakfast, with Eleanor Cousland leading their merry band. A collection of other nobles and friends, most of the people were in high spirits though the weather was muggy and grey. Part of Teagan had thought the whole hunt a diversion for his benefit, but he discovered that the entirety of the household was quite serious about the hunt, down to the scullery maids. Later he came to realize that it was an event not often undertaken, but highly anticipated by all. Jenna walked by his side in the sticky breeze, her dog in front, an instrument like a miniature spyglass hanging from her waist, which she called her 'spotting scope' and a large, well-worn bow on her back.
"It was once Mother's." She'd explained, as she slipped on a pair of archer's gloves.
"It suits you." He said, earning a smile from her. "I must confess, I don't think I'll be of much help today. Around Redcliffe, the game is...bigger." He didn't want to add that he knew the land so well that he never failed to come back with a prize, even without a hound of his own. It felt almost ridiculous to be going out to hunt with a dagger and light clothes instead of with his sword and chain mail.
"Well, perhaps I can show you a few of my tricks, even if we don't bag the prize." Jenna consoled, patting him on the arm. Though it was hardly appropriate for a hunt, he threaded his arm through hers as they left Castle Cousland, walking towards the hunting grounds.
Exhausted and with his borrowed clothes completely covered in muck and sweat, Teagan trudged with the rest of the hunt back up to the castle. He couldn't say that he enjoyed the outing, though Jenna's bow had given them a respectable catch to bring to the kitchens. Along with the fish he and Fergus had caught previously, he had the feeling that they were stocking the castle larder for winter, the maids already busy drying the meats to preserve it.
He and Jenna were amongst the last to return, taking their time walking in the mounting warmth of the day. She was covered in sweat and grime, her hair falling loose from its restraint, but still managed to look pleased with herself.
"If I visit Rainesfere, will you take me to hunt there?" She asked.
"Of course! That might give me a chance ot make up for my lamentable performance today, and show you that I'm not entirely hopeless." Teagan said, already thinking of his own lands and the things he could impress her with should she come to visit.
"You're not hopeless. I think you're wonderful." Jenna murmured, and Teagan froze, her cheeks flushed pink as she reached out for his hand.
The next moment, he was pulling her into a kiss, two slightly chapped sets of lips meeting, though hers were plump and soft against his own. It was a sweet kiss, the two of them standing just out of sight of the castle, her mabari a few feet away watching. Her hands were locked between them, pinned against his chest, his on her hip, keeping her close. Jenna broke the kiss, pulling away slightly.
Then her mouth was back, hands slid up his shoulders and raked in his sweaty hair. Their second kiss was much less chaste, a hungry undercurrent sweeping them both. The hand that had been content to rest on her hip pushed her closer to him, and slid down to cup her backside as their tongues met. Warmth spread through his body, even as achy and tired as it was, a surge that sent him soaring when he heard her whimper against his mouth. He gripped her harder, stealing control away from her as he dominated the kiss. With every breathless moment, as her mouth yielded to his, her hands running the length of his sides, down his back, he felt his restraint ebbing away.
Lips descended to kiss her chin, the line of her jaw and underside of her neck. Teagan could hear her, the tiny muffled moans of pleasure that she was making at brush of his lips over her skin. Their bodies were as close as possible, and at a distance it was impossible to discern them as two figures. A moan escaped him as Jenna regained the upper hand, kissing his jaw with hard, biting little kisses before brushing her lips over the column of his throat.
Time was suspended as they expressed their increasing attraction to each other, their kisses rapidly becoming more intimate as they stood together. He didn't know just how long had passed when the dog gave a quiet bark, and they broke apart, he keenly aware of the rawness of want filling his head and making him reckless. He didn't care who might see them or why the dog had barked, cursing it for interrupting. Teagan didn't release her, didn't move his hands from where they rested on her body, but spoke in a deep, growling tone.
"May I visit your quarters tonight?" He asked, being as bold as she'd been when they'd met.
"I thought you'd never ask." Jenna replied, slithering out of his arms just in time to keep Eleanor from seeing them. "After everyone else is asleep, my door will be unlocked." She added in a rushed whisper, just before beginning to walk towards her mother, who had obviously been waiting for them, for she still wore her hunting clothes.
While I am excited by him, and the thought of being with him, it feels like there is a connection between Lord Teagan and I. Nothing about this liasion resembles those in my past, and I fear that my affection for him might make me more attached than I would like. Still, he shall be here soon, and I have the fluttering feeling of both the hunter and the prey, arousal mixing with wine in my belly. Whatever may come, this will be a night I won't soon forget. - From the journal of Jenna Cousland
It was eerily quiet as Teagan made his way the short distance to Jenna's room. She wasn't far from him, and he said a silent prayer of thanks to the Maker, for he felt his every footfall sounded too loudly against the stone floor as he crept towards her private quarters. A sense of irony filled him, he felt like a much younger man again, reminding himself of the first time he'd ever sneaked into the bedroom of a maiden, back when he was still in the Free Marches.
She was waiting for him, and when she opened the door, he experienced a treat that he had only ever heard about. Jenna was wearing a sheer nightdress, Antivan by the look of it, for the revealing garment was trimmed in the lace they were famous for making, the dim candlelight in her room tantalizingly illuminated the silhouette of her form beneath the filmy material. As she moved, it shifted back and forth, obscuring and revealing as it shimmered over her curves. Teagan didn't even want to blink, hoping to forever preserve the image of her in his mind; black hair tumbling down over her shoulders, the sheer dress a veil over the firm but pleasingly shapely body beneath, the excited dusky rose color that shown on her cheeks and the inviting smile she wore as she waved him in wordlessly.
"You look magnificent." He breathed into her ear, taking her in his arms as soon as the door was closed. In the corner of the room, her mabari snuffled happily in his sound sleep.
She murmured her thanks at the compliment, but made it evident that she wasn't at all interested in conversation. Her kiss landed on his lips as a hand raked through his mostly-dry hair. Teagan had been careful bathing that night, washing his hair and redoing the braid in the front. After that he'd shaved, carefully trimming his beard in the looking glass before he'd come to see her.
All the preparation had made him a bit nervous, and he wished for the spontaneity of that moment from earlier, when he didn't care who might see them and all that mattered was capturing her lips against his own. Just recalling the feeling made it flood through him and he wrapped an arm around her, holding her close as he dipped his face to hers and tasted the wine on her lips.
At least he wasn't the only nervous one.
Instead of letting it show, he banished it, breathing out slowly to master himself. Jenna was still within his arms, and Teagan kissed her again, a slow, teasing kiss. It hit all the right notes, easing the edge of jangled excitement from him, and serving to soothe her, making her docile and yielding beneath his lips. When he pulled away from her, she took his hand in hers, fingers lacing through his own.
He let himself be pulled towards her bed, and the two of them standing near the edge, slid Jenna's nightdress down, letting it pool on the ground at her feet. Beneath it, she wore nothing and he let his eyes soak in the vision of her before him. Nude, she was beautiful, but not flawless, which both intrigued and mesmerized him. She looked like the battle-maiden she was, her body muscled and taut, with a few scars, one very old looking and deep. He cupped a firm breast in one hand, feeling the weight of it, teasing the end with the pad of his thumb. The moan she gave was more than enough payment for the effort, her head dropping back to expose the full column of her neck as his fingertips caressed her.
He was entirely too clothed, and set about disrobing himself as quickly as possible. Her fingers helped unlace his breeches as he pulled his tunic over his head. Jenna settled into the bed first, as he took off his smallclothes, letting them join the pile of clothing on the floor. She made to put out the candle near her bed, but he stopped her.
"Don't." Teagan said, aware that the dim flicker of light was the only one near her bed. "I want to see you."
"As you wish." Jenna said, and laid back against her sheets, the counterpane folded away.
Joining her on the bed, Teagan was pushed down into the mattress as Jenna took the time to admire him, kissing neck and shoulders as her nails traced artlessly up and down his skin. Her lips brushed over the hollow of his collarbone, and nipped at the lobe of his ear before coming to settled on his mouth.
They were mostly silent, save for a few muffled moans and gasps. As their kiss grew in intensity, he could nothing but pray that the thick stone walls would be enough to keep others from hearing, because the beating of his own heart filled his ears, drowning out any sense he had. The tip of her tongue touched his own, teasing, drawing him out and claiming it whenever he dared to follow her lead.
Flame ignited across his skin, lit by her fierce kisses. Jenna was pulling his hair, scratching nails across his flesh and he wanted nothing more than to be in her, to feel her surrounding him. Reason was nearly lost to him as she plundered his mouth with her tongue, her teeth pulling on his lower lip. Her hands were urgent and needy as they groped him, bringing him closer to her.
Without further delay, Teagan broke off their kiss, and flipped her over, placing her body beneath him on the bed. It would help slow things down if he were on top, and he concentrated on that, on giving her pleasure even though his body ached, pulsing angrily as if it rejected his plans. He placed scorching kisses across her chest before taking a bronzed breast in his mouth. A deep, content moan escaped her as he did, flicking the bud with his tongue and lips, sucking it until it was a hard knot. He moved to the other, taking his time and doing the same in turn to it.
When he moved lower, licking the curve of her stomach, kissing the feather soft interior of her thighs, Jenna shuddered bodily, he feeling it reverberate throughout his own form. It was heady, being with her, a clandestine meeting, the darkness of night surrounding them, the promise of fulfilled desires goading them forward.
The smell of aroused woman hit Teagan, making him groan as he parted her thighs for a first taste. Jenna started at the touch of his tongue, sweeping along her slit, questioning and pleasuring in equal measure. Without ever asking, but simply gauging her intakes of breath, he found what she liked and set to it, needing no more encouragement than her hands buried in his hair, and her throaty whispers of his name.
It was a short trip to guide her towards release, and she grabbed at tufts of his hair, holding him to her. His fingers steadily working inside of her, feeling the overwhelming heat, her hips rolling against his lips. She came with a growl, her hands clutching at him enough to make it hurt, but he paid it no heed, lapping and sucking, the taste of her intensified flooding over his tongue.
"Teagan." Jenna whispered his name in a shaky voice. "Oh, Maker. Teagan."
He looked up at her then from between her splayed thighs, her hands had released him from their grip after she came, one sliding down to cup his cheek. It was a beautiful sight, seeing her glassy-eyed in the faint light, raven hair spread messily beneath her head as she was filled with the blessed languor that followed release. Her features were relaxed, almost inviting as her hand coaxed him upwards. He trailed wet kisses up her body, licking the valley between her breasts, sucking on her neck before capturing her lips.
Their heads were together, touching lightly, and Jenna laughed softly into his kiss, making him draw back with a bemused grin. "I wasn't sure I'd like you, but I'm happy to report I'm quite certain I do now."
Teagan gave a quiet chuckle. "This has been my favorite visit to Highever, and it has everything to do with you."
They lay together, the unexpected tenderness of the moment enveloping the two. It was comfortable, but Jenna's hand wrapped around his length after a few moments, and she squeezed him, her hand forming a tight cocoon around his cock. She started to stroke him, slowly, making tension coil in his belly. Unintentionally grinding his teeth at the intensity of the motion, Teagan took her urging for what it was, and positioned himself above her, the head of him teasing her wet folds. He let himself relax for a second, brushing at the damp curls between her legs, enjoying her quiet noises of frustration she made at his fleeting touches.
Pressing into her, he gasped as he sheathed himself, his sound echoed by her own low whine at the sensation. Maker, she was snug, dizzyingly so, and he stilled momentarily, to get his bearings. Jenna ended his respite with a roll of her hips, and he followed her lead, the pace easy, his thrusts maddeningly slow and deep, deliberate. Teagan took the time to relish the exquisite feeling of her slick walls tightening and flexing around him, the way her body accommodated his, the expression on her face. Jenna made love with her eyes open, only closing them when sensation overtook her. She smiled at him, true, sweet smiles and gave him soft kisses as she ran her hands along the planes of his body and through his hair.
This wasn't how it usually went for him, he normally didn't admire the women he bedded so much, didn't think about how radiant they looked and didn't bother to examine their expressions. Though he wasn't selfish, at least not to his mind, he took care with Jenna that he didn't with other women. Returning her kisses and smiles, he let the sweet sentiment overtake him as he breathed endearments into her ear.
Jenna wrapped her legs around his waist, the heels of her feet digging into his rear as she wordlessly bade him to speed up. Teagan obliged, the two of them rocking faster, gaining speed. His body grew slick with sweat, and the hands that had been caressing him became insistent, scratching and grabbing as they continued. He changed angles, lifting one of her legs over his shoulder, tilting her hips up towards him, pressing in harder and deeper, earning a ragged mewl of approval from Jenna.
This provided a new view of her beneath him, and he watched her breasts jiggle with his every thrust. The candle next to her bed was guttering, shadows dancing across her body as he filled her. Teagan listened to her soft moans, losing track of time as he concentrated on the feeling of her around him. Without warning, he felt the familiar surges of heat crash down upon him, and he couldn't hold it back, only catching himself in time not to yell, turning the exclamation into a growl in his throat. The candle went out around them shrouding them in near darkness.
Teagan let the feeling wash over him, giving a few more lazy strokes as he did. The sweet smile was back on Jenna's face, and he let her leg drop to the side of him as he leaned forward to kiss those smiling lips, her up-turned nose. He finally came to the bed, letting himself slip out of her, missing the feeling of her acutely as soon as he did.
There was no question whether he could stay - he knew that he couldn't. But the desire was there, wanting to stay with her until morning, sleeping off and on between bouts of increasingly drowsy sex. He wanted to know the night with her, in all of its glorious intimacy. Liaisons such as theirs offered no kinds of leisure, and he forced himself to get up from the bed after a quarter hour of laying in the darkness with her, kissing her with soft lips.
"I must go back to my room, lest some wandering pair of eyes notices my absence, Jenna." He explained, though she knew it was well as he did.
"Teagan, this was...wonderful. I don't know if it meant as much to you as it did to me, but I will never forget this night."
"Nor will I, milady. It was... very special." He whispered. Sufficient praise escaped his tired mind, and he could think of nothing else to add. Instead of goodbye, he just left it at that, giving her one last kiss before slipping cautiously out the door.
Inviting Teagan back a second time had been a folly born of desire, but one she'd had to make. Jenna wanted him, and could hardly bare the thought of him leaving Highever. They made plans again for another night of their own, away from anyone that may see them and offer comment. A tiny part of her had thought that their first night together would cool her interests, but it had just the opposite effect on the pair of them. Housemaids and guards had caught them kissing in various spots around the castle, earning her a quiet rebuke from her mother.
"While I'm overjoyed that you like Lord Teagan, you must stop this behavior, Jenna. The servants are beginning to talk." Her mother whispered to her one evening after dinner. "Besides, he's going home soon, and hasn't declared his intent to me or your father yet. It wouldn't do for you to fall in love with him only to find out he wasn't serious."
"Yes, of course, Mother." Jenna had agreed, but privately hadn't been listening. It was the night she was to see him again, just before his departure. The whole idea of inviting men to come meet her struck her as ludicrous upon examination, they may as well have lined them up in the stable and invited her to pick one. The process of it all was overly cumbersome and antiquated, and Jenna rejected it, planning on telling her Mother how she felt about Teagan.
Something in Eleanor's visage stopped her, and Jenna simply gave her mother a reassuring look. It was almost as if she knew and didn't want to hear it. It puzzled Jenna for the time she spent thinking on it, which wasn't long, her thoughts distracted by her plans for the night.
This time when he came in, she greeted him with a smile and a kiss, his hands at once going under her dressing gown to her skin beneath. She'd forgone nightclothes, clad only in her smalls underneath. Letting out a deliciously deep rumble of appreciation, Teagan wasted no time getting to her bed, her hands already undressing him.
It was quicker and rougher the first time, tinged with a note of desperation, added by his impending departure. They slept, he in her arms for a short time, rousing her with kisses to make love a second time, a grace note to their introduction to each other. It hardly seemed like they'd just met, she'd come to care so deeply about him in such a short time. He was like no other man that she'd met, certainly head and shoulders above any of the other suitors that had visited.
"Teagan, I'm growing dangerously fond of you." Jenna teased, her hand clasped within his larger one as they lay on the bed.
"You should plan for a trip to Rainesfere. I'll be sending for you and your mother as soon as I get back there. Tell me what kind of food you like, and I'll make sure we have it." He promised grandiosely, still filled with the ease that had settled over him.
"Hmm," Jenna said, thinking. "How about I send you a letter with all of those tiny little details in it, and you write one back? That way I can tell my father that we grew so close I know your favorite color, and the kinds of books you read."
Teagan laughed, but saw the wisdom in her words. He'd never remember every detail, and it would be good to have them written down for reference. "Alright then, write me as soon as you can."
"As soon as you leave, more like. My courier might beat you to Rainesfere."
"I'd like to come home to a letter from you." Teagan said, bringing her hand to his lips to kiss. She closed her eyes at the touch, all at once too sad that this was the end of his visit.
When he left, they stood in the doorway, she too besotted to think of all the consequences if they were seen. Teagan kissed her, slowly and passionately, the two of them still covered by the night even though it would be dawn soon enough.
Bryce Cousland stood in his own door, watching Teagan kiss Jenna. It was clear to him what had transpired between the two, for their kiss was one of lovers. Rage, unadulterated, blinding rage coursed through him, making him clench his fists to his side, but he stayed rooted to the spot, just watching. Teagan didn't even turn his way when he finally left, going back to the nearby guest quarters. He should have guessed that something like this would eventually happen, but that it was Teagan absolutely galled him.
"Bryce, what are you doing? Come back to bed." Eleanor said to him. She'd woken up from the draft he was letting in through the opened door, the chill tickling her cheek.
"I couldn't get back to sleep and thought I would take a walk." He tried to keep his voice calm and not alarm her, so he delivered the next line in an almost detached way, "And I've just seen Teagan leaving Jenna's room."
Behind him, Eleanor sighed heavily. "Come back to bed, Bryce. There's nothing we can do besides wake the whole house up right now, and you don't want to rouse Oriana and the baby." She got up and eased him back into bed. "That's alright, dear. I know it will come as a shock to you, but Jenna is not completely inexperienced in these matters. There seems to be much affection between the two of them, so I would guess that this is different than the others."
"You knew? There were others?" Bryce whirled around, unable to comprehend how his wife could be so calm about the matter.
"Not about Teagan, but Bryce, someone had to teach her how to take care of herself! No one wants a bastard Cousland sired by some stablehand because no one told Jenna how to prevent it." Bryce started at the stablehand comment, a wild gleam in his eye, but Eleanor ignored it, pressing on. "She's a fine, smart, responsible young woman. While I'm not pleased to hear about this, don't worry yourself about this encounter. Just worry about it if Teagan leaves tomorrow without making plans to see her again."
"Yes, well, you leave that to me." Bryce said resolutely.
The next morning, before breakfast Bryce called on Teagan. He was chipper although tired looking, in a relaxed mood before his journey.
"Leave us." Bryce ordered the servants. The severity of his voice alarmed Teagan, who had never heard him be anything less than affable.
"Teagan. I gather you enjoyed your visit here."
"Very much so. Jenna is a wonderful woman, and I thank you for inviting me."
"Why is it then that you spit in the face of my hospitality?" Bryce was turning angry, truly furious, Teagan could feel it within him, threatening to spill over at any moment.
"Bryce?" Truly confused at how he'd caused offense, Teagan racked his brain, trying to remember if he'd inadvertently made a mistake.
"My daughter, Teagan. I saw you last night, leaving her chambers. You have disrespected my house, and defiled my daughter. Do you even care about her? If you did, how could you do such a thing?"
"Your daughter is fully capable of making her own decisions, which is why she objected to these matches in the first place." Teagan replied, drawing himself up. "Why don't you treat her as the wonderful, intelligent and fully competent adult she is? Is she simply your daughter, or her own person? And of course I care for Jenna, you know that." He wanted to say more, how he disliked this idea from the beginning and was glad that he and Jenna had grown to care for each other despite it. Bryce had been parading Jenna around like a showhorse for all the noble families in Ferelden - this couldn't have come as such a surprise.
"Then why do this Teagan?" There was hurt belying Bryce's query and it made the truth of the matter sting as he thought on it.
He didn't know what to do or say, for there was nothing that could truly justify it to a father's eyes. Deep within him, Teagan admitted that it had been madness brought on by lust and affection at first, but it was deeper now, more meaningful. Bryce was leaning over him, red in the face and understandably angry, but Teagan was at a loss. What could he say to the man to explain to him, to stop his anger? There was nothing to do, he was leaving in a matter of hours, and if he didn't act, he'd likely never see Jenna again.
"I'm sorry." Teagan sputtered, repeating it several times as he got up. He had dealt with an irate father before, but never a peer of the realm, someone he knew and respected. Though he should have foreseen something like this, he hadn't, all of his thoughts had been on Jenna, how much he'd come to care for her in such a short time, how he couldn't bear to leave without surrendering to her touch once more. So foolish, foolish lust led him astray, threatening all he'd gained through his visit. His head was reeling, and he could barely think, hardly breathe. Jenna. He needed to see Jenna again, he couldn't leave like this.
Without stopping he rushed to her, knowing just from his short visit that she would likely be in the library, if she was already dressed for breakfast. He hoped she was there, at any rate, knowing that Bryce would likely stop him from going into her quarters.
"Will you marry me?" Teagan asked as he burst into the room to see Jenna seated in a chair, reading while she waited for the breakfast bell.
"What?" Jenna sat down her book, looking up at him, shocked.
"Whenever I'm alone with you, you make me feel...free. I'm free with you, in a way I never expected." He tried to explain, before her father caught up with him and forbade them. "I can't lose you." When he'd first arrived, he'd talked about not wanting what his sister had, respect and friendship without passionate love. With Jenna, he thought he might have found all he wanted, for they were friends, and he certainly wanted her, but there was more, the first embers of love forming between them.
Jenna laughed, still not understanding his meaning. "You won't lose me just because you're leaving, Teagan. I'll ask Mother right now if I can arrange a visit to Rainesfere like we talked about. I swear I was going to start on your letter this afternoon." She was rambling in a good-natured way, unaware that her father had confronted him.
"Bryce saw me last night, leaving your quarters." Teagan explained.
"Oh." Jenna said softly, slumping in her chair. "Oh." She repeated. Suddenly she jumped up, wrapping her arms around Teagan. "Yes." She said, looking into his eyes. It took him a minute to realize what she meant, that she was consenting to marry him.
A wildness swept through him, and he felt elated. Caution and discretion had always been hallmarks of his, and how freeing it was to throw it to the wind, to let things happen as they will. He swung her around, making her squeak in surprise, the chair she'd been sitting in falling to the floor with a clatter. Bryce finally caught up with him, just in time to see the two sealing the arrangement with a kiss.
Incensed, Bryce walked over and forcibly separated the two, holding them apart by standing between them. He turned his angry, growling face on Teagan, who simply explained.
"Jenna's agreed to become my wife."
The inarticulate yell that boomed through the corridors sent the servants scattering, and Eleanor Cousland started running towards the sound. She arrived in time to see Jenna still being kept from Teagan by her father's outstretched arms, all three of them yelling, talking over each other, trying to be heard. The din was deafening, all she could make out were partial phrases and a few words. "Over my dead body," came from Bryce, while Jenna was shouting that she was an adult, and Teagan was saying something like, "Not a mistake."
Eleanor shook her head miserably, before slamming the door behind her. The group in front of her quieted and quelled under the look she gave them.
"Let's sort all of this out before everyone in the castle thinks we've gone mad." She said irritably, knowing that she was in for a very long discussion.
"The housemaids are preparing to meet their new mistress, and I daresay that this old place has never looked nicer. While I wish that you'd been permitted to visit before our wedding, I understand you have much planning to do on your end. My brother, Eamon, has graciously agreed to host us at Castle Redcliffe, where you will be staying before the ceremony. Jenna, I miss you more with each passing day and pray that you'll love it here as much as I do." - A letter to Jenna Cousland from Teagan Guerrin
Eleanor had taken her to Denerim once the whole debacle with Teagan had been settled. All in all, it hadn't gone too badly, though she wondered what would have happened if her mother hadn't shown up to referee. Eleanor was in fine spirits after they'd had a missive from Queen Anora, who was newly wed herself, and congratulated Jenna on her engagement to Teagan. As uncle to King Cailan, Teagan had already sent word to the Royal Palace of their impending marriage.
Jenna and Eleanor had undertaken the short trip to the capital city ostensibly to have a wedding gown and proper dresses made for her new married life, but Jenna knew it was also to get her out of Highever. Her father hadn't taken to the idea of her marrying Teagan, though before Teagan left, he did shake his hand and welcome him to the family.
After much yelling and pointed reminder from her mother about 'how they were' before they wed. Teagan left hours late, though it was only late morning when they got on the road. Fergus, who had no idea how the whole mess came to be, was much more enthusiastic, hugging Teagan a few times and calling him brother. It put a damper on her preparations, knowing how distraught her father was over the match and how it came to be.
Bryce hadn't even come out to the carriage to see them off to Denerim, instead saying goodbye to Jenna, rather stiffly, at the breakfast table. He hadn't called her pup, her nickname from childhood, since Teagan had left, and it bothered her more than she liked to admit. Though she was close with both of her parents, her father had always understood her a little better, and she had tried so very hard to make him proud. Hearing him bellowing at her and Teagan, the way he'd looked at her, as if he didn't know her at all, it had just torn her heart to pieces.
As much as she cared for Teagan, Jenna regretted her rash actions, though if she had the chance to redo it, she had to admit to her self that it was likely that she would still have bedded him. At least once anyway, though with the clarity of hindsight she thought perhaps not that second time. Still, the unintended outcome of their mess hadn't changed her feelings for him, and the two corresponded regularly, his bundle of letters had provided the lone bright spot before she'd left Highever. It did, however, cast a pall over her trip and wedding planning, causing a gloom that made itself known in Denerim.
"Darling, look at this fabric! It looks as if it's straight from Orlais. I wonder if she could make you a chemise in this." Eleanor said, but Jenna only nodded absently, looking around the shop distractedly.
"Oh, Jenna." Eleanor was by her side, hugging her daughter to her. "This was supposed to be a fun trip, to help you forget."
"Father is still so angry at me. And Teagan."
Eleanor shook her head, clucking her tongue. "Not angry, not really. Disappointed maybe, but for the wrong reasons. He's mourning the loss of his little girl, finally seeing you as a woman. It may have been a bit of a rude awakening, but he'll get over it, you'll see."
Jenna wasn't mollified by the words, and tears filled her eyes as she spoke. "I did make a mistake. What we did was inappropriate."
"And you apologized. That's all you can do now. What's done is done, but I am glad to see you still have a sense of propriety." Eleanor sniffed. She wasn't, truth be told, taking it all that well herself, but she did what she could not to show it to Jenna, choosing to focus on the more positive aspects.
"Besides, look at all the good that has come of it. It isn't the way I would have wished it by far, but you know your heart, and I trust the decision you've made. You picked a good man, and I won't worry about you after you're married. I'll miss you, but not worry, because Teagan cares for you, that's plain enough to see. And he did the honorable thing, even Bryce admitted that once he calmed down."
Jenna smiled at that, the mention of Teagan easing some of her pain. "And I him, Mother."
"Well, that's all we ever wanted for you, so there's nothing for anyone to be upset about. I'll admit, it is hard, as a mother to see your children growing beyond your reach, but I promised myself I would endure it gracefully." She finished as the seamstress came over to her holding a bolt of dusky rose colored silk. Eleanor nodded at it, approving the fabric silently, but for what sort of apparel, Jenna could only guess.
"Make her a full set of bridal clothes, for days and nights, and a selection of new dresses for her newlywed days. Make some of them velvet dresses, and a few brocade. I think a new woolen cape too, she's moving quite far to the south, and their winters are dreadful." Eleanor instructed to a woman nearby taking notes. "I do so worry about the cold down south." She murmured absently.
Around them, people scurried, mostly women but a couple of men and more than a few elves, all working quickly, following the orders given by the Teyrna. Jenna saw her mother lean in and whisper something to the woman, who nodded in understanding, glancing surreptitiously at Jenna.
After they took her measurements, they were off again, to commission new bridal jewels, in addition to the ones that were being passed down to her. The enormity of their task seemed to just dawn on Jenna, and she began to fret.
"Mother, I'll need new bed linens and towels, and maybe plates too. I have no idea what Teagan has. We never spoke of it." Jenna said, frowning. All of it had seemed to silly in the abstract, but she had a measure more of understanding now, the undertaking seemingly endless once she'd started. Plus she'd never had much of a head for the endless household tasks, and she was more than a little intimidated to think of running her own house.
"Don't worry dear, we'll see to all of that. That's what we're here for." Eleanor was ever calm, even as they walked through the marketplace.
"What did you say to that seamstress back there, when you whispered to her?"
"To make you a few dresses that could be let out if you should be with child."
"Mother!" Jenna exclaimed, then lowered her voice before continuing, "I've been diligent in taking the prevention herbs."
Eleanor gave her a sly look, her green eyes shining. "I know darling, but it isn't for now, it's for once you're married. I only have one grandchild, I could do with another."
She opened the door to the next shop, which was the jeweler. Jenna sighed, wondering exactly what bridal jewelry consisted of, and exactly how much of it she would need. Eleanor at least, seemed to be pleased with their progress, and her attitude in Denerim didn't reflect what came before it in Highever.
Perhaps it was a good sign, that the worst had already passed and that it would be better times for Jenna and Teagan ahead. She certainly hoped so.
At Castle Redcliffe, the Arlessa Isolde sat at a desk in the study with her brother-in-law, writing a letter to Teyrna Eleanor Cousland. Teagan, though a wonderful man, had no idea what to tell his new bride about household matters, and when Isolde inquired about Jenna's trousseau, he had merely shrugged, clearly without a clue to what she was referring.
"Teagan, your bride needs to know what to bring to set up a household, to start her life with you." Isolde was trying to explain in a patient voice.
"I have a household." Teagan replied obstinately. "She just needs to come here."
Isolde shook her head wearily, willing patience into her voice. "No, Teagan, your house will be different once you are married. The two of you sharing a home is different than a man living alone. Her mother, the Teyrna, will know what I mean. She is young, yes? She will need help."
Her quill scratched against the parchment as she wrote, stopping to think and question Teagan every few minutes. "In Orlais," she began, "young women start their trousseau early, and have carved chests made of the most wonderful cedar, full to bursting of the things they will need."
Comprehension dawned on Teagan and he rolled his eyes at Isolde, not for the first time that night. "You mean her bridal chest?" He asked, and Isolde nodded. He smiled, thinking about how Jenna said it was full of seashells and mabari treats. "She made one when she was younger, though as to the contents, you may want to check with Eleanor." He informed her. She nodded, continuing to write without looking at him. "Why are you writing that? I have plates, I don't eat off the floor like a barbarian, you know."
"Teagan, hush." Isolde said, concentrating, her distraction making her accent even more pronounced.
He raised his gaze heavenward, hoping that Jenna was at least finding some fun in this tedium. There were only ten weeks before they would wed - it was his idea to help abate some of Bryce's obvious objections. If she was with child, she wouldn't be that far along during the wedding.
He didn't think she was, certainly none of her letters had indicated so, and they'd kept up a correspondence since he'd left Highever. It was only when he read the letters did he feel as if he truly knew her, the letters much less guarded than she'd been during his visit. He saved every one, admiring the elegance of her hand, the secrets both mundane and fascinating that she committed to the heavy linen paper that carried faint touches of her scent.
Eamon strolled into the room, and took one look at the situation before inviting Teagan to share a drink with him in another part of the castle. Leaving Isolde alone to compose her letter, the two brothers went off, settling into a room with a warm fire and armchairs. They had taken an early dinner, and a bottle of brandywine was brought for them, the two of them sipping at the drink from specially made crystal snifters Eamon commissioned from a specialist in Denerim.
"Tell me the whole story about why you're marrying Jenna Cousland." Eamon began, and Teagan sighed. They hadn't spoken much on the subject of his visit, other than to offer a terse explanation about their involvement, and run in with Bryce.
"Why I'm marrying her is because I care for her and I've compromised her." Teagan said, frowning. He wondered how much he'd actually have to say to satisfy Eamon, and resolved to reveal only as much as needed.
"And she was quite happy to be compromised."
Teagan shook his head, frown deepening. "Yes, well, true though that may be, I am a little more experienced in such matters and should have been more cautious. Though if Bryce hadn't seen us, we'd be here now preparing for her visit. I was, am, quite taken with her."
"Enough to marry her?" Eamon asked shrewdly. The light from the fire cast shadow over his face, making his brother look older than his years. His once vibrant red hair and beard had slowly turned to ash blond and then began to grey, though the dim light brought out of the last embers of auburn within the mix.
"I think so, eventually." Teagan shrugged and took a drink. It burned in his chest, fading almost immediately to a pleasant sensation. "At the time, with Bryce standing over me, I couldn't bear the thought of not seeing her again, so I cut him off, and ran out of the room to ask for her hand. It was rash, but I didn't even want to risk the alternative."
Eamon whistled through his teeth. "That's not like you at all."
"Can't be cautious my whole life."
"But this - Jenna, are you sure about her? She's quite a bit younger than you, perhaps given to flights of fancy. Before you didn't even know what she looked like, and I can't say I'm overly impressed with her method of greeting her suitors."
At that, Teagan bristled, turning away from his brother. Eamon spoke up again, his voice apologetic. "Forget I mentioned that last part. It's none of my business. I could have spoken to Bryce on your behalf, worked something out. I still could if you like."
"I am certain about her." Teagan said, blowing out a tired breath. "It's just...we spent the whole visit mocking the seriousness of it all, these arranged meetings and everyone trying to sell her to me as the next Andraste. She's quite funny, you know." Teagan smiled off into the distance, his eyes clouded with memory. "It's strange that it would have ended up like this between us when neither one of us was really thinking of marriage."
At that, Eamon smiled over his steepled fingers. "That's how it always goes. I've never heard of anyone planning on falling in love."
After that the subject drifted towards other topics, though Eamon still asked a question or two here and there when it was appropriate. Teagan got the feeling that he hadn't really given his brother an accurate indication of his bride, how intelligent and forceful she was, graceful with a dagger and quick with a quip, but lovely and honest, so different than the motley mix of people that lounged about the Royal Court trying to snag a noble suitor. Though their topic had changed, he could sense the unease that Eamon had regarding the whole relationship. Hopefully, when she came to Redcliffe, he'd see and at least give his blessing to their union.
The short period of her engagement went quickly enough once mother and daughter returned from their trip to Denerim, and Jenna and Bryce mended their relationship at Eleanor's urging. It was difficult for both father and daughter, but neither one wanted her to leave without repairing the rift.
Though she was loathe to admit it, the thought of not having her father's blessing for her wedding distressed Jenna greatly. It cast a pall on her preparations for the celebration, and even clouded Eleanor's enjoyment while in the city. Despite speaking with her husband at length upon their return to Highever, Eleanor knew it was her daughter that would have to take the first step towards reconciliation. With that in mind, she advised her daughter, hoping that she would find the courage to speak up sooner rather than later.
At her mother's behest, Jenna let go of the anger that had come from the situation, and tried to think of it from all sides. She could clearly see her own argument, that she was a woman grown, free to make her own decisions and take lovers, but she began to see her father's side as well. Jenna approached him after dinner one night, when he'd just finished playing with the baby Oren and had a more favorable disposition. She'd confessed the whole ordeal to Oriana upon her return, and knew that her sister in law would tell Fergus, but couldn't keep it in any longer. It felt as if her actions had fractured the house, and keeping it secret made everyone walk on eggshells without knowing why.
"Father." Jenna found him one night in the armory, where he often went to clear his thoughts.
He turned to see face her, and she noticed for the first time he looked a little uncomfortable around her. It pained her further and made her want to abandon the idea, but she knew if they were to speak normally again, she would need to summon her courage and make this first step.
"Hello, Jenna." Bryce said softly. "Do you have a message for me?"
"What is it then?"
"It's from me. I just wanted to say that I am sorry, again, for what you saw. I'm sorry because it hurt you, and took something precious away from our relationship. Part of me wants to be defiant and tell you that I am an adult, and I may do as I wish, but really, I don't even want to have that discussion anymore. I just want you to know that I'm sorry things have changed, and I'd give anything for you to call me pup again."
"Is that all?" He asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest. His expression was unreadable, and no matter how desperately she looked for a sign, she could find no hint of his thoughts betrayed in his countenance.
"That's all, Father. I couldn't go south without saying it, at least. I love you." Jenna waited, hoping that Bryce would say something, anything at all. When he didn't, the air between them grew awkward and strained, and she shook her head miserably. Tears stung her eyes as she slowly shuffled towards the door.
Her father's hand closed over her wrist, stopping her with the one motion. "Ah, pup, I'm sorry I've been so upset. It's hard to see you getting further away from me, but I am glad that you care for Teagan." Bryce folded his daughter into an embrace, and Jenna began to sob against his chest. Stroking her hair, he shushed her, feeling foolish for letting himself be angry at her for so long.
"Did you know that I chose Teagan for you?" Bryce asked, and Jenna nodded, still crying into the already damp front of his doublet. He laughed, the sound only a little brittle to her ears. "I thought that he might be a better match than those young hotheads that kept sniffing around you. Little did I know that he'd be just as entranced by your charms. But it was the right thing, inviting him here. You were so happy, pup, did you know that? Your little face lit up like I've never seen when you talked to him at dinner, and the two of you were well-matched during the hunt. I can't begrudge your the man for falling in love with you, even if he is taking you to the other end of Ferelden."
He hugged her to him, holding her the way only a parent could comfort a child, tender and stern, forgiving and expecting her to do better. They stood together for a while, until her tears subsided and he kissed her forehead.
"I've always been proud of you, pup. Never forget that. You've always done your duty like a Cousland should."
"Thank you, Father." Jenna said in a choked voice. She left soon after, what she needed to say done, her heart lighter for doing it.
It was a while before Bryce could make himself get up, thinking about his daughter, the first time he held her tiny body in his arms, the little wisps of black hair that framed her sleeping face. She'd grown up so fast - strong and beautiful, but she was still his little girl in so many ways, and he was going to miss her terribly.
After apologizing to Bryce, things between them took some time to get back to normal, but Jenna felt happier as she planned her wedding. She listened attentively to both her mother and Oriana when they talked about it, and she found herself swept up in the enthusiasm. The weeks passed with unnatural haste, much too soon for all involved except for Jenna and Teagan. Letters flowed between the two of them, strengthening the bond they'd made in Highever, them courting by parchment and ink as they would have done in person.
Whenever a satchel of letters arrived from Highever, his heart leapt. Most were penned by Jenna, though some from her parents or their seneschal bearing instructions or cordial greetings and preparation updates. It was no easy thing to move from one end of Ferelden to the other in a matter of weeks. Even through ink and paper, their coolness was evident, keeping him at a distance. He suspected that Eleanor was displeased with him greatly, for his lust and folly had upended their lives, and whatever her parents claimed, neither would be ready to see Jenna leave their household.
He early in the morning, and after a simple breakfast, read Jenna's last letter again, and then replaced it in the locked box in his private quarters. They sustained him, for he had his moments of wondering if the whole affair was folly, but then read something that reminded him of his time in Highever, of how besotted he'd become with Jenna, and it reaffirmed the affection he had for her. Teagan, for his part, didn't have to make half the arrangements towards their wedding day, his thoughts more engaged with their long-term well-being. It was with that in mind that he headed out to his stable, checking on his horses and livestock as he did nearly every day.
Due to his close proximity to Orlais, Teagan was one of the few nobles of Ferelden that had horses of his own. It was such a rare thing, that even his brother, Eamon could not boast of such a luxury, though Teagan made his horses and carriage avail to his arl. Most hired carriages were pulled by lesser animals, donkeys and the like, the few who had horses were reserved for the royalty and nobility. It had been a trade, years back from a traveler who had lost much on his journey and didn't wish to feed horses that didn't carry packs.
"Dust, how is everything today?" Teagan asked quietly upon entering the stable, though he was sure that Dust knew he was there.
Dust was an older man, with sun-weathered skin and kind dark eyes, who had trained his sons to care for and raise horses and had seen them go on to good households. He preferred to stay in Rainesfere, preferring Teagan's distance from the courtly life and politics, the charm of the country over the luxury he could have. It was exactly the same reason why Teagan himself stayed in his remote part of the Bannorn instead of his apartments in Denerim more often. Life in the city oft gave him headaches, and he had no desire to gossip and play courtly games, but taking care of his lands and people - that was what he could do, and tried to do well.
"Aye, all's well, Bann Teagan." His light eyes roamed over Teagan, taking in all the details. "Getting concerned about the state of things before your new bride comes?" He asked.
"Well, yes." Teagan answered with a sheepish half-laugh. "But I'm told all grooms get such jitters."
"Maybe not all." Dust said, but he amended his answer. "It speaks well of you that you are one of that number, my lord. I hope your lady takes to life here."
"I've no doubt she will." Teagan said. "Jenna...my lady Cousland is as smart as she is beautiful, a great hunter who prefers life in Highever to the bustle of Denerim. She will find a place here, I'm sure of it."
His words were laced with the boldness of someone in love, and Dust, recognizing the unintentional boasting, chuckled his understanding. Time would tell for Teagan and his bride, though he hoped his lord was right about her.
"We're all quite happy for you, my lord. We await the day to meet our new mistress." Dust said, giving Teagan a quick bow of his head to indicate his loyalty.
"Thank you, Dust. She'll be here soon enough, and pray, there is work to do before she arrives. Tell me, how fares the sow?" He asked, redirecting their conversation back towards business. They spoke pleasantly enough of the duties of his steading and how the greater population of his people fared. Winters were known to be a trial in the south, and he planned accordingly each year, doing his best to ensure that his people were well tended before the season set on.
The skepticism he encountered was nothing new, ever since his engagement had been announced, few of his subjects had been convinced it was a love match. The maids in his own house had been appalled that he'd come back from Highever engaged, and even now they gossiped incessantly about it, speculating about Jenna.
He didn't have the words to convince anyone about Jenna, their impressions would be formed once she arrived. In his mind, he spoke truly about her, but noted the guardedness of many when he did. Time could change their conclusions, should they be open to it.
All Teagan knew for sure was that she'd arrive in Rainesfere very soon, and he was going to do his best to make the transition easy for her. Simply getting married would have been enough change for most, but he worried about how she'd take the move - Redcliffe, though the closest and biggest town around, wasn't half the size of Highever. He moved along, going through his duties for the day with his usual dillengece, thoughts on Jenna. With all his good intentions, there was only so much he could do. It would take time to adjust, for both of them.
Castle Cousland was as busy it had been before Fergus's wedding, though they were not hosting the blessed event. Perhaps they were even more because of it, Redcliffe was so far from Highever. A full compliment of Highever soldiers would accompany them to Redcliffe, the castle armorer working overtime to make sure their festive armor could withstand the long march. Oriana, having gone through similar herself, sought to speak with her sister-in-law, the fevered pitch of the castle making her relive the days before her own wedding.
"Sister, you're making me want to get married all over again!" Oriana said to her one day, while Jenna was showing her some of the new dresses that had been delivered to Highever for her bridal chest.
"I'm so excited. Not to leave home, but to go on, do you know what I mean?"
"Absolutely. I felt the same way when I was to move here with Fergus. I miss Antiva from time to time, especially when the rains start here, but being here is better."
Jenna smiled. "I hope it's like that for me as well."
"It will be." Oriana replied. "You've already infected the whole of the castle with your good cheer. I daresay all of Rainesfere will be the happiest place in Ferelden once you arrive."
Jenna laughed, picturing farmers and traders with smiles plastered on their faces as they went about their work.
"I'll miss you all dearly." Jenna confided. Oriana and Fergus wouldn't be traveling with them to Redcliffe for the wedding, just their parents. She'd see them again in the spring in Denerim, but that seemed so far in the future, much would happen between her wedding and the spring.
"You'll be missed here, but dear sister, your new life as a married woman awaits. I'm sure Bann Teagan will be good to you, he was so taken with you when he was here."
Jenna smiled at the comment, her mind drifting to thoughts of Teagan, as it did so often these days. It felt as if it had been ages since she'd seen him, and the anticipation excited her, wanting more than to just read his letters. As if Oriana could read her mind, she spoke again, "You'll see him soon enough. Don't waste your last days here wishing you were already gone."
It was sound enough advice, and Jenna took it to heart, she wanted to enjoy these last days in Highever. Stopping only to kiss her sleeping nephew, she made her way to the kitchens to talk to her old nanny. Castle Cousland had been her whole life growing up, and as eager as she was for the future, leaving it behind was daunting.
If there was any doubt about how much Teagan and Jenna genuinely liked each other, it was dispelled once the Couslands came to Redcliffe.
Upon arriving, Jenna jumped from the carriage, running at full tilt towards Teagan. While her parents were dressed in finery, she was clad in her familiar leather armor, though she didn't have her bow or daggers on her back, just a knife at her waist. He caught her once she collided with him, lifting her off the ground, the two of them spinning around together, laughing. The heat of her seeped through her armor to his clothes, and he hugged her to him, taking her all in. The happy sound of her laughter, her dark hair swinging - he savored it all, having been deprived of her for far too long. Their embrace ended with a short kiss, much too short for Teagan's liking, but he was mindful of their audience.
"Welcome to Redcliffe, Jenna." He said to her, as his brother Eamon echoed the sentiment to her parents. Greetings were exchanged all around, the Couslands talking of their journey.
"Teagan. I can't tell you how glad I am to finally be here!" Jenna said, punctuating her words with a small squeeze of his hand. How he'd missed the feeling of it without understanding the depth of her absence. With her at his side, he felt energized, like the clouds had parted and left behind a dazzling sun.
Jenna was glad to be out of the carriage, stretching her limbs as she stood beside Teagan. Their ride to Redcliffe had been long and she'd been too long without the opportunity to stand upright. It had been hard to say goodbye in Highever, Fergus and Oriana staying behind to take care of the castle and their baby, but promising to visit her in the spring in Denerim.
The roads hadn't been too treacherous, but they had traveled through rain. Some of her belongings had been transported ahead of time, and she was glad for it, their absence lightened the load. Still, they had a great deal with them, for she wouldn't be going to Teagan's home in Rainesfere until after their wedding, once it had become her home too. That thought nearly undid her, that she was on the cusp of actually beginning a completely different life from the one she'd known.
Instead of dwelling on the change, Jenna focused on the parts that made her happy. In that regard, there was so much at the moment, her mind going over the best of it all - Teagan, and being with him, her impending wedding, how pleased her parents were for her, even though that victory had been so hard-won. His letters and words had sustained her these past weeks, and she found herself reliving his visit to the castle, thinking of him in the dark of night when her hands found their way to all the spots he'd last kissed. It wouldn't be long before he could lavish them with attention again.
Jenna noticed that she and Teagan weren't left alone in each other's company before the ceremony, but it was fine with her. It amused her that they thought them so incapable of controlling themselves that they needed a constant chaperon, as if they weren't going to married soon enough. She took her chances to speak with him when she could, renewing their hastily established relationship, but such opportunities only existed within the sight of others. Eamon watched them covertly, as did her parents and the arlessa, but neither she nor Teagan cared about their assessments. Apparently, only the noble wedding guests that were filling Castle Redcliffe were unaware or disinterested.
Nervous energy flooded through her that first night after their journey, and she found herself laughing too loud, and talking too much at dinner. She needed time to think, to rest, but all she could think of was that in two days time, she would be married to Teagan. Jenna had no expectations of what her life would be like, having spent no time in Redcliffe. She'd been to Orlais once, and west to Denerim often, but hadn't ventured further south the Bann Loren's lands.
Teagan wanted to calm her, but didn't know how much help he could really be. He was also feeling similar, but had an easier time hiding his nerves. It crossed his mind that had they been alone, he could have calmed her or at least reassured her mind, but he knew that seeing her privately was not an option.
Still, he called upon her the next day, finding her and Eleanor in the library after luncheon. He didn't envy the Couslands their long trip, having made it himself, and knew that they would be resting whenever they could for the next day. Isolde had stepped up, taking charge so that Eleanor could spend time with her daughter.
Jenna was a little more calm after a night's rest, but still, not at her best. Teagan didn't ask for privacy, but greeted both mother and daughter cordially, before turning away to speak to Jenna.
"Are you well, Jenna?" He asked, taking her hand. It was a small gesture, and much less than the kiss he wanted to give her, but contented himself with the feel of her hand in his.
"As can be expected, I suppose. Too keyed up to sleep very well." She admitted. Eleanor turned a page in her book, but Teagan saw her watching them out of the corner of her eye and knew she was no longer reading. "And you, Teagan, how are you?"
Teagan laughed, not sure how to give voice to the multitude of emotions that wrested within him. "I don't know, my lady. Happy to see you again, but a little surprised at how quickly the time has passed. It felt slow without your presence, but yet, here we are a day away from our wedding."
"Oh, that reminds me, I have something for you. I wanted to give it to you before the wedding." Jenna said, pulling away from him. "It won't take but a moment." She said, and walked from the room.
Teagan glanced over at Eleanor, who was still sitting in the chair by the fire, a book in her lap, but she didn't look up to meet his gaze. Moments later, Jenna returned, panting slightly and bearing a long, brown wrapped box that she'd obviously brought from Highever.
"Open it." She said, thrusting it at him. "It's a wedding gift, something to wear, if it suits you."
"I hadn't realized we were exchanging gifts now."
"It isn't customary." Eleanor's voice floated over from her chair, "but I daresay my darling girl wanted to see the look on your face, Teagan."
"Well, I hope my face doesn't disappoint." He answered, making Jenna giggle as he sat down in a chair with his gift. Teagan unwrapped the box, sliding it from the paper that covered it, revealing a long, jeweled case that could only hold a sword. When he opened the latch, his breath caught at the sight of the weapon within it.
It was a sword, red steel and of superb craftsmanship, the silver hilt was adorned with tiny diamonds. Practical was well as beautiful, he saw that it had been made for him, a sword that was to be used by someone who also carried a shield. The thoughtfulness of the gift nearly overwhelmed him, rendering him mute.
"Go on and try it." Jenna laughed, correctly discerning his desire. Teagan turned it over again, admiring the shining blade, watching the diamonds sparkle in the light of the room. "I've got a matching knife you know, some didn't think it was proper for me to carry a dagger at the wedding." She said, shooting a look over at her mother as she spoke. Eleanor didn't make any indication she'd heard her daughter, but was watching the two of them with a smile of her own.
"Another time, and in a less crowded room, perhaps." He said wisely. Though he sorely wanted to test his princely blade, he decided against it in Eamon's library. Securing it back in the decorative box, he stood and placed it on the long table in the room before turning back to Jenna.
"Eleanor?" Teagan murmured, asking his request with just the one word. His soon to be mother-in-law nodded quickly and Teagan reached out for Jenna.
"It's beautiful. I'm honored to wear it on our wedding day." He whispered, pulling her close for a kiss. For a moment, Jenna was stiff with shock, but rallied almost immediately, softening her lips against his, sliding an arm up around his neck. Dangerous heat threatened to overtake him and make their kiss far less chaste, but he restrained himself, even when he felt Jenna's tongue tease his lips.
And then it was over, neither wanting to push the bounds of Eleanor's tolerance. It was more than Teagan had expected, far more, but he wasn't a greedy man. He and Jenna would be wed soon enough, and he had plans for their first few nights as husband and wife. Bidding them both goodbye, until dinner, he took his gift and departed, still giddy from the combination of the sword and her kiss.
He had his own gifts for Jenna, all of them at his house, for tradition dictated that he give them to the bride the morning after the wedding. It occurred to him that he could send a servant for them, but decided against it in the end. There was just so little time before the wedding, and he thought they might make her feel more welcome once she was no longer surrounded by family.
The appointed day arrived, and amidst much chanting and the cloying perfume of Chantry incense, Teagan and Jenna were wed. It was strange, but when the day came, Jenna found that she was less nervous than she had been before. The transition felt natural, and she was peaceful and happy once the wait was over. The only thing that gave her pause was the mixture of emotions she coming from her parents. Festive and foreboding, happy and sad, she understood them all, but within her the felicity won out, too enamored of her groom to let bleakness take hold.
Their wedding ceremony was short and relatively small for two families of their stature, though still had a number of people in attendance. As Teagan was a relative to King Cailan by marriage, and the King and Queen were unable to leave Denerim, they sent a representative. Surprisingly, it was Queen Anora's father, General Loghain that attended in their stead, his duties to the crown had him near the area at the time. Jenna had grown up in awe of the man, and Teagan respected him.
After the formal wedding, marked with much kneeling and prayers by the priestess, there was music, food and dancing. Teagan and Jenna had one last task before they were officially married in the eyes of the Chantry - to sign the binding contract. In a small room off the chapel in Castle Redcliffe, Jenna Haelia Cousland became Lady Jenna Guerrin with a final blessing from the Mother who'd performed their ceremony before she bowed her way from the room.
Teagan took no time in capitalizing on their seclusion, taking her in his arms at once. "Well, well, it's been a long time since we were alone together, Jenna."
"And I take it you've missed me?" She teased, curling into his embrace.
"You have no idea how many times I've thought of those nights in Highever. It was all that sustained me, those memories and knowing you'd be here soon."
Jenna smirked at her new husband, "I would think less talk would be in order then."
This kiss sealed their union in a way that the vestal, polite kiss at the altar had not. His mouth captured hers, demanding in its need. Jenna raked a hand through Teagan's hair as their tongues met, her fervor matching his. She swallowed a moan when he pulled her closer, so close that she could feel the heat of him through the veridium armor he wore.
Teagan brought out such desire in her it felt like a fever, and she wanted nothing more than to skip the pleasantries and go straight to her marriage bed. It was too late in the season for them to enjoy a honeymoon - there was far too much work to do to prepare for winter, but they would lie in for a few days, and visit Denerim in the spring. For the first time, Jenna envied those that had the luxury to go off to Antiva or Orlais for weeks and do nothing but enjoy each other. She'd thought that she wouldn't miss the differences between the highly planned and prepared weddings that normally took a year or longer, preferring to rush to the end. In that moment, she knew an inkling of regret, wondering what could have been, had they the time to court and plan.
Her good sense was aware that they didn't have the privacy nor the time to go any further, but she wanted it. They were nearly alone, and so long separated, her thoughts strayed towards closing the door and disrobing, though she'd wanted to save it for that night. Any romantic notions she'd held as a young woman were gone with her virginity, but she held onto this one thing, wanting it to be as special as she could make it.
With that in mind, she pulled away from Teagan, who seemed intent on kissing her until her knees gave way. It took all her effort to ignore the want that roared out for more, to let him push her against the door and let the guests hear as he claimed her, but Jenna steadied herself.
"Tonight." Jenna rasped, only able to get out the one word.
Teagan nodded, mute in his understanding. A finger brushed her hair away from her face, the gesture a small one, but his touch made it feel so intimate that she shivered. Had she her way, they'd be halfway to his stead in Rainesfere before anyone even knew they were gone.
Re-entering the room hand in hand, they were greeted with cheers and applause from their assembled guests. They hadn't opted for a formal dinner, but an informal one, and Jenna moved amongst the crowd, accepting her congratulations and making small talk with her guests. Teagan tried to imitate her lead, but to no avail, he'd never been one that could work a room. He was a poor host, but thankfully, Eamon, Isolde and the Couslands were there to take up the slack. After a few attempts, he retreated to a corner of the room, where he simply watched Jenna. It was no surprise when Loghain came over - he was even less sociable than Teagan.
Loghain was scowling at the wine glass in his hand, making no attempt to talk to Teagan, who had had eyes only for the bride. Setting aside his glass, he reluctantly began to speak, because he didn't want to seem rude, and hadn't even offered the most perfunctory of remarks. Loghain's interest had been occupied by Bryce Cousland, and he'd been eying the other teyrn suspiciously earlier, but made no mention of it as he congratulated Teagan.
"She's a very beautiful girl." He said honestly, shaking hands with Teagan.
"Yes, she is." He agreed, not inclined to be modest about his good fortune on his wedding day.
Jenna was still filtering through the room, speaking to guests, but making her way towards Teagan at long last. He could hear her laughter growing closer, and every so often she'd smile at him over her shoulder, the lights glinting off the tiny jewels still nestled in her hair. Her wedding dress was a silvery grey, trimmed in blue piping, the colors of her beloved Highever. It shimmered in the light of the fire as she moved through the room.
"Tell me this," Loghain interrupted Teagan as he watched Jenna. "I've been a soldier a long time, and I can tell when someone is armed. Is she wearing one or two daggers?"
"Probably three, if she has on boots under her gown." Teagan said. "And there's a knife at her hip." He gestured to the sparkling hilt of a ceremonial knife that she had on her waist. It blended in so well, none thought it strange to see.
"It matches your sword." Loghain noticed. "A wedding gift?"
"She's very practical."
"I'll say." Loghain countered dryly, not sure what to make of young Jenna Cousland.
She joined them not long after that, slipping her arm through Teagan's as Loghain congratulated them once again.
"My Lady Guerrin, you have my congratulations on your wedding. A most blessed event." Loghain offered.
"Thank you, General Loghain. Please, call me Jenna. I'm not quite used to hearing my new name yet, I confess."
"Yes, I imagine it might be a bit disconcerting at first. Tell me, why are you armed on your wedding day?"
Jenna laughed, surprising Loghain. "Was I that obvious? I just don't like to be without my arms, as I am sure you can understand." She answered, nodding towards his armor.
"This is more than just ceremony, my lady. It is a reminder, of all Ferelden endured and I wear it to make sure that it is remembered."
"Mine is more than just ceremony as well, General. I am a child of all Ferelden fought for and endured. I am Fereldan down to my bones, and I cannot lay down my arms and forget that legacy for one moment, even one so happy as my own wedding. When it comes to it, I'd rather be armed and not need them then be caught unawares."
The answer shocked Loghain, who studied her for a moment, and then let out an unexpected chuckle. "I believe you are Fereldan to your bones. It is refreshing to know that all we fought for hasn't been so easily forgotten by some." His eyes betrayed him as they flicked over towards Eamon, who was standing with his arm around the Arlessa Isolde. Teagan sighed; apparently prejudice wasn't set aside at any occasion.
After a few dances with his new wife, and far too many toasts of the fine wine that had been bought especially for the occasion, Teagan was able to make an escape with Jenna. She changed from her bridal dress, the trip wasn't lengthy but it was long enough that sitting in it would grow uncomfortable, and her mother had laid out specially made traveling clothes for just such a need. It was nearly evening when they were loaded into their carriage, but only just as their many well-wishers waved them away. They let her go with some reluctance, Bryce holding onto her hand forlornly as he said goodbye.
The newlyweds set off together, the trip to Jenna's new home not a long trip at all after the distance traveled from Highever. Teagan insisted that his matched bays would make short work of the distance, and that they would have ample time to settle in for the night. She didn't know how to judge it, and neglected to ask before they set out. On the morrow, her family would come to visit, bringing the rest of their wedding gifts and belongings from Redcliffe castle.
Their carriage arrived at Rainesfere after the sun set, and Jenna only got the faintest inkling of what her new home looked like from the outside. Inside, it was a somewhat modest manor house, comfortably appointed, but it bore the sparse decor of a bachelor. Jenna looked around, taking in her surroundings. Aside from a few hunting trophies, there was little to indicate Teagan's tastes and preferences. It merely hinted at them, and she wondered if her mother had suspected as much when they'd packed her sizable bridal trunks.
It was all so different, even the stone wasn't the same as the kind in Highever, here it was more brown and rough, not the cool grey stone that she was familiar with, and it gave her a pang of homesickness. For all that she'd wanted this marriage and cared for Teagan, she was a young woman very far away from her home, though she knew her parents would come and ease her transition some. Her hound, Horatio, would also be coming with her parents, and she knew his presence at her side would calm her considerably.
For now, she had her new husband, who was doing his best to make her feel welcome. Teagan wrapped a reassuring arm around her as if he could sense her distress, and introduced her to his seneschal, a man whose name she promptly forgot upon hearing it. Jenna smiled at the man, and the maidservant that presented herself, bobbing a curtsy at her. When she stifled a yawn, Teagan led her through the house towards his chambers, forgoing a tour. She was much more tired than she realized, and her traveling clothes were uncomfortably warm in the house where fires had been going for hours.
"Are you alright?" Teagan asked kindly, as she sat dazedly at the vanity in his, or rather, their bedroom.
"Just tired is all. I can't believe all that's happened in one day."
"Nor can I." Teagan said. She sat for a while longer, until he left and returned with food. It was a small tray of dinner food that had been kept warm for them, along with ale, bread and cheese. She regained some of herself through the sustenance, enough that she recognized her own discomfort in her clothes, the sweat rolling down her back under the layers she wore.
"I am much too hot," Jenna proclaimed, "and in dire need of a bath."
"Ah, well, I hate to tell you this," Teagan began, looking suddenly worried. "But we haven't the resources of you're castle in Highever. If you could wait until the morning, I could bring in the water for you. Or I could have a bowl of fresh water brought to you, if you'd like to wash your face tonight."
He looked so eager to please that she would have giggled, had she the energy. Instead, she shook her head and smiled. In that moment, she thought of her mother, and how she'd instructed her to be gracious and elegant in all things, but especially when things don't go her way. "It's alright, really. I won't turn down a chance to wash the dust off my face tonight, but a bath in the morning is perfectly fine with me."
Relief was evident on his face as he sent for a servant. Jenna took the time to poke about the room, and Teagan watching her rummaging around the room with an amused half-smile on his face. He'd begun to take off his armor while she was occupied, pulling off his gauntlets and boots, putting the pieces on a stand in the corner of the bedroom. It was the first time it had felt somewhat awkward between them since their meeting in Highever, which seemed so long ago to her mind. Despite the feeling, she let the silence endure, her curiosity out pacing her wit.
Once the maid entered and left the water, giving another curtsy as she left, Jenna became that they were, finally, alone and free from interruption. She washed her face carefully, easing off the layers of dirt and makeup that stained it. When she was finished, Teagan stood behind her, but she didn't turn to face him. Quick hands unpinned her hair for her, deftly taking out the crystal-tipped pins that held it in place for their wedding. Her normally straight black hair had been swept up into a simple knot, tendrils falling around her face. The clear crystals adorned her dark hair, making it sparkle like stars in the night sky as she'd gone through her wedding celebrations. Teagan was carefully removing them, making a sparkling pile of pointed discards next to the basin of water.
Wordlessly, he worked, freeing her hair from its constraints. She felt the absence of pressure on her head, like an exhalation of a breath held too long. It was such a simple thing, but thoughtful, and it relaxed her some.
"Thank you." Jenna said to him. Their eyes met in the mirror and he smiled. It felt like their first truly private moment since they'd signed their wedding contract and kissed. The recollection of the fiery kiss they'd shared made her heart race, and she was sure Teagan could see it in her face.
He gave no indication if he could, only offering her a hand as she got up from the vanity where she sat. Still wearing most of his armor, his hands were free and she took the proffered one, relishing the feeling of it in hers. She'd promised him earlier, 'Tonight'. When she'd said it, her mind had been full of feverish lust, but now she wanted it to be something sweeter, more reminiscent of that last time in Highever.
"Shall we go to bed?" Teagan asked, his voice on the near side of husky. His thoughts weren't far from her own, but she supposed that was to be expected on their wedding night.
She didn't bother with words, but gently pressed her lips to his to convey her answer. If their kiss before had been a desperate, rushed bit of stolen affection, this was a veritable gambol in comparison. Her opening kiss was light and teasing, and he could feel her smile against his own lips as they caught each other in kiss after kiss. There was hesitancy from Teagan, just for a moment in the beginning, while he let her set the pace between them. Jenna was glad of that, glad that she could deny urgency its persuasion and take her time. Before it had been too fleeting between them, everything had to be done quickly, each meeting, every kiss, secret, furtive, stolen - even the one earlier that day. Now there was time, a whole night with no interruptions, all theirs for the taking. She was determined not to rush, no matter how his touch quickened her pulse.
It was almost an afterthought that made her lead him to the bed, she was concentrating on everything else - the brush of his whiskers against her face, the moans she smothered with her mouth as they kissed and the lightheadedness he caused in her. Teagan was, if nothing else, ever patient with her, and let himself be led slowly to his own bed. Beside it, they worked in concert to free him from his armor, then she from her traveling clothes. A rough hand brushed over her skin, calloused with work and battle, with the practice that kept him fit. Slender fingers eased away his chain, touching him as if it were the first time she'd disrobed him. Every touch between them was tender, Jenna far more emotional about the encounter than she'd anticipated.
When they were down to naught more than undergarments, her chemise pooled at her feet, and he pulling off his linen undershirt, Jenna took Teagan's hand again. It was her intent to lay down on the bed and bring him with her, but he caught her around the waist.
"I should do this properly." He murmured in her ear. "Since it is our wedding night."
There was no time for her to inquire about just what 'properly' was before Teagan lifted her from the floor. She was swung into his arms and automatically reached out to anchor herself, snaking her arms around his neck. She was just beginning to enjoy it - his chest pressed against her bare skin, looking up at Teagan through half-lidded eyes, when he brought her to rest on the bed. Setting her down as if she were a porcelain doll, Teagan deposited her atop his bed, the bare skin of her back hitting the cool of the counterpane beneath her.
She didn't let him go, however. Her arms stayed firmly around him, keeping him close to her, so near that he had few options but to kiss her again. He was a little more insistent now, tongue working its way into her mouth without the teasing lightness of before, but careful not to push too much.
Their kisses heated up, but were still restrained, the two of them determined to make it last as long as possible. There was a certain pleasure in the mutual, frustrating sacrifice, the shared pent up lust between them prolonged in denial. It caused their every move to be both not enough and explosive at the same time. Her senses heightened, Jenna luxuriated in the exquisite tension each touch caused, his fingers brushing over her neck, tangling in the hair at her nape as his lips pressed against her own. Her own hands were far less gentle than his, urging, needy prods of her fingers, digging into the muscled flesh of Teagan's back and sides, trying to goad him into action.
Teagan, as it turned out, was a great deal more patient than she. In her impatience, Jenna had slid his smallclothes down to his ankles, and wiggled out of her own. He'd taken care of her breastband, letting it slip through his fingers and land on the floor beside them, liberating her breasts only to cover them with his mouth. But he'd moved no further, not even a kiss to the swell of her stomach, or an errant hand between her legs. Teagan was teasing her, seeing how much she would take, if she would give in first. Jenna gasped as he flicked his tongue across the stiffened peak of her breast, his breath cool against the wetness that covered it. Desire ricocheted through her, and she wanted to scream, to tell Teagan that she'd waited long enough, and for him to please, please have mercy on his new wife, but she didn't. Instead, she let him take control from her, knowing full well how good he was at it.
He was more than ready, she could feel all evidence of it poking her in the thigh, almost insistent with its touch. But he didn't rush, not even after realizing her silent acquiescence to him. Jenna met his body with her own, not initiating but not passive, meeting every kiss and caress with one of her own. When Teagan shifted atop her, she moved too, her leg grazing his erection. It was the first time he responded, a growl in the back of his throat, his hands rougher against her skin. It wasn't long after that when he slid a finger inside of her, already thoroughly wet with anticipation. Teagan hissed as she clenched around the digit, another frustration atop all the others, his finger, after long last just wasn't enough.
When he met her eyes again, she knew the time for teasing was over, or at least, that he was ready to give in. Teagan's eyes were dark, seeming to take in the flickering light around them rather than reflect it. One last tease, the head of his cock sliding against her folds, touching but not penetrating until he got a strangled, frustrated cry from her and small fists flailed against his chest. She felt rather than heard his laughter, a murmur that turned into a groan as he sheathed himself within her. Jenna and Teagan both cried out, hers a half-sob of relief, his groan full of need and possession.
She rolled against his hips before he was ready, catching him off guard, his breath hitching as she moved. Teagan didn't realize that she was getting him back, not until he looked down at her impish grin. He laughed again, but punctuated it wih a thrust, watching her eyes close and her perfect mouth shape itself into an 'o' as she moaned. Normally, he'd keep teasing, but he'd been too long without her. He kept going, his pace quickening as he did, listening to her throaty cries fill their chamber. She came around him in a few strokes, tight and quivering, and he only just held on after it. When he could no longer keep his climax at bay, he gave in, welcoming the ferocity that swept through him as he spilled into his wife. While their encounter hadn't been quick, neither was it the leisurely stroll they'd began. In the end, the urgency had won out. Teagan stroked her hair, pressing their sweaty foreheads together afterward, catching her mouth with light, breathless kisses, whispering how much he loved her. It was an intimacy she'd never known before, almost as touching as the vows they'd recited earlier.
There was no need to recover their clothing, no place to rush off to or anyone to hide from, and that satisfied her as she drifted to sleep. They woke once during the night, sleepily reaching for each other. The second time, Teagan devoured her with the lethargy she'd desired before, licking her into mewling submission, leaving her shuddering and covered in sweat. She had to imagine the whole of the house could hear them, but then again, they couldn't be expecting any different on their wedding night.
In the morning, they rose none too early, the full sun streaming in the window as Jenna rubbed sleep from her eyes. It was strange to wake only to see an unfamiliar place, one that was now to become her home. The enormity of it all would have been too much, were it not for Teagan's easy smile and soft kisses. At his insistence, she stayed in bed for longer than she normally would have, while Teagan made a production of bringing her heated water for the bath. It was sweet, and though she still felt out of place, it helped.
The best part, by far, were the gardens behind the house that she saw the next morning. She hadn't seen them properly the night before, since it was dark, but they'd only gone to the main house. The gardens weren't just filled with flowers, though there were an impressive array of late blooming asters and what looked to her unschooled eyes like a few types of goldenrod. Teagan grew small batches of crops, experimental and some specialty, in addition to the few fields he had. He explained that his stores supplemented those of his people for the most part, and to test how new things would grow in their soil. Winters could be hard and unpredictable, and he made sure to have more on hand that his household would need, in order to offset any shortages. It was sensible, but she'd not heard of any other bann's with a similar practice, and wondered what had spurred him to implement it.
Aside from the main house, there were servants quarters, stables, barracks and a gatehouse, all fully staffed. People moved about working, greeting her and Teagan with a nod or tip of the hat, only a few stopping to stare at her. Everything was simply less, there were far less guards than she was used to, fewer maidservants, a handful of stable hands. Not less in grandeur, but simply smaller, scaled down. It fit the area, Rainesfere, and Teagan. It would be harder for her to fit into it, she who had found Castle Redcliffe too confining with its closed ceilings and small rooms.
What there was more of was land. Aside from Teagan's fields, there were forests and dusty roads, paths she didn't know where they led. Around her in every direction was green turning colors, to the autumnal reds and golds that shone bright against the blue skies. The burning oranges that lit up like flame next to the stately green of the pine trees. There was brown, already dead and decaying, turning into the dirt. It was soft where Highever was shifting, the earth sable where her former home was fawn.
"There's a lot to see." She commented, a hand shielding her eyes from the sun as she gazed out across the land.
"Not so much as it seems, I assure you." Teagan said, holding onto her other hand. He was doing his best to be reassuring, but he couldn't possibly understand. She was Fereldan, had always been proud and lived here her whole life, but this was further than a trip to the Free Marches, and more foreign than Orlais. Teagan wasn't though, and she appreciated his efforts more than she could say.
Still, she wondered if she would ever get used to it.
Tongues were wagging long before Jenna and Teagan rose, and when the bann took his new wife to show her around the grounds, the servants spoke of nothing but them. Jenna cut an impressive figure, slender and beautiful in a dress of pale purple that fluttered about her as they walked. The weather was still warm but turning, and soon it would be too cold for such a delicate shift. That day, it was perfect, for she looked the sweet new bride, her hair trailing in the breeze, with Teagan's arm around her waist. To all that saw them, they looked happy together.
Teagan's staff was loyal, but also concerned about their bann. This wedding had been a source of contention amongst them, some thinking Teagan had been coerced into it, with others deciding that he'd simply fallen quickly in love. Eyes were on them as they walked about, noting their smiles and comfort with each other. Those who'd maintained it was a love-match were now smug as they gossiped amongst each other.
"Kept us up half the night, they did. It's good and consummated, that marriage." Began the head cook, knowingly. She'd known Teagan to be in love since he'd come back from Highever, though not many people agreed that his increased appetite for sweets was a good indication.
"She's a beautiful girl, it's a shame they didn't get to go on a proper wedding trip."
"I don't think the bann would have liked that, he hardly likes to go to Denerim, much less on some fancy Orlesian holiday."
"Neither of them can stop smiling. At least they like each other. I don't think I could stand it if they was like the bann's house I came from. Bann Perrin and his lady wife don't even share meals, much less anything else."
"There's going to be a babe, sooner rather than later, look at 'im reaching for her again. I didn't think Bann Teagan had it in him, but I suppose all men must."
"Shh, leave him be. He just married the girl. Oh quiet now, they're coming back."
They'd made their way back in for a late lunch, and had finished it before her parents were spotted heading in their direction. They'd given them the whole morning together without interruption, and for that, Jenna was glad. Once they arrived, her mabari, Horatio, was the first from the carriage, bounding to his mistress enthusiastically. Her parents, though they hung back, had the same air about them as her dog, though her father was still a little wary of Teagan. It subsided within a few hours of their arrival, and at dinner, Bryce was more like himself than Jenna had seen him in all the months of her engagement.
Her parents were very happy for her, and their relief added to her own ebullience. When she recalled those days, Jenna saw them through a warm haze, spirited nights with her husband, and days spent with her family around, making her considerably less homesick. Eleanor was a great help to her daughter during her visit, because Teagan's house was sparse and the servants unused to having a lady in residence. Her mother guided her with a practiced hand and Jenna in turn earned the respect of her household. A few grumbled here and there 'mistress has a great deal of clothing,' or 'Lady Jenna is turning the place upside down.' but for the most part, her changes were few and designed to help her integrate herself into the household. With her parents around, things seemed to go more smoothly, and Jenna regretted how quickly the day of their departure came.
She didn't cry - she didn't want their last image to be of her tears, but she was subdued waving off their carriage, hugging them both twice, and then twice again. Resting her head on Teagan's shoulder, she refused to give into tears stinging her eyes. That night, she ate little and sneaked most of her food to Horatio under the table. She missed the Couslands fiercely.
Rainesfere was a long way from Highever, and even a decent ride from the center of the arling, Redcliffe Village. The orchards around them were lovely in a way that the north wasn't, the trees already finished with their autumnal change and nearly bare for winter. Jenna thought it beautiful in a stark way she'd never seen before, but missed the sea and her family, the freeholders she knew, the farmers that waved when they saw her go by. Here, she was Bann Teagan's wife, not Lady Cousland, and the adjustment was rough.
The people were kind to her, though Jenna spent much of her first few weeks simply nodding in response to their questions, unable to decipher the thick western accents. There were quite a few dwarves living in Rainesfere, and more stopping through on the road from Orzammar. She liked them a great deal, though many of the merchants were disinclined to talk about more than their wares, and Teagan gently explained that most of them weren't allowed into the city of Orzammar, considered to be lost to their kind.
It was lonely for Jenna, Teagan had his routine firmly established, and was not easily swayed from it, not even by his lovely new wife. Unlike in Redcliffe Village, there was no large concentration of people, save for the monthly market that took place. It was isolated and country, a place unto itself. Within time, she failed to establish a routine, much to her determent. As the winter set in, the cold winds coming up from the frozen southern tundra, Jenna was equal parts bored and displaced.
Idle boredom alone isn't hard to combat, but the onset of winter is a busy time, and few had attention to spare for her. Teagan went about his business, consulting with her at the end of each day, as if she were just as busy as he. She was not. Though Eleanor had helped her with the household, the truth of the matter was that once they'd accommodated her, they did just fine on their own. Used to working with the seneschal, they didn't need Jenna to do much for them, though she was consulted from time to time. It was only when she wished to start making more changes, things that would change more of the house, that the servants began to second-guess her. Lady of the house though she was, most of them had spent years being loyal to just Bann Teagan. More often than not, he gave in just to let her have something to do besides wandering the grounds with her hound.
The first time they fought, it caught her off guard. They'd disagreed before, but never raised voices, was filled with all this impotent, frizzling rage. She started once she realized the depth of her anger. Jenna was furious - truly mad at him for the first time as she stood face to face with her husband, her jaw set and neck thrust forward. She was staring him down, and he was frustrated, frowning at her, but never breaking the gaze. Honestly, there wasn't even any reason to be this upset, but she was, inexplicably out of proportion to their disagreement. It was unexpected, so much so that when she stopped to breathe, it made her laugh.
"Why? What?" Teagan sputtered as Jenna laughed again, louder this time. At least he was properly confused by her laughter.
"I'm sorry." She apologized immediately, both for her inappropriate amusement at the situation and her earlier anger. "It just occurred to me that we hadn't gotten into a fight before."
At that, Teagan looked sheepish. "Perhaps I am being a bit bullheaded about the whole thing."
They were arguing about his stubbornness and her wanting to change even more around the house. Moving the furniture had become a hobby, much to Teagan's chagrin. He had stubbed his toe twice yesterday, and that fresh ache no doubt added to his ire.
Since she'd come to Rainesfere, struggled to keep herself busy with work. Though it wasn't ideal, it gave her some passing amusement, for other than the servants, there was no one around for her to talk to, and certainly no one of her rank to befriend. While her husband toured his lands, spoke with his people, looked over his fields and tackled the large amounts of paperwork brought by his seneschal, Jenna tried to lose herself in decorating or exploring with her dog. His home no longer resembled the place he'd brought her to after their wedding, but reflected the two of them. It was sometimes hard for him to reconcile all of the alterations that had come about, and he was behaving poorly.
Jenna shook her head though, not letting him take all the blame. It wasn't a situation that required one party to capitulate, though she'd seen it as such before. She could almost hear her mother's voice urging her to cooperation, towards finding a middle ground. "I'm sure we both just need rest. We'll find a solution together tomorrow."
"Is this where we get to make up?" He asked, drawing nearer to her. There was one area where they always got along, and neither was shy about it.
"Always the best part of a fight." Jenna answered, letting herself be pulled into his arms, meeting his mouth as it descended upon hers.
Winter was a long season for them, and both struggled to find their pacing together.
He'd wanted her to find her place in Rainesfere automatically, or at least, with little effort. The problem, Teagan knew, was not with the place, but rather with Jenna's foreignness. It would have been better had she just been able to visit a few times, but the haste of their marriage prevented it. There was no use wishing about what could have been, but it didn't stop Teagan from regretting the lost opportunity. She struggled with the accent, though she tried to speak to people often, and smiled through any misunderstanding. Through every encounter, she was charming and gracious, to her credit with his people.
Still, he had work to do, and little enough time as it was, though her presence there was more of help than not. With her around to do some of the tasks, he found that he could focus more on administration, much to the delight of his seneschal. Oft times, he lost himself in work, and found her distant, filling her time with changing his house to her liking. They clashed on quite a few things, and more than once, he embarrassingly found himself countering her orders to the staff. She hadn't quite learned how he did things, and it put them at odds.
Whenever they were alone together, she seemed to forget her troubles in time. Jenna was mostly cheerful once he'd reassured her, and passionate enough for the two of them. Their nighttimes were, without question, the best part for the both of them, and had led to speculation amongst the servants that there would be a child soon. Perhaps in the future, but not at the moment.
As her husband, he was immensely proud of her. She wasn't used to nor expecting the amount of work he did as part of his daily routine, and Jenna never once complained. Without his bidding, she found work to do, and left him alone to do his own. He didn't worry about entertaining her most of the time, though he did get the sense that she was drifting. Teagan wanted to give her space to find her own way.
Sometimes, he wished she would complain, just so he could know exactly what she was thinking, but Jenna was as stubborn as her father. She said nothing to him at times, and he found it more troubling than if she'd thrown a fit. When the snows set in, she went for silent walks with her dog, their trail only traceable because of the footprints in the snow. As she withdrew more, Teagan found himself more worried than ever. He didn't know her well enough to discern her nature, but found the melancholy to be out of character, at least what he knew of it.
If she didn't complain most days, the servants did, through Fredericks, his seneschal. Teagan grew weary of hearing their complaints, and knew he had only himself to blame. They were more than willing to help Jenna, so long as they checked with him first. Annoyance at himself and their constant interruptions ate at him, and he snapped at Jenna to learn to keep them in line.
The only time he'd ever threatened to sack someone was that winter. Truly, the problem was of his own making. He'd countermanded Jenna before, enough that it made the staff wary of following her orders without checking with him. Eventually, she stopped giving them for the most part, but when she did, they were ever hesitant to follow her word. It frustrated him to no end, and he wondered why Jenna couldn't just command them - she'd seemed capable of command in Highever, but in Rainesfere it eluded her.
Only when things spilled over did he and Jenna fight, and the less she said, the more he reverted to his old ways, sometimes forgetting she was new to it all.
"You treat me like a guest!" She grumbled at him one night.
Teagan didn't understand the criticism. She was a guest. Instead of trying to figure out what she meant, his mind was only on his bed. "I'll try harder." He promised, forgetting the empty words as soon as she accepted them.
It was a long winter. When it came time to plan for spring, they agreed that Jenna should go ahead to Denerim before him, letting her spend time with her family in the city. It seemed to Teagan like she needed to be away from Rainesfere, and he felt ashamed for wanting just a little time apart from his new wife. Her early departure was the best compromise for both of them.
Though Jenna was liked by the people of Rainesfere, she still seemed an outsider to many. Some of the women regarded her with suspicion as the winter passed and her belly remained flat, without a sign of the bann's baby. It made things more difficult for her in some respects, and both newlyweds were glad when the thaws came, so Jenna could set out towards the capital.
After a season in Rainesfere, Denerim was a blessed relief. Arriving at the Arl of Redcliffe's estate, she was led to the wing set aside for the brother to the arl. Her spirits were lifted simply by being in the capital, and Jenna was happy for the first time since the winter snows had set in. She took to it as she never had before, relishing the sunny blue skies of spring that nearly reminded her Highever. Coming from the south, slush from the late snows had softened the roads, making her tardy arrive to the city. Her family was already there as they'd promised, Fergus and Oriana, her mother coming within a few weeks.
Teagan's apartments were more like rooms from a hunting lodge, but she'd been given leave to change the decor as she saw fit. That made her a little uneasy, since she'd been given similar instructions in Rainesfere, but saw no harm in renovating her own rooms. It was set up in the old style, with a separate lady's chambers and dressing room off the main bedroom. She set to work on these, putting up the Cousland heraldry on one wall, opposite the sigil of the Guerrin family already within. She changed the linens and paintings, finding a beautiful tapestry to adorn the wall while she was in the market with Fergus and Oriana. Her brother gifted it to her, the two of them falling easily into close relationship they'd always enjoyed.
Newly married and tucked away, Jenna had become the toast of the town without knowing it. It thrilled her to no end, and she arrived home each day to a stack of waiting invitations. Dinners, dances, even an offer to take tea with the Queen, she was invited everywhere, and took up most of the invitations just to be out of the house. The rush of excitement after the slow season in Rainesfere rejuvenated her, and though she missed Teagan, she was far happier in Denerim.
After her first week in the capital, she took Oriana with her to get new dresses made. Though she had the ones in her trousseau, she would need more for this season in Denerim. She charged the invoices to her husband, the Bann of Rainesfere, knowing that his seneschal in Denerim would see them long before Teagan did. It didn't trouble her at all, she saw it as a sensible investment. After all, she couldn't possibly be expected to take tea with Queen Anora in a gown she'd already worn. It simply wasn't done, at least, not in her mind.
Jenna made her first appearance at court since she'd married, and she was surrounded within moments of greeting the King and Queen. Her greeting was unexpectedly warm from King Cailan, who seemed overjoyed for his uncle and treated her as a member of the family. Basking in all the attention, Jenna began to wonder why she'd even stayed so long in Rainesfere. She should have set out for the capital as soon as the first green shoot poked through the frigid tundra. It was at a dinner, however, that she first felt the barbs that came along with her unexpected popularity.
"He hasn't even accompanied her into the city. What could possibly be so pressing in his bannorn that he would let his new wife arrive alone?" Jenna heard the talk, the comment rising above the babble, though it was meant to be quiet.
"They can't be that happy. I wonder what Bryce paid as a dowry. Probably a fortune, as old as she is. I thought she'd be on the shelf for another season."
"Well, she obviously isn't with child, and I was sure she was after that short engagement."
"So were a lot of people." The second voice concurred. Jenna tried to hear more, but the lull in the conversations around her passed, and the noise crept up again.
Part of her was enraged - they were a love match, as unlikely as it seemed, but another side of her, used to the cynicism of the nobility, knew that those voices had simply said what so many others were thinking. Suddenly, she was mad at Teagan for leaving her alone, for making her come on her own. Jenna's hands curled into fists as she thought about it, fury rising within her. They were newly married, and he should have accompanied her, not stayed on his own schedule. It wouldn't have been too much for him to come to Denerim a little early. To her mind, there were a lot of things Teagan should have done that he didn't do.
With time on her own, and nights to herself, her emotions had time to stew. Every problem since she'd gone to Rainesfere played through her mind, a litany of her failure to integrate herself into the household and community. She remained an outsider, though she'd tried for a whole season to become the mistress of the house. Without a maid of her own, Jenna had taken care of herself, something she was sure no other noble woman did. The servants didn't accommodate her requests without asking Teagan, and she had been forced to learn to do her own mending, since they 'didn't have time' for it, already too busy with work for the bann.
In the beginning, she'd tried to run the household as her mother had instructed her, but Teagan hadn't offered her any help. They'd simply nodded, and then went to ask Teagan about her orders, as if she should have asked him first. When she wanted to make the house more comfortable, and add decoration, Teagan himself proved the obstacle, unwilling to change despite his declarations to the contrary. By the end of the winter, she'd simply packed many items of her trousseau back into the crates her mother had sent ahead for her, and spent time with her dog. At least he didn't question her.
In Denerim, things were much improved, she felt like a flower that had found sunlight at long last. Reconnecting with old acquaintances and spending time with her family, Jenna was happy, for the most part. Bann Loren's son, Dairren was there, and she greeted him as her old friend. They weren't strictly speaking, actually friends, but she had entertained him once when she first started the whole business of finding a suitor. They had been together, but it hadn't been enough to keep either of them interested at the time.
She was seated next to him and kept up a decent chatter, speaking mostly about her return to Denerim and all that she'd done. Jenna found that whenever she fell short of topics, talking about her nephew Oren always gave her something new to say. He was far bigger than when she'd last seen him, as cute as ever with her brother's dark hair. Dairren smiled and laughed at all the correct parts, but Jenna knew that she was boring him. At least he put up a good front about it, and she enjoyed that he was indulging her. All through dinner he was polite and courteous, but afterward, he echoed the questions she'd heard the other day.
"So tell me, My Lady Guerrin, where is your new husband?" Dairren asked, standing next to her with a snifter of brandy. Jenna was sipping a cordial, potent and sweet, from a crystal glass.
Frowning, she answered. "Bann Teagan had business in the south until the thaws, but I came ahead to see my brother and his family. I'd not seen them since I'd left Highever."
"Ah, yes. I hear the snows were quite abundant down there. I forget that you are so far from where you once were." He said, trying to make the remark sound offhand, as if he hadn't meant it to be have two meanings. "Does it bother you to be so far from Highever?"
Were it anyone else, she might have plastered on another false smile and made a scathing remark. Had she not overheard that conversation not days before, she wouldn't have been smarting, the comments etched upon her, aching with every reminder. She was so lonely, and after a winter in Rainesfere, battling with Teagan, working until her fingers bled, trying to adapt, there was nothing left in her to pretend.
"It does." Jenna answered simply, her eyes never wavering from Dairren's. "It is not at all how I expected."
Her honesty shocked even herself, but Dairren was too well-bred to let it show on his face. "I imagine it is difficult. Forgive my earlier remark, it was unseemly." His mouth quirked up at a corner as he spoke again. "Perhaps I am still a little upset that you were wed before I had a chance to renew my suit."
"You were going to come back?" Jenna asked, shocked that he would have tried again. They hadn't seemed especially compatible, but she remembered him being most vigorous in bed. That hadn't been unwelcome.
"I was going to write and ask if you and your mother would visit my father's bannorn, to stay at the estate with us. But before I could, your engagement was announced."
"Yes, it was very quick. I wanted it that way. I think I was swept off my feet by Teagan's suit."
Dairren caught the unsaid. "Ah, but now you are second-guessing yourself? It's not uncommon, from what I hear."
Jenna simply shook her head, unwilling to answer. Whatever she felt, she would not malign Teagan or her marriage. Dairren pressed her further, leaning in. "There's nothing wrong with a shared confidence amongst friends. I do wish to be your friend, as I once was."
She said nothing to this, wondering how he'd imagined himself to be her friend after one night together. They'd been friendly, certainly, the few times they'd met. As she was busy thinking of how best to respond, he whispered to her. "Do you still taste like milk and honey?" He asked in a low growl, his breath hot against her ear.
Feral lust shot through her, and Jenna closed her eyes. It had been so long since she'd had sex, and longer still since it had been good between her and Teagan. She tried to think back to some of the best times, the things she'd normally only recall in private, not in a room full of people. But at that moment, she was beyond caring, her heart thumping in her chest, Dairren's words burning in her ear. In her mind, she let her lust loose, until she could feel her body at attention as it rubbed against the silk of her dress.
Her breath came in hot, short gasps as she thought, thinking about whom she wanted, the perfect partner of her imagination. Flitting through a veritable who's who of the nobility, she couldn't settle on any one person for a while. When she did, the only face that her desire wore belonged to Teagan. It made her smile slightly as she answered Dairren. "You'd have to ask Bann Teagan."
He moved a half step away after her rebuke. When she looked over at him, he was smiling at her, but his expression was somewhat melancholy.
"You love him, don't you?"
"Yes. Very much."
"Then I'm sorry again, my lady." He looked pained as he said it, but he didn't drop his gaze. He was sincere, even then, and she realized that she liked Dairren. Maybe they could be friends, but she certainly wouldn't be his lover. Teagan would arrive soon enough, and she was determined to find her way back to her husband on her own terms.
Jenna held up her hand, a gesture of forgiveness between them. "Don't be. I needed the reminder."
Denerim looked the same to Teagan as it had the last time he'd visited, the only difference was that he'd been several weeks away from Jenna and was missing his wife. Other than seeing her, he had little reason to go to the city, though he supposed he should stay abreast of politics. There would be murmurs about him and Jenna, Highever and Redcliffe, people talking of an alliance. If they only knew how their engagement had come about - he nearly throttled by an angry father, all talk would stop.
It surprised him how much he'd come to miss Jenna in Rainesfere. Their recent troubles had diminished in his mind, and he'd come to hate sleeping alone. His bed was infinitely too big without her warm, sweet body in it. He'd even missed her dog, ever at her side, protecting his mistress.
His seneschal gave him his correspondence, including a few tedious looking dinner invitations, and several bills that Jenna had run up already. He was informed that the mistress was redecorating her own chambers, and some of her belongings were housed in his room for the time being. Teagan didn't mind, thinking that she meant to clean out the mess he'd stored in the other bedroom. Perhaps she'd get around to doing his while they were in residence. She wasn't in when he got there, but his closet was bursting with new dresses, silk stockings and hats that she hadn't had before she'd left. Some of this would have to stay in the city, there was simply no room nor need for it in Rainesfere.
He had no idea where to find his wife, so he went about his business, and presenting himself at court, where he ran into Fergus Cousland. His brother in law was a bit chilly to him, and Teagan supposed that he'd finally heard the truth about what prompted the quick engagement between him and Jenna. It was bound to happen, so Teagan shrugged it off, retiring to the Gnawed Noble Tavern for a drink and to hear anything relevant that had happened in his absence from the city.
It wasn't long after he got his ale that he was spotted by another bann. It seemed that everyone was in Denerim for the season.
"Bann Teagan." It was Ceorlic addressing him, a man he had never liked. His father had been a traitor during the occupation, conspiring in the killing of Moira the Rebel Queen. The son was little better once cowed into submission. He remained a simpering idiot who attached himself like a barnacle to first Maric and Loghain, now Cailan, in some attempt to atone.
"Bann Ceorlic. I trust you're well."
"Yes, very. Congratulations on your wedding."
"Thank you." Teagan said, turning his attention back to his ale. He had no wish to draw out the conversation longer than necessary.
"I understand the Cousland girl, your bride arrived before you." The stress he put on bride made it seem like a epithet, as if he meant to demean Jenna by calling her his bride. He wondered idly, whether it was him or the Couslands that Ceorlic had a problem with. Teagan was sure he wouldn't find out from this conversation. It was devoid of anything approaching meaning.
"Yes, I had some business to take care of in the south, but Je - Lady Jenna wanted to see her family. I sent her along first, not wanting to cut her visit short."
Ceorlic fidgeted, trying to make himself seem nervous, but his eyes glowed maliciously as he responded. The whole production was very tiresome to Teagan, who didn't actually care overmuch about anything Ceorlic could say. "Very noble, very noble indeed. I, for one, would have thought twice about sending my new wife to Denerim unchaperoned, but I see you aren't one for convention."
"Not as of late." Teagan said dryly.
"It's good then, that you are so trusting. Lady Jenna has been all about town, with her constant companion, Bann Loren's eldest son."
Teagan kept his face carefully bland. "Yes, they are old friends." He said cautiously, not feeding into Ceorlic.
"Yes, that would explain their closeness. They've been seen at parties and dinners together, talking and laughing well into the night."
He refused to be rattled by this man, who had obviously sought him out to do just that. Teagan neither knew nor cared what he'd done to earn such treatment, but he wasn't going to give in to it. "That's what friends do, Ceorlic. Had you any, you might well know that."
He delivered the slight in his normal tones, but Ceorlic huffed indignantly at the words. Backing away, he made his excuses, leaving Teagan to his tankard. He drank slowly, turning this new information over in his mind.
Jenna and Bann Loren's son? Standing too close at parties, he accompanying her when she wasn't out with her family? This wasn't something he'd ever expected to hear. He loved his wife, was crazy about her, and never had a reason not to trust her during their whole acquaintance. Her unfaithfulness was the last thing on his mind. Eamon's warnings from before their wedding flooded into him, letting doubt in. As determined as he had been not to react to the gossip, it was sinking his spirits to the bottom of their depths. Disheartened, Teagan went back to his apartments to wait for Jenna.
"I cannot wait for Teagan to arrive in Denerim. It's been a fantastic visit for me so far, and just what I needed after a dreary winter in Rainesfere. I am so excited to see him again, I confess I rest easier in his arms than I do otherwise. Who would have thought that after such resistance, and all the ups and downs, I would like being a married woman?" - From the journal of Jenna Cousland
Teagan could hear her before he even laid eyes on her, her voice lifted in song, happier than he could remember her being for many weeks. She was singing a sweet, lilting tune, as she walked towards him. He could hear her dog's claws clicking against the stone floor as he walked next to her, ever so often muffled when he came into contact with the carpets. Someone must have told her he was in residence, because her steps were quick and certain, heading towards their private rooms.
"Teagan!" Jenna cried out, and flung herself at him. There was no artifice in her greeting, only love and happiness at his presence.
He opened his arms to receive her, burying his face in her hair, breathing in deeply to catch her scent. It was always light, but complex, as if she wanted to leave a mystery lingering in her wake. Her hug was fierce, and when she caught his lips in a kiss, it was familiar and effortless, as if they didn't have the whole winter and Denerim between them. She was so lovely, her greeting so sincere. He wanted to disregard the rumor worming its way into his mind, ruining their reunion, dimming the brightness of the smile aimed at him. Her dress was new, lilac with ruffles and flounces, though its ornateness only served to enhance her obvious charms, the swell of her breasts and her slender waist.
"Are you alright?" It was all he asked instead of the many questions that were clouding his head. Teagan held at her arm's length, searching her face as he spoke. "I haven't been gone too long, have I?"
Jenna reached up and stroked his face, rubbing her thumb across his jaw. Teagan kept his eyes on her, but leaned into the touch. No matter how much time passed, her hands were still calloused from her weapons training, just as he remembered them from that first time in Highever. Thinking of their past gave him some comfort, and he composed himself as he listened to her soothing words. "I'll admit I missed you terribly, my love. But I needed to leave the bannorn when I did. I think that the time apart has done us good."
He had no answer for that, but simply hugged her to him. When they made love that night, she had to suppress her surprise that he hadn't taken her upon their reunion, but he'd needed time to get his head on straight. She attributed his ferocity to their separation, but he wanted to mark her as his own. By nature he wasn't a possessive man, but he was paranoid and confused, the words of Bann Ceorlic echoing in his mind. He'd also missed her a great deal, her absence from Rainesfere had been more keen than he could have anticipated. However, the wretched words refused to be displaced, no matter how he worked at it, and the poisoned Teagan against his wife.
It took a few days for the tension to develop between them again, but Teagan realized his part in hastening it. He'd been watching her every step, questioning her about going out. At first Jenna had been confused and conciliatory, trying to understand the change in him. When none of her efforts met with success, she grew worried and tense. It exploded after Dairren had come to call on her, and Teagan was unable to tamp down his disdain. Her guest left in short order, and Jenna found herself faced with an angry and insecure husband.
"Do you want to sleep with Bann Loren's son?"
Jenna turned on him, her face flushed scarlet with anger. "I cannot believe you would even ask me something like that. That doesn't get an answer."
"So it's true." Teagan replied grimly, as if her refusal had confirmed all of his worst thoughts.
"What's true is that you let your new wife come alone to the city, where the vultures gossiped about us and every other glance become more pitying the longer you were away. Dairren is simply a friend, because I needed one, and he took me out since you couldn't be bothered."
"You knew I had business in Rainesfere until the end of Spring. I couldn't come earlier. You said it would be alright, that you would spend time with Oriana and Fergus." He was aware that his voice had grown accusatory, but he couldn't keep it in any longer.
"Well, I have business in Denerim until the end of summer. I can't go back with you. I won't go back to that awful place until I have to." Jenna announced, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
They glared daggers at each other, neither one of them moving. The end of summer! She was going to stay in the city spending money until the last possible moment, then come home and sulk all winter. The prospect of spending months without her, somehow it angered him more than anything else she'd said.
"If that is what you wish, then so be it." Teagan hissed at her. She stood her ground, arms still locked in front of her chest, her face set in a defiant stare.
If she was going to thrown down ultimatums, he would abide by them. Weariness claimed him, and for the first time, he and his wife slept in their separate bed chambers. When he got up in the morning, the door adjoining their rooms was locked from her side, and she'd already departed for the day. So this was how it was going to be.
During all of their months together, she'd never truly seen Teagan's anger. He wasn't the kind to get upset quickly, but was the one others looked to when they needed a cool head. It made their estrangement all the more difficult to bear, because she was the focus of his rare ire, when she'd already been so hurt by his distance in Rainesfere. Her husband refused to take her out, or to let Dairren into the estate. She left only with her family, or Isolde.
They argued once more, the two of them barely civil in private once Teagan had made his accusations.
"Would you like to have an affair, Teagan? That way we can settle this once and for all. Our marriage can be like Eamon and Isolde's, if that pleases you."
She had recently found out that Eamon didn't take lovers, but sometimes dallied, with Isolde purposefully turning a blind eye. He had tastes that she didn't, and sometimes let him sate his carnality with others.
Teagan, however seemed not to know about it. "What?" He shook his head at her, a disgusted look on his face. "Eamon doesn't have affairs!"
"What could I possibly know about anything? You're right, as always. And I was a maid before your visit to Highever, you plucked my flower."
He gave a hard, biting laugh. "Only a rose has thorns such as yours and continues to come back no matter how it was cut down."
Jenna raised her nose, looking down at him as she hovered in the doorway. "I am a Cousland, not some damn flower you had to save. I could have married any number of Ferelden nobles, an Antivan Prince, or a Rivaini noble, but I chose you. You would do well to remember that." She exited, leaving him stung.
He hadn't ever considered that she didn't need to marry him, but that she'd wanted to. They'd both wanted this, to be together, more than anything at the time. Where had all of that enthusiasm gone? There was nothing he could think to say to her, even if she had stayed long enough for him to respond.
The day after their most recent argument, Jenna's spirits plummeted. Waking up alone day after day, not knowing why her husband didn't seem to trust or even like her very much had that effect. To keep herself from fighting with Teagan, she called around to her family, in need of a pleasant distraction from the tension that was making even Eamon and Isolde uneasy.
Oriana was napping but Fergus was in. Her brother took her around to the Gnawed Noble, where they sat drinking and discussing the business of Highever. Her father was late in coming to Denerim as well, and she regretted her childish anger she had before Teagan arrived. Her anger afterward, well, he'd earned that ire all on his own.
While her brother went off to catch up with his friend, she stayed at the table. Oswyn was still there with her, as was another young man, who soon departed, claiming he had to run an errand for his mother. She sat chatting with Oswyn politely as she waited for Fergus, even though the both of them had little in common. Tiring of the tedious small talk, she asked Oswyn to see her back to the arl's estate. The two of them said goodbye to Fergus, who waved them away with good cheer, in the middle of telling a story about his growing son.
"Tell me, my lady, is the Arl of Redcliffe's estate as grand inside as it is outside? My mother often talks about the fountain Eamon installed." Oswyn said, keeping up their mindless chatter as he escorted her.
"Oh, it is very lovely, traditionally Ferelden. I think the Arlessa Isolde wanted to reclaim the Guerrin heritage."
"My mother is a friend of the arlessa, though she's not been to Redcliffe in some time. When she next visits Denerim with my father, I should tell her to call on the two of you."
"You should." Jenna agreed absently. She was aware he was merely speaking to fill the silence, but her thoughts were elsewhere, with Teagan. They were still in the midst of their cold spell, and she hadn't seen him that day before she'd departed. He'd breakfasted earlier than she and left without saying goodbye. He could be so vexing when he wanted, and she was determined to stand her ground the two locked in a stubborn stalemate.
"She was a friend of Bann Teagan's too, my mother. She said he was damn lucky to do so well as to marry you. I have to agree." Oswyn continued.
"Both you and your mother are too kind. I assure you, we are well-matched."
"But you're upset with him?"
Jenna laughed, stopping in her tracks. "Was it that obvious?" She asked, feeling foolish that she'd betrayed her emotions.
Oswyn smiled kindly at her. "You grow more tense as we get closer to the estate. And you have the same look my dear sister wears, when that Antivan fop she married has made her angry. "
"If you were my husband, would you let me stay in the city until summersend all alone, just to prove a point?"
"If I were your husband, I wouldn't be so careless as to malign Bann Teagan in the open." He countered, his smile twisting into a smirk. "But should I have ever been so lucky, I wouldn't presume to tell you what to do. I think it would be best that way to keep you from staying mad at me."
This statement made Jenna laugh again, and they resumed their walk. "You are far more wise than you seem, Oswyn."
"Just don't tell Bann Teagan." He said conspiratorially, giving her a wink.
She managed a small smile, but otherwise didn't answer. That was the problem, wasn't it? She wasn't even talking to her husband, who didn't seem to listen to her overmuch anyway. It pulled on her spirits, lowering them down even further. They couldn't go on like this, well, she couldn't at the very least. Jenna made up her mind, wanting nothing more than to just get past this overblown, large hurdle in their relationship. She wanted Teagan back, the man who'd stolen into her room in Highever and wouldn't leave without proposing, because he couldn't see himself without her. She needed to be herself again, to love passionately and deeply, to feel like she had a place at the side of her husband.
She was going to apologize as soon as she saw Teagan, and they were going to start again. It was well past time.
Teagan wasn't in when Jenna arrived back at their apartments. He was off visiting his nephew, the king which sounded important, but truly wasn't. They'd been talking of hunting. He hadn't spoken to Jenna that day, though on the way to the palace Eamon took the time to tell Teagan that he thought they were both being ridiculous. The longer their fight wore on, the more he thought Eamon was correct.
That morning, Teagan had heard Isolde and Jenna talking together, in Orlesian no less. It was a private conversation, at the time, he thought himself entitled to hear it, and defiantly eavesdropped. His own Orlesian was rusty, but he caught words like solitaire and désolé, lonely and desolate, words that made him feel like a complete arse for his treatment of her.
He'd planned on apologizing, maybe offering to stay part of the summer with her in Denerim, but when he went to his quarters, he noticed a change. The door that joined his room to Jenna's was open wide, revealing her sitting chamber.
It was the first time he'd seen her rooms. Shamefully, he admitted to himself that he hadn't paid any particular attention to them before their rift, preferring his own larger quarters and having her sleep there with him. But her rooms were unexpectedly comfortable, full of light and rich colors.
Jenna herself was seated on a fainting couch, a book open on her lap. She looked lovely, wearing a corseted dress with a daring neckline, the pale pink fabric complimenting the golden brown of her skin. Her mabari sat at the foot of the couch, sleeping comfortably.
"Your rooms are quite lovely." He said, chiding himself inwardly for the stupidity of his opening statement.
"Thank you." Jenna answered primly, tucking a ribbon into the book she read and closing it.
"You're quite welcome." Teagan said, maintaining their formality. "Are you still angry with me?"
"No." Jenna sighed. "I am sorry for all the problems I caused, however inadvertent they were. I..." She swallowed, and looked away from him. "I want to go home, to Rainesfere, with you."
"I don't want to force you."
"You haven't. I'd prefer to be with you rather than do without you."
Teagan felt foolish, softened by her unexpected capitulation. The thought that she would want to be with him rather than without him made him happy. He needed to be wanted by her, needed to know she still felt the same as she had in Highever. They'd gotten so off track after their wedding. They fell silent, and Teagan watched her dog move away from them, seating himself closer to the fire as if he wanted to give them privacy. He followed the hound with his eyes, inspecting the room.
The more time he spent in her rooms, the more he realized he didn't actually know his wife. He looked around to see her personality in the richly embroidered fabrics, stylishly put together. Her room was neither dull nor overly oppressive. Though the colors in her room were rich, they had a gaiety to them, and cleverly played against the light that came into the room.
She'd placed mirrors opposite some of the windows, bouncing the incoming light around the whole of the room, making it feel bigger and brighter than it was. There were several different pieces of furniture in the room, and none of the same make, but nothing felt mismatched. There were books in a small shelf, but they didn't dominate the room. A weapons rack in a corner held her daggers, and next to it was her leather armor on a mannequin. Seeing it there reminded him that she'd not had a chance to practice all winter - he'd simply forgotten that she was a warrior of sorts, and hadn't bothered asking her to spar.
A small statue of Andraste and a lute lay in a corner of the room. Music wasn't a hobby he'd realized she had, another detail that shamed him. For all the time he'd spent with her all winter, he'd done little more than rut with her. Every time she wanted to change something, he'd protested, even undermined her authority. No wonder she'd withdrew. He'd been an awful husband.
And yet, here she was, apologizing. Making the first step that he was too stubborn to take. Telling him she wanted to be with him, that she cared for him, when he barely even said the same to her. Maker, how long had it been since he'd told her that he loved her? Truly, he did, but he couldn't recall the last time he'd said so.
"I love you." He said, remedying the situation immediately. "I couldn't stand the thought of going back without you." He confessed, leaning towards her. Reaching out his hand, he ran his thumb over the contours of her jaw, smiling as she closed her eyes at his touch.
"I love you too, Teagan." She whispered.
"Things haven't been good between us for a while, have they?" Teagan asked, his voice much softer.
"No, they haven't. I'm not sure why it was so hard though. We needed to get used to each other, and I was missing home."
"And I wasn't there." Teagan said, chiding himself. "You said once that I treated you like a guest. At the time I didn't understand, but I think I am beginning to now."
"I felt like I couldn't do anything, and you were so busy. The servants wouldn't listen to me, and nothing was working out. When I came to Denerim..." She trailed off, looking sad. "It was so nice to be away from Rainesfere, to be with my family. It was like remembering who I was. And everyone wanted to talk to me, to see me. Dairren did proposition me, but he backed off right away."
"What did he say?" Teagan was curious in the way he might stare at an accident.
"He asked..." She colored, but held his gaze as she finished, "If I still tasted like milk and honey."
Teagan felt anger flush through him, but bit it back enough to speak. "What did you say?"
"That he'd have to ask you if he wanted to know."
Teagan laughed, partially from relief but also amused by her cheeky answer. If Dairren had been recklessly brazen, she'd been equally so in her response. "I'm sorry." He managed, once he stopped laughing. "I'm so sorry we fell apart, my love."
For the first time in days, he kissed her. It was apologetic and sweet, tinged with regret for all that had transpired. How had he ever kept himself from her? Each kiss was grew more desperate, deeper as he demanded more. Time and too much stubborn stupidity had wedged them apart, and Teagan wanted to dispel all of it. She was just as eager he to put the past behind them, her mouth pressing hard against his. When he looked into her eyes, they were so dark they appeared stormy, but he knew she was far from upset with him.
His fingers tangled in the corset of her dress, but rather than try to undo them, Teagan pulled on the front panel of the dress until her breasts popped free, chuckling softly when she gasped. "I do know my way around a dress or two." Teagan breathed in her ear.
"How very lucky that you're so skilled." She replied, raking a hand through his hair as he kissed her neck, licking the hollow of her collarbone, and then going lower, kissing the soft skin of her chest.
Jenna leaned back until she was beneath him, laying down on the fainting couch. "I missed you so much Teagan." She murmured as he descended upon her once again, kissing her lips and working his way down.
All he heard was another gasp when he covered the hardened tip of her breast with his mouth. Her skirts had worked their way up her legs, not quite to her waist, and Teagan decided to help them along. Moving his hand up her leg in a sweeping motion, he gathered the cloth, pushing it away from places he wanted exposed.
Silken hose encased her long legs, but he had no moments to spare on them as lifted her skirts. Jenna was just as busy as he, untying her smallclothes, making more of her lovely skin accessible to his kisses. They were pretty little things, fastened on each hip with a bow, and Jenna's fingers pulled them one at a time, releasing her from the cloth confines before he even had a chance to push them aside. In his fevered mind, he made a note to purchase more of the marvelous things for her before they left Denerim.
The smell of her arousal, wet and musky, hit him like potent drink, and Teagan groaned as he pulled the lacy scrap of fabric out from under her. He was still painfully dressed, the touch of the cloth against his heated skin almost chafing. Reluctantly, he withdrew his mouth from her chest, his wife whimpering at the loss. When no further kisses came, she crooned his name, beckoning him back to her with a soft plea made ragged with desire. It took all of his focus to stand up. Panting as his worthless fingers slipped over the buttons of his doublet, Teagan could feel his erection straining his trousers, aching to be free.
Shedding his clothes unceremoniously, Teagan felt the cool of the air around them dimming the heat of his body somewhat, but not enough to be of relief. He sank down onto the couch, his mouth slanting over hers. There was nothing he wanted but to touch every inch of her, to feel her again, and his hands were busy as she claimed him with hungry kiss after kiss, kneading a breast before moving onto skim over her thighs.
He could feel her hips inching upward, begging for his hand to dip between her legs, but he didn't. Teagan was far too greedy in this matter, Dairren's impertinent question to his wife driving his desire. When he pulled his mouth from Jenna's it was to taste her, to suckle her hard nub and feel her writhing beneath him. She was his, all his, and they'd both been so foolish. He let his tongue make his apologies, laving over her sweet, sensitive folds as she moaned, her end coming soon. Delicious wetness covered his face as she unfurled, losing control like waves crashing against the a rocky shore. Every moment of her pleasure was bliss for him, as she whimpered his name as it were all she could hold onto to keep her grounded.
Before she was completely finished, body still quaking, he hilted himself within her. Teagan groaned as he did, surrounded by warmth, wet tightness. He'd missed her, more than he could say. Somehow these last days felt even longer than the weeks before he'd come to Denerim, and this was more of a homecoming than they had upon his arrival. Hips snapping in a steady, building rhythm, Teagan was pushing himself deeper and deeper within her, each time pulling out just until the head of his cock was almost visible and burying it deep within her again.
It took a shamefully short amount of time for Teagan to finish. Everything conspired against him, the gorgeous blush that colored Jenna's chest, down to her nipples, the clench and release of her around him, her hands gripping him, pulling him closer as she moaned his name - all intertwined with his own frantic need. Blood pounded in his ears the closer he got, and all he could do was feel, his other senses all jumbled. He felt Jenna, the two of them as one, and shared in the pleasure that flicked across her face, felt the urgency that united both of them until he finally broke.
Coming with a violent jerk of his hips and a loud, protracted groan, Teagan shuddered as his climax rebounded through him. The short strokes that worked him through his release took his last remnants of energy. He wanted nothing more than to collapse next to Jenna, catching his breath. If only they had the room on the couch. Giving himself only a few moments, he stood up and gathered his clothes, then held out a hand to Jenna.
"Where are we going like this?" Jenna asked, voice tinged with laughter.
Teagan titled his head at her, smiling. "To my bed. Didn't you once say that making up was the best part of a disagreement? I daresay we've got a lot of making up to do after this one. Probably a whole afternoon's worth of making up."
The light in her eyes as she took his hand answered better than any words could have.
Summer in Ferelden had a way of being too brief, but all the more brutal for it. The city was no less diminished as the temperatures rose and the humidity along with it. People began abandoning the streets during the midday, preferring to take shelter someplace with a nominal breeze or shade, both if they were lucky. The Guerrins stayed in Denerim until just after the Summerday festival. Whatever rumors that dogged the couple were mostly dispelled in that time, Lady Jenna and Bann Teagan were well known to be mad about each other.
During the day, they spent their time at the Chantry, watching the procession of eager young men and women, just coming of age. It hadn't been so long ago that Jenna had been amongst them, but she'd remained in Highever for her celebrations. Denerim was so large she feared she'd be lost in a sea of white tunics during the procession. The larger crowd proved to be beautiful to watch, solemn as they journeyed, their chanted oaths of adulthood a chorus of many voices blended to one. It brought tears to her eyes, and as she dabbed at them with a kerchief, Teagan wrapped an arm around her.
Normally, Jenna would have been waiting eagerly for the night of the festivities when the sky was painted with fireworks and the royal band played, but aside from a brief appearance, she opted for a quiet night with Teagan. They were getting along much better, and they sat with Isolde and Connor, who had napped in order to be awake for the festivities. He was still too young to understand much, but he grew excited at the sight of the fireworks, and Isolde fed him sugared bread as a treat.
They were peaceful, all of them together, Eamon alone remaining at the palace to represent their family. She was glad to be done with it, and ready to go back to Rainesfere. It was strange to miss the place, but somehow, between the arguments and making up with Teagan, she'd come to think of it as home. It would never replace Highever in her heart, but she was looking forward to seeing the dusty red landscape again. The longer they spent in the city, the more tense Teagan grew, tiring of the pomp and politics. Seeing it from the perspective of an adult for the first time, it wore on her too, and more often Jenna found herself thinking longingly of the solitude that awaited them at home.
Besides wanting to be done with Denerim, she had something to look forward to once they got back to Rainesfere - her first visitor. Bryce Cousland was to visit them at the end of the summer months, after he was finished with his business in Highever. He hadn't yet made it to Denerim, and she suspected he would forgo coming to the city to visit her. It meant a lot that her father would make the long trip to Rainesfere just to spend time with her.
After the fireworks ended, a nanny ushered a sleepy Connor inside, while Teagan, Isolde and Jenna lingered in the garden, sipping the last of their wine. Teagan was holding her hand, and every so often, Isolde would look their way and smile. Jenna liked her sister in law, she really did, Isolde was a sweet woman who bore the scorn that came with her Orlesian heritage with more grace than Jenna would have. She was quite like Oriana in some ways, and felt like a cross between aunt and sister.
"Are you ready to go in?" Teagan asked her.
Jenna looked up at the now still sky, remnants of smoke dissipating around the stars. Her ears still rang slightly from the great booms of gunpowder needed to make the spectacle light up the sky. Isolde brushed off her dress.
"I think so. Goodnight, Isolde." Jenna said, nodding at the arlessa.
"Goodnight, Jenna, Teagan. I will wait out here for Eamon. I think he will be home soon. If not, it is nice to enjoy the night."
They departed, leaving her alone outside. On the way in, Teagan kissed her, just under the stone archway that led into the house.
"What was that for?" Jenna asked.
"Always good luck to kiss a beautiful woman on Summersday." He said.
Jenna laughed softly. "If you say so, even though we might be a little late for the day part."
"After all we've been through, I'm not going to turn a little luck away." Teagan said.
Jenna squeezed his hand and felt him answer with a pulse of his own. It made her smile as they walked together. As a consequence of their prolonged misunderstanding, they'd somehow lost the ease that had sprung up between them in Highever. A full reconciliation would take considerable time, but every day they grew in their understanding of one another and their togetherness, forging a bond stronger than before.
A few days later, they were being waved away by a relieved looking Eamon, who couldn't be happier to be rid of the tempestuous couple. She'd have to find a way to make up for the constant fighting that marred the beginning of their visit, but in that moment she was just as relieved to be headed away from Denerim, though she was leaving the city without seeing her father. His business had kept him in Highever, though he'd made arrangements to come and see her as soon as he could. She was looking forward to his calming presence, and to asking him a few questions. Her upbringing may have given her glimpses of ruling, but it was vastly different in application than it was to watch and she desired his counsel. He'd always made it seem so easy to be fair, efficient and thoughtful.
The ride home was much quicker than her trip to the city, and she marveled at how the countryside had changed in the few weeks she'd been in Denerim. Fields that had been the mud were now filled with crops and workers bent in the heat, busy tending to their livelihood.
As the carriage took them home, Teagan made note of where they were and who was growing what and how the crops were doing. On a few stops, he made trades and spoke to the few nobles that had also left Denerim or had never bothered to venture there for the season. It amazed Jenna how easily he spoke to people, shaking hands and sharing ales, all to gain assurances of trades, new seeds and products that he'd take home. His mind was always thinking of his bannorn, and how to improve the lives of his people. It almost reminded her of watching her parents work, though it unsettled her to realize that Teagan asked for her opinions and thoughts because she was also now responsible for the people of Rainesfere.
"I never thought I would miss this place so much." Jenna said with a small sigh as their manor house grew in the distance before them.
She laid her head on Teagan's shoulder, and he gave her a squeeze with the arm he had looped around her waist. "I never thought you would either."
"It's good to be home." She said, not wanting to delve into the past few months. He seemed to take his cue from her, and nodded in agreement. The two of them were silent as they were carried past their own fields, crops in various state of development, some already done for the year and others just springing to life in the moderate heat and humidity of the southern summer.
That was one pleasant surprise about returning to Rainesfere. As they journeyed, the weather grew milder, and she stopped feeling like a wrung out rag every time she had to make the least bit of physical exertion. Jenna was used to the warmer temperatures, but growing up near the sea had meant there was a place for respite from the hottest of days and usually a breeze. Denerim with its mass of people and buildings offered no such pleasures, despite its coast but home was far enough south that the weather became less oppressive.
It took a short stroll about the grounds for her to reawaken her legs properly, but she was glad to be back. The gardens had bloomed, and she could smell the mingled scents of food and flowers growing, the tilled soil that had recently seen rain. Teagan let her be alone, taking the time to oversee the unloading and consult with the stablehand, Dust, who looked excited at their return.
When she finally went in, it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dimness of inside, but there was no mistaking it. The whole of the house was different, recognizable, but altered. Furniture and paintings that hadn't been there when she left filled the main room, and Jenna walked along, admiring everything. These were their things, some hers, some his, finally all together in the house like she'd envisioned just after their wedding. There could only be one explanation for this - Teagan. It was his doing, she just knew it.
"Welcome home, Lady Jenna." A maid said, looking over from where she stood on tiptoe, dusting a mounted shield painted with the Cousland heraldry.
It took a moment for her to find her voice, her throat stung with the bite of sentimental tears at the sight of it. "Thank you. I'm happy to be back." Jenna said finally.
Teagan didn't follow her inside immediately, taking his time attending to the business of the house. He let Jenna find her way there at her own pace, hoping that his instructions had been carried out to the letter. Part of him was still making up for the past, for things he should have done last winter and hadn't. He was older and supposedly wiser than Jenna, but since he'd met her in Highever, he questioned that assumption.
In Denerim, they'd stayed up late into the night, talking, figuring out their footing, fixing things. She'd forgiven him with a kiss that silenced his murmured apologies, and he'd tried to stop feeling so guilty and angry about it all. They'd screwed up, but were working on it, and to Jenna, that was what mattered, not what happened in the past.
But it did matter to him. He knew they couldn't come back to Rainesfere and slip into their old roles. There had to be a place for both of them, it had to feel like they both lived and worked there, otherwise he'd go back to doing everything and she'd feel useless all over again.
So there was new furniture, things rearranged and unpacked. Some of it was sent covertly from Denerim ahead of them, and the shield he'd gotten from Fergus Cousland after he'd explained himself. That had been one of the most awkward, strained conversations Teagan had ever taken part in, but it had accomplished his goal and earned him some goodwill with his new brother in the end. He hoped it would be enough, especially with Bryce coming to visit in a few weeks.
He found Jenna in the dining room, looking around at the new banners on the walls, the additional chairs in the room, the new plates on the table. As she traced her finger around the rim of a plate, she smiled to herself, then up at him.
"This is wonderful. Did you have this done for me?" She asked.
"For us. I thought if we came back to a changed place, we wouldn't fall back into old habits. And it was time for a change." He admitted. When he'd come in, the change had been shocking, the house he'd inhabited for so long was at once more homey and impressive.
"Oh Teagan, that was very thoughtful." Jenna said, impressed. "But you know, not everything between us needed changing." She whispered to him. Looking up at her husband through her lashes, she saw him smile at her words.
She led him to their bedroom with such haste, the maids tutted in their wake.