The whole plan was expected to fall apart. In a rush of irritation again, Erna desperately tried to calm herself.
“Alright,” she muttered, “Might as well get done with it.”
She hadn’t wanted things to go this way ever in her life, but one doesn’t get everything one wanted in life. Erna hadn’t forgotten their promise. Their position would be secured if they did this. If they produced a child, no one would dare to order them to step down from their position ever again. Erna stood up from the tub and approached the mirror on the wall.
“You can do it,” she mumbled to her reflection, covered in a b*thr*be. “You are not scared.” She stood in front of the mirror for a long while, whispering assurances and trying to convince herself that she was brave, bold and beautiful. That this was nothing.
At the sound of the grandfather clock, Erna lifted her eyes from the documents in front of her. The hour hand was now pointing to 11. Time to fulfill her promise. Standing half-dead like a cow being dragged to a slaughterhouse, she looked in the mirror one last time.
Usually she wore pajama pants in the comfort of her room. But today, she wore a dress. It wasn’t because of any intention to look pretty, though. She thought that in the face of what they had planned to do, a dress would be better accessible to the other party.
She now stood at the front of the couple’s bedroom. She sighed, frustrated. Her sighs never seemed to end today. Erna’s trembling hand gripped the doorknob and turned it. In the past ten years, not once had she come to this room. This particular bedroom had all her traumas and nightmares encompassed in its walls.
She had had plenty of nightmares after that disgraceful night in this particular room with Kalion. The nightmares were always about a maid poking a cold, metal tool around her insides, with her legs forced apart. She would sometimes see herself wandering these hallways, people staring at her as though she was naked and exposed. The marriage bed and herself with Kalion on it.
Erna shuddered with her hands on the doorknob. Don’t think of anything, she told herself. Sweat rolled down the back of her neck. Should I just turn away? She hesitated at the door. What if she turned away from here, walked back to her room, studied the document, sipped some warm tea, practiced a bit of magic, and went to sleep. What if she forgot all this as just a bad dream?
Most probably, Kalion would storm up to her room and demand why she hadn’t kept her promise. Kalion hated her as much as she hated him. The first night of their marriage had left this deep-seated hatred for each other, and with good reason. Giving him more reason to hate her, although an enticing prospect, wouldn’t make it easier for them to do what needed to be done. It would not solve their problems. She cannot brush this off with ‘I am tired today’ because it will be the same the day after and so on.
There was no choice. There remained the disgusting task of making a successor. Erna summoned all her courage and opened the door.
This particular door had been closed for ten long years, obviously the hinges were rusty. She closed her eyes and stepped inside, and was surprised that the room felt warm as her own. She opened her eyes to a blazing fireplace, decanter and glasses on the table, and Kalion leaning back on a sofa.
“You’re here,” he said and stood up from his perch.
He walked towards her. Erna swallowed hard as he reached her and stood before her. The only thing she noticed was how big he was. She knew that he was tall and well-built. As was she. She had always had a well-built physique, delicate wasn’t the word she liked or associated with. But the closeness felt like a dash of ice water as she realized that he indeed looked huge when compared to her. She tried not to look at his forearms, which looked muscular, huge and sturdy.
The air lingered with the smell of alcohol. She shifted her gaze to the decanter and glasses on the table. She was stunned. Kalion never touched alcohol, much less drank it. He always left his wine untouched at meals. She had also heard from the knights he travelled with, that he never touched beer at inns as well. From the smell alone, she could guess that the alcohol on the table was quite a strong one.
Her eyebrows shot up. This was a day full of shocks for her, one after the other. Liquid courage, she thought. It put her mind a little at ease that Kalion didn’t know what he was doing, too. That he was as nervous and anxious as her. The idea of doing this together was so preposterous for both of them that Kalion couldn’t even bear to think of it sober.