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Story contains soft/subtle domination, humiliation and submission. Later chapters explore these themes further. Enjoy!

*****

The Springtime feast was underway and the atmosphere in King Godwin’s court was jubilant. Hundreds of revelers ate, drank and danced in the Great Hall, while the sound of laughter and music rose to the rafters.

Eudora, daughter to King Godwin, observed the festivities from his Majesty’s table at the end of the Great Hall. It was all too familiar a sight for the princess: the drunken lechers clumsily pawing at the young, voluptuous women on the ballroom floor, the older noblemen of the court cheering them on and slapping their behinds in congratulations for their lewdness, the elderly women exchanging disapproving glances with one another… it was a scene of pure debauchery brought on by drink; a typical holiday evening of festivities in her father’s court. Eudora had been attending these gatherings from a young age and it was always the same: a parade of gluttonous imbeciles. The only real pleasure she derived from these gatherings was listening to the heavenly music played by the court’s musicians. Aside from the pleasant company of her handful of ladies-in-waiting, there was no other reason she could think of to stay past the end of the feast, except for those magnificent compositions pouring out of the musicians’ instruments, flooding the hall.

As she turned her attention to the court musicians, Eudora noticed an unfamiliar man among them. His head was bowed and his dark eyebrows were furrowed in intense concentration as he maneuvered the bow of his viol back and forth in slow, fluid motions. The locks of his dark, shiny hair were tousled as a result of the gentle rocking motion he made as he rhythmically stroked the viol, and when he raised his head at the end of the piece she noticed how angular and fine his face was. As he smoothed the hair back from his forehead with his free hand, his deep blue eyes did a quick scan of the hall before his gaze met Eudora’s. Their eyes locked on each other for a brief, arresting moment before the musician broke away from her gaze and shyly lowered his head like a pup in submission.

He nervously smoothed his hair back once more and stared fixedly at the notation on the music lectern in front of him – nearly burning a hole through it with his eyes – until the group commenced playing their next piece. He continued to stare at his notation with high intensity throughout the composition. Eudora continued to study him further, as she figured he couldn’t possibly be aware she was still staring at him. She noticed his elegant, slender build, his long, sinewy legs framing either side of his viol, his delicate grasp on the bow, and how deftly he handled it in his beautifully long fingers, as though the bow were simply an extension of his lithe, graceful body. He appeared güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri a good bit younger than the other musicians, and Eudora thought him to be roughly her own age.

By the time the court musicians had played their last piece of the night, he had not looked up from his music lectern once. As the court musicians began to pack up their instruments and converse with one another, Eudora watched the young man from the corner of her eye. His attention was focused on one of the older musicians in his band, who was speaking very animatedly with his hands. The older man made a quick gesture with his hands and all of the musicians laughed boisterously in unison. They began to exit together through an arched doorway on the side of the hall, and Eudora admired him for one last time before he receded into the darkness.

As she turned her eyes back to her ladies-in-waiting, Eudora noticed that a book and several stray papers remained on the lectern that the young man had been using throughout the evening. As the women made their way off the dais and across the floor of the hall, she picked up the book from the lectern. She told her ladies-in-waiting to go on without her and that she would catch up to them.

Eudora saw there was a loose page peeking out from the book’s edges. She opened the book to the page, which was adorned with a magnificently lifelike drawing of a buck. She noticed that most borders of the other pages in the booklet were adorned with impossibly detailed illustrations: a plethora of sketches of flora and fauna, mechanical-looking designs of strange and wondrous-looking musical instruments, and a hauntingly alluring woman drawn in a variety of poses and in varying states of undress. As she gazed upon another illustration of the woman, entirely nude and casting a “come hither” glance back over her shoulder, the young musician ran hurriedly back into the hall and stopped abruptly as soon as he saw his book in Eudora’s hands. His jarring stop made such a thud on the floor that it echoed throughout the hall, and Eudora’s head reflexively snapped up to see the young man standing on his toes, frozen in place in front of her, eyes wide and full of alarm. He stood as though suspended in air for a moment before quickly dropping to one knee and lowering his head to the ground.

“Your Grace,” he choked out with a waver in his voice.

She looked down at the young man, and flipped to the book cover to search for a name.

“Rafe Andrion de Beauchamp?” she asked the man.

“Yes, Your Grace,” he replied, staring at the ground in front of him.

“You may rise.”

Rafe rose slowly, his deep blue eyes, sick with apprehension, reluctantly meeting hers.

“I assume you have come for this?” Eudora asked, lifting the book slightly upwards.

“Yes. Thank you, Your Grace,” Rafe said, güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri lowering his chin submissively, waiting for her to return the book to him.

She made no such gesture and instead, turned the book over again to where she had last been admiring his illustrations. To his horror, she began flipping through the pages, examining each illustration in silence. As he watched her, he felt completely helpless and exposed, as though he were spread out naked on a physician’s table awaiting an examination.

“Rafe Andrion de Beauchamp… you are quite the skilled artist in addition to being an exceptional viol player,” Eudora said, her eyes still busily studying his sketches.

Rafe’s cheeks immediately flushed scarlet. He smiled guardedly and looked down at the ground as he spoke. “Thank you most kindly for your praise, Your Grace… they are but crude sketches.”

She paused on another illustration of the woman and cocked her head. “Who is SHE?”

“Your grace?” Rafe timidly raised his eyebrows and his eyes to meet hers, and felt a hard knot of fear rising in his throat.

Eudora tilted her head to look at him. “Your lady… the one that you draw so adoringly.”

Rafe immediately felt as though the floor had begun to spin beneath him. He saw the edges of the hall begin to bleed black ink and terror gripped him as he became certain he was moments from passing out. He struggled with all of his strength to stay upright and keep a foothold in the waking world.

Eudora saw the young man quickly turn pale and queasy looking. “Oh, that is quite a private matter isn’t it? I meant no offense to you, or to your lady. I do hope you will forgive me my invasive inquiry and that your lady will not be affronted by my curious nature.” She held out the book for him, and his hand reached out shakily to receive it.

“I have taken no offense, Your Grace, none at all… she…” he stammered. “She is not my lady. It is simply that I – well, I – I have not made my affections known to her, Your Grace, and…” his voice trailed off.

“Ah.” Eudora smiled warmly. “You adore her from afar and would that her identity be kept private before you have summoned the courage to declare your affections to her.”

Rafe stood dumbfounded, but managed to choke out, “Yes, Your Grace… that is precisely it.”

Eudora nodded. “I see that she appears to wear garments not unlike those of my fellow noblewomen. Perhaps she was present at this evening’s festivities?”

Rafe’s stomach dropped. He could not believe she had noticed such a minor detail in his sketches! It was totally out of the question to lie to a member of the royal family. He suddenly felt defeated and resigned to what he assumed would be his inevitable humiliation.

“Yes, Your Grace. She was present.” Rafe surrendered.

Eudora’s güvenilir bahis şirketleri smile widened. “I see. I assume you know her name, yes?”

“Yes, Your Grace. I do know her name.” Rafe admitted.

“So if you were to tell me her name, perhaps I could speak to her to see if she has any affections for you as well.”

Rafe inhaled deeply. “Your Grace, I would not deign to burden you with such trivial matters.”

Eudora continued on undeterred. “I would not reveal your affections to her of course, I would only speak most highly of you to gauge her response.”

“Your Grace, I have truly done nothing to deserve this kindness from you,” Rafe said pleadingly, suddenly desperate for her to drop the matter.

Eudora’s interest was now piqued. She was perplexed by his polite refusal of her offer. Why would a young man like him want so much to keep his affections hidden from a lady he clearly fawned over, especially when she was willing to help him?

“You will find a way to repay me, I have no doubt. She ought to know that she has inspired such adoration in you, don’t you agree?”

Rafe sighed and looked lost in thought. “Your Grace, I fear she is a lady quite… far beyond my reach. She is… very high born and I am… but a simple court musician.”

“Such divisions mean little to those who understand true affections. Perhaps your lady would see beyond your limitations?”

Rafe’s posture relaxed at her words, and he unconsciously gazed deeply into her eyes. “One can only hope, Your Grace.”

Eudora smiled mischievously at Rafe. “Let us find out then. Give me her name.”

Rafe hesitated for a moment, then acquiesced. “Very well, Your Grace. Might I write it down though? I am… uncertain of how one says it.”

“But of course.”

Rafe tore off a corner from one of his pages and retrieved a stylus and ink pot from one of the nearby lecterns. Rafe dipped the stylus lightly into the ink pot and began to write on the paper. When he was finished, he blew onto the ink and folded the paper in half. He handed Eudora the paper and said, “Your Grace, I must thank you most profoundly for your kindness. I will forever remember your generosity and most of all, I hope that you would not think ill of me.”

“Why ever would I think ill of you?” Eudora said with a twinkle in her eye. “I will send someone to deliver a message to you regarding your lady.”

He smiled graciously and bowed deferentially. “Thank you, Your Grace. A pleasant evening to you then, Your Grace,” Rafe said with an air of finality.

“And a pleasant evening to you as well sir.”

He slowly took two steps backward with his chin down, and the expression on his face suddenly changed to that of extreme caution and alertness, as though he were backing away carefully from a predator that might pounce upon him at any moment. The corners of his mouth turned briefly upward before he turned and jogged briskly through the arched doorway.

She watched his figure fade into the shadows before unfolding the paper. As Eudora read the name on the paper, she felt her heart jump into her throat.

The name he had written was “Eudora Caiperona de Welbe.”

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