Jack leaves a sated Olivia to sleep in her bedchambers as he retires to his. The next morning there is a knock at her door. Edward has come to call. Once she is dressed, she has him escorted into her sitting room. “Good morning, Edward.”
Edward offers her a light smile, though he looks winded, as though he might have finished running a long way. “Good morning, my lady. You are feeling well, I hope?”
“I am. I suppose you heard about what happened last night at dinner?”
He gives a nod. “So is it true? That you….gelded a man?”
“Not completely. I left him with one.”
“By the gods….all over some drunken foolishness?”
“He insulted me publicly. He gave me no choice.”
“Couldn’t your lord husband have defended your honor? There shouldn’t have been any need for you to take such measures.” Unlike Jack, who found the thought arousing, Edward clearly finds the thought of Olivia spilling blood horrifying.
“My lord father told me to kill the first man who insulted me in public. From that point of view, I actually spared the wretch.” She shrugs and turns to a mirror to check her hair. “Don’t look at me that way, Edward,” she says to his reflection. “By spilling this man’s blood a little now, I spared the lives of countless others. Northerners respect strength. You told me that yourself.”
“Yes, that’s true…” But he didn’t expect her to take it to heart so readily and, in his view, so easily. “I was just concerned that it might have upset you to do so.”
The nonchalant expression fades from Olivia’s features. “It did upset me. It does upset me. But I am a Warren, and I cannot let the people see any hint of weakness in me.”
He gives a nod, pleased to hear that acts of violence hadn’t become routine for her. “Well, everyone is talking about it, so I hope he makes for a good example.”
“It’s just as well you are here, Edward. Until the rest of the banners have gone home, I’d prefer to keep all of us together in one place. I think I will ask Lord Braydon if you and my guards can move into the rooms across from mine for the time being.” Her maids have already moved into a room next to hers chambers.
“An excellent idea, my lady.” One which works well with his own plans.
“Will you join me for tea on the balcony? Oh, have you had breakfast yet?”
“I’d love to. I was in a hurry to come check on you so I have yet to have breakfast.”
“Then you can dine with me.” Olivia looks around and spots one of her maids. “Sara, Lord Edward and I are going to have breakfast on the balcony.” The girl curtsies and turns to obey her mistress’s bidding. Olivia leads Edward out to the balcony, where a table is already set. A pot of steaming tea awaits them.
Edward takes the seat across form her as another maid pours tea for them both. “Even in this peace, it’s always wise to remember who we are.”
Olivia frowns at him as she stirs her tea. “And what does that mean? Do you think I forget who I am?”
“No, never, my lady. You are your father’s daughter and your resolve to do what’s best for Westfall is second to none.”
She has the feeling he’s trying to tell her something, but Edward is not known for being direct. Ah well, he’ll get around to his point eventually. She can wait. “Tell me what you have been up to, Edward. I have not seen much of you.”
“Keeping to myself mostly, speaking with the local maester. Trying not to be in anyone’s way.”
“You never keep to yourself, Edward.”
“Well, I’m normally surrounded by friends. Not these people who are looking for an excuse to skin me.”
“Even so, I’m certain you’ve been among them.” Just then they hear the sounds of a woman crying coming from the front room. Olivia and Edward both rise to see what the commotion is. They find Sara weeping while one of the guards is so furious he is being restrained by two others. “What is going on here?”
Sara weeps harder and the angry guard is making accusations until the captain orders him to be silent. It’s the Captain who finally speaks. “Apologies, my lady. Apparently one of the kitchen staff was rude to the girl when she went to get breakfast.”
The angry guard pipes up. “He called her a whore. He said she should be fucked by dogs!”
With each word Sara weeps harder. Edward can see Olivia’s lips tighten and he knows there’s about to be trouble. “My lady?” Edward looks over to her to see how she would handle this. While it’s not a direct insult like the night before, it could possibly be seen as an indirect one.
“Sara, dry your tears.” Olivia has a dangerous look in her eye as she walks over to one of the trunks and pulls out a small bottle. “Captain, you and your men will accompany me to the kitchen.”
* * *
Half an hour later a Byhaven servant alerts Jack that there is some trouble in the kitchen involving Lady Braydon and the Westfall people. That comes as a surprise since he expected the events of last night had insured no one would bother her. As Jack nears the kitchen he can her Olivia’s voice.
“Since clearly your mother did not teach you the proper way to speak to a woman, it falls to me to educate you in the consequences. Now open your mouth.” He can hear the sounds of struggling. When he turns the corner he sees Westfall men forcing the baker’s son to open his mouth while Olivia pours a drop of something onto his tongue.
The young man screams and his eyes are watering profusely as he jumps up and down and grabs his throat. Olivia shoves a pitcher of milk at him. “Drink this, it’ll help deaden the sting. Go on, it won’t kill you. It just makes you wish you were dead.” She chuckles and turns to the cook. “Get him more milk.”
“What is going on here?” Jack asks sternly.
The baker’s son continues to gulp down milk as Olivia turns to face her husband. “He made obscene remarks to one of my maids, so I gave him the same lesson my mother gave me when I spoke rudely. I put a drop of this,” she holds up the bottle, “on his tongue. It is a sauce made from the hottest peppers in Westfall and fermented in barrels for five years. Then, they pour the sauce from the barrels into jugs to be sold throughout the kingdoms. You probably have one here, but this,” she grins,” this is the stuff they scrape off the bottom of the barrel. The hottest sauce in all the kingdoms.”
“Ah ha, I see.” He watches the boy as he gulps down milk trying to put out the fire in his mouth. “Far too early in the morning for this foolishness.”
“I agree, my lord.” Olivia turns to look at the gathered kitchen staff. “The same will happen to anyone else who needs a lesson in the proper way to speak to a woman.”
“I suggest you heed your lady’s words,” Jack snarls at the staff. He then turns his attention to Olivia. “Have you had breakfast yet?”
“Edward and I were waiting for Sara to bring back breakfast, but instead she came back crying.”
“I see. I’m sure Edward won’t mind if I steal you away from him.”
She looks over at Edward to see his response.
“Of-of course.” Edward gives a bow to Jack and makes a hasty exit.
Jack watches him go. “He’s a skittish one.”
“I suppose he is.” She takes his arm and shoos her people back upstairs.