A Different There
His wedding day should have been all ceremony, followed by a night of pleasure with his bride. At least, he had been told it would be pleasurable. He'd be doing his duty to his people by fathering a daughter on the Duchess he had been granted to by treaty. Perhaps love would come in time, as it had with his own parents, or perhaps not. It didn't change his duty, which was obedience and making children.
It was no more or less than what he had expected for all of his life, though he had not expected it so early. Sixteen was young to be married off, but the son of nobility was not free to choose his own fate, and he had never expected to rebel against it.
He had gone in procession to the neighbouring duchy, had been received with pomp and joy by the people, had made one public appearance with the Duchess - and by the gods, she was beautiful. She carried herself with the dignity of a queen, and he felt desire stirring for her already.
She killed it with a few short words. "Be rid of the dog before we reach the capital. I do not care for the creatures."
Be rid of the dog? Be rid of his dog?!
The procession continued, and he found, to his anxious enquiries, that the Duchess considered the animals unclean. That he would be unclean if he were near them. This wasn't simply a matter of putting Mori in a kennel away from the palace. He was to get rid of his dog and never see her again.
Love or duty. He hadn't expected the choice to come in quite this way.
He fled, with his dog, with no preparations or thought, just blind panic. The escape shouldn't have succeeded, but a blizzard swept through.
The search for the missing bridegroom was called off after five days, and the wedding ceremony turned into a funeral. Another consort would have to be found for the Duchess.
The noise didn't wake him, but Mori's whining did. She was licking his face, terrified of the roaring sounds of the crash, the falling trees, the scream of metal. Cold. She's so cold, he thought, as he sat up, wrapping his arms around his dog, trying to comfort her. "Shhh, it's okay. I won't let it hurt you."
Had they been asleep in the snow? He looked at his hands and saw that they were tinted blue. Yet they moved as freely as ever. He could still feel what he touched.
He would solve this riddle later. Whatever had made the noise was not something from the Duchess, and thus it was worth investigating.
"Come Mori. Let's see what it is,"
he said. And the boy got to his feet and headed towards the crash site, accompanied by a massive black deerhound.
He hasn't noticed yet that Mori isn't actually black anymore.