A longer, more solemn walk Michael had never taken. The narrow hallway, with its clay walls and ceilings and its worn stone floor, was illuminated only by the skylight at the end, just in front of the archway that opened up to the manor’s great room.
Michael could make out a large hearth on the wall opposite the archway as he walked tentatively toward the opening. But despite it being the dead of winter, no fire was blazing. He couldn’t really see much of his destination beyond that.
Minutes before, one of the servants had knocked on Michael’s door and announced to him that he’d been summoned to the great room by the manor’s baron. Michael had no idea what might have been behind the summons, but from what he’d heard, nothing good ever came from being called to appear before the baron.
Michael hesitated as he reached the archway. Then he heard the frail voice of a very old man beckoning him to enter the chamber. Michael saw the lord of the manor sitting in a large, ornate chair. Sitting next to him was perhaps the most strikingly beautiful young maiden Michael had ever seen.
“Michael, how long have you been staying at the Manor Von Struden?” the baron asked.
“I believe it’s been about six months, sire,” Michael deferentially responded. “Have I overstayed my welcome?”
“Not at all, son,” the old baron said. “In fact, I’ve become quite fond of you.”
This confused Michael, as he’d barely spoken with the baron during his time at the manor. “Thank you, sire,” Michael said. “May I ask why you summoned me here?”
“Michael,” the baron said, “I am an old man and my time on this earth is nearing an end. As you know, my beloved wife, the baroness, died in childbirth and I never remarried. I was an only child, so I have no brothers or sisters, no rightful heirs to leave my manor and my estate to.”
The baron continued. “Michael, you come from fine stock and I would like you and the duchess Vivian, sitting on my right, to produce an heir.”
Stunned, Michael looked at the baron, and then at the duchess, who blushed and smiled demurely at Michael.
“And since I don’t know how much longer I shall live,” the baron said, “I want you to start tonight. The duchess will accompany you to your chamber where the two of you shall commence the act of producing an heir. You shall remain together in your chamber until such time as it has been confirmed that the duchess is with child. Is this understood, Michael?”
“Oh, you bet your sweet ass, sire,” Michael exclaimed. Then he jumped from his chair, walked over to the duchess, and said, “Let’s go, Viv. We got us some work to do!”
Written for this week’s Thursday Photo Prompt from Sue Vincent.