In those times, marriage was hardly ever for love. Perhaps for the peasants, who did not have to worry themselves with status, riches , and power, marriage for love was one of the few luxuries they could afford. But for the noble families of Tylweth Teg, marriage was always little more than a business transaction between two families.
Arlwyn Roble was betrothed before he even understood the meaning of the word. His father made a deal with the Ellington family of Graudon, and the two families proudly announced the betrothal of the young Baron of Tylweth Teg to the lovely Lady Priscilla.
“Shut up,” said Arlwyn, scowling. “At least I’m not betrothed to Anne the baker’s daughter. She has as much charm as a sea slug.” This was true. However, the more Arlwyn got to know his betrothed, the more he began to wish he could have instead been stuck with Anne the baker’s daughter, who at least knew when to stop talking.
Still, it could have been far worse. At least Priscilla was cheerful and charming. She had good manners and breeding, and would make a fine wife one day. By the time Arlwyn was seventeen years old, he had accepted his fate with mature dignity. Everything about his future was laid before him like a perfectly set table, with everything exactly where it belonged.
But one summer evening, everything changed. Arlwyn was enjoying some leisure time out in the country. After catching a few fish, he decided to cool off from the sticky heat by taking a dip in the river. He peeled off his clothes and dove in, unaware that he was not alone. A few moments later, he smelled smoke, then turned and saw a girl on the shore, warming her hands over a bright, crackling campfire. He did not recognize her. He crept out of the water and got dressed, then approached the girl.
“Hello,” he said. The girl gasped and spun around, her eyes widening in terror. “Don’t worry – you’re not in trouble or anything,” he said. “This is a public beach.”
The girl just stood there, trembling like the slender grasses that surrounded the river banks. She had a fine, delicate face, and wore the drab, worn clothing of the lower classes. “What is your name?” he asked her.
“I am Flora Goode, my lord.” She curtsied and dropped her gaze.
“Well Miss Goode, do you often take night walks without an escort?” She glanced sharply at him, and he caught his breath. Her eyes were like the twilight sky, glowing stars dusted against an inky blue canvas.
“I like to walk in the evenings,” she said. “It is lovely, with the songs of frogs and night birds. Can you not hear them?” And suddenly, Arlwyn realized that the air around them was indeed alive with humming and buzzing — the night music of a million creatures. He wanted to stay there in the middle of it, talking with this fascinating and beautiful girl, for the entire night.
He could not, he knew, but he did remain there, getting to know Flora Goode, until the moon shone very high in the sky.