Volume 2 Number 2


Spring 2004

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Asher Black

"The feudal contract was binding. Perhaps more binding than any business contract today."

He glanced back. Only a few sniffs of interest, now. Bored taking of verbatim notes. Some romantic looks. Even the most promising were still basically asleep. †Kimmie, dead center, was doodling -- probably a knight and a princess. Ray, in the back, was not even a member of the class;† he sneaked in to avoid the campus security guards. Dr. Avery had noticed him before; he was sharp enough that the ruffian bit could be overlooked. Michelle, as always, was right up front and feigning disinterest with herself, while trying to make sure the professor saw her hair.

Visor down, bent forward, urging on a mount as black as the full-body armor, the peasant-scattering hurricane brought calls of "Why don't you trample someone else's garden, curse all!" Spurring for momentum, the rider crouched in the saddle and leapt a walkway, already out of throwing range.

"The marriage contract was, in fact, nothing less than a contract of business guaranteeing the wife security, stability, and relative safety in the form of property rights and an armed guard. In exchange, the husband received exclusive rights to sex with the bride."

No shortage of interest, now. Some responding to the first and only thing on the minds attached to their recently emancipated bodies. Some of those trying to make their curiosity seem academic. Others needing to protect their view of the world as functioning, more or less, sensibly. A few still scribbling down the most shocking statement of the day as mere review material to be memorized for the test. Maybe one or two even getting the point.

The breath in the room heated up, its heartbeat jumped, its fidget grew nervous, and Dr. Avery could suddenly smell its sweat.

"That may be what some people were thinking..." It was Kimmie. "But I don't think you can say everyone was thinking that." True, she had dutifully raised her hand, but...

"I'm less concerned with what the contracting parties were thinking than with what they were exchanging. Just look at the marriage vows. For the wife, 'with my body, I thee worship.' For the husband, 'with my property, I thee endow.' And then look at the seriousness with which Church and King and society took the exchange, and the penalties for violating the contract."

Right up the steps, dismounting only at the door, the rider passed the guards. They said nothing. They knew who this was, and why, and for whom. They would watch the transportation -- and surely pay if they didn't watch well. The clack of boots down the hall. Men and women averting their eyes when not greedily stealing a glance. Magnificent to look on one at any time, but this one had real presence.

"So that's maybe why the marriage had to be consummated." It was the first intelligent thing from the student section that week, and it had come from Ray.

"Naturally! That's the point at which the wife honors her legal part of the contract. Although, implicit in the bargain was the bearing of sons to carry on the family business -- the bloodline. And it was a business perpetuating itself through a series of precisely such contracts.† Sons would marry, daughters would be married off, to form partnerships and alliances."

"And the high maintenance girlfriend... er.. wife, is the one that required a lot of property," said Ray.† It was a clever remark, and Avery had to cough to keep from laughing.

The girls were clearly choosing to be annoyed. "Is he even in this class?" The professor ignored Michelle's query and moved on.

"Naturally, wives could be valued as trophies. And human trophies require maintenance to always keep themselves polished and agree to remain cooperatively presentable. Of course, the husband could also be counted a trophy..."

"Well, I think there's nothing wrong with being a trophy wife. He gets someone that looks good, and what does she get? The woman has to hold out something to get the man to comply with his side of the contract. After all, he owns all the property." Shelly was clearly needing to be 'on' at the moment.

"That's what he's saying," answered Ray. "She holds out on sex and even sexiness, wrapped up in virginal armor until he pays her. What do you call that, Dr. Avery? Exchanging sex for money, I mean." Of course, it had been exactly the point that Avery was trying to make, but stated at such a moment and in such a way that he was bound to have it reported if he didn't ask Ray to leave.

Still, the boy deserved respect for his keenness and social cunning. "Ray. Excellent point. I believe you have another class to attend?" Ray got the picture, smiled, and saluted as he left. Avery was sure the boy must have known the origin of that signal -- one knight raising his visor to another, †showing himself unarmed, and therefore that he means no harm.

It was 3:00, though. And time was up.

Entering through the side door, stiffly raising visor, then even removing the helmet to reveal bobbed black hair and that intent gaze that made the target's heart leap. Approaching. A slow, deliberate walk. He didnít flinch; that was good.

"You're here. I'm ready." Avery looked at the class. "No more questions today. Study for the test. See you on Monday."

The visitor glanced at Michelle, met her eyes, and smiled knowingly, just before the girl gathered her books and retreated through the exit, along with the rest of the class.

"Ready lover," she asked?

She had rock, and Avery had scissors, so she would ride in back, him in front, and she would get to touch him on the way.

He kicked over the bike, revved the engine, donned his own helmet, and they felt the wind filling their laughter as they sped home to make love. Without so much as a signature.