Copyright © April 6, 2011, Holly Rose
Disclaimers: None. These characters are entirely my creation.
Warnings: The story contains somewhat gory violence. It alsodepicts one account of semi-consensual intercourse, and one which is wholly consensual! This piece is of an alternate nature. If this sort of thing sinks your boat, do yourself a favour and throw it overboard!
Comments? Insults? email@example.com
I saw her first.
Her red hair fell in sodden, thick waves. Her white tunic clung desperately to her shivering body. She folded her arms in an attempt to keep warm. Her large, worried eyes watched as the storm continued. She would be ill by morning had I not been there. I doubted she knew how to make a fire.
She hadn't noticed me yet. I watched her with interest. She was rather beautiful. The night stilled slightly and the crackle of the fire echoed in the cave. Finally, she frowned and cast her eyes quickly towards me. I looked back at her. She was ever so pale. I smirked slightly. She caught the motion of my lips and perhaps she thought I was smiling because she threw one back at me and took tentative steps towards the warming light.
'May I...?' She asked. I nodded. I could've refused but I was not in the mood for unnecessary cruelty. It had been a long day.
Again, she threw me a smile, this time in thanks. She needs to be careful with that gesture of hers. Kindness will betray the heart eventually.
'I have never been caught in such a violent storm,' she told me.
'Maybe you should've stayed inside,' I commented. She regarded me then, as it was the first time I had spoken. I could feel her gaze ghost over my face. I watched her eyes intently as they traced my skin. I learned you could tell a lot about what others first impressions were of you by studying the gleam in their eyes. In turn, you could tell a lot about them. She seemed pleased, I noted.
She looked my body over then. I was dressed in male clothing but I knew that would accentuate my feminine radiance. My hair was long and wild through neglect. Once brown, it had darkened through the hardness of dirt and life until it was raven.
Returning her eyes to mine, my studying companion saw me looking at her and turned her face away with embarrassment. I continued to look. I did not falter as easy. She was warming now, and she took her arms away from her body. Her thin dress was still wet and I could see the two dark smudges of colour as the transparent material clung to her chest. She seemed not to notice.
'So, what is your reasoning for being caught in such dreadful weather?' She asked me.
I contemplated my answer. It was perhaps not wise to tell her I, too, was caught out by careless misjudging of the weather. Instead, I replied, 'I'm on a journey. I often use caves like this as shelter.' She seemed interested as she leaned forward.
'A journey to where?' I frowned at her sudden questioning. I didn't like her forthright attitude, though I marvelled in her zest for knowledge.
'What an impertinent question.' I said it mockingly but my eyes were hard. She cast hers downwards and moved back.
'I'm sorry. It's none of my business.' I nodded my head slightly and a cold smile played on my lips. I liked people to know I was no fool. The earlier she knew the better.
The better for whom? Her?
A few minutes passed with only the raging winds and crackling fire for conversation. I lay back and watched the girl whose eyes never left the flickering flames. I reached for my bag and pulled free a piece of cheese. Nibbling on the square, I wondered if I should offer a piece to my new companion. She looked disinterested, however.
She yawned quietly, though I could see she was utterly exhausted. I wondered what she was doing out in the storm. I didn't ask. Instead, I reached for my bedroll and set about positioning it around the uncomfortable swell of rock on the hard floor. I knew the outside weather well enough to realise this storm would not relent until dawn.
Pulling another blanket from my sack, I held it in my hands. I could use it tonight, it was cold. But my unwelcome guest was colder. Her dress had dried slightly by the fire but the material was thin and did nothing but cover her modesty. I owed this woman nothing but still I held the blanket out towards her.
'Take this. I don't believe the weather will improve. Unless you were thinking of braving it...?' I cocked my head to the side. The question was said in a teasing tone. She probably knew by now that I liked to play games. It unnerved her too, as she shook her head placidly and took the bedroll. Not with a smile, I noted.
While I settled myself at once and pulled the blanket over me, the other woman, whose name I have yet to know nor care of, wrestled uncomfortably with the cold ground. Curling into a ball, she tried to tease the blanket around her whole body. I watched with amusement. She didn't notice; her eyes are closed. Finally, she stills.
I watched her for a while, thinking with bemusement why The Ones In The Sky had sent her here. I couldn't think of a use for her. I did not want to hold her captive and doubted she would either.
When I awoke, the fire had died and the first light of dawn began to creep into the cave. The faint glow showed the other woman was still asleep. I sighed. I had hoped to leave without her knowledge but she had my sheet wrapped around her near-naked body. I would have to wait.
To make use of my time, I bundled my bedroll away. Lighting the fire once more, I left my belongings intentionally and exited the cave. It had been dark when the flame-haired girl had wandered into the cave. No doubt she would sleep a while longer. In the meantime, I set about catching a fish for breakfast.
Carrying two fish, the second a quick afterthought, I entered the cave. The girl had her back to me but she was sitting upright, evidently awake. I did not acknowledge her until I had produce a pan and our fish was cooking steadily.
When I raised my eyes, my companion was looking at the meal, a small, appreciative smile playing on her mouth. I liked that. She smiled brightly at me then, her eyes lighting up. I frowned at her, but she did not notice and in a quick flurry of movement, the bedroll flew at me. That angered me. She treated me like someone she had knew a long time, a young someone, a child even. And I was no child. My innocence was gone, at my own discretion, yes, but still gone. I wanted her to know who I was, what I was. I didn't need her to know. In an hour, she would be gone and so shall I.
From my bag, I produced a large knife. I prodded it harshly against the quivering fishes. She watched, curiously, noting that the knife was not a common kitchen knife. I doubted that she knew it was a war intensil either. I underestimated her.
She turned to me, with a frown and asked, 'Have you been to war?'
Again, ever the impertinent question. I allowed her that one. War was a subject I was passionate about. I wanted to share that passion with her. My blood boiled at the mention. I grabbed her wrist suddenly and pulled her towards me. She cried out in shock, but not pain. I did not hurt her.
‘How many siblings do you have?' I said the question much to myself than to her. She remained silent. I studied her palm intently, tracing the prominent lines with gentle finger tips. They gave me the answer. ‘Three,' I concluded. ‘Two sisters, one brother. Quite a large family. Am I right?' My eyes darted to hers. She held my gaze, affirming the answer. I smiled and continued to cross this line I faced. I wanted to teach her something about me. ‘Now, I want you to imagine yourself as a little girl again. Surrounded by family, by friends, by familiar faces. You feel safe, don't you? Then, one day, as you play, imagine the sound of approaching hooves. The thud of them, the vibrations of the ground. You see soldiers outside your little hut. Their armour gleams, flashing red as they slaughter those familiar faces, your friends and your family. How you survive is a mystery. You grow up on tales of war, you drown in it when you sleep.' I let her wrist go abruptly, but it remained suspended. I had her transfixed. In that split second she was living my life. ‘So, yes, I have been to war.' I turned away from her, pained.
She cleared her throat, shaking herself out of the terrible nightmare. Her eyes snapped to the sizzling food. I sat back, trembling slightly. I wanted people to know that part of my life, to teach them how lucky they could be. It was what followed that I kept guarded. It was the outburst of adrenaline that had left me shaking. I closed myself off once more.
With the knife, I lifted the food and served them quickly on cheap plates. I had no cutlery to use. She ate in silence. I, in the past, she too, in the past. My past. I could see her shudder over the rim of my plate. I smiled cruelly. It was a relief to share my pain occasionally. Especially to one who knew nothing of war or death. It was refreshing.
I finished before she did. Placing my plate down with a crash, I lay back on my arms and licked my lips. I eyed the cave in the natural glowing light. Towards the back, tunnels, some large, others small, snaked in many directions. There would be lake in one of them. The water so cold, it would threaten illness if one should stay in there for too long. Luckily, the hot weather outside would dry me quickly enough. I doubted my little friend would join me. She seem too dainty, too fragile, to enjoy such a thing. It was time we parted.
‘The weather's perfect now. I'd leave quickly if you have a long distance to travel.' I stood up curtly and walked towards the back of the cave. I did not look back at the other woman. Still, she insisted.
‘Hey, wait!' I could hear her scramble to her feet in a hurry. Her eagerness made me smile but I did not slow for her. ‘Where are you going?'
‘To bathe,' I replied. Her footsteps stopped suddenly and then they returned. She was quickly at my side and followed me into the depths of the cave. I peered at her and shook my head. She was walking into dangerous territory. She didn't know me. She was stupid.
The water I found was deep and still. Natural light from the cracked cave ceiling cast soft rays onto the surface. It looked breath-taking and sure enough, I heard the woman behind me gasp. I looked upon the lake as she did, but it was the promise inside that excited me. I undressed where I stood, my stolen clothes dropping ungracefully to the ground.
With a sharp intake of breath, I jumped high and immersed myself within the freezing depths. I resurfaced, gasping at the coldness. I brushed hair from face and moved my legs to keep afloat. From behind me, I heard the water splash then a shocked scream. I smiled and the other woman laughed loudly in delight. Our unclad bodies and sounds disturbed the former stillness.
The little rose tried to stay with me but the numbing temperature was too much, and I knew it. She pulled herself out with difficulty and curled her naked body next to a rock. Her teeth chattered audibly but she remained smiling nevertheless.
I endured the water a little longer and proceeded with my bath. I let her watch as she dried. When I pulled myself out beside her, she was dressed once more in her white tunic. I pulled on only a shift and bundled the rest of my clothing under my arm. I tried not to shiver as I walked back to the entrance of the cave.
The fire still burned but the small heat it diffused was not enough to warm me. I needed the hot, humid air that radiated from outside. I bundled away the remainder of my belongings, noting that perhaps I should have washed the plates and pan too. Throwing rocks to extinguish the fire, I exited the cave and entered the heat. This time of year had enraged The Ones In The Sky. The season was cold, yet they still challenged us with fierce storms and the occasional day of blistering heat.
Now, however, I surrendered to it, and so did the other woman. Next to me, she had her head thrown back and arms outstretched as she felt the heat on her face. She warmed herself as a swamp reptile would. Then she turned to me.
'What is your name?' She asks and then adds, 'I do not believe that is an impertinent question.' I stared at her bold choice of words. Her cheeks were fully coloured and her eyes alive. The cool wash benefitted her greatly, it would seem. I was taken aback by her question. As strange as it seems, I did not know how to answer her. If anybody asks, usually men, I used a battle name. They are used to that and comply to calling me it. I do not think this creature would. I could not bear her mocking me. Her brows are raised in question. She awaited the answer.
‘Thora,' I stated. I chose the name that I took once to mask my identity as an older child. I never used the name my parents had given me. That girl was gone.
‘Ah, ‘thunder'. How appropriate that I happen to find you on a night of exactly that.' I raised an eyebrow at her. Find me? 'I'm Ebony.' I did not ask what she was called so I did not respond. Her name, however, was unusual. It's meaning, ‘dark strength', held no apparent value to her. Her skin was fair and her hair the colour of fire. There was nothing dark I could see of her. Nor strong. It made wonder if she, too, was masking something.
‘Where do you come from?' I asked her. I was in dire need of a horse. My food supplies were running low, too. I had little money but did not have the strength to fight for my belongings this time. I hoped she could show me to a village, as I believed she came from one.
I looked at her, as she had not answered me. Her head was bent slightly as we walked; her eyes low.
‘I...I do not come from anywhere if you must know.' I inclined my head towards her.
‘But your family-‘
‘-They do not matter. Please...what you said about your own childhood, I am sorry. And yes, I have a family and I may seem selfish but I do not wish to talk about them, nor think of them.' She did what I did earlier then, and closed herself off.
‘So where are you heading?' We were walking away from the cave and in the opposite direction to where she had entered it.
‘I do not know.' She shrugged her shoulders helplessly. ‘I left... them in a rage. I travelled many miles yesterday which was why I had nowhere to go when the storm fell over. I have no money and I don't think I recognise this area.' Great. That makes two of us without a fortune. I found it hard to imagine the little rose in a ‘rage' as she called it. She looked ever so proud and held herself well.
‘May I ask where you are heading now...on this journey?' She spoke with caution, as she should. I answered her anyhow.
‘I don't know either. I was hoping you were going to show me a way to a market.'
She laughed then. ‘Please, do not take offense, but I do believe you need some new clothing. You a beautiful woman yet you dress in male clothes.'
I smiled. ‘I guess you are right.'
‘Apart from that shift, of course,' she continued.‘It is similar to what I am wearing. Bed clothes. We look like nightwalkers!' Again, she laughed. Men would pay good money for her body, I mused. I could buy myself some clothes then. She wouldn't be able to fight me. I decided she would be use to me after all.
‘It was lucky you found shelter. What would you have done if I hadn't?'
‘Died,' she stated. I laughed.
‘That is a very dramatic resolution. I doubt that would have happened.'
‘I was lucky I found you, too. You made a fire and cooked for me. You have obviously been travelling like I am for a while. Am I right?' Her eyes found mine. I was surprised they showed concern.
‘You are right. But I am practiced. And it does not take skill to make a fire,' I pointed out.
‘Perhaps, but you returned with nothing but two fish in your hands. I could not catch fish with equipment!' I basked in her appraisal and the hot morning sun. I could see dirt tracks ahead and hoof prints. If this was a trading route, there would be a market nearby. It would be my -our- best bet to follow it.
Whilst I had adapted to harsh weather conditions, the little rose had not. She looked flustered and dehydrated. I did not want her ill. I pulled my wineskin from where it hung on my shift.
‘Here, it's dangerous not to drink in these temperatures.' She thanked me with a croaky throat and drank more than she needed.
Fortunately, a stream ran parallel to the track. It glittered strikingly and flowed steadily. It was a good water source which told me a village must be nearby.
‘I have never known a year quite like this!' She exclaimed. ‘I almost wish for another storm just to cool me.'
‘I wouldn't ask for things like that,' I warned, and she said nothing.
I watched as she dangled her feet over the stream and sat down on the bank. She pushed damp hair from her forehead and sighed in agitation. She rested her head on a shoulder and closed her eyes. I crouched down next to her and began to fill my wineskin.
‘How do you intend to survive with no money?' I asked.
Without opening her eyes, she whispered a ‘Dunno', clearly too uncomfortable to think. This would not do. I needed her clear-headed if she were to be any use to me. I stood over her head and tipped my wineskin casually until it poured freely over her hair. She jumped up at once. I smiled at her.
‘Be thankful, it'll cool you down.'
She looked anything but.
‘I cannot afford my dress to become any less decent!'
I sniggered. ‘Oh, well you didn't seem to care the previous night,' I fired back at her. She glared at me with twisted eyebrows but said nothing more. Pulling the clinging material from her chest, she hauled herself from the ground. She needn't have worried, it was drying already.
She seemed self-conscious now, however, as she wrapped her arms around herself despite the heat. I took a shirt from under my arm and extended it to her. She took it reluctantly and pulled it around her shoulders.
‘Let's ask this man how far the next village is.' She nodded back towards the road where a man had slowed to pick an item up which had fallen from his wagon. ‘Excuse me sir...And excuse the way we are dressed!'
The old man didn't bat an eyelash. Instead he gestured to his wagon with his thumb. ‘Hop in and I'll escort you fine ladies myself. It's not far from here.'
I landed on soft fabric and smiled with glee at the frocks which lined the wagon neatly. The woman next to me caught my meaning and pulled a yellow dress up to her, a mischievous smile on her lips. I smiled back and stuffed a blue gown in my bag. She did the same with her pick.
The journey took all but five minutes. The market we stopped at was in the middle of two neighbouring villages. The stalls were bustling and crowds walked among them. We joined them. She wandered beside me, absently watching the stalls. I felt uncomfortable and rushed with her at my side like she was. She cooed over pretty necklaces whilst I looked for food and necessities. I pulled her towards me and told her to wait by a nearby tavern. She obeyed, knowing that this, unlike making a fire, was a skill. And a way of life.
First, I traded the male garments for food and gold. I told them they were sewn with fine thread. The villagers thanked me, believing they would receive a small fortune by selling them. I bought a second wineskin for my new companion and a pair of sturdy boots as her footwear was unsuitable. The next stall was selling thick furs. They were not in brilliant condition. Obviously they were unsold from the previous winter. They were also very cheap. I had learnt never to miss an opportunity. They could be used for bedding if nothing else.
She frowned at me when I returned with animal fur draped over my shoulder.
‘Believe me, you will need them,' I assured her. She turned from the jewellery stall with a shrug and I darted my expert hand out and took the piece she was looking at. I had something to reward-or bribe- her with if that was ever going to be necessary.
‘Do you need anything else?' She asked me.
‘Oh, I thought you were...?' I scowled at her.
‘I am not your caregiver. I did not ask you to come with me. I pity you if you thought otherwise.' I saw panic rise in her face.
‘Do you not want me?' Yes.
‘No. I live alone. I learnt from a young age not to rely on others and not to let them rely on you. I have no intention to travel with anyone. Especially someone like you.' I had hurt her. I had not meant to but I wouldn't let her think I was willing to drag her along if she brought nothing to me. She looked at the furs I had bought her and reassured herself.
‘Okay. Well, what else do you require?'
‘A horse.' It was a challenge. I saw her posture sag slightly then she raised herself again.
‘Wait here and I shall bring you a horse.'
She disappeared into the tavern and returned wearing the yellow tunic. It was a perfect fit and the gentle colour complimented her radiant hair. I leant against a wall and watched with half interest as she vanished among the market.
Long moments later, I caught sight of her again. And indeed, as she promised, she was with a horse. I stepped towards the animal in amazement. It was large and extremely beautiful. It was laden with a shining saddle and stirrups. The girl who held them smiled in triumph. She saw that I was pleased.
‘How?' I asked. She shrugged innocently. As far as I knew she had not taken any money with her. She had nothing but herself to bargain with. I pulled the horse towards me, eager to be away from the market in case the owners decided they would like their horse back after all.
When we found the track again, I tied my sack to the saddle and flung the furs on top. I rolled my shoulders in relief.
‘You have done well,' I told her.
‘So can I travel with you? It's not a permanent position. I just need to learn the basics. I have decided to live by myself, as you have.' She would stay as long as I wanted her to. I could not teach her anything; she had to learn on her own as I did. She told me she wanted to live alone yet she came to me.
‘You need to find shelter.' I began walking, the horse clomping along next to me. ‘You have no money, nor do I, so you must find a cave or someone willing to let us stay for no price. There will be a storm tonight.' I cast my eyes to the sky, as did she. ‘I can feel it.'
‘What about the horse? What will it eat?'
‘It can graze.'
She nodded her head firmly, organising her thoughts. She looked around. ‘The verges are rocky. There will be further caves ahead.' She strode off and I shook my head with amusement. She entertained me, this little rose. I couldn't decide if I liked her or loathed her.
We sat around the fire which she had made that night in companionable silence. The falling rain on the rocks outside the cave was soothing. The horse stood in the shadows, content with the oats I had found for it. I was scoring my knife along vegetables as I prepared our evening meal. We had good supplies so I decided to treat myself. It had been a very long time since I had a whole, filling meal.
The aroma filled the cavern and the little rose sniffed the air and hummed. I suppose this would be a first meal she has had in while, too. My mouth watered at the smell.
'Thora,' she started. I looked up, still peeling the potatoes. ‘Can I ask you something? Something personal?'
'What do you do about your lunar cycles? You couldn't possible travel with so much cloth.'
Placing the vegetables into the water I had boiled, I dropped the knife and fumbled in my sack and brought out a dark, powdery mixture of herbs. I handed it to her.
'This ceases them.' She looked at me then began to guide the contents towards her mouth. As it touched her lips, I added, 'Do not take it if you wish to bore a child.'
She looked uncertain and hesitated but at last placed the herb on her tongue. I watched her face contour at the bitterness. I held her wineskin out to her and she drank from it, washing away the taste.
We sat in silence once more. She looked sad. I believed she was probably mourning the loss of the family she would never have if she continued to take the herb. I saw her visibly shake herself then smile at me. It was then I realised she used her beautiful smile to convince others and herself that she was okay.
‘You may suffer from slight side effects, by the way. Drowsiness, perhaps sickness.'
She moaned dramatically. ‘Great,' she muttered. I smiled.
‘You'll be fine.' She didn't look reassured.
As we ate, she told me about her family. I thought it strange how before she didn't want to less than think of them. I guessed she was cooling from this ‘rage' she was harbouring inside. She would most probably leave me now and return to them. A sorry excuse would fall from her lips and she would be gone.
‘-and my little sister, well! She would not speak unless absolutely necessary. Many forgot my Mother ever had four children. Catalina was always so shy. As quiet as a mouse she was, so quiet, but so caring...so caring...' Her memories carried her somewhere distant. I watched in fascination as she stared blankly at the fire. Her mouth opened and closed as she mouthed the names of her loved ones and her eyes filled with tears.
I set my plate on the ground loudly. She jumped and wiped furiously at her eyes as if she had failed herself by allowing herself to think fondly of her family. Again, I wondered why she had left them.
She placed her own plate on the ground and pulled herself to her feet. She crossed her arms and declared, ‘I'm going for a walk.'
‘Watch the weather,' I warned her. She nodded then left.
I proceeded to wash our dishes and think. I had less time to do that presently but, I admit, since having her around, my mind has more than once floated to my family whenever we sat in silence. My own sister was the loud one. When I was very young, she would play with me and dress me up like she would a doll, but I had no doubt that she loved me. I, myself, was more like her sister. I was quiet but with an obvious presence. Now I was assertive but invisible.
She returned many hours later.
I was resting by the fire which was now reduced to jumping embers. She didn't glance at me, nor attempt to speak. Her face was set and eyes dry. She sighed softly as she covered herself in furs. The night was cold once more.
The food lasted all but a week before we found ourselves wandering aimlessly until we found the next village. There had been no mention of families and that suited the both of us. The day was warm but comfortable as we walked. It would be cold again soon.
‘My dress is getting ever so filthy,' she complained. She kicked the hem of it irritably with her boots as it trailed across the dirt. Mine was too but I was used to it.
‘Well, then we shall wash them when we next find a river.' I glanced at the horse and nodded. ‘He needs a wash too.'
‘And a name,' she added. Leaning her head to the side, she began to think. ‘Hmmm... How about Cocoa?' I looked at her incredulously.
‘Cocoa?' I repeated, then shook my head.
‘What? Does it not need a name?'
‘No, it doesn't. It's a necessary means to carry items, that is all. It's not a personal belonging.'
‘You carry no personal belongings.'
‘There is no need. Everything I carry has a use.' I told her.
‘Do I have a use?'
That silenced her, but I could hear her digesting my words. She smiled. ‘I see,' was all she said.
‘What a sight we must be! We look as though we are worshipping a horse God,' she giggled.
We found a river nestled in the trees. The banks were a lush green and the water ran from a powerful waterfall. We had washed our clothes and they hung from tree branches, drying. We were now tending to the horse. It stood patiently as we poured liquid over it with our hands. Occasionally it would nudge us but the little rose would soothe it with her palm.
The water was cool but the air was warm. We stayed in there for a long time while the horse grazed on the bank. She floated on her back, watching the skies. Her arms moved through the water elegantly as she kept herself afloat. Her breasts skimmed the surface. I sat on a rock by the waterfall and watched her.
Finally, she righted herself and swam to me. She took my hand and led me to the shallow parts of the water and began to run her fingers through my dark locks.
‘You have such lovely hair. I bet you were a beautiful child.' I stiffened but she said no more. After she had washed my hair, we dressed and continued with our quest.
What we finally found was not a village but a thriving city. The gates were open and masses of people flooded in and out of them. My little rose looked around in delight. I doubted she had ever set foot outside her cosy little village.
Tying the horse up, I gave her a small list of items and told her not to get into trouble. She gladly accepted the challenge and wandered off and left me to find our food. I had nothing to trade with so I gathered what I needed by other means.
I had learned from a young age how to steal with calculated caution and success. I was taken in after the slaughter of my world by a family from a neighbouring village. They had a son who was older than me. He took me under his wing and allowed me to fend for myself under his watchful eye.
He died at war years later.
I wandered along food stalls and licked my lips. I was famished. I could hear chickens ahead but there was no chance I could take one without eyes catching me. Instead, I tucked my hands into other people's baskets as they passed me. I didn't stop until my holdall was brimming with food.
I looked around me one last time to ensure I was not being spied on. Nobody noticed me. Pleased, I went in search for the wandering rose. She had had plenty of time, more time than she had when she brought me the horse. I turned my head in all directions but I couldn't see her. I frowned and walked towards a tavern. She had waited there before for me so I hoped that would be where she would be found this time.
As I passed a window, I saw her. She was sat on a bed with a man. He handed her items, the things I had asked. Her dress was bunched at her waist. Her thighs glistened. She smile at him and inclined her head coquettishly. He kissed her then, with his hard lips, and ran his hand up her leg. She rose and left the room. I stood back and waited for her.
She jumped when she saw me then broke into a grin. ‘Here.' She extended the items towards me. ‘I got what you asked for.' I gave her a cold stare. She knew then that I had seen her. She reclined her arm slowly.
‘So this is how you got the horse I presume?' I asked her. She nodded her head in shame. I gave her an ugly frown then moved away from her as if her confession burned me. In a way it had, but it also thrilled me. I would not let her see that.
‘Thora wait, please!' She stumbled at my heels. ‘Please! I didn't want to let you down. I didn't know how else to get them.' I turned to her sharply.
‘There are many other ways. Look,' I showed her my bag. Her eyes dropped to it then rose back to mine.
‘Well, I'm sorry,' she shrugged, defeated. ‘I got what you asked for, didn't I? I thought I was doing right. I will never see him again, so what does it matter?'
‘Of course it matters! You came to me, remember, therefore you must do things how I do them.'
I walked off and left her standing. I retrieved the horse and beckoned her to follow. She did so, dejectedly.
The fire crackled noisily as I prodded it with a wooden branch. We had not spoken since. Occasionally, I would see her mouth open from where she stood but she didn't say anything.
I thought of the little rose differently. As we walked through rocky ground in search for a place to stay for the night, her body slowly morphed until her former purity was gone and she seemed dirty . Now sat here, I could feel waves of sweat and distaste billowing from her. She was aware of this as she stood back from me. Finally, I heard her speak.
‘Thora...?' She whispered. I snapped my eyes towards her and she flinched. I waited. She said nothing more.
After a moment, I asked her, ‘Did you enjoy it?'
‘What?' She sounded surprised at my question.
‘Did you enjoy it?'
She stared at me and I saw her contemplate her answer. She straightened her shoulders. ‘Yes. I did.' I stood up and she stepped back.
I took my knife from my holdall. She watched me with fearful anticipation. My eyes travelled along the blade then back to her. Her eyes were wide and she stood frozen. With a blur, I slashed at the material of her clothing until she stood naked before me. I could see her chest rising and falling heavily as she tried to comprehend the meaning of my actions.
I began to circle her slowly. She remained still but her eyes watched me warily. I looked her up and down openly with grossness and glee. Her eyes silently asked me why . I couldn't answer her; I didn't know myself. Her act disgusted me and I wanted to know more. I wanted to see where he touched her; what he was looking at as he took her.
I asked her, ‘Did he touch you here?'
I stood at her back and ran my fingers down her beautifully curved waist. I listened for her breathing. It was shallow and ragged as she attempted to control it. Still, she had not spoken. I stood in front of her and stared into her eyes.
‘Did he?' I asked again. And this time, hesitantly, she nodded.
Still holding her gaze, I asked quietly, ‘What about here?' I reached out my hand and brushed my thumb over her breast. She opened her mouth but didn't make the sounds I wanted.
Placing my other hand on the small of her back, I pulled her to me hard. Her arms bent and flew up as the primal instinct to catch herself started. My other hand was still on her breast, trapped between our bodies. I could feel her heartbeat. It was wild. My lips curled into a conceited smile. Her expression remained unmoving. It urged me on.
Tugging on my trapped hand, I rubbed it against her as I freed it. I heard her gasp but it didn't satisfy me. I wanted more. I pushed my head onto her shoulder and buried my face in her soft, scented hair. My eyes travelled down to her shapely mounds. I could feel my heart beating wildly now. My finger tips trailed along her back and the inside of her crease. I could feel her heat.
‘Here?' I breathed.
I probed one finger further and touched her there. She suddenly grabbed both of my hands and stepped away from me. She held my wrists next to my head. My eyes glanced leisurely at my glistening finger. Her eyes followed mine. She couldn't lie to me now. Her body had betrayed her and she could no longer deny me. When my eyes found hers again, the veil of reluctance had lifted; she was no longer acting. Her eyes were filled with pleading desire. She let go of my hands slowly and I let them fall to my sides.
She began to circle me then. When she was standing behind me, she pressed her bare form against me and lifted my hair away from my neck. She did it provocatively, with throbbing slowness. It was then I knew it would be a game. She was teasing me and I felt comfortable; I would enjoy it. I felt her hands curl around my waist. I placed mine on top of hers and leant back into her and closed my eyes. Her mouth was on my neck, kissing my skin with succulent lips. The sounds filled me. She sucked on the sensitive spot below my ear and my eyes rolled back in delight behind their closed lids. Her tongue licked the shell, kissing it lightly, and the game of dominance continued.
The hands were lifted from my stomach and landed on my shoulders. They tugged on the material of my dress, nails dragging slightly on my exposed fleshed. Finally, it fell. I heard her smile as the fabric bunched at my feet. We had reached stalemate now. But one of us had to win.
I felt her hands brush over my shoulders and down my chest. I caught them both and tried to remove them but she resisted stubbornly. I yielded and allowed her to caress me as I deciphered my next move. I would take her by surprise and then I would take her.
I swung around violently and pushed her back against a large rock. Her back scraped against the roughness of it and she gasped at the chill. My hand cupped between her legs, making her cry out. I responded to the sound, my hips grating against my own hand. I could feel my own longing. She smirked at my loss of control so I crushed my lips to hers and kissed her hard. She moaned, half in surprise and half in pleasure. I leant my body over hers, shrouding her. I wanted her to feel my power; the power I was feeling over her. My forearms were at the side of her head, supported on the rock. I could feel her hands grasping lightly at my hips. My legs were tangled in hers. Our mouths moved together, but not as one. I ensured I was ahead of her. She tried to match my quickness and the kiss became desperate and urgent. I slowed it by running my tongue along her top lip. It was soft and bruised.
I took her in my arms and guided her to lie on the furs. She obeyed, settling herself and running her arms along the tickling hairs. She looked so inviting sprawled in front of me. The fire cast a warm glow across her body, smoothing any flaws her body may have had. She cocked her head to the side and smiled at me teasingly.
I placed my face close to hers and pushed her down. Moving her hands above her head, I held them there with one of my own. With the other, I traced her lips with my thumb. Her breath was hot on my fingers. I brought my hand down and brushed it along her neck, across her collar bone, between her breasts and down her stomach. The rise and fall of her chest was becoming stronger the further I travelled. She was breathing louder. When I reached the dark matting I stopped. Her breathing stopped too. We waited. I was seeing if she was going to challenge me.
When she did not, I moved on, further down. She let out a loud breath and raised her hips to me. The lower I travelled, the harder I pressed. When I reached her throbbing bud, I pushed my thumb hard.
She surrendered herself to me. I had won.
So I took her. I followed her sounds and matched them to the rhythm of my fingers, then my tongue. She tasted sweet and delicious. I learned quickly which spots pleased her; which spots made her scream. And whilst she withered in ecstasy below me, I stroked myself to release and followed her.
Spent, I rolled off her and onto my back. Her hand found mine and clasped it. I thought it was due to the contact I suddenly deprived her of. I placed an arm over my eyes and tried to slow my breathing and racing heart. I could feel her watching me. I turned my head and gave her a satisfied smile. She smiled back, but hers was warm and caring. I turned from her, pulling a sheet with me and fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning, my body humming with contentment. It had been a long time. I pulled the sheet around my naked body and sat up. I found her dressing in my shift a few feet away from me. I admired her body, the way it swayed, the way she moved almost symmetrically, like a dance, as she dressed. She sensed me looking and turned her head slightly towards me. She pulled the clothing over her and turned her body to me. Pulling her hair free of the tunic, she smiled at me sheepishly. She was the shy kind of lover, I observed. The type to lose themselves in vicious pleasure at the height of passion then mull it over in the morning. I was not. I was the do-it-forget-it kind. She felt uncomfortable under my gaze and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and sucked in her lips.
I tried to ease her discomfort by offering her some food.
‘I've already had some, thanks.' I observed the contents of the holdall. So she had. I shrugged and stuffed bread into my mouth. ‘We'll have to get you some more clothes. But leave it up to me this time, okay?' Her cheeks flushed.
I covered a yawn with my hand and rubbed at my sleepy eyes. I knew it agitated her when I yawned loudly. It was probably something her Father would have done.
I frowned. She was watching me.
‘Yes?' I enquired with a raised eyebrow.
She started. ‘Sorry, I, you just look-‘
‘-What?' She shrugged.
‘Beautiful.' I blinked at her honesty. I rarely felt uncomfortable due to my body but I suddenly felt aware of how I must look with nothing but a thin sheet held up to my breasts and dark, tousled hair framing my face. My insecurity put her at ease finally and she sat on a nearby rock. I noticed she looked tired. Maybe she didn't have as good a night sleep as I did. I probed her.
‘Are you unwell this morning?'
‘No,' she answered without hesitation. ‘Why?'
‘You look tired,' I told her. She sighed.
‘I didn't sleep very well. I felt...strange.'
‘Strange? How?' She smiled and closed her tired eyes.
Shaking her head, she said, ‘It doesn't matter. Come, now. I need these clothes you promise me of.'
We had just got directions for the next town. We waved the travelling salesman off politely then groaned. It was going to be a long walk and it was already mid-afternoon. Neither of us relished the thought of it.
‘Why don't we just go back to the last city and get clothing there?' She asked.
‘No. We don't ever go back. Plus, you might run into your little friend again,' I teased.
She let out a chuff of air in agreement. Maybe that wouldn't such a bad thing, I mused. It ended well enough. The woman beside me was, too, following my trail of thought as she bit her lip with a smile and lowered her face into her fur coat. It was not that cold yet but the little rose was sensitive to such weather changes.
‘Let's refresh ourselves before we begin this trek,' I told her. ‘Have a drink, rehydrate yourself. I'm going to find a bush. Here,' I handed her the horse's reins and ventured into the trees. Squatting, I pushed my dress up with a fuss. It was much, much easier with male trousers. I relieved myself and cleaned.
That's when I heard her scream my name.
I scrambled to my feet and ran into the clearing. The horse lay on the ground dead. I saw a man with his back to me, his ripped clothing and sword advancing towards her. She backed away but found herself cornered against a tree. I could smell her fear.
I moved towards them with speed but with quiet feet. I grasped my knife in my hand. As I got closer, I could hear him talking with a vicious tongue. He told her things he would do to her, obscene things. I felt anger grip me. As he reached for her, I pulled an arm around his chest and dragged the knife across his neck with a strenuous grunt. She screamed. I could hear him gurgling repulsively under her cries. The knife caught as it ripped deeply in his throat. His blood splattered her dress but she couldn't move.
I heard her hand clap to her mouth as she fought back violent sickness. Her screams were muffled behind it. She was frozen. Her staring eyes tore themselves away from the body to look at the one who had done this. I dropped the body, and she jumped, smacking the back of her head against the tree. My own body was unmoving. I stared at the corpse, feeling nothing but mere acceptance glowing from my eyes. It was then she knew I had had blood on my hands before.
She took her hands away from her face and looked at me as if she could see the sticky redness dripping from my fingertips, sliding down my skin and lingering in my raven hair.
I realised then just how unworldly she was. I gathered she had never been to a hanging nor seen a burning. She probably listened to tales of death and violence with eager ears and played murder games as a child with her friends. This was her first encounter with the real brutality of it and it sickened her. I knew because I understood.
I looked at her, keeping my eyes soft, but I couldn't help feeling somewhat annoyed. She stared back. Her face was ashen and tear tracks scarred her cheeks. She never thanked me for saving her.
She walked behind me at an infuriating slow pace. The knife was at my side, dripping with his blood. I could feel her eyes on me, her face frowning and judging. How dare she judge me, she had no right.
I reached for her arm and pushed her roughly in front of me. 'Go,' I commanded. She obeyed as I knew she would. She was dead to will. She walked on and it was my time to scrutinize her. Maybe I am being too harsh, but if I was I couldn't recognise it. I couldn't remember what it was like to be naive to blood. She slowed and turned her face to me. My blood boiled as I awaited her calculating eyes. What I saw was not judgemental at all. I only saw pity. Anger stabbed at me. She did not understand, could not understand. It took brutality and cold willing to harden and shield a heart from affection. Hers, she wore on her sleeve where anyone could take it and crush it.
I walked towards the cave with haste. The clouds were dark. I didn't know where she was but she hadn't been at my side for a while and I didn't look back. I dropped my holdall with a sigh. It stank of the animal's blood. I sat down heavily. My head throbbed. I heard her approaching and looked up. Her hair was damp as the rain began to fall outside. Shrugging off her furs, she curled herself pathetically against the rock and leant her head back. Her eyes were closed.
I suddenly realised I still holding the knife and quickly threw it down. She opened her eyes and slowly cocked her head and looked at the discarded item. I barely heard her when she spoke.
‘How many what?' I snapped.
‘People,' she stated. She swallowed and asked firmer, ‘How many people have you killed with that thing?'
‘What does it matter?' I couldn't remember.
‘What does it matter?' She rasped out. ‘Do not think it matters that you murder?' I spun to her with venom.
‘I am not a murderer. I killed that bastard to save your life,' I fired at her. She didn't care.
‘You killed him to save me? You only had to knock him unconscious! And you call that honour!' She screamed.
‘Yes, yes I do I call that honour. An honourable human would not leave a defenceless person to die, especially someone who they were involved with!'
‘Involved with? We are not involved with each other. You were my guide, nothing more. You made that clear when I first started travelling with you. I only wanted you teach me how to survive. I did not want this excess emotional baggage which you have forced onto me!' Her voice cracked. ‘I ran away from that.'
‘You ungrateful whore!' I spat. ‘I forced nothing onto you. I told you the truth of my life as you asked for. I knew you did not want me to ask you about your family so I didn't-'
‘-No!' She raised herself to her feet and pointed at me. ‘No, you didn't ask me about them because you are not human enough to deal with other people's emotions. You cannot feel any emotion. You've buried it so deep that it cannot be retrieved. No wonder you are alone. You deserve to be alone!' I lunged for her suddenly. She shrank back but I caught her arm. I dragged her towards the entrance of the cave. She tried to resist but I only dug my nails into her harder, making her cry out in pain.
‘Get out!' I shouted. I pushed her into the rain and she fell into the wet mud. Thunder crashed loudly and she looked above her in fear. I smiled coldly at her. ‘You better be a quick learner because you're on your own now.'
I turned from her sharply. Tears of anger stung my eyes but I would not cry. Not for her. When I glanced back she had gone.
I fell heavily onto the floor and curled my hands into fists. My chest rose and fell in fury. I could see the power of the lightning as it lit up the cave in quick, violent flashes. It was going to be a long night for her.
I awoke from an uneasy sleep by a chilling breeze which entered the cave. It was still early; the first light of dawn was breaking. I sat up on the cold floor and rubbed my chest. My heart throbbed with a strange burning feeling-guilt, I suppose. I had not felt guilty for a long time.
Thoughts of the whereabouts of my little rose floated into my head. I looked around me, half expecting to see her sleeping somewhere in the cave but she was nowhere to be seen. Only the knife lay there, abandoned. I moaned and rubbed my eyes as I stood up unsteadily. The rain was still beating down heavily. It unnerved me. It was many hours ago I told her to leave. Her safety was at stake if she was out in this weather without covering. But I knew she was clever. She would have found somewhere to stay if she had wanted, even at that late hour.
I ventured out of the cave. The wind carried wisps of moisture through the trees over my head. The forest was silent. I let my legs carry me; my mind didn't know where to go. My instincts told me to look for her but my logic told me she would be far away now. She would not want to see me even if I did find her.
I stopped a few metres away from the cave and stared at the vast forest in front of me. I didn't know where to start. I heard the wind shriek behind me. It made me turn at once. It was then I saw the flash of white. Her form was lying in between two rocks which did nothing but keep her from the brunt of the winds. She was very still. I ran to her. As I got closer I saw her bent arms shaking violently at her chest. She was deathly pale and her lips were blue. I could see she was hypothermic.
I took her freezing hands in mine. ‘Hey! Hey, can you hear me?' She started muttering desperately, her mouth so numb it refused to form words. ‘Shhh, it's okay, it's okay. Come on, we need to get you inside.' I gathered her up in my arms and moved rapidly to shelter.
I removed her wet clothes as soon as she was in cave and covered her with ours furs. I supported her against a rock and once the fire was lit, I slipped in behind her and tried to warm her with all the heat I could give. My arms held her trembling form tight. I needed to keep her alive.
Her cold hands found my face and cupped it. ‘I-I'm s-sorry,' she shivered. I stroked her damp hair.
‘No. I shouldn't have forced you to go out there in that weather. It was foolish of me.' She didn't reply but I felt her snuggle closer.
We remained that way for what seemed like an eternity. The fire burned low but our mutual forgiveness shined bright. She finally fell into an uneasy sleep. She sniffed as she dreamed, her body occasionally wracked by a violent tremor. I closed my eyes as the fire died and joined her in slumber.
I lay her down gently on the ground as I rose myself. She opened her eyes and looked around. Her hair was wild and cheeks flushed.
‘I'm making you some soup. Thank The Ones In The Sky that I got some from that market.' She smiled at me and I never felt so warm.
‘Thank you,' she whispered.
The hot liquid was rich and gladly welcomed. We ate in silence, both locked in our own worlds of divinity of the meal. She finished quickly and set her plate on the ground. She licked her lips in delight then frowned suddenly.
‘Thora, what I said to you yesterday, I am truly sor-'
‘-Ebony, please. I know...I know how hard it must have been for you to have witnessed that. The first time that I...well, it was awful.' She looked forlorn as I spoke but then grinned suddenly. ‘What?' I asked, puzzled.
‘It is the first time you have called me by my name.' I smiled. She was right. ‘So what are we doing today?' She asked cheerfully.
My eyes wandered to the entrance of the cave. I had to double-take as my mind registered snow. I peered closer. It was snow!
‘Take a look outside,' I told her. She turned around then scrambled to her feet. I followed as she stepped towards the entrance of the cave, her furs still wrapped around her.
‘Wow,' she breathed. ‘And so soon! It was warm not a week ago.' It was a miracle. She bounced on her heels. ‘Oh, I wish I could go out but the shift is still sodden.'
‘How about I go and find you something decent to wear? It's only late-morning. I would be back in a few hours then we can go out in the evening. You stay here, keep yourself warm.' I took my fur and left her watching the dizzying snowfall.
I returned with a bundle of clothes under my arm and two pairs of walking boots with thick heels. I didn't even have to steal them. A kind old woman gave them to me gladly when I told her the tale of what happened to Ebony. I also held strips of tough metal her son melted down for me. I smiled at my ingenious idea. It was not often I acted on impulse but a light-bulb switched on in my mind when I saw the lake.
‘What have you got there?' She asked me. I tucked the metal into my holdall before she got a closer look and handed her the clothes. She had brushed her hair neatly with the comb she had traded for at the city. A fire had been lit, as she liked to do, and she sat with her legs outstretched on my bedroll. She laid out the clothes in front of her and ran her fingers along the threading. ‘This is quite beautiful. Who did you steal it off? Royalty?' She teased.
‘Your faith in me is never misplaced, is it?' I answered sarcastically. ‘And, if you must know, I didn't steal it. There are people out there willing to help. I just forget.'
I followed with my eyes the path she was making with her fingers. The main body of the tunic was a pale pink with green embroidery flowers snaking along the empire line. It was sewn with thick material. I hoped it would be warm.
‘Hurry and dress. I want to take you somewhere.' Her eyebrows raised and she smiled with interest but did as I said.
‘So, where are you taking me?' She asked as we exited the cave wrapped in our furs. We walked under twilight sky; the moon glowing behind a black mass of trees. It had long stopped snowing but the entrance of night did not allow for the snow to melt so it remained, shimmering, on the ground.
I didn't answer, I didn't need to. We were there in a matter of seconds. I wandered from the track and took her by the hand. I could feel her apprehension as I lead her into the bushes.
I smiled at the lake in triumph. It was much more beautiful now than it was in daylight. The ice which laced the water was tainted blue by the moonlight and each solid snowflake shimmered like a thousand diamonds.
I turned to her. She was looking at me with a puzzled but amazed smile on her lips. She held an awestruck, mesmerised look which made my heart flutter in my chest. I compressed it, grudgingly.
‘Close your eyes,' I directed. She did so, eliciting a giggle from her smiling mouth.
I placed my holdall on the floor and emptied the contents, carefully laying each item on the ground. I took the metal and struck the bottom of the boots with them until they were integrated deeply. Taking the ripped up pieces of her former dress, I looped them through holes in the metal and wrapped them around the body of the shoes. I stepped back and admired my handiwork.
Chewing my bottom lip, I looked at her. Her eyes were still closed. I felt anxious as I rose to my feet. I shook the feeling with a smile, mocking myself.
Taking her hands in mine, I lowered her to the floor. A small frown was playing on her brow. I stroked my thumbs over the backs of the hands to reassure her. Unlacing her boots, I pulled them from her feet. Her toes curled at the sudden loss of warmth.
‘What are you doing...?' She asked, amused.
‘You'll see,' I promised. I put on my own boots and helped her to her feet. She wobbled unsteadily and her eyes flew open. I steadied her then awaited her reaction. She looked at her feet, raising them slightly, then she looked at the lake and it clicked.
‘Oh, Thora, we can't! Wha-what if it breaks?' Her hands twisted uncomfortably together as she eyed the lake nervously.
‘It won't break. I promise.'
‘You can't promise that. It is a very sweet idea, though.' She smiled at me and took my hand. I pulled on it lightly.
‘Come on,' I urged gently. She shook her head meekly. I smiled at her reluctance and, with all sincerity, said, ‘Trust me.'
Her eyes bored into mine and searched my very essence. I looked back steadily. Finally, she drew in a breath.
I lead her to the edge of the lake and assisted her onto the ice. She stood with her legs slightly apart, poised, and arms hovering in the air in a bid to stay upright. I sidled up behind and wrapped myself around the space under her arms. Slowly, they floated back to her sides.
‘Ready?' I spoke softly, into her ear. She stared straight ahead and nodded her head dependably.
I pushed her gently and she began to move her legs, gliding a small distance. Our huddled furs kept us both warm and, supporting each other, we set a rhythm. She was determined to keep to the edge at first. I told her the ice was thicker in the middle and, slowly, she began skate on a larger breadth with heightened speed.
The quickness of the movement stirred a breeze in my hair, awakening the freedom and liveliness of the act. Soon, we moved together with elegant agility. Her arms flew up in a reckless motion and she laughed delightfully as I steered her. Our sharp-edged boots created circles across the lake as we moved with grace, water spitting at us from under them. We were soon breathless and hot in our coats. I tried not to alert her to the ice which began to crack and splinter with our weight. Instead, I swiftly directed us to the edge of the lake once more. She did not protest and landed in a heap on the bank, beaming.
‘That was wonderful!' She cried, breathlessly. Her cheeks were flushed and nose red from the bitter coldness. I lay down beside her and removed our bulky boots. Wisps of clouded mist were blown from our mouths as our breathing slowed.
‘Catalina would have loved that,' she announced thoughtfully. Her face was indifferent as she looked up at the sky. I decided not to press her.
A moment passed before she said, ‘Come, let's find somewhere to sleep. The night is clear, we can sleep outside. The chill will do us good.'
We settled near to the lake, under a canopy of trees where there was no snow. The ground was hard and I spread my furs to soften it. Ebony made a fire whilst I leant against a tree with the blankets gathered around me. I suddenly felt exhausted.
I felt her lean against me and opened my eyes. She pulled the blankets around her and curled up, shivering.
‘I have something for you,' I told her. She looked bewildered as I uncurled my hand to reveal the bracelet she was looking at on the jewellery stall.
‘How did you get that?' I shrugged with a smile and fastened it around her wrist. She jingled it slightly and it sparkled in the fire light. ‘Why are you doing this for me?' She asked suddenly. I blinked and frowned.
‘I, umm...' I didn't know how to answer her. Why was I doing this? Was it guilt, perhaps? ‘I just...feel you deserve it,' I said feebly. She nodded unsurely and lowered herself under the sheets. I followed, and we lay face to face. She reached out a finger and brushed away a piece of hair which had fallen over my face.
‘Thank you,' she whispered. I nodded and closed my eyes. I felt her brush her lips over my forehead as I fell asleep.
Mama? Papa? Is that you?
Yes, it is us. Your sister, too.
It is I.
Do you remember us, my dear?
Of course, of course!
Do you remember what happened?
I try to forget.
Oh, but you must not! Then you will forget us.
No, I shall never!
I think you already have. Let us remind you.
Remember the hooves, the horses,
And the soldiers,
Please I beg you-
Then the fires, the screaming, the fear, the smells, the sounds, burning flesh, ripping skin, snapping bones, blood, bodies, DEATH!!
I awoke with a cry and grabbed at the wrist that had shaken me. My chest was heaving and I could feel cold sweat clinging to back. My head turned wildly as I stared around in the dark. I felt confused and lost but I could hear a soothing voice in the distance, lulling me back to the present. Her hand stroked my arm, making me drop her wrist before it bruised. I gulped at the cold air, the sting of it ripping at my throat. My eyes began to focus on the person infront of me. Her brow was creased in concern, her eyes silently asking me what . I sat up shakily.
‘My-my parents,' I tried to explain, ‘I saw... and then the soldiers...' I couldn't think. I felt a roaring inside of me, pushing up. I tried to swallow it down. ‘I could hear them screaming. They took my sister...I hid and I watched her die-'
I clapped my hand to my mouth as a pain inside crippled me. I whaled in anguish. I looked at her with wide eyes. ‘...I was so scared. I was so, so scared,' I whispered. ‘I was just a child!-'
‘-Shhh, I know,' she murmured, ‘I know. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Oh, sweetheart...'
I broke then.
I fell on my knees and sobbed. I felt her put her arms around me. She caressed my back gently as I clawed my nails into her neck. I tried to drown the images that haunted my mind; I tried to stop the eruption of so many years of buried emotion as they tore out of my chest and spilled down my face as loud, burning tears. I couldn't stop the fall but I tried so hard. I grasped at her for help, desperately pleading for her to take it all away. She cradled my head in her hands and kissed my forehead. Her sweet fingers stroked my hair and I could hear her whispering. She was telling me to let go, that everything was going to be okay, that I have someone to love me. She then lowered her lips to mine. I choked on a sob as I felt her warmth surround me, enveloping me in a protecting embrace. They were slow and soft. She was careful with me.
My tears scolded my face. I could taste them, as we kissed. She stole them away with her mouth. I broke it slightly with a breath and raised my eyes to hers. Her face was so close. Her red lips were slightly parted and her eyes fluttered as they searched mine. My hands reached for her face. She looked so beautiful.
I was suddenly filled with something I had never felt before. It was taunting me, pushing me. I wanted to follow it but I felt a dread, a fear, which made me hesitate. I would be left unguarded like I was when I was a child. I ended up losing everything I ever loved. It was a mistake I promised I would never make again.
I closed my eyes in sorrow and pulled back but she held onto me. She drifted closer and removed the bedraggled sheet which clung to my body. The night air blew around me, causing an involuntary shiver. Her arms reached up and she brushed my tears away with gentle fingers. She guided my hands up to her face so they were between us and brushed her lips upon them. Her tenderness captivated me. I watched, powerless.
She let go and my hands dropped to her shoulders. She cupped my face loosely in her palms and nuzzled her nose against my cheek until her lips fell upon mine. I moaned softly at the sensuality of the endearment. The air encircling us was buzzing with intensity. My hands fell around her neck, drawing her closer.
Our knees touched as the kiss deepened. She encouraged me to lie down until she was resting between my raised legs. Her arms supported my head whilst mine held her to me tightly. I wanted her to drown me, I wanted to disappear.
My eyes drifted shut as she trailed kisses along my jaw and down my throat. She drew her mouth across my skin and tasted me with her tongue, lips and teeth. The combination was so enticing. My clothed breast came into contact with her exploring mouth and I arched my back into her as the bitter feeling I had earlier reared itself again.
It wasn't a game this time. There would be no winner.
I couldn't work out whether this was a trap or a channel to release. I felt like a helpless animal who had been tempted by the sweet treat which lay deep in the darkness but all the while waiting for the solid sheet to fall and capture it. I needed to make a decision but with the body moving above me, I found it hard to breathe let alone think. I was losing all coherence.
Suddenly, the body slowed and I took this time to decide. It was time for fight or flight. My head swam and flickered with unstructured thoughts. My senses dispersed then fused together, making any contact or sounds amplify around my ears and body, sensitising me to the lightest of touches. The loss of control frightened me.
There was an unexpected pressure between my legs which startled me. Cool fingers met the rising heat in my centre. I let out a shaky breath. My time to fight against my building desire was gone. So I fled. I gave myself over to the woman's tender touches and sunk into the soft material below.
She smiled up at me. Her eyes were soft and caring. They told me to trust her. I knew I was safe.
My underwear was removed and she ran her hands attentively along my legs, across my hips and up my waist, dragging my dress with it. I raised my body to aid her and my clothing was removed. I felt exposed and unguarded and I lavished in it. I felt indescribably protected at the hands of this woman.
I heard her release a breath as she gazed upon my naked body, her hands stroking where her eyes followed. The moonlight lightened her usually fiery red hair. I saw a vulnerability in her that I had never seen before. She had unveiled herself, as had I.
I sat up and she wrapped her legs around me at once. I cradled her on my thighs and pressed my lips to hers. The kiss was keen with an urgent quality. Her face leaned over mine, her hands wrapped around my neck as her mouth moved. I unfastened the lace on her dress blindly and lured the material over her body. The fabric broke the kiss and was quickly discarded. I brushed my fingers across her moon-bathed skin. She responded to my touches with quiet gasps and moans. They were the most beautiful of sounds.
Finally, my fingers fell around her undergarment and lingered there. She pressed herself into my hands, coaxing me to remove them. I did so, with careful hands, unwrapping the article of clothing. Once free, my eyes found hers once more. I looked at her with earnest. She had to know the sacrifice I was about to make. Everything, everything, I stood for was beginning to tumble, like feathers, around my ears. She looked back at me with similar intensity. Her eyes were dark with passion.
Then she whispered three words and I came undone. ‘I love you,' she breathed.
I buried my face in her chest and kissed whatever flesh I could find there. She gasped out and pushed herself into me further. The heaviness of her caused to me to fall back onto my furs. Her legs straddled me, her lips searching mine. I welcomed her wholly, my arms stroking up and down her back. A scented wave washed over me as her hair cascaded over my face and shoulders, shrouding me, protecting me.
A hand caressed my breasts while the other brushed damp hair from my forehead. I moaned softly into her mouth and tangled my hands into her hair. She moved herself down my body and I threw my head back as her mouth kissed every inch of my skin. My hands stroked her hair, encouraging her. She raised my knee and trailed a line of kisses down my inner thigh. The sensation was ethereal.
She licked me once with her tongue and ripples shot through me. I cried out and lifted my hips to her. I was desperate for her. I had never felt so needy for another human's affection before. The impulses excited me.
It didn't take long. Her laps were quick and the delectable mummers she made pushed me closer and closer. Her name fell from my lips, spurring her on. She slid her fingers into my core and searched for the areas which pleased me. She found them quickly and she pushed them hard, over and over. My hands grabbed at her hair in a fierce plea.
I felt my blood pound in my ears, making my head throb with a thrilling energy. My breath was ragged as I bucked earnestly into her face. She welcomed me readily, with greedy enthusiasm. She quickened her pace and I felt my mind fall into oblivion as shear bliss surged through me. I called her name but it was ripped from me as her lips collided with mine. She grinded my sensitive body in invitation.
I accepted gladly and turned us over. I still longed for this feeling, I wouldn't let go just yet. I would hold onto it by pleasing her. She wouldn't wait either. Her hand grasped mine and she placed my fingers inside of her, gasping at her own operation. I moaned at her heat and sought her lips again. Her tongue searched mine and I opened my mouth for her. She explored me fully.
Her breath began to hitch with every thrust. I knew she was close. I tore my lips from hers and looked into her eyes. I cupped her cheek with one hand and continued to stroke her, a ragged breath leaving my mouth with each entrance. Her whole body reared up into mine as waves of pleasures coursed over her. I could see the stars dancing in front of her eyes. She screamed my name and dug her nails sharply into my back. I kissed her cheek repeatedly until she came back down to earth.
Her head fell back on the furs and her body slumped under mine. Her eyes were closed and hair was plastered to her forehead. The rise and fall of her chest was quick and she laid one hand onto it in an attempt to tame it. I kissed her lips once and rolled onto my back beside her.
She pressed herself into my side, moaning quietly as she was attacked by after-shocks. Her face was buried in my neck and she kissed the skin there. Our arms cocooned each other, trapping the warmth between us and guarding us from the cold.
I felt happy.
I smiled, and then I laughed, tears leaking from my eyes. Ebony looked at me, confused. I kissed her nose in a quick burst and wrapped my arms tighter around her. She settled again, stroking my jaw line.
The silence around us was ever so soothing. My body glowed drowsily and my eyes felt heavy. The world was dreamy and abstracted. Wrapped up in this heavenly encasing, I allowed myself to reflect. I thought back to the very first moment I saw Ebony. I acknowledged her beauty even then, but I did not think highly of her. In fact, she irritated me. I was not used to opinion, if not my own, and she challenged me.
I could not remember when I started to grow fond of her. I remember detesting her and I know loving her, but the events amidst were a developmental blur. I had lost control as early as then, I realised. But that doesn't matter now, I could not look back anymore. Perhaps my prayers were finally being answered, and she was my angel.
My musings wondered to why she was with me. Why did she leave her family? Did she shame them, possibly? Or them her? I knew she was hurting, and maybe still is, yet I still forced the tragedies of my life upon her when she had never asked for them. I had burdened her with my past without ever enquiring about hers.
I suddenly felt ashamed.
‘Ebony...?' She moaned softly and her eyes fluttered open. ‘I'm sorry,' I said. She shook her head and kissed me sleepily.
‘Don't you ever apologise to me.' And just like that I was complete, whole again.
I slept in her arms that night. The stars twinkled at me and I thanked The Ones In The Sky with everything I had that they had brought her to me. I understood now. I understood why this beautiful creature was sent to me. I had wandered so far from myself that I couldn't see the beauty that the world had to offer, but now I could. And she was sleeping beside me.
I had torn down all my barriers for her and she treated me with nothing but the gentlest attention. I had taught her to live, whilst she had taught me to love again. The gentle balance which perfected everything. I felt as if my innocence had been returned - the youthfulness and careless mistakes and hope for the big, bright future. And all because of her. This rose, my rose.
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