For complete disclaimers see part 1.
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Part 13- conclusion
Muttering to herself, Merryn finally rolled over, eyes wide open. Never had her bed felt so huge. Normally she had loved the expanse, as she had all the room she'd loved sleeping on the ground, but her body didn't pay for the nocturnal freedom. Such freedom seemed far more like a hindrance than privilege this night.
Giving up on rest, she gained her feet, grabbing a cloak to wrap snugly around her body after tugging on her boots. The fire had recently been rebuilt. Standing before it for a moment, the brunette warmed her chilled body, then headed out of the darkened rooms, grabbing one of her swords as she did.
As was expected, Saoirse was quiet. A few rats could be heard running along the walls, sniffing in their partial blindness for anything edible. The Donal walked down the stairs that led from her personal suite of rooms to the next floor, where guests and those of 'importance' slept. She found her way to Paul's rooms. He had been in bed most the previous day, the brunette checking on him from time to time. Cara had assured her that he would be fine, just needed some rest. He would be more sore than anything.
Pushing open the double doors leading to his rooms, she saw his fire was just about burnt out. Hurrying over to it, she quickly stoked it back to life. Turning to the bed, she saw dark eyes watching her. An instant smile lit up her face, far more than any fire could do.
"How are ye, lad?" Walking over to him, she perched on the side of his bed. He pulled his hands from under the covers, and with quick movements told his mother that he was fine, though still had a headache. He also told her that the healer had been there not long ago. Merryn smiled with a nod. "Aye. She is wonderful. More movement of his hands. Again, the brunette nodded. "Aye, son. I'd like her ta stay, as well."
Merryn looked away for a moment, indecision pulling her lower lip in to chew. She felt Paul's eyes on her. Glancing back at him, she decided to tell him the truth.
"Son, I need ta tell ye somethin'." The boy nodded, giving her his full attention. She knew that if Cara were to stay in the castle, perhaps become the official healer of the Donal, Paul needed to know the truth. Meeting his curious gaze, she began her tale. Paul listened, nodding from time to time to acknowledge that she still had his full attention. As the story progressed, his eyes got wider as realization dawned on him of just what his mother was telling him, the exact nature of Merryn and Cara's relationship at one time. Merryn swallowed hard as she got to the point in the story of Cara's illness at the cabin. She describe to him what it had been like to leave her, unable to burn or bury her. There was no way her heart could have survived watching such destruction. She ended her story at the night when she'd run into Tamara and her young son, Paul, and how the brunette had happened to be there to save their lives.
Nervous, Merryn finally met her son's eyes, waiting to see what he would say about the whole thing. She knew the lad was smart, and wise beyond his years, and could only pray that he would use that wisdom in reconciling what he'd just been told.
After sitting there for countless moments, the boy reached for the parchment he often used to write on when he was communicating with someone who did not understand his silent language. Bent over the parchment and scribbling a few words, he showed his writings to the brunette.
Ye really do like to anger the Bishop, don't ye?
Merryn broke out in relieved laughter, especially when she saw the twinkle in the boy's eyes. She watched as the boy began to scribble furiously again.
I do not understand such a love, but I do see what a wonderful person Cara is. She makes ye happy?
"Aye, Paul. That she does."
Do ye know her again? As in what 't bible says of know?
Merryn read the words, then shook her head. "No, son. I don'a know if we'll ever be that way again. But I do love her, 'n want her in my life." Paul nodded, tapping his own chest. "Ye, too, eh, lad?"
The boy grinned, turning back to his parchment.
I don't have a chance now, right?
Again, the boy's dark eyes twinkled. Throwing her head back in thunderous laughter, the Donal took her son in her arms and squeezed him. Giving him a quick kiss on the forehead, she grinned at him. Shaping her thumb and forefinger into an L, she placed them over her heart. The boy returned the gesture. It had always been something between them.
Gaining her feet, Merryn took the parchment and quill from the boy. "Sleep now, lad." Making sure he was warm and comfortable, she left him.
Leaving Paul's rooms, she felt better, but no less awake. Bringing her cloak a little more closer around her, she walked on, heading down out of the residence suites, and deeper into the guts of the castle.
In some ways she hated being home. On the battlefield, and in camps, she was typically so exhausted from fighting that she fell right to sleep. Out in the field, she got a better five-hour nights sleep than she did a full night at home. She was restless and antsy. She'd had longer stints at home between battles before, but none that were so taxing on her emotions.
She was glad to see the fixings for the festival that was coming in two days. It was time to celebrate. All the townspeople were invited to Saoirse to partake in food, wine, good ale, as would be made sure of by the connor, and any goods merchants wished to sell. It would be great good fun.
As she made her way toward the library she'd had put in the massive structure. About to go in and grab one of the many, rare hand-printed books to take up to her rooms, she noticed a flickering light. Walking across the massive hall, her steps echoing against the two-story ceiling.
The chapel door was closed, though the very faint flickering of candlelight within licked under the crack.
Taking the handle in her hand, she gently pulled, hoping the hinges would not creak. She was lucky, and they held her silence. Within the confines of the small room, the stone floor was bare, as parishioners came in to kneel to their knees. At the front stood a small altar for the castle priest to stand and perform his sermon in Latin.
A single candle tall candle was lit at the center of the room, its wick glowing and flickering in the constant breeze that weaved its way through the stone halls and rooms. Kneeling before this candle was Cara, back arched as her forehead nearly touched the floor. Her hands, unseen, were clasped under her chin. The blonde was completely silent, her eyes tightly closed.
Undecided on whether Merryn should leave this very private moment or not, her eyes were locked to golden hair, seeming to shimmer in the equally golden candlelight. She watched, enraptured by the gentle way Cara's body moved, almost as though she were rocking, raising just enough for her profile to be visible. Merryn could then see that her lips were moving, though nothing came out. Her clasped hands still rested against her forehead as she rocked back down, forehead nearly against the floor once more.
Deciding it was a moment too intimate for her to be witnessing, Merryn slowly backed out of the room.
"Don't leave," she heard softly whispered. Her eyes fixed on the blonde, saw her rock a couple more times before she sat up fully on her knees. Head bowed, she seemed to be closing her prayer, then gained her feet. Turning to the brunette, she smiled, which Merryn quickly returned.
"'M sorry. Shoulda gone."
"No," Cara said softly, walking over to the taller woman. "'Tis alright. Was nearly done." Merryn nodded acknowledgement. The blonde's head tilted slightly to the side. "Why'r ye not sleepin'?"
Merryn shuffled her booted feet, hands fidgeting as she tried to avoid eye contact. Finally she felt a gentle touch to her cheek. Her face was directed toward Cara's amused one. One shoulder shrugged, almost like a child.
"Can'a," she muttered in explanation. She melted at the smile that received.
"Do ye need somthin' ta help?" Cara was amused, but half serious all the same. Dark brows drew, and an even darker head shook. "Well then, let us get ye back ta bed." She took one of Merryn's hand in both of hers. Looking down at the differences- one deeply tanned and calloused, the other pale, soft, almost petit. Glancing back up at her companion, she smiled again. "The Donal needs her rest."
"As does 't great, all-knowing Healer."
Cara smirked, walking past the ruler, still holding her hand, giving the brunette no choice but to follow, feeling their fingers entwine as they walked.
"Paul said ye were by ta see 'im," Merryn said at length, stepping aside to allow the blonde to enter a narrow staircase before her. A dark brow raised at the sight before her- a wonderful behind.
"Aye. He heals quickly." She glanced behind her, amused when she saw blue eyes dart away. "Like his mother." Merryn smiled up at her.
As they reached the top of the staircase, Merry had to make a quick decision. One way would lead to Cara's rooms, the other to her own. Taking the lead as they hit the landing, she tugged lightly to the right. Looking down into twinkling green eyes, she smiled sheepishly and got them going toward the staircase that would lead to her bedchamber.
"Where is Paul's birth mother, Merryn?" Cara asked, her voice soft as they made their way through dark, cold hallways.
"She died when he was just a boy. His da, too." Merryn pushed open the doors to her suites. The fire warmed the room nicely from the chill in the halls they'd just traversed.
"He adores ye." Cara smiled at the pride that reflected plainly in the Donal's face. Merryn nodded.
"And I him." And I ye.
Cara looked around, then turned back to the ruler, brow raised. "Why did ye bring me here?" she asked, her voice soft. She thought she had an idea, as it was the same that had kept her awake, but she wanted to hear it. Needed to hear it.
Swallowing, Merryn took the blonde's hands in hers. She knew that if she were to get Cara fully back into her life, she needed to be as honest as she could with the beautiful healer. She began to speak, her voice soft, slightly shaky.
"I could'na sleep because ye'r not here. Will ye stay?"
Cara looked up into the beseeching face that was once again becoming so important to her. Raising a hand, the oversized sleeve of her dress falling down her arm, she cupped Merryn's cheek. She could feel the softness of the tanned skin, her thumb gently caressing the defined cheekbone. Nodding, she smiled.
The tension in the air suddenly grew thick, blue looking deeply into green. Cara could feel her heart rate quicken, and her breathing slightly hitch. Knowing she was not ready for anything more than sleeping, she dropped her gaze and took a step back.
Merryn swallowed hard, taking several deep breaths as Cara moved away from her, readying for bed. No other had touched her since Cara, and she knew not what to do with her body's sudden awakening. Deciding this night was not the time to think about it, she, too got ready for bed.
The castle and grounds were abuzz before the sun had risen. Just inside the gates of Saoirse booths were being set up, merchants displaying their wares to their best advantage for sell: pots and jugs, instruments, herbal mixtures, various food stuffs and carved, wooden toys- just to name a few. Excitement was in the air, children running around trying to help their parents, as well as playing with each other.
Every member of the household, including Evela and Angus, were helping to ready the festivities. There was no one that hadn't been bitten by the bug of excitement and anticipation for a wonderful day.
Giddy as a schoolgirl, Merryn crept back into her rooms. She was fully dressed and bathed, and had been a busy little ruler already, as the sun was beginning to smile upon the land. She walked over to the bed, where Cara was still very much asleep. The blonde lay on her side, hands tucked up under her chin.
Snatching the healer's full circle cloak, where she'd left it heating by the fire, she passed the overheated garment from hand to hand as it cooled slightly. Finally able to handle it, she tossed it over her arm, and gently woke Cara. Green eyes opened, then closed tightly as their owner groaned in displeasure.
"Come on, now, lass. I've got a surprise fer ye." Merryn couldn't keep the grin from splitting her face wide open. She wrapped the warmed cloak around a small frame, making Cara moan in pleasure as she was enveloped in soft warmth. This made her far more willing to follow the brunette out of the suite.
Getting no answer to her request for information, Cara became silent, trusting Merryn, and attempting to keep her early morning temper in check. She was led down the stairs, toward her own rooms before being suddenly tugged through a single door.
Merryn threw the door open, gently nudging Cara before her. Green eyes widened as she took in the beautiful room before her. Gone was the stone of the rest of the structure. This room was somewhat small, and the walls were lined with marble, the floor beautiful tile with decoration of a rising sun embedded in them. At the center of the room, which was hot and somewhat steamy, was a marble tub, of the likes that the healer had seen in Rome- large and square with ornate carvings along the sides. Two steps lined all four sides.
Along one wall were pottery jars, labels scribed into the fresh clay before they had been baked. Cleaning pastes and herbs wait inside, as well as soaps made of lard and rose petals. She noted a complex network of piping that led into the floor, as well as a pump that sat about waist-high.
"What 'tis this?" she asked, stepping further into the room. She saw that the tub was filled with warm, inviting water.
"Yer own private bath," Merryn said, pride filling her voice. She was just amazed that her people had managed to get it all done so quickly for her. She'd reward them greatly for it, too. Cara turned on her then, eyes wide in shock and disbelief. The brunette grinned with a nod. "No doubt yer still as much 'o stickler as ye were before," she said with a wink.
Merryn was nearly bowled over by a very enthusiastic little blonde healer. Giving her a tight hug, she pulled away a bit.
"Bathe now, lass. I'll send Carla in with clothin' fer ye." A quick kiss to the blonde's flushed cheek, and Merryn hurried out of the chamber.
Once left alone, Cara walked further into the room, in awe, and deeply touched. Her eyes lit upon everything, not wanting to miss any of the precious details that had been added just for her use. She uncorked each jar, inhaling the fragrant scents, recognizing each without having to read the label. Merryn had added all her favorites, and she was stunned at just how thoughtful a gesture it all was. How had she remembered everything that the blonde loved so much? It seemed that daily the Donal was shocking her all over again with her thoughtfulness.
Looking down into the tub, she smiled when she realized that the surface of the water was covered with floating rose petals, their deep red in sharp contrast to the white marble of the tub. Sitting upon the wide ledge that wrapped around all four sides, Cara leaned over, dipping her fingers into the water. She moaned at the warmth, imagining what that would feel like over her entire body. The best she'd ever had was a semi-warm bath in large wooden tubs, heated buckets of water thrown in. The warmth had quickly been cooled by the much colder air of the room or outside. Truly decadent.
Reaching up, Cara unclasped her cloak, hanging it on hooks that dotted one wall. As she worked the laces of her dress, there was a soft knock on the chamber door.
"Come!" she called, watching as Carla entered, a smile and slight bow to the healer as the girl set a new dress of white and green upon a small stool, as well as several soft, thick drying cloths. As soon as the young servant left, Cara walked over to the dress. Holding it up, she smiled as she shook her head. She'd been given more new garments in her past weeks at the castle than in her entire life.
Her dress sliding down her body, she stepped out of the material puddle, stepping over to the bath. The blonde was almost giddy with anticipation. Holding onto the ledge, she carefully dipped a toe into the warmth, then her entire foot, the water rising all the way up her leg to her upper thigh. Soon she had waded out to the center of the bath, glancing behind her to find the seat that would keep her head above the depths. Slowly lowering herself, she closed her eyes with a deep, throaty groan. Her nipples instantly tightened and hardened from the contrast of cold to hot, her skin prickling with goosebumps. It sent a shiver down her spine that she hadn't felt in years.
Looking down at her body, pale and distorted under the water's surface, she saw her breasts, the slope just above the water's ripple, a rose petal floating by to obscure her right breast for a moment. It had been so long since Cara had looked at her body with any thoughts of pleasure. Not since Merryn. Then for a long time, in her studies, she thought back to what they had done, and thought that perhaps the wickedness of what they'd done together was why God had punished them, separating them, and Merryn leaving Cara.
They had been brought together again. Surely, if what they had was so wrong, they never would have been reunited. And surely if it was so wrong, it wouldn't feel so right.
Eyes closing, Cara leaned her head back against the edge of the tub, a deep sigh slipping from her lips. The water pulsed around her body, caressing long neglected skin. She felt the soft, velvety touch of her fingertips resting on the tops of her thighs, tickled slightly by the tiny hairs there.
Cara couldn't deny that Merryn still affected her, bringing her body to life when she thought it, like her heart, was long dead. What was she to do? Dare she open herself up again? Though the logical side of her understood what had happened, and how it had happened, and that these past ten years Merryn has been tortured more than anyone. But the other side of her, that lost, angry, devastated young girl, still cried and was terrified it would happen again.
Sighing heavily, she decided to just not think about it, nor analyze it too deeply. She was bonded to the ruler in no way that she could ever break or deny. As she relaxed further into the water, she decided to just take things as they came. No conscious thought had been made the first time, so why now?
It had been nearly half an hour since the ale-connor had sat on the bench in a puddle of ale. The crowd gathered around him watched, almost holding their breath. He swished a bit of the sweet English ale around his mouth, his enormous belly resting atop his leather-clad thighs. A heavy brow drew and released in concentration, some of the dark liquid darkening his red beard.
Swallowing what was in his mouth, he took the wooden mug into one plump fist and then began to wiggle his bum on the bench before finally standing. There was no sticking, his leather pants coming easily off the wood.
As he raised the mug high into the air, the crowd erupted in a cheer- mainly Jason, who had brewed the ale. If his ale had been 'short-measured', bad quality or quantity, the punishment would have been severe. Breathing a sigh of relief, he looked at those who slapped him in the back with gratitude.
People continued to pour through the castle's inner walls as the morning lengthened with the shadows, merriment in laughter as people perused the exhibits and ate good food, all provided by Donal. Her own people stood at the outside fire pits, roasting turkey legs, handing out bread and bowls of stew.
Games were set up: a line of targets for archery contests, as well as a course for horsemanship, Boccie, and of course, crowd favorite, jousting.
"What?" Cara asked, nearly exasperated. Glancing up at her companion, she saw Merryn look shyly away. Stopping their progress through the crowd, she put a hand to the Donal's arm. "Nay. Why do ye keep lookin' at me?"
Merryn gave her a side glance, then looked down at her boots. Finally raising her eyes again, she looked the blonde square on. "Ye look stunnin' 'n that dress, lass. 'N this," she brushed her fingers over the crown of flowers in her hair, a soft smile tipping her features. Her eyes shone such an intense shade of blue, Cara had to look away.
"Thank ye," she whispered, her cheeks turning every shade of red. Merryn decided to let her off the hook.
"Come, lass. Let us celebrate!" Grabbing her hand, Merryn tugged the blonde into the throng of the excited crowd. The music wafted through the air, dancing contagious as Merryn led Cara in an enthusiastic Grocheio. Both Donal and healer had irrepressible smiles on their faces, their claps joining the rest of the dancers, gaze never breaking as they turned away from the other, only to join back and make a tunnel for fellow dancers. Cara felt the light material of her dress swishing around her legs as they moved, and seeing the gleam in those beautiful blue eyes. She whipped around again, clapping once before whipping the other way, again her palms coming together to join the round of claps. She watched Merryn over her shoulder, doing the same moves, their eyes catching again and again, only for one or the other to look away, only for their gaze to be found again.
Merryn couldn't keep the smile from her lips as she swung around with other dancers, watching her healer do the same. As they came back together, never touching, their gazes met once more, both flushed with the excitement and exertion of the dancing. Dancing was something the Church strongly forbade, lest it incite urges of the Devil. Dancing was something Cara enjoyed very much, but such little reason to do.
The song came to an end, the dancers clapping enthusiastically in appreciation and a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment. Many of the townsfolk hurried over to Donal, not often having such a chance to speak with her and thank her.
Cara stepped back out of the gathering throng, pride filling her, and wonder. How on earth had a scrappy pick pocket ended up ruling England? As she watched the way the brunette interacted with her people, it wasn't hard to see. She was confident and self-assured, stern and fair, yet kind and caring. It was obvious that she loved these people, and even more obvious they loved her.
"Ye'v managed what we've been tryin' ta do for years."
Cara snapped her head around at the amused voice. Evela gave her a smiling side glance before turning to watch the excitement of the Donal.
"N what 'tis that?" the blonde asked, her own smile returning.
"Ye'v somehow convinced her to enjoy herself. She usually stays in a corner, watching, but never joining in the festivities."
"'N why not?"
"I know not." Evela sighed, plucking a flower from the basket she carried, and handing it to the blonde. She gave the healer a genuine smile of gratitude. "Ye'v given a ruler her heart back, young Cara," she said softly. "All of England and her far reaching empire thanks ye for it."
As the small brunette walked away, Cara twisted the flower between her fingers, letting those words sink in. Vaguely she heard the music start up for yet another dance, then a tapping on her shoulder. She turned to see Paul bow deeply before her, his dark eyes twinkling with mirth and the health of a young man. Wiggling his brows, the blonde knew what he was asking.
"I'd be delighted, Paul."
His grin was blinding as they began their dance.
Merryn flexed her knees, bringing her leg up, making sure the mail moved as she needed it to, not catching under the aketon beneath it.
"Alright," she said, encouraging her squire to continue. The boy knelt as he attached the cuisse, protecting her thighs, the heavy plates clinking together as he attached them with leather straps. While he did this, Angus helped by putting her pauldrons into place, the rounded shoulder pieces fitting nicely over the couter.
"Bend," he ordered, watching as Donal flexed her elbow, the metal moving as it should. Patting her on the shoulder, he turned to the cuirass with attached tassets, which reached to mid-thigh, neatly blending with the cuisse, which the boy had finished with. He was moving on to the greave, making sure the armor fit properly over Donal's boots, then strapping front and back tighter.
The boy stood out of the way, letting the warrior walk around the small armor chamber, flexing her legs and elbows, raising her arms, and moving her shoulders. Once this ritual was complete, Angus pulled the coat-armour over the ruler's head, her colors and coat of arms displayed brightly over the tournament garment. Grinning at her, he helped her with the mail coif, assuring it wasn't caught in her bound hair.
"I still say ye should be tournamentin', too," she grumbled, accepting her mail gauntlets from the squire, giving him a small smile of thanks.
"Nay," Angus said, taking her helm from it's wooden stand, tucking it under his arm. "'Tis fer ye to cause the oohs 'n ahhs." He winked, making his Donal roll her eyes.
Merryn flexed her fingers into the gloves of mail, the wrist guards steel plate. "Excuses," she muttered, sliding a single hand-and-a-half blade into its place at her side, then walking out of the chamber, into the yard where her war horse had already been saddled and harnessed, his own armor glinting in the sunlight.
With an alley-oop! she was up on horseback. Settling in the saddle for a moment, allowing her mount to get used to her added weight, grown heavier by her armor. Reaching down, she took her helm from Angus, rocking it into place, lifting the visor with a mail finger. She took her shield in her left hand and the lance, painted in her colors of black and gold, in the other. Tucking the weapon into her saddle, lengthwise along the beast, she nodded to her next in command, taking his words of good luck. Click of her tongue, and her horse was on his way.
Cara moved with the excited crowd toward the jousting grounds. Seating was set up amphitheater-style around a long, dirt field. Many of the wooden benches were already filled with spectators, murmuring happily amongst themselves, others caught up in the antics of the two fools in the field, providing amusing entertainment until the match began.
Cara sat between Paul and Evela, the brunette's husband, Ezra, joining them. The blacksmith stroked his dark beard as he chuckled at the antics of the men on the field, chasing each other and slinging barbs and insults.
The blonde lifted her face to the warm, cloudless sky. The sun beat down, but a gentle breeze helped to keep the day comfortable. It was a perfect day.
Green eyes opened when she heard loud horns announcing the arrival of the tournament opponents for the days jousting match. The fools dashed off the field, replaced by one of the castle criers.
"Hear ye, hear ye!" he called, all eyes on him. "T'day we have a treat of special care fer ye!" He threw his arm out with a flourish, the two war horses prancing onto the field, proudly carrying their armored riders, each holding their lance at attention. Merryn was easy to spot, the sunlight glinting off the golden visor of her helm, showing her rank and position.
"Our Donal ride to 't field," the crier continued, the ruler raising her lance to deafening cheers from her people. She smiled as she heard the stomping of shoes. She could hear her own breathing echoing around her, making her skin feel moist and warm. Looking through the slatted visor, she searched the crowd, trying to spot golden hair. She smiled when four people stood near the middle of the first section. They were too far to see clearly, but she caught the three dark heads, and one golden, knowing exactly who was waving and yelling to her. Nodding her helm in honor to them, Merryn turned her attention back to the match at hand.
Angus watched from beside the stands, near the mouth of the tunnel where the riders had entered the field from the stable yards. He leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. Running a hand through thick hair, much filtered with gray now.
Watching the two opponents on the field, he smiled, knowing it would be a good match. Lord Handon from Kent was on very good terms with the Donal, and they enjoyed each others company. Handon was a good fighter, and an equally good showman- just like Donal.
"Warring against our Donal this day is Sir Henry of Maidenshire! First Knight of Lord Handon of Kent!"
The crowd cheered once again politely, though began to boo good naturedly. The other horseman raised his lance, pumping his armored arm to taunt those in the crowd.
Dark brows knit, Angus pushed off the wall, eyes trained on Donal, who glanced at him over her shoulder. Angus shook his head in confusion.
"Let 't games begin!" The crier ran off the field, allowing the opponents to find their positions.
Cara was beside herself with excitement. She heard so much of Donal's prowess with weapons, and was anxious to see her in action. She had to smile as she thought back to the days they traveled together. Merryn had been able to hold her own with a sword, but much of that had been bumbling luck.
She felt her fingers tense around the flower Evela had given her earlier, intent on offering it to Merryn as a gesture of the brunette's victory. She could feel Paul's excitement, nearly matching her own, sitting beside her. She grinned over at him to find he was already grinning at her.
"Will she win?" she whispered. His dark eyes widened as he nodded vigorously. She giggled, linking her arm with the lad's, her legs bouncing with nervous energy.
Merryn grasped the reigns of her horse tightly in her mail-covered fingers. She could feel beads of sweat rolling down her spine, the heavy, quilted material of the aketon absorbing it, as well as protecting her from the pinching mail that covered her body. She became focused solely on the mounted man down the field from her, seeing his own gauntleted hand flexing on his lance, and no doubt behind his shield, as well, just as she was. Pushing her boot more snuggly into the stirrups, giving herself a more planted, solid stance in which to absorb a blow, or plant her own.
Camulus, the massive black mount Merryn sat upon, stomped one of his front hooves, feeling the tension and anticipation of his master. Bucking his head slightly, he let Merryn know that he was as ready as she.
Blue eyes focused in on the other rider, seeing his thighs beginning to clench around his mount, as hers did the same. She could feel the blood and adrenaline begin to sing through her system, her sight turning to tunnel vision as she focused her sole attention on her opponent. Though these were games, she had to focus like it was battle.
Cara was nearly holding her breath as she kept her eyes on Merryn, almost able to feel the brunette's heart racing and blood pounding throughout her body. She felt the same way just watching!
The horses snorted, both seemingly ready to bolt at the first indication from their masters. The cue was given, and the beasts did just that.
The crowd was on its feet, cheering for their Donal as she raced toward her opponent, lowering her lance as she neared. There was a marvelous crack as Donal's lance was smacked away by that of her opponent. The horses passed each other, then the riders got them turned around, effectively taking the other's pre-match position.
Bringing her lance up, Merryn studied the knight downfield. His horse was pawing at the dirt. Her horse breathing hard from exertion and excitement, Merryn patted his neck, murmuring to him to settle him a bit. Grabbing the reigns again, she got ready for another pass.
"Ha!" she encouraged her mount, sending the beast speeding off back down the field, her opponent doing the same. Lowing her lance, she held it tightly against her side, holding it in position with her arm. She zeroed in on the oncoming knight, eyes widening when the sun glinted off an arrowhead that had been mounted to the end of his lance, painted dark red to match the rest of it.
"Bloody hell!" she cried as she lost her focus in her shock.
Cara gasped loudly, as did the crowd, as the two jousters collided, Merryn flying from her horse with the lance sticking out of her body. Cara held her breath until she saw the pole fall over harmlessly, figuring all was well, the healer felt her heart begin to beat again. That is until Merryn didn't get up.
Merryn tried to catch her breath, desperately clawing at her breastplate. She felt the jagged hole in the steel, but no wetness. Opening her eyes as she sensed danger, she saw the mounted man coming back at her. With a cry of intent, the man raised his bastard sword, intent on bringing it down to finish the job.
Blue eyes about to pop from their sockets, Merryn grunted as she forced her steel-encased body to roll out of the way.
About to run to the field when she saw Merryn moving, her hands feeling around her breastplate, the blonde was stunned to see the other jouster returning, his blade raised high above his head.
The crowd didn't have time to react as cries from the archery range rang out through the day, people beginning to fall right where they sat or stood, wooden shafts sticking out of their chests, backs, necks, and legs.
Realizing what was happened, the healer made sure none of those sitting with her were hit, then took off, jumping over those still sitting, crawling around others. Her healer instincts kicked in, and hiding behind fallen bodies, or the stands themselves, she began to try and calculate where her worst wounded were.
Merryn had to use all her strength to pull herself to her feet in enough time to miss the third pass. Keeping her wits with her, she used her own lance to crack the knight's horse's front legs. With a painful whinny, the beast went down, dumping his cargo to the ground. Like Donal, the knight rolled out of the way, mindful of the felled horse and his opponent.
It hurt like nothing else to breathe, but Merryn knew she had to stay lucid as she looked at the knight. She heard the commotion from the stands, but could not dare look. Pulling her own blade, she met that of the knight, clash of steel adding to the cries of fear and pain all around her.
Enraged beyond human capacity, Merryn felt a strength rush through her as she had a good idea what was happening. She heard her men rushing onto the scene, fighting the archers, or running them down, only to trample them with horses. She used all her might, all her skill and protectiveness of her people to fight the highly trained knight.
Grinning with satisfied venom as his sword went flying off onto the field, the sun glinting blindingly for a moment. The knight began to back away from her, but too late. With a cry of rage she thrust forward, underneath his tassets, the sharp point of her blade slicing through his mail, and into the tender flesh of his groin.
The knight cried out, the sound muffled inside his helm. Not bothering to run him completely through, Merryn kicked him off her blade, the man falling with a loud clang of steel.
She reached up, unbuckling her helm and tugging it off her head, tossing it to the field. Hair glued to her scalp and face, she ran over to the knight's sword, snatching it up as she past. Both blades in tow, she ran into the fray, chopping at anything in her path that was aggressive. She looked around frantically for any site of Cara, but was soon returning her focus to an enemy.
Looking out across the field, she saw Angus, two men with swords on him. The dark man was doing his best to keep up.
Merryn ran, her armor and the two, heavy swords in her hands slowed her progress. Baring her teeth, she sliced one from behind with one blade, then swirling around to slice his throat with the other. The man fell before he even knew what had hit him. Turning her attention back to Angus, she saw him sweating profusely as his attacker went at him with quick, frenzied thrusts. Angus was doing what he could to defend himself, completely on the defense. The darker man had not fought in years, and he was not keeping his breathing under control.
Merryn head someone come up behind her and turned, raising one of her swords to catch the blow her attacker had tried to bring down on her head. Her eyes burning hatred at the coward who would dare attack from behind. With a swift slap with her mail gauntlet, her attacker staggered backward, Merryn following, showing no mercy. She met his every blow, becoming the aggressor as she brought the other blade into it. She was not used to the weight of two long swords, and she could feel the strain in her forearms at the effort. Undaunted, she swung low with her left hand, taking the man's leg at the knee. Crying out in excruciating pain, he stumbled on his remaining leg, cry falling short when he had a sword stuck in his gullet.
Not even bothering to tear the blade from his body, she turned, meaning to help Angus when she cried out. Angus stood motionless, eyes as wide as his mouth as his opponent struggled to pull his blade out from the dark man's chest.
"No!" Merryn roared, vision turning red as she used all her strength, whipping her entire body around as she swung, catching the terrified fighter in the soft tissue of his neck. She didn't even watch to see where the head fell as she threw herself to her knees. "Angus, no," she breathed, gathering her oldest, dearest friend in her steel embrace.
Wide, dark eyes looked up at her, a sickening gurgle coming from his chest. He reached up with desperate fingers, trying to find purchase to grab onto. His fingers slid uselessly down the cold steel of Merryn's armor. With one final gasp, a word, he stopped moving, his body sliding down until he lay half on Merryn's thighs and half on the ground, eyes open, blood pouring from his mouth.
Feeling her eyes stinging with overwhelming emotion, she leaned down, holding Angus close, the tears threatening to override her control. Glancing up, she saw a man coming at her with a dagger in his hand. He looked afraid, but determined.
Gently setting Angus aside, Merryn felt her jaw muscles contracting as she got to her feet. He faltered just a moment as he realized he may be in trouble, but kept his momentum, to his mortal detriment.
With the roar of a lion protecting his pride, Merryn drew her arm back, then hit him as hard as she could with the steel of her gauntlet. The impact knocked the man off his feet, the side of his head crumpling like so much parchment. Dead before he hit the ground, Merryn looked down at him, spitting on his corpse.
About to walk away, she noticed something gleam in the sunlight. Bending, she brought her fingers to his throat, seeing the pendant attached to a leather thong. Tugging with a small grunt, it came loose.
"Bastard," she hissed, recognizing the Bishop's seal.
Bodies littered the yards, some alive, but many dead. Children, women, all gone. Those bastards had left no one untouched in the slaughter.
Heavy, steel-covered boots picked lightly through the carnage, not wanting to step on anyone, dead or no. Blue eyes scanned the dead, praying she'd find Cara, but screaming to God that she wouldn't. Not here. Not in these fields of death.
Merryn had given up asking anyone, all who survived dazed and grieving not only the dead, but what had been such a wonderful celebration of life. Donal's life. Guilt was eating through Merryn like a ravaging monster. If only she had not spoken against the Bishop, if only she had played it with diplomacy and grace….
Evela nearly jumped out of her skin as the double doors exploded inward. Her heart began to beat in relief when she saw Merryn storm in. The brunette was looking around frantically, her arms dented, a hole at the center of her chest, all the way to the aketon. Her hair was flat to her head, blood and dirt streaking her features.
The ruler was hurrying from group to group of the wounded, getting more frantic by the moment.
"Donal-" Evela began, not daring to use the ruler's real name in front of so many of her subjects. She was cut off by wild blue eyes. She whimpered in fear when her upper arms were grabbed in a harsh hold.
"Where is she!?" Merryn demanded shaking the small woman with each word. She had never seen fear in those dark eyes before, but it mattered not. "Where!"
"She's alive, Merryn," Evela breathed, "getting' more supplies-" not allowed to finish her sentence, the Donal was gone, armor clanking against itself as she ran.
"Cara?!" she called, running down the hall, her voice nearly hoarse from fatigue and swallowing a great deal of dust. Nearly passing the physician's supply room, she stopped, pulling herself back to the room with her hand on the doorframe. A stunned little blonde stood inside, her white dress covered in patches of blood, blonde hair disheveled and face smudged.
At the realization of who stood before her, Cara's face crumpled, and she dropped everything in her hands, not caring as jars shattered against the stone floor. She threw herself at the Donal, who was nearly bowled over.
The hard steel of Merryn's breastplate rammed against Cara's sensitive breasts, but she didn't care, thanking God over and over again that the brunette was alive.
Merryn heard the blonde crying, and held her tighter. Suddenly she was being slightly pushed away, her face taken between two soft hands. She barely had time to react as she was pulled in, Cara's lips pressing desperately against her own. Wrapping her arms more tightly around the healer, Merryn returned the kiss, both their mouths opening, hungry, desperation borne of fear and relief.
Out of breath, Merryn pulled back, resting her forehead against Cara's. "I was so afraid ye'd be dead," she whimpered, the full weight of her loss this day crashing all around her. She saw Angus in her mind's eye, her entire spirit breaking as she lost control of her emotions at the gentleness of the woman in her arms. Cara held her, whispering soft words of love into her ear, leaving little kisses along the brunette's cheeks, trying to kiss her tears away, noting how the emotion left a trail of skin through the smudges on the warrior's face. Soon Merryn calmed, the initial impact passing. She gathered herself together and pulled back from the blonde.
"I need ta meet with my men," she said softly, bringing up a hand, caressing the side of Cara's face with her fingertips. Green eyes closed as the healer covered Merryn's mail-covered hand with her own. She nodded in understanding. Merryn leaned her head down, placing a soft kiss on Cara's soft lips. "I love ye."
"And I love ye," the blonde whispered, returning the kiss. "Go now."
"How did this happen!?" Merryn bellowed, her voice echoing throughout the Great Hall. Her men stood around, broken and bloody, just like she was. It pained her every time she realized Angus wasn't at her side. George nor Aaron would be joining them ever again, either. "This," she hissed, walking around the room, assuring each man looked her in the eye as she passed, "is unforgivable." Heads drooped lower. "We're here ta protect these people, no get them slaughtered! Like sheep," she finished, in honor of their patron- Bishop of Rutherford. "Get yerselves cleaned up."
Reaching out, she stopped a man, one of her soldiers. He stopped immediately, watching as Donal looked away for a moment, eyes squeezed tightly shut. Taking a deep breath, she turned to the man.
"Thomas, I need ye ta do somethin'."
Cara sighed, again, as she turned from one more who had succumb to their injuries. Placing a bit of cloth over the child's face, she moved on. There were too many covered faces!
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Merryn enter into the makeshift hospice. Turning, she walked over to the exhausted woman. Merryn's armor was gone, leaving her in the ruined aketon, and mail leggings.
Closing her eyes with relief, Merryn leaned into the small body that she was able to lose herself in, if just for a moment. Opening her eyes, she saw Evela, trying to treat an elderly man who had broken his foot in the chaos.
"I'll be right back," she muttered, walking over to the smaller brunette. Dark eyes met hers for a moment before turning back to her patient. "Forgive me, Evela, resting a hand on the woman's shoulder. The smaller brunette looked up at Merryn, a sad smile upon her lips. She nodded.
"Nothin' ta forgive, Merryn."
Donal nodded, grateful for her friend's understanding.
"She was devastated, Merryn," Evela said, nodding toward Cara, who was stitching up one of the last injured. "Be with her. Calm her." She reached up, placing a soft hand on the brunette's cheek. "And yerself."
At the gentle urging, Merryn walked back over to the healer, standing behind her, watching as the blonde spoke softly to the man, finishing up her stitching by grabbed the cat gut tight in her teeth as she cut it with a small dagger. Cara turned, nearly walking straight into the brunette. Merryn smiled.
Glancing over at Evela, who nodded, the healer left the brunette, Paul, and a few scattered other helpers to finish up.
Cara glanced up at the ruler from time to time as they made their up further into the heart of the castle. Finally they made their way up the narrow staircase, turning right, then climbing the last staircase. Merry was led through the huge chamber, cold; no fire this night. The brunette's head fell, figuring that Matthew had probably been killed.
"Sit. Let me have a look at ye," Cara said softly, pushing the brunette to sit on the side of the bed. She reached behind the brunette to unlace the aketon, peeling the quilted garment off the Donal, tossing it aside. She grimaced when she saw the massive bruise that sprang out of the center of her chest, where the arrow tip had crashed into her body, shredding her armor, and miraculously stopping just before penetration. "Let me get-"
"Nay." Merryn stopped her with a hand to the blonde's wrist. Gently pulling her back, the healer willingly went, standing between the brunette's legs, and running her fingers through the sweat and blood-hardened strands of dark hair.
"Ye should wash, Merryn," Cara whispered, her fingers running down the side of the brunette's face, Merryn's forehead resting against the blonde's breastbone. She felt her nod. "Ye can even use my bath." Cara smiled at the chuckle that received. Merryn raised her head, a smirk on her lips.
"'R ye sayin' I'm disgustin', lass?"
A golden brow raised as Cara looked her over, slowly nodding. This time an all out laugh burst from the brunette's throat.
Cara grinned, but it faded as Merryn sobered. Gentle fingertips brushed the side of the ruler's face.
"What 'tis it?"
"We lost so many today, lass," Merryn whispered. "So many. And Angus-"
"I know. 'M so sorry. Ye did what ye could, Merryn. Ye have ta know that." Soft fingers traced down along the brunette's jaw, then butterfly touches along her strong shoulders. "'T people don't blame ye for this."
"How many were lost, Cara?"
"Fewer than were saved." She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on Merryn's forehead. "Come." Wrapping a cloak around the Donal's naked shoulders, Cara led her down to the blonde's private bathing chamber. Soon the tub was being filled with steam-heated water, the blonde tossing in herbs that would help sooth Merryn's muscles and help her relax.
Merryn stripped out of her clothing, mail leggings falling to the floor in a loud clump. She had to peel her tights down her thighs, the garment stiff with dried sweat and blood.
Cara tried to keep her eyes averted, but was having a difficult time with that. She caught a glimpse of the brunette out of the corner of her eye, and her breath caught. Gone was the tall, lanky girl of their youth. Before her now stood a strong, proud warrior, skin of her arms and face tanned a deep brown, which was a testament to Merryn's strong belief in protecting her people by her own blade; it was thought that the paler and pastier, the more wealthy. Tanned skin was for the peasants who actually had to make a living.
The years had placed lines of maturity and concentration on the already beautiful face, giving Merryn a look of strength and authority. Donal's body had grown strong and firm, rivaling just about any noble male in the realm.
In a word, Cara thought her ruler was stunning.
Merryn was completely oblivious to Cara's surreptitious glances as she climbed into the heated water, eyes instantly closing as a moan escaped her throat. It was pure bliss. A deep sigh escaped not long after when she felt soft fingers on her shoulders.
"Let me wash yer hair, Merryn," Cara whispered, sitting on the ledge near the brunette's head. At the nod she received, She gently pushed on the shoulders, urging her to wet her tangled locks. The blonde rubbed a generous amount of the most potent washing paste between her palms, feeling the thick, grainy substance squish between her fingers.
"Cara?" Merryn said as the blonde washed her hair.
"Do ye think 'tis a sin ta murder a man 'o 't cloth?" She waited as the silence drew out. Dunking her head at the blonde's urging.
"Do ye believe the Bishop was behind this?" Cara asked finally, her brow troubled. She rubbed a second helping of the cleaning paste between her palms, this time one made from rose petals. It smelled wonderful.
"I know he was. I found his seal on one 'o those bastards." Merryn could keep the hate out of her voice. Never had she felt such deep loathing for an enemy before. Any battle she'd ever fought had been a matter of politics and business as usual. This had been plain cowardly and brutal; a massacre and unforgivable.
"Then I say the His Grace should live by the Word- an eye for an eye," Cara said, her voice deceptively soft for the words she spoke. "Rinse."
Merryn wiped the water from her eyes as she broke the surface, sitting. She glanced over her shoulder at the blonde who was still perched on the ledge of the tub.
"Join me now that I'm not so disgustin'?" she asked, a grin quirking the corner of her mouth. Cara smiled, nodding. She was nervous as she stood, pulling her dress from her body. She could feel blue eyes on her just as acutely as she could feel her own body trembling under the frank gaze.
Merryn felt like she should give the blonde privacy by not ogling her, but she couldn't take her eyes off the beautiful woman even if her eyes had been ripped from their sockets. The skin was so pale, it was almost translucent in some places, so soft. The girl she once knew was gone, leaving the incredible woman standing before her now.
Trying not to stumble into the tub, Cara accepted the hand that was offered for balance. Murmuring a thank you, she sat down across from the brunette. Their gazes met for a moment before Cara dropped hers.
Cara leaned back against the side of the tub, allowing her body to relax, only for her heart to start racing again when she felt Merryn's thigh brush her own.
"Relax, lass," the brunette whispered, caressing the side of Cara's calf under the warm water. The blonde tried, but the mere naked proximity of Merryn was having interesting affects on her. It had been so long that she just wasn't sure what to do with all the feelings coursing through her, and part of her felt horrible for having them. It was one of the worst days of Merryn's reign, and here she was thinking of how much the brunette's nakedness was affecting her.
Merryn watched the small blonde, noting as she chewed on her lower lip, brows slightly wrinkled in thought. Perhaps she shouldn't have invited her to bathe with her? About to say just such a thing when Cara beat her to it.
Leaning slightly forward, the blonde looked at Merryn, her gaze strong, but her lip still tucked under her front teeth before being released. With the slow, dream-like movement under the water, Cara pushed Merryn's legs open, then turned around, scooting back until her back came into contact with the brunette's front.
Merryn's eyes closed as the smaller body moved against her, her arms automatically moving to wrap around the blonde's waist, pulling her tighter against her. Cara's head fell back against her shoulder, both sighing in utter contentment. It amazed Merryn just how familiar the position still was, as if they sat like this every day.
As soon as she relaxed back into Merryn, any doubts Cara might have had flew out the window. Immediately her body remembered this, how it felt to be held in the brunette's arms, how safe she felt, loved, and content. How had she lived without it for more than ten years?
Merryn had always been amazed at the way their bodies had fit together. She allowed her mind to expand into every fiber of her being, closing her eyes as she concentrated on every place in her body that came into contact with Cara's skin. New tingles began to flow through her as deft fingertips began to drift up her arms before sliding back down, entwining themselves with Merryn's.
Merryn leaned forward, allowing her nose to move up the blonde's neck, inhaling all that was Cara, reacquainting her senses. Cara tilted her head slightly, feeling the feather light brushes of the brunette's cheek against her own skin. The blonde's heart began to beat faster as her breath caught.
Merryn's shaky exhale made the blonde shiver. The Donal could feel her body responding to the proximity of their bodies, and the way Cara's fingers were beginning to trail up and down her forearms once again, nails gently dragging when the blonde felt soft lips press against her neck.
A soft sigh was released from Cara when the kisses began to turn deeper, wet. Her breathing became shallow, her body beginning to buzz with remembered pleasure, and just the sheer joy being touched.
Merryn worried she'd blown it when she felt Cara pull away, her hands immediately dropping to her side. Her breath caught when she realized the blonde was turning around. Gasping at the feel of the insides of Cara's thighs brushing the outsides of her own.
The healer looked down into hooded blue eyes, her breath hitching when she felt the brunette's sex brush against the smooth skin of her backside. Trembling slightly, she brought a hand up, cupping the side of Merryn's face, the other smoothing wet strands of hair back from the beautiful, angular face.
Leaning down, she gently pressed her lips to Merryn's, feeling the brunette's lips respond. Pulling back slightly, she once again looked down into opening blue eyes. She searched them, looking for what, she didn't know.
Merryn allowed her hands to drift over the blonde's back, roving up to her shoulder blades then running her fingertips back down along her spine. Looking up into questioning eyes, she wondered what was going through the beautiful blonde's head. She was trying to keep her body under control, realizing that their breasts were a breath apart.
"Merryn," Cara began, her voice breathy, her nerves shining through. "I," she stopped herself, eyes falling as she watched one of her fingers tracing along Merryn's collarbone. "I haven't-"
"Neither have I, lass," Merryn whispered, understanding. She smiled at the blonde, cupping the soft, exquisite face. "Not since ye."
Cara breathed out a sigh of relief. She felt a hand at the back of her head, closing her eyes as she drew closer to the woman she now knew she had never stopped loving. Their lips met and held, each trying to orient themselves with the kiss, with each other, and with the passion that flowed through them.
Merryn nearly felt light-headed just from the simple touch, but she craved so much more. Locking her hands at Cara's lower back, she used her arms to push the blonde even closer, both moaning into the kiss at the feel of their breasts meeting. Cara pulled away, her mouth open and eyes closed as she absorbed the intense pleasure.
The one time they'd been naked together had been the night the good Friar had shown them the pleasures of opium. She remembered little from their experience, and wished to know all their was of Merryn's body, every texture, every taste, every touch. She would allow nothing, certainly not clothing, to stand in her way.
Breathing hard, she looked down at Merryn, leaning in to kiss her again, this time her mouth was more demanding, her lips opening to those beneath them. Merryn was surprised by the sudden fire that seemed to be lit inside Cara, and responded, her own need building quickly. Her fingers itched and burned to touch the blonde, her body beginning to burn from a long extinguished fire.
"Merryn?" Cara panted against the brunette's mouth.
"Let us go from this place," the blonde pleaded. She felt her love nod before her mouth was once again captured, her body held close.
Quickly separating, Cara climbed out of the tub, turning to hold her hand out for Merryn. The brunette took it, climbing out, but pulling the blonde to her again. The blonde whimpered at the feel of Merryn's body against her own, her mouth immediately taken. She sighed heavily at the feel of Merryn's tongue touching her own, sending a jolt through them both. Cara's arms snaked up around the brunette's neck, pulling her closer as her fingers buried themselves in long, wet strands.
Merryn's fingers spread out, trying to touch as much of Cara's back as possible as the kiss deepened. Suddenly Cara's lips were gone. The brunette was about to object when she felt them on her throat. Moaning, her head fell back, waves of heat flowing from the point of the blonde's lips all the way down her body. She whimpered when a soft hand, still warm from the bath they'd shared, cupped one of her breasts.
Cara yelped when she heard a crash, breaking away from Merryn's neck to see the brunette had swiped a long arm over the shelf with soft drying linens. She was lowered onto the make-shift mattress, the brunette's body following.
"Oh, Merryn," she breathed, the feel of the brunette's entire naked skin lying upon her own was overwhelming.
"Táim I angrá leat," Merryn whispered, her mouth moving over Cara's neck, speaking between kisses and licks. "I have always been in love with ye, lass. Always will."
"My love," Cara murmured, bringing the brunette's face back up to her own. Her kiss had become desperate, needy. Merryn responded with equal fervor, moving her body over Cara's, who's legs opened to accept her. They both moaned at the feel of the brunette's thigh pressing against the blonde's heated and saturated sex.
Cara's voice was hoarse as she tried to cry out, a soft tongue lapping across her rigid nipple. Her body had been denied the pleasures of the flesh for so long, she worried she might release just from that intense feeling.
Merryn moved as she sucked Cara's nipple between her lips. She wanted so badly to take her love up to her rooms, and the huge bed, but her need had overridden any sense of propriety. Hearing the blonde's sounds of pleasure urged her forward. She wanted to explore every single part of the woman beneath her, all that she never did before.
Cara's breath caught when she felt a hand roaming over her stomach, sliding down to cup her hip. Moaning slightly in displeasure as Merryn moved off her body, lying beside her, her protests were quickly cut off with a gasp as that hand on her hip was on the move again.
Merryn groaned against the breast in her mouth as her fingers felt the wet heat that slicked the insides of Car's inner thigh. An overwhelming curiosity took over, and suddenly she needed to feel the source of her love's passion.
"Merryn!" Cara gasped, her hand that rested on the back of the brunette's head, grabbing a handful of hair. Her eyes fell closed as she felt those fingers touching her desire, sending a jolt of pleasure through her body.
Merryn left the nipple she'd been sucking on, her mouth returning to Cara's. The blonde began to kiss the ruler in desperation, needing to connect as she was being stroked. Her kisses quickly became breathy until finally she had to break away from Merryn's mouth in order to breathe through her erotic haze. Merryn could feel her own breathing pick up as she laid a trail of kisses along the blonde's throat. As she heard Cara's breathing become more and more shallow, she raised her head, watching in wonder as her fingers worked between the blonde's legs. The soft wetness under her fingertips was incredible. She could never get enough.
Cara felt lightheaded as wave after wave of pleasure ripped through her, her hips bucking with the convulsions that rocked her body. Chest heaving, she felt Merryn's warm body rest along her own, the brunette taking the still-trembling blonde in her arms.
Merryn was surprised to feel wetness against her neck. Pulling away slightly, she looked into the healer's eyes, which were filled with overflowing tears. Suddenly concerned, her brows knit as she wiped at the moisture with a thumb.
"What 'tis it, lass?"
Sniffling slightly, Cara felt like one of the fools who had entertained on the field earlier. She laughed shakily at her suddenly burst of emotion. Shaking her head, she looked up into her love's eyes.
"'M sorry. Was just overcome."
Merryn smiled, brushing golden hair out of Cara's eyes. Leaning down, she placed a gentle kiss upon already swollen lips. Standing, she grabbed Cara's dress from the floor, holding it up for the blonde to slip into. Tugging the healer to her by the material curled in her fist, she grinned at the look of surprise. The smile quickly turned to a groan deep in her throat as Cara weaved her arms up around the ruler's shoulders, pulling a dark head down for a long, exploratory kiss.
Out of breath, and beginning to lose control over her body again, Merryn quickly pulled away, throwing on her cloak and clasping it completely around her nakedness, then grabbed Cara by the hand, leading her on a quick tour through the residential portion of the castle, and on up to the royal chamber.
Once tucked safely inside the rooms, Merryn bolted the door, then turned back to the blonde, her heart racing, breathing hitched in her throat as she watched Cara once again step out of her dress. Leaning heavily against the double doors of her suites, Merryn watched as the healer made her way toward her, green eyes never leaving her own. There was a fire and a confidence in those eyes that was not there before- ever.
Reaching the Donal, Cara made quick work of the clasp, the cloak sliding from Merryn's strong shoulders. Her eyes followed the heavy garment's progress to the floor, then made their way back up the strong body, heaving chest. When her gaze finally reached blue eyes, which to her shock were filled with a tad of fear, she smiled. Cupping Merryn's cheek, she reached and placed a soft kiss on the ruler's lips.
Without a word, she grabbed the brunette's hand, pulling gently. Leading the way to the massive bed, Cara indicated that Merryn should sit. The blonde walked over to the fire, adding a few more logs to ensure it would burn for hours, then turned back to her love.
With a fire borne of years of longing, as well as renewed desire, Cara pushed Merryn back to the bed, her mouth never leaving the brunette's. She felt strong arms wrap around her, holding her safe and tight. She felt it in her bones- this time they would never let her go again.
Doing something she had never done before, Cara began to explore Merryn's body with her mouth, suckling a nipple, enjoying the taste and reaction, her tongue flicking over the rigid flesh.
Merryn arched her back, needing more, though what more she had no idea. Burying her hands in soft, golden hair, she pressed Cara deeper into her breasts, gasping as a hand cupped her neglected nipple. She hissed through her teeth as Cara's mouth switched breasts.
Cara was amazed at just how arousing it was to pleasure the brunette. She could feel herself becoming wet once more in anticipation. Raising her head, she saw the most beautiful sight she'd ever seen. Merryn's eyes were closed, her lips slightly parted as her breathing was breathy and erratic. She threw her head back as Cara pinched one of her nipples. The blonde took that opportunity to latch on to the Donal's neck, using her tongue and teeth.
"Oh, Cara," Merryn moaned, her hands finding the blonde's arse, pushing her into her as she lifted her hips, trying to find some purchase. Cara never left her prize as she shifted her body, inserting one of her thighs between Merryn's legs, the brunette groaning her gratitude as she felt Merryn's wetness painting her flesh.
Cara released Merryn's neck, raising herself up on her hands. She looked down into the flushed face of the brunette, her own breathing uneven and shallow as she pushed her own sex down onto Merryn's strong thigh. She could barely keep her eyes open as she felt the pressure surge through her mid-section.
Merryn reached up, needing Cara's mouth against hers. The kiss was deep, Cara's lips moving against the brunette's, nipping at the full bottom lip before caressing the Donal's tongue with her own, swallowing a desperate whimper.
Cara moved her hips in time Merryn's.
"Cara," Merryn panted, "I want ta feel ye." The blonde looked down at her, not understanding. Merryn reached down, feeling the unbelievable heat they were both producing. Cara cried out as she felt Merryn's long fingers sliding through the saturated folds of her sex. "I want ta be inside ye, Cara. Please let me," Merryn begged.
"Anything, my love. Anything." Cara's mouth opened as her eyes closed when she felt one of the brunette's fingers sliding inside her depths, where no one had been before. Stunned and amazed by the bond she felt to the other woman as she gently slid back out, then in again. Needing desperately to share the experience with the ruler, she balanced herself on her forearm, her other hand reaching down, nudging Merryn's legs further apart. The brunette hissed as Cara's fingers found her wetness, crying out as they grazed across her clit. The blonde followed the natural curve of the brunette's sex, so much like her own, gasping as her fingers sank into moist velvet.
Merryn gasped, pulling Cara closer to her as she felt the blonde filling her. She found the healer's mouth, breathing too hard to kiss her, but instead held their lips together, both panting into the others mouth as they began to move as one.
Cara could feel her release coming quickly, small whimpers escaping her throat as she moved her hips in time with Merryn's gentle thrusting.
"I love ye," she whimpered, eyes squeezing shut as her body began to convulse once again. Merryn was too far over the edge to respond, the blood in her body pulsing to the waves of pleasure that spread through her at the speed and damage of fire, leaving her singed and changed forever.
Holding Cara desperately to her, she tucked the golden head under her chin, feeling Cara's chest heaving as hard as her own as they attempted to get control.
Cara smiled, nodding. "Aye."
The ruler of the English empire slept soundly, who would become the greatest healer in history wrapped tightly in her arms.
A young mother gazed lovingly down at her daughter, tiny fingers wrapped around her smallest one as the babe suckled at her breast.
"Soon, little, Chloe," the young mother whispered, "yer da will be with us."
The candlelight burned brightly, the flame flickering slightly from the cool breeze that wafted in every now and then. A young man, hair draping over his face as he frantically scribbled the events of the past two days in his book, so as not to forget a single detail. The newest volume to the Chronicles of Donal being created.
With love and pride he wrote, describing to a future world the wonders and goodness that lie in the breast of a single woman. His mother, friend, and ruler.
A lone, cloaked figure walked the halls, crossing himself as he passed a huge, golden cross. Keeping his focus, he felt the hard grip in his right hand, hidden. Ducking quickly in a small alcove in the wall, he waited for a small group of priests to hurry past, then continued on his journey.
A household in chaos, terror spreading like the hand of God as a dead Bishop lay in the arms of his squire. Small, beady sightless eyes look up to the Heavens. A look of fear forever on his brow. His cold fingers remain wrapped around the crucifix at his neck, a dagger of black and gold pinning the chain to his chest.
"Realizing he was out numbered, as the people loved her, and out-moraled, Pope John XXIII had no choice but to retreat. The reign of Donal of England lasted for more than fifty-seven years." Professor Soberman paused, blue eyes scanning her students who were hanging on her every word, and had been since the beginning of her story. She stood from the desk that she'd been perched on. "Sadly her reign as one of, if not the strongest female rulers in history, is greatly overshadowed by her ancestor, Elizabeth 1, the Virgin Queen. Elizabeth's reign has been called The Golden Age, but in my opinion, that distinction belongs to Donal, two hundred years before her." The professor nodded at Timothy Stanton, raising his hand from the front row. "Tim?"
"Well, what about her relationship with that healer? I mean, shit, somehow I doubt that went over too well." A few chuckles joined the professors.
"No, it didn't. It was always rumored that theirs was more than a healer/patient relationship, but since Donal was ultimately known as the Pagan Queen, no one dared question it. Aloud, anyway." She smiled, pacing in front of her students, forty-two pairs of eyes following her. "Cara was with her till the end, when Merryn died at the ripe old age of eighty-one. She never did fight another battle personally. During her reign, England was more prosperous than it had ever been, the populous happy and content. There were also fewer wars during her reign than any before her, or many after."
Soberman stopped at her desk again, allowing all the information she'd just given the class a chance to settle and absorb. She saw a few students jotting notes furiously.
"What about Paul? What happened to him?" Jill Weston asked, chewing on her pen.
"Careful Jill- you don't want another explosion, do you?" The class laughed as the embarrassed girl removed the pen from her mouth. "It's because of Paul's careful, diligent writings that we know anything about Merryn, herself. Sure, there's been plenty chronicled about Donal, but not much about the woman behind the title and strength to carry it. Sadly, Merryn lost her son before she finally succumbed to death, but he lived a long, happy life, eventually giving Merryn and Cara five grandchildren, one of which became England's heir, a chap by the name of Henry IV." She paused, allowing everyone to write that little tidbit down.
Glancing at her watch, Sophie Soberman realized it was two minutes until class was officially over.
"Alright, guys. Have a great weekend, and study!" She smiled to the round of groans that earned. Her smile widened when she received a small round of applause from her favorite students, who took up the first two rows on the left side of the divided classroom.
"That was awesome, Professor. Thanks." Michelle Gonzales smiled brightly, then headed out of class.
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