For complete disclaimers see part 1.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at:



Kim Pritekel

Part 5

Cara stayed on her knees, looking at the spot where Daniel had just been. His frantic footprints were still visible in the soil.

"She is a demon!" Daniel gasped as he got to his feet, mouth covered by a foul-tasting paste, it's grainy texture making his skin itch.

"Nay, Daniel. She got angry-"

"Demon!" he wheezed, turning and fleeing.

Cara took several deep breaths, looking out in the direction where Merryn had run. Her heart was still beating almost painfully in her chest. Putting her hand over it, she slowly got to her feet, surprised to see she was trembling.

The blonde felt undecided, and scared. Looking around the campsite, she saw what was left of the fire, the disrupted bedding, and the scattered remnants of their belongings.

Cara walked over to her own pack, who's contents lay on the ground, both from her hand and Daniel's. Kneeling, she began to put her assortment of herbs and medicines back into the pouch. Her comb had been flung an arms-length away. She quickly grabbed it, tucking it back inside. Cara was about to synch the pouch closed when something occurred to her. Wrenching the bag open once more, she quickly searched through it, pushing things aside while taking others out.

The pouch hit the dirt, Cara's hands covering her face. Her body began to tremble further, though not fear this time. The last link to home had been taken from her, by a man she had tried to help.

Getting to her feet once more, the blonde wiped her eyes with a sniffle, then grabbed one of Merryn's daggers, and the older girl's sword. Wrapping her hand around the wood grip, she tucked the dagger into her dress. The sword was heavy in her hands, but gave her a bit of security as she headed into the dark foliage.

Merryn could feel the rough bark against her cheek. She reached down, pushing with her hand as she readjusted her body in the fork of the massive branches that supported her weight. The night around her was cool, the sky filled with twinkling lights, winking at her.

"Merryn?" a distant voice called out. Merryn glanced in that direction, knowing it was Cara. The girl was to the west. The brunette stayed quiet. She wasn't entirely sure she wished to be found. "Merryn!"

Merryn sighed, hearing the beginnings of panic in the blonde's voice, which was coming closer.

"O'er here, lass." The rummage of foliage could be heard until blonde hair glowed in the moonlight. Merryn looked down at the confused girl. Cara had heard her friend's voice, but it was as though the voice belonged to a ghost. She could see the girl nowhere. "Up."

Cara's head snapped at the voice, barely able to make out a dark figure nestled in the large tree before her.

"What are you doin' up there?"

Merryn didn't answer, but instead quickly climbed down. Her talent and ability to make herself disappear after a life of stealing, had been shaped from a very young age.

Cara stepped back as the brunette's boots hit the ground. She hadn't even realized she'd done it until she saw Merryn's eyes fall. The blonde thought about this for a moment, stunned to realize that yes, she was slightly frightened by the taller girl, who was obviously capable of much.

"Won't hurt ye, Cara." Merryn's voice was soft, almost a shameful whisper. She could not meet the green eyes of her friend.

Cara took several deep breathes, then put a smile on her face, trying to reassure Merryn as much as herself. She stepped forward again, coming to stand just in front of her friend.

Merryn felt her heart break, seeing the way her friend trembled. Cara had never been frightened of her before, and yet here it was. She wanted to climb back up into that tree and never come down again.

Cara took that last step toward Merryn, tucking her head just below the brunette's chin, her arms snaking around her waist.

Merryn's eyes squeezed shut in a bitter/sweet contentment. She could still feel Cara trembling against her. She knew it was the girl's brave soul and unending trust and faith in people that kept her against the brunette.

She wrapped her arms around the smaller body, holding her close. Resting her cheek against the soft blonde hair, that smelled of rose petals and the spice of herbs.

"He took my coins," Cara said, her voice soft and filled with hurt.

Merryn's eyes squeezed shut, the quenched anger beginning to boil once more. She swallowed heavily to keep it at bay. Cara needed a friend, not an out of control heathen.

"'M sorry, lass."

"I should have listened ta ye." Cara snuggled in closer, the tears stinging behind her closed lids.

"Shhh," Merryn soothed, kissing the top of the girl's head. "'M sorry, Cara."

Merryn didn't feel comfortable at their campsite, afraid the drifter may come back, or out of vengeance, may have alerted the local magistrate. Even still, it wasn't safe to travel at night. She told Cara none of her fears, wishing for her friend to find peace in sleep. What the blonde did not know was that Merryn's eyes never closed that night. She kept vigilant guard.


Merryn looked down at the prize she'd taken from her own bag, holding it in her hand. Glancing up, she saw Cara holding her skirts as she walked through the shallow waters of the natural rain pond at the center of the wood. Looking back to her palm, Merryn gathered spit in her mouth, then let it dribble to the metal. Cleaning it with the edge of her cloak, the brunette held the coin up to the light, marveling at how it shone.

"Cara?" she stepped over to the girl. The blonde looked at her over her shoulder. "Come'ere, lass."

Cara raised her skirts further as she made her way out of the cool waters, kicking the excess off her feet as she stepped on a flat rock, so as not to get her feet dirty.

"We need to find a lake or river, Merryn. We have bathed not in many days."

Merryn grinned, rolling her eyes. "Hold out yer hand, Cara."

Brows drawn, Cara cocked her head to the side in question. She could see from Merryn's face that the dark girl did not jest. She lifted her arm, holding her hand out with an open palm. The heft of a single gold coin was dropped onto it.

Cara looked down at the gold piece, immediate recognition filling her heart. She looked up into smiling blue eyes, fear and wander filling her own.


"Took yers, lass. This," she folded the blonde's fingers over the remaining physical memory of her village and family. "'tis the last ‘o the three, Cara."

Cara was stunned, her eyes widening. "Ye'v had it all this time?" At Merryn's nod, Cara felt immediate anger and betrayal fill her, but it was just as quickly replaced by relieved gratitude. If Merryn had given her all the gold pieces that first night, she would have none left now.

Merryn smiled as the small blonde threw herself into her arms.

"Thank ye, Merryn. Thank ye, so much," Cara whispered into the brunette's ear. Merryn nodded against her. After a moment and a quick kiss to Cara's temple, Merryn pulled back.

"Come, lass. We best be movin'." She looked up into the early afternoon sky. "Storm brewin' out the east." She pulled back from the girl, and headed back to their gear, which lay at the foot of the tree she'd been sitting under.

Merryn looked around, keeping low so as not to crack her head on the sharp rock daggers above. She felt around the floor, only feeling cool, dusty stone.

"Hand me that torch, lass," she called down to Cara, who looked up at her, leaning out of the cave opening, placed high in the rock wall. The blonde quickly handed her friend the torch she held, looking around the darkening day once the comforting light was gone. She kept a tight hold on the horse's rope.

Merryn waved the light around, making sure they hadn't stumbled upon an animal's den. There were a few bones scattered at the back of the pocket, but it was obvious they'd been there for many a year. The cave hadn't been used in some time.

Mounting the torch in a crag in the wall, she turned back to the mouth, whispering for Cara to lift their equipment to her. Shoving it further back into the pocket, Merryn turned back to the mouth, anchoring herself as best she could.

"Give me yer hand, Cara,"

Cara took one last look behind her, the darkening forest all around, then raised her hands to the taller girl, already securing the horse to a nearby tree.

"Climb as I pull ye," Merryn grunted, pulling with all her body weight. She could hear a few rocks being displaced as the blonde desperately pushed her booted feet against the wall of the rock face. "I've got'cha," Merryn grunted, moving further back into the space as Cara broached the mouth.

Glad to be in the chilled confines of the small cave, Cara slid down the inside wall, sighing as her bum rested against the floor.

"I do not like this climbing," she panted, hearing the soft chuckle of her friend.

"'Tis better than bein' down there this night, lass." Merryn gathered the wood they'd brought up with them, creating a fire ring of rock before piling kindling for the burn.

Off in the not-so-far distance, thunder rumbled through the lightning brilliant skies.

"'T belly ‘o the beast is hungry tonight," Merryn said absently, tossing a few more sticks onto the fledgling fire, which she'd lit with their torch.

Cara set about camp duties, bringing out the skinned rabbit, caught earlier, as well as their pot and cooking utensils. Merryn set about finding a way to block the small entrance to their pocket, as she could feel this was a bad storm coming. They needed protection from it.

It wasn't long before they were settled. Merryn's cloak bowed from the incoming wind. The brunette crawled across the floor, bit of hot rabbit in her mouth, setting a few more rocks on the garment to keep it in place. Moving back to the fire, sucking in air to cool the morsel of meat. Finally she had to pinch it between her fingertips and pull it out into the air. Cara laughed.

"Silly girl."

Merryn glared before blowing on it, and tossing it back in, chewing happily.

"'Tis good, lass. A witch with spices. Ye are."

Cara shook her head, blowing on her own bit of meat. "Nay. No magic, Merryn. I am just good." She grinned and wiggled dark blonde brows.

Cara chewed happily, glad to be under shelter and safe. Then her thoughts began to turn dark, drifting among all the questions she had. Glancing up, she watched Merryn from across the fire, the older girl drinking water from the bladder. Blue eyes locked on her from over the drinking bag. Slowly lowering it, Merryn swallowed and wiped her mouth.


Cara chewed thoughtfully, trying to think of the best way to phrase her question. Finally she decided on honesty.

"Why did ye try to kill Daniel?"

Merryn wasn't surprised by the question, but had in fact been expecting it. With a sigh, she handed the water bladder over to the blonde, who took it with a grateful smile. Blue eyes studied the fire for a moment as her mind raced back to the events of two nights ago.

"When he came to the camp, knew he was trouble. I saw meself in ‘im." Her voice softened, ashamed to tell Cara the next part, seeing Cara's confusion. "I did the same, lass. Lyin', thievin'." She threw a bit of gristle into the fire, angry with herself. "When I saw ‘im goin' through yer pouch, tryin' to steal my blade, I became lost in my own anger and shame." Her head dropped, but she held up her hand to halt Cara's crawl around the fire. "I lost control, Cara." I saw that bloody soldier. I wanted ta kill ‘im all over again.

"Nay, Merryn," Cara said, brushing the stalling hand aside. "Yer strong. Ye grow stronger with the passage of each day." She looked deep into troubled blue eyes. "Embrace it, Merryn. Learn ta use it."

They both turned as the wind and rain outside picked up. The lightning was almost continuous, thunder deafening. Cara trembled at the fierce sound. She had always hated thunder and lightning at night.

"Come, lass." Merryn took the bowl from the blonde, stacking it inside hers, and setting it against the wall. Enough talk for tonight. She crawled over to the bedrolls, patting the spot next to her.

Cara scurried over to the brunette, anxious to lie down, and hopefully fall asleep so she couldn't hear the storm anymore.

The blonde curled up next to Merryn, sighing in contentment as she felt the warmth of the taller girl begin to wrap itself around her like a blanket.

Merryn wrapped her arm around the blonde, pulling her close. She felt Cara take her normal position- face buried in her neck with half of the girl's upper body on top of hers, their right and left breast pressed together.

The past weeks Merryn had begun to realize that the feel of the girl's body against her own caused a warmth to pass through her, resting in her stomach and between her legs. Her skin would become particularly sensitive, especially where their breasts touched. And when she received a small kiss from the blonde … Merryn rolled her eyes in pleasure at the thought.

Spending the first part of her childhood in the Church, Merryn had been taught that carnal pleasure was wrong and a sin. She had taken these teachings to heart, though natural curiosity is going to take its course. She'd never experienced it first hand, but had seen it, in the wild and in the various taverns and couples in dark alleys. She'd seen it all.

Merryn knew that what Cara made her feel were feelings of a carnal nature, and since the brunette no longer believed in a the God of her youth, she had also thrown out the doctrine damning the practice. But even so, what was right? Yes, coupling between a man and a woman was necessary to birth children. But was there more to it than that? If that was all it was used for, why could Merryn bring herself pleasure of a carnal nature? The heat that coursed through her body when her own fingers explored was the same sensation that Cara caused. Should she feel guilty? Was it wrong?

Cara raised her head, resting her cheek in her palm. Looking down at Merryn, she could tell the brunette was deep in thought.

"Give ye two pence for yer thoughts," she said with a smile. Blue eyes looked at her.

"Ye don't have two pence, lass." Merryn chuckled at the look that received. She shook her head, knowing there was no way she could tell the blonde what she'd been thinking about. "Nothin'."

It was obvious Cara didn't believe her, but she said nothing, just stared down at the older girl. She studied the blue irises in Merryn's eyes.

"Ye have the most beautiful eyes," she said absently, brushing a few wild strands of dark hair from Merryn's face. "Like the sky of a summer solstice."

"Aye. And ye the grass below."

Cara smiled at that, feeling herself being drawn to the darker girl. She felt almost as comfortable with Merryn as she had her own family. But in a different way. Merryn was so strong and beautiful. It was like the blonde couldn't get enough of her beauty, wanting to touch it, commit it to memory.

Tracing a finger along the bridge of Merryn's nose, like she had done so many times before, Cara leaned down a bit, brushing her lips across the girl's cheek. Merryn closed her eyes at the soft contact, her stomach doing a flip flop. She had to fight the shiver that threatened to rush through her body.

A bolt of lightning lanced through the night sky, flashing the cave for a moment before another crash of thunder ripped the night apart.

"Shh," Merryn cooed, turning her head so their lips were a fingernails width apart. She looked into Cara's frightened eyes. "'Tis alright, lass."

"I know I act foolish."

"Nay," Merryn whispered, shaking her head slightly. She felt Cara lean forward again, hesitating a small moment before bringing their lips together.

Cara's body was trembling, though only partially from the storm. She had lain next to Merryn for months' worth of nights, but never had they kissed while in their bedrolls. It didn't feel wrong to her, it just felt … intimate. She felt a vulnerability that she wasn't sure what to do with, nor if she really wanted it to go away.

Merryn sighed as she felt a gentle pressing against her lips instead of the usual brushing. She pressed her mouth against Cara's, her body becoming acutely aware of where the blonde touched her. Cara brought one of her hands to Merryn's face, caressing the brunette's cheek, thumb rubbing over the soft skin.

Cara kept her eyes closed, allowing her sense of touch to do the seeing for her. She could feel the softness of Merryn's skin, the fine bone structure beneath it. She could feel the heat of Merryn's body underneath the left side of her own, where it rested upon the brunette.

Cara's eyes flew open when she felt herself being pulled fully on top of Merryn. She looked down into twinkling blue eyes, unsure of what to do with the warmth that began to suffuse her.

Merryn wrapped her arms around the small blonde, desperately wanting to feel the girl's weight on her own. She looked up into that beautiful, trusting face, the girl's golden hair falling to act as a curtain around them. Reaching up, the brunette tucked one side of the girl's hair behind her back, where it fell around the other side of her face. In the light of the fire, not two arms lengths away, Cara's hair truly did look like spun gold.

Cara watched the way the light danced in Merryn's eyes, which were fixed so intensely on her. She couldn't help but marvel at how beautiful the brunette was. She looked like a goddess from ancient times. Closing her eyes, she brought their lips together once more, feeling the softness. Her body seemed to sink into Merryn's, feeling all of the brunette's soft places against her own.

Merryn ran her hands down the girl's back, feeling the strong plane and dip of her lower back, then slid them to Cara's sides on the return trip. It amazed her to feel the differences in their bodies, how much smaller Cara was than herself. Even so, she could feel the power locked within that small body.

Cara felt as though she'd been struck by one of the bolts of lightning raging outside, Merryn's hands leaving a crackle along their wake. She was buzzing, her body tingling everywhere the brunette touched her.

Merryn moved her lips, opening them just enough to bring Cara's lower lip in between her own. She heard a slight gasp from the blonde at that, but Cara quickly caught on.

Suddenly the kiss had taken a turn from innocent exploration to sensual expression.

Cara and Merryn sighed into the kiss, one of Merryn's hands returning to the girl's hair, cupping the back of Cara's head to bring her even closer.

Outside the storm picked up a notch, the rain and wind threatening to blow the cloak out of the cave opening, almost simultaneous lightning and thunder rocked the night.

Cara nearly jumped off Merryn's body at the intense noise and sudden light. Merryn scurried over to the cave mouth, securing the makeshift door, shivering at the cold that she could feel just on the other side. As she crawled back over to the bedrolls, her heart swelled at the sight of Cara curled up, leaning against the cave wall. The poor girl was terrified.

Tending to the fire quickly, Merryn hurried back to the blonde, wrapping her in protective arms.

"Try'n get some sleep, lass," she whispered in the girl's ear. "Let yer dreams take ye from the storm."

Soon, both managed to fall asleep.


"Looks as though yer god has quite the temper," Merryn commented, looking at all the destruction around them. The storm from the night before had pulled trees up by their roots, branches and leaves in heaps where they'd been blown by the fierce winds, then pelted into mulch by the harsh deluge.

"Bloody right," Cara murmured, climbing over a felled tree. She was amazed to see how very different the forest looked as opposed to how it had been last night. She couldn't imagine what it must have been like to be out in it. Their horse, for instance. She'd gotten so frightened, she'd bolted, leaving but a bit of her tethering still tied to the tree next to the cave wall.

The sound of the ocean could be heard, not too far off to the north, the waves crashing against the cliff face. That sound competed with boots being suctioned into the mud. Random curses were muttered as either Merryn had to get herself unstuck, or had to help Cara.

"Wait, Merryn," the blonde growled, leaning a hand against the trunk of a tree. Her boots were becoming so caked with mud that they were getting too heavy to lift another foot. She looked at the sole of the boot, grimacing as she used her fingers, leaving four narrow trails through the goo. "Merryn, give me a dagger."

The brunette pulled one out of her baldric, balancing on one of her own feet as she tried to do the same thing. She tossed the dagger into the mud at Cara's feet. Quickly the weapon had sunk to half the handle. Merryn grinned mischievously at the glare she got in return.

Muttering to herself, Cara tried to balance against the tree as she leaned over to pick up the dagger, the cold mud instantly chilling her fingers as she grabbed the handle, pulling the dagger out with a loud slurp.

"Bugger," Merryn muttered, nearly dropping her own dagger as she grabbed onto a tree with both hands. She looked down, trying to figure out what made her lose her balance. Glancing over at Cara, she saw that it hadn't just been her. Wide green eyes looked back at her briefly before moving over the ground at their feet.

Feeling steady, Merryn released her hold on the tree, carefully running her fingers down the blade of her dagger, sliding the mud down. The brown, gooey mess fell to the ground with a plop. She tucked the dagger back into her belt.

Feeling her irritation grow, Cara returned to her boot. She had gotten the majority of the mud removed from the sole of her right boot. Putting her foot own, she lifted her other one, grunting slightly at the task. The mud was thick, the soil heavy in clay.

With a yelp, and a loud roar from nature, Cara found herself lying on her back, mud oozing into every crevice. She lay still, trying to figure out how she ended up looking into the blue skies above.

Getting her breath back, she tried to find some purchase to push herself up with. Suddenly she was back in the mud, and moving.

Merryn shook mud-coated strands of her hair from her face, eyes huge as she tried to figure out what had happened. She realized that she was nowhere near the tree she'd been standing next to. She also realized that her leg was beginning to beat to the pumping of her heart, a shot of pain with every thump. Glancing down the length of her body, she saw that her leg had been caught up in a small outcropping of rocks that surged above the surface of the mud. Luckily the mud that encased the leg was so cold, it was keeping things numb. She had a bad feeling about her injury.

Clearing her mind of this, she looked around, expecting to see frightened green eyes. None.

"Cara?" Only silence answered. Even the echo of the forest was sucked up in the thick mud, which had shifted mightily in the slide. With a small cry, Merryn managed to get herself free from the rocks, white hot, shooting pain throwing her back into the mud as she tried to bend her injured leg. Panting heavily as she tried to clear the blackness from the edges of her vision, Merryn tried a new tactic. With a heave, she managed to unbury her sword. Sitting up she thrust it into the mud, trying to bury it far enough down to get some stability. Taking several deep breaths, she prepared herself for the fresh pain.

Getting to her feet, Merryn tried to figure out what happened, and where Cara was. Her face was a mask of clenched pain as she turned in a slow circle, seeing nothing but a sea of thick mud, pushing against the standing trees in thick waves, forever frozen in perpetual motion.

Figuring out what had thrown her to the ground, Merryn felt the first waves of panic crash against her heart. The mud had been swept down the sloped forest floor, toward the cliffs that dropped to the ocean below.

"No," she breathed, balancing on her sword as she made her way as quick as possible to the edge. "Cara!"

Teeth bared as she tried to ignore the pain of her broken leg, she continued on. She had to be careful, the mud slick and still unstable. Random branches, roots and rock outcroppings littered the area. Blue eyes scanned each for any sign of Cara. She prayed that sign wouldn't be blood.

The forest floor suddenly sloped at a dangerous angle, the crashing waves of the ocean getting louder as the cliff edge came into sight.

Merryn felt her heart stop. She hadn't even realized her legs had given out under her until she felt the sharp pain in her leg, and the full body jarring of the ground making solid contact with her backside. Cold numbness spread through her, making her begin to tremble.

She felt a strange sensation behind her eyes, a sting. Something she hadn't felt in many years. Lowering her head, Merryn let out a shaky breath.


Merryn's head slowly rose, her eyes nearly glowing as the upset threatened to spill. She listened, her entire body tuned to the day around her. Even the birds and animals of the forest hadn't recovered yet from the storm and mud slide.

Grunting. Gasping. The sound of rocks becoming loose, sliding down more rock.

Without thought, Merryn drug herself through the mud, toward the cliff edge. The noises, though still faint, were getting louder.

Reaching the edge, Merryn squeezed her eyes shut, afraid of what she might see. After several deep breaths, she looked over the side. What she saw took her breath away. Far below, huddled on a rock ledge, Cara looked back up at her. The only thing recognizable on the girl was her green eyes. The rest of her was covered with mud, not a clean smudge on her.

"Cara!" Merryn cried, her relief palpable. "Hold on, lass!" she called down. She could see the relieved smile on the girl's face, her teeth blindingly white against her browned skin.

Her mind flipped over the fact that Cara was alive, and then trying to figure out how to get her back up. The ledge the blonde had managed to land on was too far above the sea for the girl to jump, yet too far below the cliff for her to climb. Not to mention the rocks were slimy, covered in slick mud. Quickly untying her rope from around her waist, Merryn peeled it from the thick mud and dirt layers that had glued it to her tunic. Sizing up the length, she was doubtful, but they had to try.

The brunette looked around quickly, trying to find something to tie one end of the rope to, spotting a thick trunk, the rest of the tree broken during the storm the night before. She hissed as the jagged edges of the wood scraped against her skin as she tied it.

"Grab the rope, lass!" she called down, tossing the rope down to the girl. Glancing over the edge, she saw Cara trying to jump for the rope. Merryn cried out when the blonde early fell of the ledge. Her heart pounding, making her leg hurt worse, she looked into the eyes that looked back up at her.

"'Tis not long enough! I cannot reach!" Cara yelled back.

Merryn growled deep in her throat, looking around frantically for an idea to strike her. Like a Phoenix in the ashes, she saw a slim column of rock sprouting up through the mud. Scrambling over to it, she wrapped her hands around it, tugging with all her weight. The column didn't budge.

"Hold on, Cara!" she called down, letting the girl know she was still working on it. Pulling up the rope, the brunette untied it from the tree stump. Looking down at her own body, she wrapped the end of it around her own waist, tugging hard, making sure the knot would hold.

"Condatis, do not take us now," she whispered her prayer, then grabbed hold of the column of stone. Her body dangling down the cliff face, the rope uncoiled from the edge, falling.

Cara gasped, seeing Merryn hurl herself over the edge, dangling. The rope fell over the cliff, swinging gently just next to the blonde. Heart pounding in her ears, she grabbed it, tugging slightly to let the brunette know she had it.

"Climb, lass!" Merryn called, desperation in her voice. "Be quick abou'it!"

Cara heaved herself up, trying to get a good grip on the rope, which was just as muddy as she was. After a few slips, she got a good grip, and began to scale the cliff wall. Merryn could feel the strain in her arms, even as she did the best she could to hug the column close to her chest. The tug on her body, with each rising of Cara's own, was in turn reassuring and frightening. The brunette was terrified she'd lose her grip and they'd both fall to their deaths, yet each tug brought Cara closer to solid ground.

Cara's boot slipped from its perch on a medium sized, jutting rock. Her heart stopped for a moment, breath stolen from her lungs. Squeezing her eyes shut to get her courage back, Cara began to climb again. She was now within reach of Merryn's boot.

Merryn felt a brief touch on her right boot, then sucked a breath in, about to open her mouth in warning about her left leg.

Cara nearly let go of the rope altogether so shocked she was when a shrill scream tore through the air, along with a sharp crack. She managed to get her grip back on the rope, having slid down slightly at the sudden chaos. She had no idea what had happened. She'd grabbed hold of Merryn's left leg, wrapping her arms around it, about to pull herself up as she'd let go of the rope.

Merryn could not breathe, her face white and clammy as pain like she'd never known vibrated through her. It took all she had to keep hold of the stone her arms were wrapped around. She could no longer feel anything in her lower body, save for the pulsing of white pain, threatening to take her consciousness.

Sensing something was very wrong, Cara quickly scrambled back up to Merryn's body, tentatively touching the right leg. The brunette was trembling dangerously, but the leg didn't seem to make it worse.

Merryn could not speak, could not utter a sound, so lost was she in a sea of pain. Somewhere in the back of her head she heard Cara murmuring to her, then the discomfort as her chin skimmed the rock beneath her as the blonde climbed completely up her body, bumping the back of Merryn's head with her boot as she passed.

The earthy smell beneath her nose, stone and mud, brought the brunette somewhat back to a reality she didn't wish to be in right now. Her hold was getting weak.

Cara, on hands and knees as she reached the cliff top, turned to see Merryn, head down, and arms shaking as they held onto a tall column of stone.

"Merryn," she breathed. She could tell the girl was about to let go. She grabbed the brunette by her tunic and cloak, tugging. "Pull yerself up, Merryn," she grunted, heels digging into the mud. "Help me, Merryn!" she cried, hearing the tell tale ripping of fabric.

Merryn blinked rapidly, shaking her head to clear the fogginess from her eyes. She heard Cara's voice, then saw the blonde, pulling with all her might, trying to bring Merryn back from the edge.

Swallowing down her haze of pain, Merryn used her good leg to push herself back to land. Once she felt her hands and knees come into contact with the slick rock of the cliff top, Merryn leaned over, the remains of her breakfast being pushed out by the nausea caused by the intense pain.

Cara hurried over to her friend, still unsure of what had happened. When Merryn finished, she looked over at the blonde, relief flooding her. She grabbed the blonde to her, both falling into the mud as they clung to each other. Cara felt Merryn burry her face in her neck, the brunette's grip on her almost painful. No doubt Cara's hold was just as intense. They were breathing hard, the events of the morning catching up with them.

Merryn pulled away, bringing her finger to Cara's face, sluicing through the mud, leaving a smudge to the girl's skin. She gave a weak smile.

"Are ye alright, lass?" she asked, her voice left weak from the pain. Cara nodded, bringing her head to Merryn's, foreheads together. She cupped the brunette's face, just absorbing the presence of the older girl. She was still in awe that she was alive, convinced that she'd never survive that fall. Then having no idea how she was to get back to the surface.

Finally coming around, she pulled back, looking down the length of Merryn's sprawled body. Immediately she went to work, trying to find out what had happened.

"Yaaaaaa!" Merryn's head hit the mud with a wet squish. Cara quickly took off the boot on Merryn's left leg, then grabbed a dagger from the brunette's belt, slicing the leg of her britches open. The bone had not broken through the skin, but it was deathly pale with the bruising around the break a sickening dark color in contrast.

"I think I set yer bone when I hung onto it," she said, glancing at the brunette. Merryn said nothing, just nodded slightly, trying to keep her breathing under control. "I need a brace." Cara grabbed for the blade that had been tossed near the edge of the cliff during the chaos.

"Nay," Merryn said, her voice quiet and breathy. She put a hand to the girl's. "Not that."

"Then what-" Cara stopped for a moment, closing her eyes. She slowed her own breathing as she concentrated on the vision that began to appear before her mind's eye.

Merryn watched in fascination as Cara, eyes still closed, took one of the daggers, beginning to slice into the material of her own dress, shredding the skirt.

"Forgive me, Merryn," she whispered, and began to tear the pant leg to shreds. Eyes opening, Cara moved to her knees, using her hands to gather great amounts of mud around Merryn's leg, scooping it up to cover it, packing it in tightly. The brunette bared her teeth, but said nothing, taking her pain in shallow breaths.

Cara smoothed her hand over her creation, streamlining it down either side of Merryn's leg. With a gentle command for the brunette to hold still, she wrapped the shreds of cloth from her dress around it. When the mud-packed leg was completely covered and tied tight, though loose enough for proper circulation, Cara looked at her friend.

"This must dry, Merryn," she explained softly. Cara stood, looking around. She noticed that by the edge of the cliff the stone could be seen through the mud. Getting to her knees, she quickly began to push the mud aside, making a dry spot where Merryn could lie down, allowing the mud encasing her leg to warm and harden.

"Come, Merryn," she whispered, grabbing hold the brunette under the arms. "'T'will hurt, but you must not allow your leg to drag the ground."

Merryn nodded, not fully understanding, but trusting in her friend. A cry ripped from her throat as she held the leg aloft, her body being jarred as it was drug toward the cliffs.

Getting her settled as comfortably as possible, Cara set out with a quick kiss to Merryn's cheek, and a whispered "I will return."

Merryn sucked in lungfulls of fresh, clean air. Cara had left her with Merryn's own cloak rolled up under her head, the warm, spring sun shining down on her face, warming her still pain-chilled body. Cara had tried to get her some herbs for pain, but her pouch was filled with mud, all medicines inside ruined.

She could feel an ache in her leg, which now had turned into a dull, yet powerful rhythm, beating with each pump of her heart.

Merryn tried to relax, consciously easing her breathing into a constant, steady rhythm. She was trying to calm her heartbeat, as the slower her heart beat, the less it pounded through her leg. She could feel the mud drying, tightening around her leg, becoming stiff. She was amazed at the way it helped with the pain.

"How are you?" Cara asked, kneeling next to her friend. Merryn looked at her. She hadn't even heard her come back.

"I'll live."

"Indeed." Cara sat, the sun shining down on her legs, the skirt being torn nearly to mid-thigh. She set down the handful of roots and weeds she'd found. Taking a pinch of damlon weed, she tore the stocks in half, tossing the scaly side to the ground, the leafy side going into her mouth. She winced at the bitter taste, but chewed quickly. Taking the tiny ball of mush out of her mouth, she grabbed the hard, scaly part of the weed she'd discarded and wrapped the mush inside. Packing it all into a small, hard wad, she grabbed the water bladder. "Lift yer head."

Merryn did as she was told, opening her mouth so Cara could place the small bit on her tongue. She dutifully drank from the bladder, swallowing it down.

"Should start working soon, Merryn." Cara leaned over, giving the brunette a small kiss on the temple. "There is a swollen stream just over that way," she pointed back toward the west. "I'm going ta wash, then come back to wash you." The blonde stood, smooth muddy strands out of her face. She smiled down at the brunette. "If yer still awake."

Cara hurried back into the forest, a dagger at the ready. She couldn't imagine anyone out in this miserable mud, but anything was possible.

She was just now getting her breath back after what had happened. She had been so frightened, and then when she'd hurt Merryn, she'd felt awful. True, she'd had no idea that the girl was hurt, but still. Although, she would have had to set Merryn's leg anyway. It did get it over with.

Setting all their mud-covered and filled belongings at the side of the small body of water, she took one more look around before removing what was left of her dress. She'd be better to tear it all up for scrap. There was no getting around a new outfit now. This one had become indecent. She'd sure like to get some britches. They seemed far more practical for life on the road.

The water was freezing, most of it rain water from the night before. It stole Cara's breath away. She shivered as she carefully made her way in. She made quick work of dunking her entire body, crying out from the shock. Her skin exploded in goosebumps, her nipples like tiny rocks.

Teeth chattering, she did the best she could to rinse the mud from her skin and hair, as all her cleaning herbs and mixtures had been destroyed in the mud slide. Her hair was sticky, making her grimace involuntarily. Her village had never understood her need for cleanliness, and she knew Merryn thought she was crazy as a loon.


Cara couldn't keep the smile from her face, even if her smile was blue as her lips slowly turned such. She thought of the night before, in the cave. She had always loved Merryn's kisses, but last night…

Cara's eyes closed, her arms wrapping around her own body. A wave of heat managed to burn hot even through the frigid temperatures of the water she stood waist deep in.

Once Cara had accidentally seen Mark the cooper, and Muriel in his shop. He had her against a table, her skirts up around her waist. The blonde had been so embarrassed, quickly turning away. But the noises they made. There was no way to run from those. Red from head to toe, Cara had wandered into the woods, thinking about what she'd seen and heard. She remembered Mark's big, calloused hands on Muriel's breasts, the farmer's daughter's dress pulled open.

She had never been able to shake those images. When she'd heard stories of how awful it was, and how much it hurt, Cara had brought those images to mind. Muriel hadn't looked as though she were in pain. She had looked as though she were enjoying what Mark was doing to her.

Cara looked down at her own breasts, the nipples still hard and a deep rose color. She brought her hands up, cupping the breasts, which were hard from the cold. Her palms were painful against her cold nipples. Soon the warmth from her hands eased the rigid peaks, making the skin soft and pliant.

Afraid of catching a chill, Cara quickly finished washing the mud from her body, hurrying from the cold depths of the water. The sun of high day felt glorious on her cold skin. She wished for a warm rock to lay upon and dry. Alas, with the mud, was not to be.


Merryn awoke to a crackling fire and a gentle touch. Opening her eyes, she was surprised to see the sun had fallen, leaving the night with all its twinkling lights above. Her eyes moved to the left where she saw just the edge of cloth, and could feel the cool dampness of moisture.

"Ye really shouldn't play'n mud puddles, Merryn," Cara said, her voice soft and soothing near the brunette's head. Merryn smiled.

"Do me best." She looked up at Cara, seeing the twinkle in her eyes. And the color of her skin. "Bathe, did ye?"

"I did. We need more cleansing herbs." Cara wrung out the rag she was using to clean the mud from Merryn's face. She had wanted to wait until the darker girl awoke, but when she slept on, she decided to do it anyway. Bringing the newly rinsed rag to the brunette's neck, she gently wiped away the dirt and grime from the day. "My dress is ruined. We'll have to make our way ta a town soon."

Merryn nodded, sighing in pleasure at Cara's gentle touch.

Cara continued to bathe the girl with her rag and clean water, fingers lightly caressing where she had recently cleaned. Merryn's skin was so soft under her fingers, lightly trailing the backs across the brunette's throat. She smiled as Merryn sighed, her head falling to the side, giving her more skin.

The need was too great to resist. Cara bent her head, placing gentle lips against the side of Merryn's neck. The heat that radiated from it was awesome, nearly burning Cara's lips. She lifted her head but a small way, glancing into the taller girl's face. There was a slight smile curving those full lips.

Lowering her head once more, Cara's eyes closed, brushing her lips over Merryn's ear, then back to her neck. She pressed them to the warm skin once more, a lingering caress.

Merryn sighed, tingles filtering all through her body. She forgot all about the pain in her leg at the wonderful sensations that were awakening within her. As her body began to respond, she reached a hand up, caressing Cara's newly bared leg. The skin of her thigh was soft, yet prickly with tiny blonde hairs. Their months of walking had hardened the blonde's muscles, making her legs shapely and beautiful.

Cara moved her body so she lay along side Merryn. She rested on her elbow, looking down at the brunette who met her gaze.

"How is yer leg?" she asked, running lazy fingers back and forth over Merryn's arm, making the older girl tingle even more. Blue eyes closed as warmth flooded her.

"'D feel better if ye'd kiss me, lass," she breathed, her heart pounding. She didn't see Cara's smile as the blonde moved in.

Though she'd just kissed her the night before, Cara had almost forgotten just how soft Merryn's lips were. She gently moved her body so their breasts were touching, though was mindful of Merryn's lower body, staying clear of her leg, still wrapped in hardened mud and cloth.

Merryn sighed into the blonde's mouth, sensation exploding as she felt soft breasts laid upon her own. She brought her hands up, burying them in Cara's hair. The strands were stiff and clumped. She knew it must be driving the blonde crazy to be so dirty.

Pushing the thought away, she deepened the kiss, bringing Cara's bottom lip inside her mouth. She wanted to feel it, taste it.

Cara gasped slightly as she felt the warm softness of Merryn's tongue gloss over her lip. She felt a reassuring hand on her shoulder. It felt wonderful, and sent the most surprising sensations through her body that she opened her mouth a bit, feeling Merryn slide her tongue just to the very edge of the inside of Cara's lips.

Cara felt an ache between her legs, a pulsing that was pleasurable yet painful at the same time. She didn't understand it, but knew that Merryn was both the cause and cure. Moving her body a bit, she lay atop the brunette, feeling the cold smoothness of the mud pack on her leg. For a moment she almost pulled away, worried she'd hurt the older girl. Merryn stopped her with a firm hand to her hip, bringing Cara's mouth back to her own.

Merryn was becoming lost in the feel of the blonde's mouth and body on her own. She was slowly, tentatively exploring the inside of Cara's mouth with her tongue, feeling her teeth, the insides of both lips, her tongue.

A shiver was sent through her, landing squarely between her legs as Cara shifted, her leg falling slightly between the brunette's thighs. The slight pressure between her legs made her nearly jump out of her skin. Her mouth opened with a soft gasp, hands flying to the girl's hips. Cara wasn't sure what she'd done, but liked Merryn's reaction. She left Merryn's mouth, the brunette's neck calling to her again. Taking what she'd just learned, she placed gentle kisses along Merryn's jaw, then lightly touched her tongue to the side of her warm neck.

Merryn gasped loud, taking in a mouthful of air at the contact. Her hands pressed into the soft flesh of Cara's hips. Cara's mouth continued, her tongue taking in the taste of Merryn's skin, sweat and the earthiness of left over mud that hadn't been wiped away. Her body began to respond, communicating with Merryn's.

Cara stopped, feeling Merryn's body stiffen. She knew that either the brunette's leg had been bumped, or that she was in pain. Lifting her head, she looked into the beautiful face of the one person that was her world. Merryn's eyes were squeezed shut, her face ashen.

Slowly climbing off Merryn, Cara quickly grabbed another of the medicine bundles she'd made while Merryn had slept on. Grabbing the water bladder, she gently held up the brunette's head.

"Swallow this, my love," she whispered. Merryn did as she was told. She had been rocked to the core as the healing effects had suddenly vanished, making her realize with painful clarity that her leg was, indeed broken. The pain wasn't as intense as it had been before, but she felt chilled and hot at the same time, her skin crawly and clammy.

Cara set the bladder aside when Merryn had swallowed her medicine. She scooted over to the brunette, gently laying Merryn's head in her lap, cradling her and running her fingers through the long, dark strands, until finally Merryn's lids fell heavy, and she fell asleep.


Return to the Academy