For complete disclaimers see part 1.
Note: Kleenex alert!
"What?" Cara asked, starting to feel slightly irritated as she looked up at her friend.
"Healing herbs?" Merryn asked yet again. She reached down to balance herself, her palm placed against the warm, scratchy hair of the ass she sat upon.
"Ye not believe me?" the blonde asked, brows raised. Merryn said nothing, muttering to herself. Cara turned back to the road ahead, relishing the sun, which basked on her face. She had made her way to a small town that morning, using what little they had left to trade for some things they needed. Including a way for Merryn to travel and stay off her leg.
The gentle breeze blew through her new dress, weaving the material around her legs. It felt wonderful! It also felt wonderful to be clean, with her long hair falling down her back in golden waves. She had also been able to restock her medicines, which she then traded for a donkey.
"Did'ja get more 'o this, lass?" Merryn asked, holding up the last little bit of smoked meat she was eating. Cara chuckled, nodding.
"Though no more fer ye today," she said, waggling a warning finger at her friend. The brunette rolled her eyes. She had hated to stay back at camp, feeling useless. Not for the first time, she cursed that bloody mud slide and storm.
Cara walked contentedly next to the lumbering animal, now understanding why the owner had been so willing to part with Simon. The beast was slow, stopping to sniff and taste everything he came upon in the road. She could tell Merryn was getting frustrated, too.
Merryn had gotten good at ignoring the constant ache in her leg, yet still every step the animal took jarred it again. She could only do so much to keep the mud encrusted leg from banging against the donkey's barrel rib cage.
"Are ye not going to answer me, then?" Cara asked, glancing up at her friend again.
"Let me think," Merryn said, chewing on the inside of her cheek. "I want to see my homeland, lass. Go te my people, I would."
"Aye." Merryn smiled at the thought. She'd dreamt of her homeland, her people and their ways. "And ye, lass?"
Cara looked up at her friend, bringing a hand up to shield her eyes from the sun. She smiled wide. "Ireland sounds beautiful."
Merryn smiled back, but it slowly began to slide from her face. Looking around, a wrinkle of concentration gathered between her eyes.
The brunette held up a hand, sniffing the air.
"Arawn," she whispered, tugging on the donkey's reins, trying to lead the stubborn animal to the east.
Cara brought her hand to her nose, trying to block out the sweet stench that was getting stronger the further they went into the woods.
"The sweet smell of death," the blonde whispered, a small cabin coming into view. Merryn nodded.
"Aye, lass. Arawn has been here."
The cabin was dark, a bag lying upon the ground outside its door, dried crops rolled out to dry on the ground. They were half eaten by insects and rats.
Cara helped Merryn dismount the animal, the older girl leaning on her as they made their way toward the closed plank door. The sweet smell of rot was getting stronger, burning their lungs and making Cara's eyes water.
"Stay here, Merryn," she said, helping the brunette to sit on a barrel. Merryn tried to protest, but Cara stopped her with a soft kiss. "Return, I will."
Cara did not want to see what she knew she'd see, but she also knew they had to find a safe place for them while Merryn's leg mended. It would take a great deal of reasoning to get the older girl to agree, but Cara knew it was the best thing to do. Merryn's leg would never heal if the girl was on it, climbing, running, and hunting.
The silence of the dead was an eerie thing to behold. The sound of their lifeless bodies could be deafening. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Merryn still seated on the barrel, looking as though she'd jump off any moment. Cara held up a hand, silently telling the girl to stay where she sat. She could tell the brunette didn't like it, but she did stay put.
Cara rested her hand on the frame of the door, the other on the door itself, gently pushing on it. When it didn't budge, she pushed harder. With a loud creak, the door swung open, releasing such a pungent odor of death, Cara almost fell to her knees. Literally being thrown a step or two back, Cara held her ground, and her breath, bravely making her way into the darkened cabin.
Sunlight sliced through the cracks and slats in the walls, crisscross beams tracing patterns on the dirt floor. A table could be seen against the far left wall, just the corner lit, dust motes drifting in the shaft of sunlight. Various objects were silhouetted on the table's surface, the shapes looking to be a lantern and jug with rounded handle.
Cara's gaze traveled down a trail of light to see the blackened fingers of a hand, hanging off the edge of a pallet. The thumb had been partially eaten by some sort of rodent. The blonde brought her hand to her mouth as she quickly tore her eyes from it. She saw a wooden plate with rotten fruit lying on the floor, worm holes blackened and shriveled.
Cara nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt a touch on her shoulder. Whirling, she saw Merryn leaning against the doorframe, sword acting as a walking stick.
"Dead," Cara said simply, turning to walk out. Merryn nodded, knowing as much. "Black sickness. Again, Merryn nodded.
"Should go, lass." She looked up at the skies. Blasted spring rain.
"Nay." Cara looked at her friend, eyes serious and stubborn. "Ye need to rest, Merryn." She nodded toward the cabin behind her. "Take care of that poor soul, I will, then ye rest."
Merryn studied the girl. Surely she wasn't serious? She shook her head.
"Nay, Cara. 'Tis cursed."
Cara rolled her eyes, walking to the donkey. She grabbed their flint stones from the saddle bag, heading back toward the cabin. Merryn stopped her with a touch to her shoulder. Blue eyes looked deeply into green.
"Nay," she hissed. Cara held her gaze.
"Merryn, we cannot go on with yer leg such as I'tis. 'T'will never heal. We must get ye settled, and I know ye saw that stormin' sky," she said, pointing to the sky. Merryn sighed, shaking her head.
"Nay," she said stubbornly.
"Ye'v no choice. Simon is bein' as stubborn as you. I am not goin' ta be stuck out in the rain cause of yer stubborn arse." With that she took another deep breath, then stepped inside the cabin. Walking over to the table, she used what little light there was to see the lantern. It took a few licks of the flint, but she got her spark, setting the wick aflame.
The blonde kept her eyes closed, not wanting to see what lay to her right, what was left of the previous tenant. Instead, she grabbed a rat-eaten blanket she saw in the corner, throwing it over the body.
"Merryn?" she called, setting the flint stones down. She left the lantern burning as she headed out of the cabin, taking several deep breaths as she walked into the fresh air of the day. She saw the brunette looking at her in question. "We must burn this poor soul."
Night was beginning to fall as Cara laid the last bit of wood atop the wrapped body, still on its sleeping pallet. It had taken some effort to get it out of the cabin, as she had to work alone. Once clearing the narrow door, she tied the pallet to Simon, finally getting the beast to pull the pallet free, the cabin but a small glimmer as dusk fell upon the land.
Cara stood, the pyre before her painting her features golden orange. Head bowed, the blonde raised her hands, Rosary wrapped around her clasped palms. Her lips moved in silent prayer over the lost soul of the one who had died alone. A single tear escaped a closed lid, sliding lazily over her cheek, and off the side of her chin, landing on her left thumb.
Her heart filled with grief and sorrow, Cara sent the soul free, being the one for the soul now, that wasn't there when they needed her the most.
She could see the man, along, in his cabin, the sickness coming on over the span of three days. Alone, scared, and huddled up on the simple bed roll, he laid down on his side, breath coming in short spasms, eyes open wide as he looked to the Heavens. A hand came into Cara's view, reaching for his hand, which hung off the pallet. She realized it was her own hand, taking the trembling hand of the man into her own. He looked at her, a soft smile of thanks on his features, darkened by the black sickness. Lesions dotted his features, skin almost looking bruised and beaten.
She could feel the coolness of his fingers as the life began to bleed from him with each labored breath.
Sleep now. Sleep.
With a final, wheezing breath, his fingers relaxed in Cara's, his head falling back, eyes forever frozen to the skies.
"Cara?" Merryn said, her voice soft. Green eyes opened, filled with tears. With a cry of grief, the blonde turned to the brunette, burying herself in Merryn's arms.
Merryn held the girl as she cried for long moments, stroking her back and hair. Finally the small blonde sniffled out the rest of her pain, then raised her head with a grateful smile. Merryn returned that smile with a small nod.
"'T benzoin 'n amber is burnin', lass."
"Thank ye, Merryn." She turned to the pyre once more, then turned to head back toward the cabin, who's lantern light could be seen through the dark. Merryn walked alongside her friend, using the tall branch she'd found as a walking stick.
To Merryn's consternation, Cara had insisted everything in the cabin be burned along with their owner. All that remained in the near empty cabin was the table and the man's lantern.
Exhausted, both laid out their bedrolls on the dirt floor, and fell fast asleep.
Merryn woke up, looking around, disoriented. The log walls that surrounded her allowed shafts of morning sunshine in, blazing bright streaks across the floor. Cara was nowhere to be seen.
With a grunt of exertion, Merryn got herself to her feet, holding onto the edge of the heavy table while she grabbed her walking stick. She stood there for a moment, getting the energy to walk. The mud that tightly held her leg together was heavy and took much time to maneuver.
"Cara?" she called out, limping out of the cabin. The sun hit her face with welcoming warmth. Shielding her eyes, she looked around the small property. Simon was tethered to a wooden water bin, wild grass piled near him. The donkey drank noisily, glancing up at the brunette before turning back to his breakfast.
"Good morn." Cara stepped out of the woods with a bright smile on her face, and a small cloth pouch in her hand. She walked over to the brunette, laying a gentle kiss to her lips. She raised her pouch. "Mornin' meal." She hurried past the brunette, into the cabin, where she set her bundle down, then reached up, tearing the heavy cloth from the window. The small structure was filled with bright sunshine, making Cara's smile broaden even more.
Merryn made her way back into the cabin, watching the small blonde, who was actually humming! She couldn't help her own smile as she leaned against the frame of the door, walking stick resting inside her bent arm.
Cara grabbed the saddle bag from the floor, taking out wrapped dry strips of meat. Setting them on the table, she set them aside, focusing her attention on the bundle. Quickly opening it, she unwrapped it, the sunlight shining in on shiny, red berries, plump and filled with sweet juices.
Merryn's nose was taking over for her, making her take wobbly steps toward the table. She stopped when green eyes glanced at her over Cara's shoulder.
"Somethin' ye want?" the blonde asked, her voice low and teasing. Merryn blushed, turning away. She heard the soft chuckle of her friend, then a hand on her arm. Cara helped the brunette to set on their bedrolls, promising breakfast with a kiss.
Cara cut the meat up into bite-sized cubes, letting them tumble into a wooden bowl, the berries in a second bowl. Tucking the water bladder, freshly filled, under her arm, she knelt beside the brunette.
"I have brought to you all that is good 'n sweet." Cara gently took Merryn's walking stick, setting it aside. Putting her hands on the brunette's shoulders, she nudged her friend to sit back against the wall, making sure the girl's leg was properly raised and padded.
Merryn watched all of this, loving to watch every move the blonde made. She was fascinated with every movement, every word, every thought Cara made, said or had. She watched the way the girl's hands moved, so graceful and tender. The way her fingers wrapped around the brunette's walking stick, even treating a piece of wild wood with the gentle touch of pure gold.
Cara turned twinkling eyes to her friend, now that she was sure the older girl was comfortable. Grabbing the bowl of meat, she raised it, snatching a small piece between her fingers, and bringing it to Merryn's lips.
"Open," she requested, a gentle command.
Merryn opened her lips, her eyes on those of the blonde as the meat was gently tucked inside her mouth. She could taste just the barest hint of Cara's skin on her tongue as fingers were drawn away, and Merryn began to chew.
Cara felt a slight shiver down her spine at the soft, brief touch of Merryn's tongue against the tip of her finger. She plucked a piece of meat for herself, quickly chewing as she selected another for Merryn. The very tip of Merryn's tongue glistened in the sunlight as the brunette awaited her next bite. Cara smiled at this, then placed a second piece of meat in her mouth.
Merryn watched Cara's eyes as the green eyes watched her mouth and lips, the movement of them as the brunette chewed. She was amused to see those green eyes follow her tongue as it swiped across her bottom lip, catching a bit of spice from the piece of meat.
Cara felt her breath hitch, watching that tongue. Suddenly she badly wanted that tongue. Setting the bowl aside, she raised a hand, cupping Merryn's cheek, bringing the older girl's face up a bit as Cara raised to her knees.
Merryn closed her eyes as she felt the blonde's breath upon her brow. Soft lips touched that brow moments later, followed by kisses to her forehead, and both cheeks. She waited, heart pounding, until finally she felt them on her own.
With a sigh, Cara leaned into Merryn, the hand upon her cheek sliding around to the back of her head, soft hair brushing against her fingers. She tilted her head a bit, allowing Merryn's lips to mold to her own before opening them, allowing the brunette's tongue to enter.
Merryn's physical hunger was quickly overtaken by a hunger of another kind. She brought both her hands up, cupping Cara's head, kissing her deep, with a passion that seemed to spring within her with each glance of the blonde.
Cara felt herself being pulled to the brunette's lap. She rested her knees on either side of Merryn's outer thighs.
"I thinks 't mornin' meal c'n wait, lass," Merryn whispered. "I wish," she looked into the flushed face of the blonde. "I know not what I wish," she said, not sure how to put her body's wants into words. She didn't understand what she needed, only that she needed.
Cara saw something in Merryn's eyes that called to her, her body wanting so badly to respond. Thinking back to Muriel and Mark, the blonde did the only thing she could think of, her instinct speaking for desires she did not understand.
Taking Merryn's hand in amazingly calm, trusting fingers, Cara rested the larger hand on her own breast.
Merryn's breath hitched, a jolt of sensation shooting between her legs, almost making her cry out with its intensity. With her other hand, Merryn cupped Cara's face, green eyes sliding closed, leaning into the larger hand.
"Merryn, yes," she whispered, her sweet voice breathy at the unexpected pleasure of Merryn's touch upon her breast.
Merryn looked at her hand, marveling at the gift she held. She was surprised to feel the flesh beneath her palm respond to her touch, Cara's nipple growing rigid and hard. She had seen those nipples many, many times while they bathed, and could picture the dark color so clearly in her mind.
At Cara's soft whimper, she looked into the blonde's face, seeing her eyes closed, lips slightly parted as her head fell back. Merryn brought her lips to the girl's throat, using her tongue to taste her skin, hearing more of the soft sounds Cara made deep in her throat. She brought her free hand to Cara's other breast, the nipple already hard in anticipation.
Cara felt lost in a sea of sensation, pleasure seeping through her from the points of her breasts to between her legs, which was damp with what she had come to realize was her wanting for Merryn. She needed, she needed so much, such pressure and pulsing.
Merryn's mouth slid down the column of Cara's throat, teeth nipping at the skin she found at the hollow. The blonde moaned, head falling further back. Hands leaving Cara's breasts, Merryn used nimble fingers to gently tug at the laces of her new dress' bodice. She wanted more skin to taste.
Cara felt Merryn's arms wrap around her back, the older girl's hands clutching the back of her shoulders, allowing Cara to lean back into Merryn's embrace. As she did, she felt Merryn's mouth on her upper chest, licking along the bones of her shoulders as one side of the dress slipped from it. The top of her cleavage was exposed, catching the brunette's hungry eyes.
"So lovely, lass," she whispered, her voice reverent.
Cara gasped as a wet tongue teased the top of her right breast. Her eyes opened, and she looked down at Merryn, seeing her eyes closed, her face flushed with passionate discovery. She wished to feel Merryn's body upon her own.
Gently, she pulled away, stopping any protest with two fingers to Merryn's lips. The blonde climbed off her lap, and lay herself back on the blankets. She reached for the brunette, gently tugging on her hand. Merryn carefully got herself turned around, mindful of her leg.
Cara moaned at the feel of Merryn's body pressing into her own. Merryn held herself still, absorbing the feel of Cara beneath her. Finally she raised her head, looking deep into the most beautiful green eyes, seeing the love and want reflected in them.
Cara brought Merryn down to her, bringing their lips together. She had no idea what she needed or wanted Merryn to do, but she needed to ease the pressure that was building between her legs. Her hips were moving of their own accord, Merryn's meeting them with her own.
Merryn brought a hand down to Cara's hip, her fingers sliding between the blonde and the bedding, feeling her backside fill her hand. She pressed against it, bringing the girl's body even closer to her own. Cara gasped, her own hand running down Merryn's back, squeezing the flesh, arching up into the girl.
The ache between Merryn's legs was almost painful, pounding throughout her entire body. She needed to ease that ache. Using her knee, she pushed into Cara's until the blonde's legs opened, allowing Merryn's to slip between. The brunette's head shot up as Cara's thigh made contact between her legs. A wave of sensation shot through her body, and by the way Cara cried out, clinging to her, it had done the same to her.
It took a moment for Cara to get her breath as she pressed herself against the taller girl.
Holding still for a moment, Merryn clung to Cara, holding herself tightly to the girl's thigh, pleasure echoing through her. It wasn't until she felt Cara began to move her hips against her that she took a breath, moving her own hips.
A bud of sensation was planted in Cara's lower belly, and it was quickly beginning to bloom into a flower of pure pleasure, it's petals reaching all throughout her body. She cried out, her arms wrapping tightly around Merryn's body as she convulsed. It wasn't long before she felt the brunette's own body still, a gurgled cry erupting from her throat.
It took Merryn a moment for reality to come back to her in the form of a small cabin with a warm body beneath her own. Raising herself on her hands, she looked down into Cara's flushed face.
"What 'o we done?" she asked, her body still pulsing. Cara smiled, shaking her head.
"I know not. 'Twas beautiful."
"Aye." Merryn lowered herself, taking Cara's lips in a soft kiss. She pressed her forehead to that of the blonde. "'M hungry."
Cara sang softly to herself as she brought more branches to the cabin. Merryn was on the ground, pressing two other branches together to bring the fourth end together. Pressing firmly, she held, ticking fingers off silently in her head. She looked at her handy work, examining the hold and strength of the wood, and the glue that had been made when they boiled the swim bladder from their dinner the previous night.
"It'll work," she muttered to herself, banging the wood against the ground, pleased when the wood did not slip nor falter. She heard the soft, sweet voice of Cara entering into the clearing of the cabin, large branches tucked under her arm. "Bring 'em 'ere, lass."
Cara dropped the branches next to the brunette, squatting beside her. She looked over what had already been done. The frame was sturdy and solid.
"Merryn?" she asked, her voice soft, filled with question.
"Aye?" the brunette said absently, setting the frame aside, and beginning to free the new branches of twigs and off chutes.
"Do ye like it here?"
Cara smiled, falling back to sit on her bum, ankles crossed, and leaning back on her hands. "As do I."
Merryn glanced up, seeing the look of contented happiness on the blonde's face. She rubbed her thumb over the handle of her dagger for a moment, contemplating the girl before her.
"Ye wish ta stay." It was a statement, not a question. Cara met the brunette's eyes, and with a soft smile, nodded.
"Aye, that. 'M happy." Cara studied Merryn's eyes, the brunette's thoughts hidden behind them. "Are ye not?"
As Merryn studied the other girl, almost missing her question, she felt a sense of peace steal over her. A sense of belonging that she had never known. Family.
After a moment, which had started to make Cara squirm a bit, Merryn nodded.
"Aye. That I am."
Cara's smile was blinding. Merryn couldn't help but return it. A quick peck on the lips from the blonde, and the girl was up on her feet once more.
"'M goin' ta burn more benzoin and amber," she announced, then was off, disappearing inside the cabin. Soon Merryn could smell the fragrant crystals wafting out into the late afternoon. They'd burnt some every day over the two weeks they'd been at the cabin to help with the smell. Death almost seemed to never have lived there at all, now.
As night fell, Merryn brought in the newly made bed pallet, laying it against the wall. Cara stood back, watching in amazement at what the brunette had created. Merryn quickly covered the pallet with their layers of bedding.
"'T'will be nice ta be off the floor," Cara said quietly, leaning against the wall to stay out of the way. The cabin was small, and only one person could really be active at once.
Stepping back, Merryn admired her handy work. She'd never been much of a builder, but had done a good job. She knew their sleep tonight would be much better than it had been over the span of the past months. She blushed lightly at the thought of what else would be better.
Turning her face away from Cara's very keen eyes, Merryn finished getting their sleeping area ready, then turned to her friend.
"Ye ready, then?" the blonde asked, pushing over a barrel for Merryn to sit upon. The brunette nodded, sitting. Cara sat on a second barrel, bringing the older girl's left leg up, resting the foot in her own lap. "Yell if I go too deep."
Merryn nodded, handing the blonde the small mallet she'd made to use on the pallet. Cara took it, setting it in her lap. She used what was left of a fingernail to pick the edge of the fabric dressing away from the light brown mud underneath. Finally peeling it all off, she grabbed the mallet again, pressing the point of a particularly dull dagger against the side of the brunette's leg, the metal tip tapping lightly against the hard packed mud.
Merryn watched with curious eyes as Cara tapped an even line down the length of the encasement. Small cracks began to spread through the mud, small chunks falling to the dirt floor at their feet.
"Here we are," Cara whispered, setting aside her tools, and gently tugging at the ends of the mud sleeve. Merryn winced slightly, a sharp pain shooting briefly through her leg before relief at the cool, night air hitting the pale, shriveled skin that had been hidden away for weeks.
One side completely fell free, cracking into several large pieces and dusty chunks. Merryn's eyes closed at how good it felt to be rid of that heavy monstrosity. That relief was quickly taken over as Cara carefully pulled the other half off. When the mud had been wet, it had suctioned to all the tiny black hairs on her leg. The first waxing in history didn't go over too well.
Cara dropped the tools, and grabbed the small vile of Carmelite water from the table. Uncorking the bottle, she poured some of the scented oil into her palm, warming it in between her hands before rubbing it into the tender flesh of Merryn's calf.
She glanced up at the brunette. "How does it feel?" she asked softly. Merryn sighed in contentment.
"'Tis good, lass."
"Can ye walk?" Cara sat back, giving the brunette room to stand. Merryn winced slightly as she lowered her leg from the blonde's lap. Her leg felt like it weren't more than a feather. She gave the blonde an encouraging smile, then slowly raised herself to her feet. She was shaky, having to grab the hand that Cara offered. Once steady, she let go, and stood on her own.
"Hurts a bit," Merryn said, tentatively taking a step, then another, then a third. She reached the far wall, slowly turning and walking back to a smiling Cara.
Spitting out the mouthful of cold water, Merryn glanced up as she heard footsteps. Tucking a couple lovage leaves into her mouth, she began to chew, the spicy taste replacing that of the morning.
There were three steps in all- two feet and a walking stick. Merryn limped slightly as she walked over to the cabin, her sword in view. She could still hear Cara inside the cabin, chopping the meat Merryn had just got back from catching.
He came around the bend in the path, breath coming in bursts from his tired body. Merryn stepped away from the cabin and her blade, spitting out some of the chewed lovage.
"God's blessings to ya, lassy," the good friar gasped as he entered the yard. He stopped, leaning on his stick as he looked around the sun-filled day.
Merryn took a step toward him, never taking her eyes off his stick or intentions. She said nothing.
The man with the thin, graying hair smiled at her, his grizzled face creasing. "'Tis a fine morn, God gave us."
"Aye. What say ye, ol' man?"
"Where be Ben?" The old friar finally reached Merryn, his breath rank and smelling of wine.
"Dead. Taken by 't black sickness, he was." Merryn cocked her slightly, squinting in the early morning sun.
"Mm," the friar nodded. "Thought he may. Odd lad, that one. Lived all 'lone." The friar tucked his tall walking stick into the crook of his arm as he pulled out a copper opium pipe from the folds of his robes. Merryn watched him load the pipe as he chattered on about the previous tenant, and how Ben used to bring the thatched baskets he made to town to sell. Then one day he stopped coming.
"Merryn?" came Cara's soft voice, startling the brunette out of her stupor. Green eyes turned to the good friar, a friendly smile on her face. "Father," she said, bowing her head slightly, voice filled with respect.
"Good morn', me young lass." The friar gaze a toothy grin, raising his pipe in greeting.
"Join us fer morn' meal, Father?"
The friar stayed until the sun had begun to leave the sky. He and Cara had walked through the woods, talking of things Merryn could never understand. They spoke of a spiritual power larger than anything on this land, or bigger than this world.
Merryn heard their voices come in and out between the thickets of trees they passed through. The brunette leaned her head back against the tree she sat against, watching the sky above. The clouds floated by, the sun darting in and out. Merryn sighed, content and happy.
She brought the small pipe up, taking in another lungful, exhaling with slow ease. As she looked out over the yard, the small cabin tucked near a thicket of green growth, she felt at peace. Yes, she could stay here with Cara. They could be happy together. A slow smile spread over her features as she watched the smoke lazily float through the air.
The voices got closer, then Cara and the friar emerged from the trees to Merryn's right. She smiled at the sight of the blonde, who smiled back before turning to the friar.
Merryn watched as the blonde gave the older man a hug. The friar turned to the brunette with a smile.
"Until the morrow, lassy." Wrapping fingers around his walking stick, the good man headed back the way he'd come.
As the friar tapped his way down around the bend, Merryn stood, walking over to Cara, who looked at her with questioning eyes.
She extended the pipe to the small blonde, eyes never leaving the curious green. Cara took it, slowly bringing it to her lips. She inhaled deeply, feeling the smoke invade her body, burning, choking, until she had to cough it out. Merryn smiled, taking the pipe from the coughing blonde.
"Ye alright, lass?" she asked. Cara nodded, reaching for the pipe again. Merryn watched her carefully, assuring she was alright as she inhaled once more.
Cara felt a sense of ease fall over her, like a veil of peace. Her body relaxed, eyes falling closed as she let the day absorb into her very soul. Green eyes slowly opened when she felt soft fingers brushing against her cheek. She saw Merryn looking into her face, taking in every detail, every curve, nuance and shadow.
Cara's eyes closed again, her head falling back. Merryn's fingers followed, running down her throat, then sweeping around, under the heavy blonde hair, until finally her hand cupped the back of Cara's neck.
Merryn leaned in, brushing her cheek against the soft one of Cara, inhaling her scent, mixed with the nutty smell of the opium smoke. Cara shivered, feeling the hot breath on the side of her face and neck. A small whimper escaped when that hot breath turned to a kiss, then to a lick.
"Come inside with me, lass," Merryn breathed into Cara's warm skin. At the nod she felt, the brunette took her by the hand, leading her toward the cabin.
Cara felt as though the world around her had disappeared, leaving only sensation in its wake. She was laid down on the bed pallet, eyes slipping closed as Merryn settled on top of her, the brunette's mouth going to her own. She met her lips with a passion she'd never felt before. She gave into the pressure of Merryn's lips, quickly opening her mouth to draw the brunette in.
Cara's eyes opened, breaking the kiss in surprise when she felt her dress being removed. This had never happened before. She watched Merryn, a determination on the older girl's face. Blue eyes widened at the sight before them.
She ran her hands down the sides of Cara's soft thighs, the gold patch of hair between them glistening in the sunlight streaming in though the window. Her hands slid up, over softly rounded hips, over the goosebump-covered flesh of her stomach and ribs. Merryn's hands glanced the sides of Cara's breasts, making the brunette sigh in pleasure along with the blonde. Keeping control, she then ran her hands up across strong shoulders.
Cara felt as though her skin were on fire, alive and breathing. She sighed, eyes slipping closed again. Never had her bare skin been touched before, except in washing. The feeling was exquisite, amplified by the humming throughout her body.
She gasped, eyes flying open when she felt bare skin touching her own. Looking up into Merryn's eyes, she saw love reflected there.
"Mo Shearc," Merryn whispered, brushing her lips against Cara's, then kissing a trail down her jaw to her neck. The words she'd whispered echoed through her head, words she should have said long ago- My Love.
She sighed as their naked breasts pressed together, making her body shiver against Cara's warmth. Never had she lain naked with the girl before, but she felt the need to be as close as possible. She knew not if it was appropriate or not. It didn't matter.
She wanted to touch every part of Cara's body, and be touched by every part of the blonde. She used her mouth and hands, bringing her love inside.
The cabin was filled with the sounds of soft sighs and whispered words of love, and the sound of skin on skin, the day slipping away.
Cara lay atop Merryn, head resting upon the older girl's heart. She smiled.
"C'n hear yer heart."
Merryn smiled, gently running her fingers through the soft, blonde hair, splayed out across her naked chest. "'N wha'tis it sayin' to ye, lass?"
Cara placed a soft kiss to the skin above the sacred organ. "Says yer my Merryn."
Cara sighed, her eyes heavy from an afternoon spent seeking the pleasures of the body. As she drifted off to sleep, she was still amazed at all that was possible, her body pulsing and alive.
Cara finished rinsing her hair, running her hands down the thick rope of wet hair, squeezing the water out. She felt the warm sun overhead as she made her way out of the stream, her thickly calloused feet barely noticing the scattered rocks as she walked over to her dress, which hung on a low branch.
Using a scrap of material she used for such a purpose, the blonde dried her face, then ran the material over her arms and body. Adjusting her shoulders, she hung the saturated cloth to the branch, grabbing her dress.
A bit winded, she leaned against the tree, resting. She'd woken up the morning before feeling a bit achy, her head pulsing with a dull ache.
After a moment, she finished putting her dress on, lacing up the front, and gathering her things.
"Ye alright, lass?" Merryn asked, glancing over at the blonde. Cara nodded, still leaning against the table, head bowed. The herbs, berries and roots lay before her, untouched. She had been making a new batch of monk's pepper and cleaning paste when a wave of heat had settled over her.
Swiping her hand across her forehead, she was surprised to feel moisture. Looking at her fingers, she could see sweat glistening on her fingertips. She had no idea why she'd be sweating when she was chilled.
Remembering Merryn had asked her a question, she nodded. "Aye."
Merryn's eyes opened, her conscious mind bringing the sounds of heavy breathing and moaning to her ears.
Coming fully awake, she felt Cara struggling with their blankets, legs kicking to free herself from her nocturnal demons.
"Please, no," Cara said, her voice a pleading whisper. "No!" she thrust her hips, neck arching.
"Cara!" Merryn grabbed the girl, her hand coming to settle on cold, clammy flesh.
"No! Please, Lord, save me! Merryn!" Green eyes opened, wide and unfocused.
"Cara, 'm here, lass. Cara!" Merryn cried when the blonde tried to push her away, the girl still trapped in her nightmare. "'Tis me. Merryn."
"Merryn?" Cara asked, her eyes resting on the brunette for a moment, before become unfocused and clouded again.
"Yer burnin' up, lass," Merryn whispered, resting her hand against the girl's forehead, sliding down her cheek to her neck. The skin was hot to the touch.
"Merryn," Cara whispered, falling back to the bed, hair plastered to her face and forehead.
"'M here, lass." Merryn placed a soft kiss to the blonde's forehead, then climbed off the bed pallet. She grabbed a rag, running out to dip it in Simon's water barrel. "Come'ere, Cara." Merryn sat next to the girl, bringing her head to her lap. Dark brows were drawn in concern. Her mind raced, trying to think of what Cara had given her when she'd come down with ill last winter.
She pressed the cool rag to the girl's face, Cara hissing at the chill that ran from her forehead through her body.
"Merryn," she whispered, her voice weak. "'Tis cold." She tried to push away from Merryn's lap, but the brunette held her fast.
"I know, lass. I know. Ye'v got a fever, Cara."
Cara mumbled something unintelligible, her eyes slipping closed She seemed to fall asleep again. Merryn studied her, fingers brushing away long, sweat-slick strands. She leaned down, brushing her lips where the cool rag had just been. She ran the rag all along Cara's face and neck, pushing the blankets down, exposing the tops of the blonde's naked breasts. Cara gasped and shivered as the rag was run along her upper chest.
Even in the moonlight, Merryn could see beads of sweat shimmering as Cara shivered. Gently placing Cara's head back to the cloak rolled beneath it, Merryn slipped from the bedroll once more. Lighting the lantern, she raised it to the shelf she'd built for Cara's medicine's and healing herbs.
Studying each container, each root and flower, she tried to remember, tried to think like Cara.
"Hydromel," she whispered, seeing the small jar of the honey mixture. Removing the stopper, she sniffed. The strong, potent mixture burned the inside of her nose. Glancing back at her friend, who was beginning to murmur in her sleep, body restless.
Merryn felt helpless, not sure what to do, and if the thick potion would even do anything.
"Cara," she whispered, falling to her knees beside the bed pallet. "Lass." Cupping the back of the blonde's head, she gently raised Cara. Green eyes barely opened, looking up at the brunette.
"Merryn," she said, a soft smile gracing her lips, a look of relief on her pale features.
"Take this, lass." Merryn dipped her finger into the mixture, bringing it to Cara's lips. The blonde snaked her tongue out, lapping weakly at the medicine. Her nose wrinkled as the taste made her taste buds explode. "More, lass. Come, Cara."
Cara took some more of the healing mixture in, recognizing it, but unable to find the name for it in her jumbled head. She smacked her lips, trying to get all of it off her tongue. This would have been an adorable gesture if Merryn weren't so worried about the girl.
Climbing back into the bed pallet, Cara snuggled up closer, shivering dangerously. Merryn wrapped her naked body around that of Cara, trying to use her natural body heat to keep the girl warm. This seemed to work until moments later, the blonde was kicking off the blankets.
Merryn awoke before sunrise. Cara was finally sleeping soundly, curled up in a ball. The brunette made sure she was covered, feeling her forehead. The fever seemed to have gone down somewhat, making Merryn sigh in relief. Maybe the hydromel had done the job after all.
Heading out into the early morning, she pulled her cloak closer around herself, glancing at Simon, who snorted at her.
Walking further out into the yard, she looked up into the sky, seeing all the twinkles beginning to disappear. The creatures of the night were still awake and chattering amongst themselves in the woods all around, something scampering by, trying to get away from the much larger animal that had suddenly appeared.
Sighing deeply, Merryn began her morning duties, feeding the donkey, gathering fresh water for the days use. Setting the water bladders and a basket filled with wild roots and potatoes on the table, Merryn looked to her friend. The new rays of sunlight were streaming in, brushing new life upon Cara's flushed face. The girl was still, lying on her back, head resting on its right side.
Merryn walked over to the bedroll, kneeling. Reaching out a hand, she felt the blonde's neck. The skin was hot to the touch. Dark brows furrowed as the brunette swept strands of golden hair aside, turned the color of spring wheat from sweat.
"Mo Shearc," she whispered, leaning carefully forward, brushing Cara's cheek with her lips, resting her forehead against the blonde's. Cara didn't move, her breathing even and calm. Another soft kiss and Merryn stood.
Cara's eyes opened, squeezing shut quickly as the bright light of high day streamed in. She took mental stock of where she was, and what she was doing there. Still in the bedroll, her naked body was covered by a heavy layer of blankets. She could feel slickness between her legs and under her arms. It was making her shiver.
Pushing the blankets aside, the warm air in the cabin began to dry the sweat from her body, making her sigh in relief. The blonde sat up, shaky and woozy, holding on to a log in the wall for balance.
Assured she wouldn't fall over, Cara released the wall, taking several deep breaths. She looked around the small cabin, seeing the stoppered jar of hydromel. Tasting the remnants on her tongue, she swung her legs around, feet hitting the dirt.
Standing on shaky legs, Cara brought one of the blankets up with her, tucking it under her arms and clasping it closed at her chest. Stepping through the open doorway, she felt the sun's rays beat down on her, warming her chilled skin. Simon glanced briefly at her from across the yard, where he was munching on wild grass. Off in the distance she could hear the soft notes of her flute.
Heading in that direction, Cara took it slow, her head feeling like it wasn't attached, feeling hollow and achy.
Merryn sat against a tree by the stream, the water glittering like precious gems. The brunette's head rested against the bark, the flute to her lips. The song she played was soft and sad. One leg bent, the other casually lying on the ground.
Cara watched her for a moment, letting the melancholy music float over her, eyes closing, fingers clutching the blanket tighter as the music sailed to her soul, making her chest swell, and eyes sting.
Merryn pressed and depressed the holes of the small instrument in time to make the notes that told the day of her worry for her friend. Her fear was palpable. She'd hung around the cabin for the majority of the morning, but had to get away, clear her head and think.
While Cara had slept, she had dreamt, and had spoken of those who chased her through her nightmares. Merryn had heard of the torments the blonde had faced while in captivity by Edward's men.
"Please, no, no," Cara whimpered, bringing her hands to her chest, tucking them in the safety of the ball her body made. "'T fire, burns," she gasped, thrashing to her back, neck arching as her face crumbled. "I know naught. I beg of ye! No more."
When Merryn had tried to waken her, the girl had simply gone quiet, falling into a peaceful sleep. It wasn't long before she was dogged yet again by another nocturnal assailant.
Merryn's song came to an end, the flute lowering to her thigh. She stared out into the day, wondering how she could be surrounded by such beauty when her heart was filled with black ugliness.
"Merryn?" Cara's voice was soft, filled with a question.
Merryn's head shot up, surprised that she wasn't alone. It took a moment, but she quickly got to her feet.
"Cara." Relief washed over the brunette in harsh waves, nearly knocking her to her knees. She reached for the blonde, then quickly snatched her hand back. The blonde smiled softly, closing the distance between them. She tucked herself against Merryn, sighing when she felt strong arms wrap around her.
Merryn inhaled the scent of the small body against her, though it was the smell of sweat and a body not washed, it was Cara. She allowed it to fill her, ease her tension and fear.
"Ye'v gotten good on the flute," Cara murmured, eyes closed as she relished the feel of Merryn's warmth against her. She felt Merryn's chuckle against her ear.
"Had a good teacher."
Cara hummed into Merryn's chest, a smile cracking her pale, dry lips.
"Come, lass," Merryn whispered into the blonde's ear. "Let us get ye a bath."
Cara moved slow, the water cascading down her body, like a blade slicing all the way down. Hand grabbing her stomach, she fought the nausea, bringing a hand to her mouth, eyes squeezing shut.
Getting to the shore, she fell to her knees. Her body convulsed as her stomach rebelled, the small bit of dried meat she'd eaten before her bath spilled out to the rocky shore, followed by dry heaves. Weak and panting, Cara fell to the shore, the cool water lapping at her feet.
"Cara?" Merryn ran to the blonde, dropping the dress she'd run back to the cabin to grab. She fell to her knees, mindful of Cara's sickness to her left. "I've got'cha, lass."
Cara clung to Merryn as she was pulled to her feet. Another wave of nausea rushed through her. Pushing the brunette away, she fell to her knees again, another spasm rocking her body. She felt a hand on her back, and her hair being held in a gentle grip.
Weak and dehydrated, Cara pushed herself to her feet, Merryn supporting her.
"We've got te get ye well, Cara," Merryn exclaimed. Her heart was pounding, skin prickly with sweat as fear gripped her.
Cara tried to think of what would help. Her mind was fuzzy, very few thoughts making sense , everything jumbled into a mix of thoughts and images, none staying long enough for her to make sense of them.
"We're almost there, Cara. Almost there," Merryn whispered, feeling Cara leaning on her more and more. By time they reached the cabin, Merryn was almost carrying the blonde. She butted the door open, panting as she got Cara to the bedroll.
Cara began to shiver as her body curled in on itself. She heard Merryn speaking to her, but the words were lost, her mind shutting down, lost in a maze of sound and delirium.
"Ye 'n I, lass," Merryn whispered, pulling the blankets from the girl's body so she could get the heaviest blanket out from under where Cara had collapsed. "We'll fight this." Her eyes opened wide, hands freezing as she lifted the blanket. Tossing the covering aside, she gently turned Cara to her side. "No," she breathed. White pustules and lesions littered Cara's upper back, near her left shoulder.
Merryn sat back on her haunches, stunned and unable to look away. She felt her heart seize in her chest. What was she to do about this? She knew nothing to cure it.
Knowing nothing else to do, Merryn climbed in behind Cara, pulling the blonde close. They'd see their fate through together.
Cara saw lights, so many colorful lights. She looked toward them. She did not feel the ground, her feet far above the land. A smile spread across her face, hands reaching for the beauty before her.
Merryn's eyes opened, feeling heavy and filled with sand. She tried to figure out what had awoken her.
"Mum, 'tis Cara." Cara's voice was so soft, so filled with awe and longing. Merryn pushed herself up to her elbow. Cara lay on her back, eyes open and unfocused. She reached a hand out, fingers spread. "Mum."
Merryn gathered the blonde, so hot, skin slick with sweat. "Hold on, lass. Just hold on," Merryn whispered, cradling Cara's head in her arms. The blonde's eyes closed, face pale. Her breathing was becoming labored. "Please, Cara. Please," Merryn begged, a tear slipping down her cheek. She felt Cara's body go limp in her arms. "Mo Shearc, please, please don'a leave me. Please." Her words were cut off as a sob escaped her throat, her face buried in Cara's hair. She couldn't breathe, her body shaking as the strength of her sobs grew, finally shaking them both. Raising her face to the Heavens, Merryn squeezed her eyes shut. "No!"
The sun rose, it's brilliant light spreading over the land like a golden plague. Merryn stared straight ahead, unblinking, unfeeling, cold and empty.
The sound of Simon snorting outside made her blink for the first time in many moments, her eyes dry and stinging. Looking down at the bundle in her arms, she brought up a hand, caressing Cara's cheek, cold and clammy. Leaning down, the brunette placed a soft kiss upon the dry lips, lingering for a moment, running her fingers through the cool strands of gold. She had no idea how long she stayed like that, hugging Cara to her, cheek pressed to the top of her head.
Squeezing her eyes shut, Merryn let the girl go. She carefully laid her down in the bedding, tucking her in for her long sleep.
Getting to her feet, she looked around the small cabin. Dressing, she pulled on her boots, leaving Cara's neatly lined up against the wall. She took her pouch from its hook on the wall, loading it with food, some healing herbs and medicines.
Merryn grabbed the small jar of rose water, inhaling its scent, her head bowing. She felt her shoulders begin to shake as new tears came, making her eyes sting all the more. Carefully replacing the stopper in the small bottle, she tucked it into her pouch. Something caught her eye, glittering. Cara's coin lay on the table, next to the blonde's pouch. She took it between trembling fingers, holding it up to her eyes, looking at the detail of their king, King Edward III, and his son, the Dark Prince.
Kissing the small token, she tucked it into her pouch, synching the bag then stringing the rope through it. As she tied the rope around her waist, she glanced at the blonde, so peaceful. So beautiful.
Tearing her eyes away, she quickly tethered her baldric in place, sliding her sword home. For a moment she thought about pulling the blade free, and finding it in her own gullet. The only thing that stopped her was knowing that Cara would never forgive her on the other side.
Merryn feels numb as she takes one last look around, carefully avoiding the bed pallet. Heading out into the warm day, she saw Simon, looking at her, dark eyes expressionless.
Slicing through the tether, Merryn walked past the animal, disappearing into the trees.
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