For general disclaimers see part 1.
Cyndi, ..........Thanks!!!!!!!!! Really!
I know, we didn't post for about a week, but we had a good reason: vacation! And it was a great one! <s>.
" I have waited for you all my life," Isa softly whispered when Mor's lips were almost touching hers.
Their lips met again, in a much more solid contact this time. First tentatively, a little hesitant, but with rapidly growing confidence and passion they explored each other's lips. Mor softly groaned when she felt Isa gently nibble on her bottom lip and she pulled the smaller woman even closer, while her body was reacting in a most interesting way.
The tip of Mor's tongue slowly explored Isa's lips and while the fire in her body seemed to build up, she granted the tall, dark woman entrance, softly moaning while her hand was buried in the long, dark hair, trying to pull Mor even closer.
Long moments later they breathlessly had to come up for air. Staring at each other with a mixture of joy and wonder.
Isa smiled, not trying to hide the tenderness that had softened her eyes and had turned them into a deeper shade of emerald green. Her finger slowly traced the outline of Mor's lips and she gasped when it was playfully caught between healthy white teeth.
Blinking away the moisture in her eyes that had suddenly appeared, she softly kissed a soft tanned cheek, seeing the clear blue eyes fill with tenderness.
Slowly they became aware of their surroundings again. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves on the trees, while the birds sang their songs and in the distance the sound of a small, rapidly flowing creek could be heard.
Mor and Isa were still standing close, their bodies melted together, their eyes locked. As soon as their lips met, Isa had felt like she had come home, to a warm, safe place. When she told Mor she had been waiting her whole life for her, she had meant it. The words had just tumbled out, but when she spoke them, she had realized, they came from the heart.
Isa saw the confusion in Mor's eyes and she reached out a hand to push back a lose strand of dark hair.
" Did I scare you by saying that?" she softly asked, knowing the answer even before Mor spoke.
" A little," Mor truthfully answered, her voice soft and husky.
In a nervous gesture Mor moistened her lips and looked at the smaller woman, who felt so right in her arms.
" I...I...there's never been anyone who ever...this feels so right, Isa, but...I lead a dangerous life. Sometimes I wonder what God is looking out for me, because I have not died yet. I...I always...It would not be fair to...you..."
The words would have stung Isa, if she had not been looking in the clear blue depths of Mor's eyes. She could see the anguish, pain and vulnerability and her heart went out to the taller woman. Never in her life had she felt such an urge to protect somebody else so much. Not in a physical way, because Mor was capable enough to look after herself, but in an emotional way. Isa wanted to soothe and heal the deep wounds that were inflicted to Mor's heart and soul, and keep them safe. With a wisdom that exceeded her age, she realized they needed time, she was willing to wait. For as long as it would take.
" Ssh," Isa silenced Mor by softly pressing her fingers against her lips. " I realize the danger, but I am willing to take the risks, Mor. Just tell me one thing.."
Isa's green eyes caught Mor's blue ones in a gentle, questioning gaze.
" When you just kissed me...did that...mean...anything to you?"
A voice in the back of Mor's mind started screaming at her, reminding her of all the reasons she should just shrug her shoulders and explain to Isa it had meant nothing. To tell her she was cute and attractive, but there could never be anything between them, because she, Mor, had responsibilities and a mission. The people of her adopted tribe were relying on her. She did not have the time, nor the luxury to get sidetracked by a pretty young girl, who looked at her like she was some sort of a hero.
Mor's eyes intently searched Isa's face and the smaller woman could clearly see the battle that was raging behind the startling blue eyes. To Mor's credit she did not try to avert Isa's gaze, but she stared right back in those soft, honest greens, desperately searching her heart for the right answer.
Yes, I do have responsibilities, she silently answered the warning voice inside. People do rely on me and yes, Isa is a huge distraction, but she is making me feel things I didn't know existed. She makes me feel so...warm inside. She just has to look at me and I can feel it, deep within my body. It's such a comfortable feeling, like I have known her for so long. What do I have to do? My mind tells me to turn away from this, but...I can't. It would hurt her. It would hurt me...
" It did," Mor finally whispered, closing her eyes for a brief moment, knowing there was no way back after she had spoken what was in her heart.
When she opened her eyes again she was rewarded with a brilliant smile and a pair of sparkling green eyes, that looked up at her with an expression of total trust.
" That's all I need to know," Isa replied, gently touching Mor's cheek. " Thank you."
With a deep sigh Isa put her head against Mor's chest and closed her eyes, immediately feeling the strong arms around her tighten, pulling her close. While Mor buried her face in a patch of reddish blond hair that was warmed by the sun and smelled like flowers and herbs.
" We hardly know each other," Mor halfheartedly objected, with a touch of wonder in her voice.
" I know, " Isa murmured, very content to be securely held by the tall, dark woman. " It's a little strange isn't it? But it feels so good!"
A low chuckle rumbled inside Mor's chest and Isa smiled in response. She lifted up her head and peeked at the tanned face above her.
" We have time," she stated with confidence.
Mor gazed in those gentle, loving eyes and could feel her insecurities fade into the background, while a warm feeling rapidly spread through her body.
She smiled and surprised Isa when she tenderly pressed her lips against the forehead of the smaller woman.
" Yes, we have," she answered.
Baldric cast a look at the sun, while resting Ragnarok and making sure the gentle horse munch on some grass and drink from the creek. He had made good time and was very pleased with himself. He felt like he stepped into the biggest adventure of his life. And it was a story even his sister could not have dreamed up.
In the distance Baldric could see the thin tendrils of fire raising up to the sky and he knew it was another Roman settlement. It was the one near the river Mosa, where the bridge was he needed to cross.
Baldric had been there before, with his friends. They had been secretly impressed by the way the Romans had their settlement organized. A neatly paved road ran from the north to the south, connecting the different camps, villages and settlements. Making traveling much more comfortable and less dangerous. One of his friends had told Baldric that if he would take the road to the south and follow it all the way, he would end up in Rome. Baldric had just laughed at his friend, but now, sitting near the creek, remembering the things he had seen in Mosa Trajectum before, made him wonder if his friend could have been right.
" I will have to ask Mor about that later," he mumbled, twirling a blade of grass between his fingers and staring into the clear, shallow water. " She will know."
To the young boy the tall, dark woman had become a hero bigger than life itself. Not only had she saved the life of his sister and himself, but she was warrior, leading one of the rebel armies in the east.
A small smile tugged on the corner of Baldric's mouth when he realized how lucky he had been to have met her. And how lucky his sister was. The small smile turned into a smirk when he remembered the stolen glances between the two women, the way they seemed to constantly need to touch each other. The physical closeness when they had been eating in silence.
Baldric sighed and lazily stretched his muscles, that felt a little stiff from riding Ragnarok.
" Who knows, maybe one day I can serve in her army," he optimistically thought. " I will just have to prove myself now. It's probably going to be the only chance I will get."
He sank backwards in the grass and crossed his arms behind his head. Patiently waiting for nightfall and the next morning, he would be crossing the bridge at the first light of dawn.
Just when he was about to doze off, Baldric woke up to the rhythmic sound of marching feet. He quickly rolled onto his stomach and pressed down into the grass, after casting a look at Ragnarok, who was still munching on some grass, hidden from view by a few tall trees.
" Stay put, girl," he mumbled. " Don't want those Romans to take you away, huh?"
He directed his attention back to road and tried to figure out how big this approaching patrol would be. He couldn't tell, but the different sounds did tell him there was at least one horse and a cart. Not a chariot, he could tell, because it was a heavy rattling noise.
After a little while Baldric could see the distinctive red tunics of Roman soldiers and he nodded his head, content with himself for his excellent hearing. It was a patrol and four men were marching in front. Behind them was the cart, driven by another Roman soldier. Baldric furrowed his brows when he saw what in the cart. Three men were half sitting, half lying in the cart and even from a distance it was obvious to him that they were bound with heavy shackles. Their faces were pale and withdrawn and Baldric wondered what their crime would have been, to be transported that way.
Suddenly he gasped when a fourth prisoner came into view. The man had obviously been lying down and was struggling to get to an upright position. He was a tall man, with broad shoulders. His clothes were dirty, torn and stained with dried blood, that formed distinctive rusty colored spots on the rough fabric. But that was not what had startled the boy. It was the color of the mans skin. It was covered with dust and dark like ebony.
Baldric had never seen anyone like him and his eyes were glued to the face of the dark man, that shone with pride. He could clearly see the look of contempt the man was giving to the Roman soldiers who were walking behind the cart, their hands on their swords and their faces grim.
When the little caravan passed his hiding place, Baldric could see the dark man slowly turn his head and for a moment their eyes met and locked. The boy froze in place, impressed by the power that was oozing from the darkest eyes he had ever seen. Then the man slowly winked at him and averted his gaze, staring into the distance with a bored expression on his face, leaving Baldric with his heart pounding heavily in his chest, while he slowly released the breath he had been holding.Wow! Gods, who is that? And why is he a prisoner? Maybe he's a slave. Wait till I tell Isa about this. She's gonna have a fit for missing out on it. I wonder where they will take him?
Baldric slowly got to his feet and climbed up the slope towards the road. Carefully he peeked through the bushes, staring at the group of Romans and their prisoners who were continuing their journey, unaware of the pair of green eyes that were eagerly following their every move. And certainly not aware of the courageous plan that was forming inside the mind of a boy, merely sixteen summers old.
" Will you take word to our father?" Isa asked when she and Mor slowly walked back towards the cave, their arms wrapped around each other.
Mor could feel Isa's gaze and she glanced aside, smiling gently.
" Yes, " she answered. " I will go when it's dark."
Isa slowly nodded in approval and patted Mor's side.
" Good, I will come with you."
Immediately she could feel the body under her hand tense and mentally she braced herself for Mor's stern look and determined voice.
" I will go alone," Mor simply answered, looking in the distance, avoiding the expression in Isa's eyes.
Gods! When did I get so soft? Mor the mushball, she mentally snorted.
" It is my father," Isa objected, realizing after she spoke the words, she sounded like a little child. Before Mor could react she softly chuckled and looked up to see a pair of startled blue eyes.
" Sorry about that, " Isa grinned. " That sounded pathetic. Let me think of something else, okay?"
Mor frowned, not knowing whether she should be annoyed or amused and her confusion was so painfully visible to Isa, that the younger woman stopped dead in her tracks and turned to her tall companion.
The twinkle in those gentle green eyes made her relax a bit and Mor returned Isa's stare with a raised eyebrow, which made the younger woman smile again.
" Have you got any idea how beautiful you are?" came the unexpected question, that seemed to hit Mor square in the face.
She felt a blush creep up, warming her sunkissed skin and she searched her brain to come up with something intelligent to say. With a sigh she gave up and changed tactics.
" Are you going to try and sweettalk me into taking you along?" she deadpanned, secretly enjoying the reddening of Isa's cheeks.
" No. No, of course not," the blond woman hastened to explain. " I..I..you were...you know and I..just ..it sort of occurred to me...that...how beautiful you are. That's all."
Isa's shoulders slumped and Mor saw her bite her lip in frustration. But then she felt gentle fingers lifting up her chin and her eyes met Mor's.
" I was teasing you, Isa," Mor confessed. " I'm sorry. Thank you for the compliment. But I have to return it. Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"
Mor could see the widening of Isa's eyes and complimented herself for being able to bring out that soft look of wonder on the smaller womans' face.
" I am?" Isa whispered.
" Yes, you are," Mor answered, softly stroking Isa's cheek with the back of her hand. " No one ever told you that?"
Isa shook her head and closed her eyes to revel in the warmth that the stroking of Mor's fingers brought her. It was a feeling that sent a tingling feeling down her spine and a warmth that was so intense, that even her fingertips were glowing.
Even with her eyes closed Isa noticed Mor's face coming closer and without opening her eyes she lifted up her face to meet a soft pair of lips. It didn't take long for them to lose themselves in the kiss. It had started tender and slow, but quickly developed into a deep, passionate kiss, that left them both gasping for air, while blood rushed through their veins and they could feel each others heartbeats.
Isa was grateful for the strong arms that held her close, because she felt her knees could give out at any time. She had buried her face against Mor's chest and dreamily mused that it was a spot that was quickly becoming her favorite. The warmth of Mor's lean, muscular body, the steady heartbeat under her ear, the strong arms that held her with such tenderness it almost brought tears to her eyes.
Mor kissed Isa's temple, that was so close to her lips and smiled contentedly. It was so good to hold Isa, feel the softness of her body against her own, the sweet smell of sun dried linen and herbs. It was so comforting and relaxing she could feel all tension leave her body and secretly Mor smirked.
If I keep this up, I will end up a puddle!
" If you really don't want me to come, I will stay at the cave," Isa's voice suddenly mumbled underneath Mor's chin. " But...you have to be careful, okay?"
" I am always careful," Mor's voice rumbled in Isa's ear.
Are you? Are you really? The annoying voice in the back of her mind stirred again. You call this being careful? Kissing in the middle of the forest, forgetting to keep your eyes open. You could have died a couple of times already, Mor. You and Isa both. You really think it's a good idea to let anyone close to you? You!? Somebody who is trained to fight and kill? Be sensible, warrior, let her go.
Mor felt her heart clench and she had to bite her lip not to scream out in frustration. The voice was right. It would probably be better for Isa if she would let her go. It would be safer and she would never have to see the raging violence of which Mor was capable. The blood. The gore. The danger.
Mor fought back the tears that were stinging in the back of her eyes and carefully took a steadying breath. Desperately trying to come up with the right words to tell Isa that she couldn't go though with it. For the blond womans' sake.
Mor felt like she had taken a fierce blow to her belly and could taste the bile that was rising up in the back of her throat. How could she look in those captivating green eyes and tell Isa their kissing was a mistake and that it would never work between them? That Isa's safety was too important and they could not stay together.
" Noooo!" another voice suddenly sounded inside her mind. You can't! You know you can't. Don't deny yourself some happiness, Mor. Don't deny Isa some happiness. The Gods know you deserve to have somebody in your life. You have been alone for such a long time. She touched your heart the minute you scooped her up in the forest. You know it's true! You fell and you fell hard, Mor! But it's worth it. Give it a chance. You have the skills to keep her safe. Open your heart, warrior, let her in. Please!
Slowly the nauseous feeling seeped from Mor's body and the pain that was in her chest seemed to disappear. She lifted her face towards the sky and could feel the sun warm her skin. She slowly blinked and her clear blue eyes spotted the hawk and followed its graceful movements. It was floating on the wind, making lazy circles above their heads. Its call pierced the warm summer air and brought a smile to Mor's face.
" Is this how it feels to fall under the spell of Freya?" Mor mused. " Is this what love feels like? This feeling of being torn in two? To know what is best and not do it. To throw concerns in the wind for the hawk to carry them away."
Mor glanced down to the blond head that was still resting against her chest. Isa's eyes were closed and Mor studied the peaceful features, the soft cheeks and the fair lashes that comfortably rested on them. A rush of warmth suddenly coarsed through her body, like a ray of sun, warming even the deepest places within her soul. An energy bubbled up inside, so powerful and overwhelming it almost made her dizzy. She breathed in deeply and tightened her hold on Isa, who stirred and glanced up. To see a pair of clear blue eyes look back at her, with such confidence and determination. With such depth and understanding that it took her breath away. Mor had let go of the reins that had been holding her emotions at bay and when she saw Isa look up at her, she wanted the smaller woman to see what was in her heart. She did.
Isa's face split in a wide smile and her eyes were sparkling bright.
" What is that look for?" she asked, rubbing small circles on Mor's linen clad back.
" For you," Mor simply answered.
Unexpectedly she scooped Isa up in her arms and cradled the startled woman against her chest.
" Mor! What are you doing?" Isa laughed. " Put me down, silly. I am way too heavy."
" Nah, you're not," Mor answered with a smirk, tossing Isa up in the air and effortlessly catching her again. " You are a light weight!"
Isa had put her arms around Mor's neck and the taller woman quickly stole a kiss, lingering on the sweet lips that were so warm and willing.
" I think you should come with me this evening," she said when they finally broke apart, noticing the surprise in Isa's eyes. " You can't go back to your village any time soon and you might not see your father for a while. The least I can do is let you visit."
" Thank you," Isa spoke, hugging the tall woman close. "Thank you."
Mor didn't respond, but with a smile she held Isa even closer.
It was after dark. Baldric had been waiting patiently for the sun to set and to be replaced by the moon, that slowly rose against the darkening sky. Only when the stars were out, sprinkled against the dark canopy high above his head, did he left his hiding place.
He did not dare to ride Ragnarok, but led the horse, making sure to walk alongside the cobblestone road. The grass would absorb the sound of the horse's hoofbeats and he would have a better chance of staying unnoticed.
In the distance Baldric could hear the rhythmic sloshing of the river's water against the shore and he didn't have to strain his eyes to see the different campfires at the settlement near the bridge. It was a clear night and from his vantage point on top of the hill, he could plan his approach.
Trajectum, which everyone called it because it was the only place you could cross the river, had a few holding cells. Baldric had discovered this from his previous visit to the Roman settlement. They were close to the temple of Jupiter and were situated near the bridge itself.
Baldric knew he had to be careful. It was impossible to take Ragnarok with him while he crossed the wooden bridge. She would make too much noise and the last thing he wanted was to attract any form of attention. So he led Ragnarok into the bushes until he found a little clearing and carefully tied the horse to a bush, making sure she could still move around a little and munch on the grass if she wanted. He stroked the soft, silky nose and kissed the horse's forehead.
" I will be back soon, girl," he whispered. " Try not to make any noises, all right?"
He turned and walked back towards the bridge, carefully looking around. There was no one in sight and that boosted the boys' confidence. He cautiously stepped on the bridge's wooden surface, making sure to stay at the railing, so if need be, he would be able to hide behind one of the many pillars that supported the structure.
It didn't take him long to cross the bridge without any problems, he then took a left turn towards the temple of Jupiter. In the distance he could hear laughter and music coming from one of the inns. There were a few inns at Trajectum. Lots of travelers and vendors used the road the Romans had constructed and they always ended up at the settlement. Business was booming.
Baldric however gave the inn a wide arch and continued to walk to the western side of the settlement, where he knew the holding cells for prisoners could be found. He only had to press his slender body against a dark wall once, to keep out of sight when two Roman soldiers crossed his path. They were obviously drunk and when they had passed him, Baldric let out a deep sigh. His heart rate had picked up and he tried not to think of the consequences if the Romans had discovered him sneaking around like that.
At last he reached his goal. A small building, constructed with mergle blocks from the caves. It was square with a slightly slanting roof and windows that were barred with thick, dark iron. Impossible to break free.
Baldric carefully looked around and when he was sure there was no one around, he stood on the tip of his toes and glanced inside. It was dark, but thanks to the light of the moon and the yellowish color of the mergle, he could see three people lying on the floor. He immediately knew the dark man was not one of them and when he stepped back and leaned against the wall, he wondered what the Romans had done with him.
Thinking what to do next Baldric suddenly heard a loud voice, screaming in outrage and although his heart was pounding in his chest, he decided to see what made the noise.
Making sure to stay in the shadows he carefully made his way towards what seemed like a campfire. There were about five Roman soldiers huddled by the fire. They were drinking wine and Baldric was convinced he recognized one of them from the patrol that had passed that afternoon.
One of the soldiers was standing away from the fire, near the trees, kicking at something Baldric could not identify, while his friends were laughing loudly. Only when the soldier stopped his yelling and unsteadily walked back to the fire, the young boy gasped. Rolled up onto his side he could see the form of the dark man he had seen that afternoon. He was lying on his side, facing away from the fire. His hands and feet were tied and he seemed to be wearing some sort of collar that was chained to a post.
Fascinated by the stranger and the situation he was in, Baldric decided to take a closer look. He slipped through the bushes, careful not to make a sound, even though the Romans were noisy and apparently drunk. It took him a while, but finally he reached the spot where the dark man was lying on the ground.
Baldric flattened himself against the forest floor, that was slightly damp and smelled like earth and moss. Slowly he crept forward, until his head was poking out of the bushes, unseen by the Romans, because the tall man was hiding him from curious eyes.
Baldric bit his lip and debated with himself what to do next. The man had his eyes closed and Baldric could not tell whether he was unconscious or just sleeping. Although the latter seemed quite impossible after the beating the man just had received from that Roman soldier.
Baldric opened his mouth to softly whisper, when suddenly a pair of big, brown eyes shot open wide, staring at him directly. He jerked in surprise and his first reaction was to crawl back into the bushes, but a sudden smile stopped him.
" You make so much noise you could disturb the eternal sleep of the dead," a deep, warm voice whispered.
Baldric was stunned and lost for words. Here was a strange person he had never seen before and the man spoke in his tongue.
" So, you slithered all the way over here to see ' The Creature' ?" the voice continued. " Well, what do you think I am? Have you decided yet?"
" W..well, a man, I guess," Baldric whispered. " But you look different and you have really dark skin."
" A man, huh?" the stranger chuckled. " And where, my boy, did you find that wisdom?"
Baldric swallowed and cast a look at the group of Romans, who were still drinking wine and playing a game of dice.
" My...my sister, she used to tell stories about people from other worlds and...and they always look different...sort of..." he finished. " Are you from another world? Which one?"
The dark man rolled his eyes, but smiled about the honest curiosity he could see in the face of the young boy.
" I come from a land many moons traveling away from here. Further than Rome. Across the sea and the big sand. All my people have dark skin."
" Did they capture you as a slave?"
" Unfortunately they did. A very, very long time ago."
Even the darkness could not hide the sadness in the dark man's eyes and unconsciously Baldric reached out a hand to touch a broad, muscular shoulder.
" I am sorry," he whispered with compassion. " Did they force you to work in the caves?"
The dark man almost invisibly shook his head and a sad smile crossed his face.
" No, young one. I used to fight as a gladiator."
" But you survived that, " Baldric breathed, impressed by the man, who was still looking powerful and confident, even though he was bound by hand and feet and could not move on his own accord.
" Only because a rich Roman citizen wanted me to train his gladiators for him. He wanted champions and he needed the best to teach them."
Baldric was silent for a moment, trying to comprehend what kind of life the stranger must have lead.
" So, why are you tied up like that now, then? What did you do?"
" It's the irony of the Gods, my boy, " the dark man sighed. " I once fought my master to help out a friend and he decided dying was too good for me. He put me in shackles and I have been that way ever since. They say I am too dangerous not to be bound."
" Since when?" Baldric whispered, his eyes wide with horror.
" Ten summers ago."
A silence fell and the dark man sighed.
" Tell me, young one. What is it that brings you here?"
Baldric shrugged his shoulders and cast down his eyes.
" I am not sure," he honestly answered. " I saw you in that cart and...I..I thought that...maybe, one...day...I could..you know, help you out or something."
" That is an honorable thought," the dark man smiled. " Why were you hiding in the bushes this afternoon?"
" I wanted to stay away from the Romans. I am supposed to cross the bridge at dawn and travel north. I have a message to deliver."
" Must be an important message then," the dark man drawled.
Baldric looked around him and brought his face closer to the stranger.
" It's for the rebel army, in the east."
The dark man's eyes lit up and for a moment a bright smile suddenly crossed his features.
" You are a man with a mission. But you got sidetracked, young one. That is not how a good courier should behave," he seriously said. " Your general must be able to rely on you."
Baldric nodded and bit down on his lip again.
" I know," he admitted. " But I have been really careful, honest. But I think you are right, if Mor finds out she will have my hide."
From the corner of his eye, Baldric saw the dark man's body jerk and when he looked up a pair of dark eyes stared at him intently. It was too dark to see the expression, but it was clear to the boy that the eyes were wide with wonder.
" Mor?" the dark man whispered. " She lived."
" You know her?" Baldric asked, barely able to contain his excitement.
" Know her?" the dark man breathed. " Yes, young one, I know her!"
" Are...you a friend?" Baldric cautiously asked.
" Yes," the man smiled. " I am her friend. So, what is the name of the courier the Gods made sure to cross my path and my Sauda has all that confidence in?"
" Baldric," the boy answered with a smile, feeling very comfortable in the presence of the tall dark stranger. " What's yours?"
To be continued in part 9.
Feedback and comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to the Academy