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Old 09-12-2010, 02:54 AM   #1
VampiricTouch
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Tides of Fate

At a single word, a simple gesture, heads would roll before such a woman, the empress of Attica. The ruling house and its tenuous position had brought her to him as a means to reassure her qualms... but still she felt she was much too good for this place.

A seat was offered and she settled in with a contemptuous sniff. Despite the prestige he had garnered, his house was plain. There was none of the wealth of gold nor the luxuries of silk to soften the hard walls of his humble abode. It tried her patience to be in such a room, but any word to a secure future would be worthwhile.

The grate of his staff across the ground brought her attention to the door as the blind prophet was escorted in. The heavy cloak carried the smell of incense, no doubt from his visits to Apollo's temple.

"My deepest apologies for your wait. A touch of your hand please, and if Apollo should favor you with words, I shall profess it." The aging man bowed, his hand held out in a request for hers. There was a touch of disdain as she reluctantly left the barest tips of her fingers to his hand, but that annoyance was eclipsed by something else when he began to speak again. "The riches of the earth surround your house of extravagance, but a river of blood flows in and sweeps it all away... "

She froze in her seat as the servants that had accompanied her rose into a hushed anxiety of whispers. "Does this not mean the throne will fall...?" Her voice was icy as the room fell into a chilling silence.

"I - I Atropa greet the Imperial Queen!" The blind man fell to his knees at the sound of the woman's voice, as the pieces of her voice, her words and his own prophecy made apparent his client's position.

"They say you are the greatest prophet in all of Attica, deserving of praise as one who was born with Apollo's blessing..." Her voice was like the footsteps of death knocking upon his door. Even with her hand withdrawn, he could feel the clutches of death approach... just as he could feel the fear within her own voice. "If you knew who I was than you should have been prepared for the consequences of your words, and you dare profess the end of our reign? In front of all these servants? You sightless fool! Pronounce your words as false! Prophecy that my son will ascend the throne! As will the sons of his sons to follow!"

"I... I cannot my queen. I have taken an oath to Apollo. I am only a servant to him who has granted me foresight. I will only prophecy the truth."

"Even if it means your life?"
Her voice was dangerously soft, but still the silence stretched between them. "Then tell me who will rise against us. If you tell me, I may spare your life."

"I-- I don't know" It was the barest of whispers from a man who was terrified of the consequences of such words.

"Kill everything in the house that breathes! Bring everyone from the household here!" There was no hesitation as the woman pronounced judgment in the heat of her wrath. A crash accompanied her words as the serving girl dropped her tray in terror while the guards closed in on her.

"They are not of concern!! Please show mercy!"

"Then tell me."

"I am only a servant of the gods, I only know what the gods show me!"

"Then you will watch your family and servants die. Kill the girls first."


"I - I don't know who will rise, but I know the harbinger! The - the source!" It was a final attempt as he made a silent prayer to Apollo, pleading for mercy for the lie he would now speak. The scuffle stilled to only the softer sobs of terrified women.

"Very well."
The flick of her hand and the guards released the serving girl tending to their needs.

"An ocean warrior, one who is raised and nurtured upon the land blessed by Poseidon. The one that will be chosen by Poseidon will be the source of bloodshed."

"A land blessed by Poseidon... would be the Isle of Nisida. It is said that a child amongst those that come of age will be chosen by Poseidon as the Warrior of the Sea..."

~~~~**Isle of Nisida**~~~~

The girl dove into the water, vanishing under the waves that surrounded the small island before bursting from the water several moments later. Drenched hair slicked backwards from her upturned face as water splashed with her emergence. Crystaline droplets adorned her lashes before falling away as her eyes opened. A nymph, no a woman savoring the joys of the ocean, and offering her praises to its god.

"Alexis Maheras! Come back here! It's time to prepare for the ceremony!!"

The girl started at the call before making long even strokes towards the shore - truly a child of the seas, water dripped from her clothes as she rose, trying to wring them dry.

"I'll be the one to take Poseidon's sword! Don't think that because you're now old enough you can compete!" The clamoring of friendly jests made her grin as the lot of boys carried her along to meet the priest of Poseidon... irregardless of the drowned look of her attire. She was the only girl to have joined this year's competition.

The pack of boys skidded to a stop before the temple by the sea, adrenaline pumping a high beat in their veins. Alexis turned to curiously eye the many strangers that had arrived in their small village. Were they here to see the Warrior of the Sea? Her eyes caught a glimpse of the sword that hung on their side - they were warriors as well! Their presence only heightened her excitement as spectators and candidates alike made their way towards the waters edge. Together led in prayer as the tides receded... revealing the sword of Poseidon resting in it's rightful place.

It was a brilliant glimmer of steel, ornate with gems on the hilt in a decal of Poseidon's trident... a glittering in the horizon of the setting sun and sheathed in the crevice of the Holy rock. All eyes turned to their goal, waiting for the priest's signal for the ceremony to begin. Alexis turned her eyes to the priest, watching as his prayer came to an end and the fire upon the alter burst into a furious blaze - their sign.

As a whole they dove into the sea, vying with each other to get ahead, to capture the sword and bring it back to shore. The waters erupted in a roiling heat of battle as each one sought to slow others and get ahead. Alexis stayed still, allowing others to take the lead and be stopped as punches and kicks were thrown. When most were engaged, she proceeded forward, long practiced strokes for speed propelling her towards the distant rock that emerged once a year.... Only to have the sword pulled from it's place just inches from her fingers.

She dove back into the water, this time going deeper as she tried to catch up to her competitor from below. She was one of the faster swimmers and just before they reached the shore, she caught up to him, and pulled him under.

"Archers, ready your bows! Get ready to take down the one who brings in the sword!" One of the strangers stepped forward and commanded. The strangers without bows drew swords to suppress both villagers and priest alike. "This is the royal command! We are here only for the Warrior of the Sea. No harm will come to you if you obey."

Alexis heard none of those words, nor the clamor of fear as she wrestled under water with her friend for the taking of the sword. A hard punch finally forced him to release his grip as Alexis gave a powerful kick towards the surface.

"I'm this year's Warrior of the Sea!" Stepping forward, she drove the sword into the sandy beach in a proud declaration of her claim.... only to have a stray arrow graze her shoulder.

"Wha- What are you doi-" Her words were cut short as the other archers fired. She drew the sword to defend herself, knocking the projectiles aside as the other soldiers closed in. When an arrow lodged itself in her arm, she finally dove for the sea, hoping to find refuge within her element...
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Old 09-12-2010, 04:34 AM   #2
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Thunk

The sound was repeated a hundred times over as iron struck brass studded wood. Another sound mingled with the sound of wood and metal, the sound of men crying out in pain. Not every storm was harmless droplets of water, no this was a rain of death that threatened to blot out the sun in black feathers, brown shafts, and grey metal. Men screamed as some arrows found purchase in arms, legs, and even the unfortunate face.

From the depths of his helm his voice boomed over the sound of fighting, of dying. “Advance!” Delmar heard the sound of thousands of foot steps moving in unison. The sound of thousands of spears rattling against the gap between shield and brother shield was almost as loud as the impact of the arrows. Another painstaking step taken and the field rumbled with their approach. “Volley!” called another throat to his left as his 2nd Pisistratus called out the arrival of a fresh stream of arrows. Shields came up as the skies turned black with death.

Thunk

There was a heartbeat in battle, a music of sorts if one knew how to listen. He had learned to listen well to the pulse, war was bred into his bones from the day he was old enough to lift a practice sword. Cousin to the Empress herself meant he had a duty to the Empire that must be paid in blood. His breathing seemed to fall in time with the beating heart of death. “Advance!”

They were an imposing figure as the armies of Attica slowly chewed up earth to engage those whom should be serving them. Emboldened by strife on the outskirts of the Imperial holdings the locals of Etrusca decided it was an ample time to liberate itself from under Attican control. It was Delmar’s job to show them they were wrong; dead wrong. “Volley!”

Thunk

Walk, pause, raise. It seemed such a mundane pattern, yet it was that repetition that kept each man within the Phalanx alive. When a man fell another moved up to replace him. It was this repetition that bred instinct into men, and fear into the enemy. “Advance!” Another few paces and…

“Loose!”

In a flurry of motion the first rank of the Phlanax stepped forward. Shields were lowered and every man in the front line drew back and hurled a seven foot long spear with all the strength in his arm. At this range aim was not nearly as important as raw power. The length of the spear, the weight of the head and butt point both balanced and lent force to the throw. Each man followed through his throw by dropping to a knee and raising shield again. Drawing the short thick blade from hip they waited with poise as the men behind them threw spear and followed suit.

The entire formation seemed to writhe like some sort of living serpent, spitting a venom of spears. There was no defending from such a blow, no wooden shield could stand up to the velocity of a thrown spear at this distance. Shields raised were pierced, as were the men behind them. Men who failed to raise shields fast enough were sometimes impaled and the man behind was pierced as well.

It was over almost as suddenly as it began. Now there was a mass of shields with flesh, blood, bone, and iron behind it. Men awaiting as the enemy was left with no choice but to break and run, or to charge headlong into the serpent. Bravely what remained of the decimated forces of the Etruscan army came fourth, screaming with fury and brandishing weapons of all type. It was like watching water crash against a dam.

The tide of men struck shield and blade, split down the center and was turned away as the chaos of battle enveloped the field. Men fought and died for monarch or country, for duty, or freedom. Today freedom lost the battle. The Etruscan forces broke against the Phlanax and men dropped weapons and begged for quarter. It was over…

But at what cost?

This thought plagued Delmar more and more as of late. He could not take pleasure in slaughtering his countrymen, especially men who were supposed to be loyally serving the Empire. This was not a battle, it was a butchering. These men wore rags, had weapons that were little better than plow metal. They should be toiling in fields, not trying to hold in their last ounce of breath. There was no glory in slaughtering peasants. He felt dirty; he wanted nothing more than a bath right now. Yet duty kept him shackled to this course.

“See that any man who surrenders is treated for injuries and fed. Remember these men are cousins, brothers, fathers. Pisistratus?”

“My lord?”

“See to our wounded and dead and then get our men off the field, we have to be back inside the city proper before nightfall. Once we are settled I feel the need for a drink.”

“It will be as you say lord Delmar

Delmar wanted to be sick.

Last edited by Firmhanded_Daddy : 09-14-2010 at 04:46 AM. Reason: added pic
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Old 09-13-2010, 01:48 AM   #3
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Alexis swam hard. It was a strain, gliding along the ocean floor with the blood seeping into the water and pain hampering her strokes... but she kept pressing forward. She had to. There was a series of hidden caves along the far shore of the island... at the very least she could find shelter there for some time. When her lungs felt like they'd burst in their need for air, she kicked upwards, rising slowly to break the surface for that precious breath of oxygen... before sinking under again.

It was an eternity before her strokes scraped against the rough sand floor and her head broke free of the waterline. Staggering steps brought her ashore as water dripped everywhere, from the drenched clothes to her drenched curls. She gritted her teeth as she pulled the remains of the broken arrow loose, gasping when the wood left her and blood poured forth. Her chest heaved as she worked to keep steady breaths, her still shaking hands binding the wound with strips of her tunic. Washing the blood from her hands, she made her way deeper into the cave, making sure to walk across the rocks as opposed to leaving her prints in the sand. Settling into a less noticeable crevice she finally found the chance to ask the questions why.

Every year the Warrior of the Sea was received with open arms and celebration. Why was this time different? Did she do something wrong? There was never an additional test with the sword, and surely it would not involve the taking of her life... Did her father know this would happen... that strangers would come and interrupt their yearly celebration? Did the priest know?

Sleep carried her in and out of her thoughts, and both sleep and thought were chased away when she heard a familiar voice call her name. Shifting quietly from her corner, she watched as one of the boys wandered further into the cave.

"Anatole! What're you doing here? How'd you know where to find me?" Alexis answered his call, pulling herself out from the darkness as she spoke. "What happened? Why did those strangers attack me? Is it because of something I did?"

"I'm here because the younger ones are the only people able to get away without the guards noticing. The priest had a hunch that you'd hide here. I brought you some food, eat first while I explain." The boy settled down and pulled open a oil skinned parcel to present Alexis with bread, refusing to speak anymore until Alexis started tearing into the offered food. "Those men that attacked you, seems like they're part of the royal guard."

Alexis nearly choked on the dry bread, wheezing a moment before she swallowed it down, "What'd I do??"

"I was serving them dinner and I heard one of them saying that you'd bring down Attica if you're not killed."

Anatole caught the bread as it fell from her hands in shock. "ME? Bring down Attica?! With what? Why would I EVER want to do that?"

"That's what we all tried to tell them, but no one would hear a word of it. They say the prophet Atropa prophesied it.... and you know, they say he's blessed by Apollo and he's always right. They've even got a picture drawn up of you, mind you we all did our best to not give you away." He rifled through the parcel to pull out a parchment of paper, the sketched lines delineating the beautiful face of a woman framed by long curls of black hair... not quite what Alexis appeared as she was now, but rather a true illustration of the woman she would inevitably mature into.

Alexis took a look at the picture, and sputtered into laughter. "That is definitely not me. It's too much like a lady! No one would believe a softie like that took Poseidon's sword from the lot of you!" Her laughter subsided as the full weight of her circumstance slowly dawned upon her... and silence fell as she thought of the problem at hand. Anatole quieted as he allowed her the time to think about her next move. His hands worked gently to rebind the rough bandage around her left arm to pass the time while she thought.

"That prophet must've lied." She broke the silence with a simple statement, as if those words would undo all the problems she suddenly found herself in. "I can't go back home now can I? Those soldiers are waiting for me there aren't they... At least with this horrible drawing I can get away."

"That's what the priest suggested as well. I've several changes of clothes for you. Here." He pulled out the remaining items to reveal a few sets of male clothing. "The priest also suggested you try to pass as a boy, since the guards are currently searching for a girl, you act enough like one, it shouldn't be too much of a problem."

Alexis nodded in agreement, "It should be easy enough to cut my hair and pretend."

His face fell as he passed her the items he'd brought. "Where'll you go?"

"To Attica, the mainland. I think I'm going to go find this prophet, and make him admit that he'd lied.
" There was no hesitation as her voice picked up an edge of anger. "I think I can get on a boat some how and get there. I'll get off the island tomorrow morning with one of those smaller merchant vessels that go out to trade for supplies... and work things out from there."

He reluctantly nodded in his agreement with her plans, now that very little choice was afforded to her. "Be careful. Word has it that Etruscans are harassing the coast. It would be best to not get caught up with that...."

She put up her best front of optimism as she saw his concern. This was her problem now. There was no need anyone else to shoulder it. "I won't. I know better than that. Tell me though, before you go. Everyone else is unhurt right? My father isn't caught up into this because of me right?"

Anatole stood up and made his way towards the rising tide. Only when his back was turned did he answer, "Everyone is fine. Your father gives his best wishes... He's proud of you for taking the title and will wait for you to come home when this is over. Take care of Poseidon's Sword.... Don't forget to bring it back before the year is over. " He didn't dare lie to her face, neither could he bear it for her to shoulder something like the death of her father... whose only crime was that he would not give the soldiers his only child. "May Poseidon be with you."

~~~~****~~~~

She always did like the dock market. There was always something interesting happening in all the activity... but interesting didn't fill an empty stomach. As her stomach growled, she worked her way towards the bustling inn. Staring hungrily at the food laid out on the table, she was dragged into the kitchen as a spare hand in return for food.

"Boy! go haul in some more firewood from the yard and then bring out that plate of food to the table at the corner, and don't drop it! They say Lord Delmar is coming today, I'll not give him a reason to take my head because of any clumsiness on your part!" The chef yelled at her as she scurried out the door. It was a relief that they accepted her as male without a hitch despite the picture of her posted across the door of the Inn... but in some ways it felt almost insulting that she was not questioned.

En route to the firewood, she caught a glimpse of one of the other servants busy gutting and cleaning the fish. Something was amiss. When she returned and left the firewood in it's place, she pulled the chef aside, "I could've sworn a few of the fish being cleaned by that servant out there were poisonous sir. They shouldn't be eaten, it could kill some-"

"Don't stick your nose where it doesn't belong. I'll go look at the fish. Go tend to that tray of food before it gets cold, and ye better learn to do it with some tact too!" He growled and quickly sent her out onto the floor with a balancing act of bowls and cups... just as the front door opened.

Her hands tremored under the weight of the tray, and she was suddenly grateful that the tray had been put down soon after. She felt the room fill with tension as she slowly backed away behind a customer. There was certainly no need to garner attention from someone as high ranking as the Empress’ cousin... especially not when her face was plastered on the door he just opened.
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Old 09-14-2010, 04:42 AM   #4
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There was not a procession of the conquered through the city as one might expect. A makeshift camp was set up right within the field of battle, though far enough away that the wounded could be cared for in a relatively clean area. There was one addition to the camp, the royal command tent was thrown up, though none of the extravagance that one would expect from such were present. The tent actually was not even furnished at this juncture except for a pair of camp chairs that folded for easy storage. He was pacing the length of the tent by the time Pisistratus entered the flap.

“You asked for me, my lord?”

“Yes Pisistratus. I want you to bring me the man in charge of the resistance forces, the other prisoners are to be detained until further notice, and the wounded are to be cared for until they are stable enough to join the others.”

Pisistratus pressed fist to chest and bowed in salute and exited the tent. It was another twenty minutes before a man that looked easily ten years older, if not more. He walked with a slight stiffness in his left leg, an old injury; and he had a bandage wound around his head that was slightly bloodied. Despite the state he was in despite the fact that he was staring into the face of his captor and a man much higher on the imperial food chain than he himself he did not grovel, he did not bow, he looked Delmar straight into the eyes.

“What is it you want of me?”

He growled in a graveled voice rough from shouting commands over the battlefield and tight with pain, yet he did his best to show no weakness; a proud man.

Delmar drew a hint of a breath and took a moment to compose his thoughts. He was no politician! Despite his training he was a glorified soldier and nothing more. Yet he knew the risks, the fate that awaited every man in the resisting army if he did not act quickly and efficiently to block it. Even if these people would not acknowledge him as a leader, he would do his duty and protect them from danger, even self imposed danger. Respect your enemy and he will respect you.

“First your name and station, who are you to lead these people?”

It was bordering on an insult, but he knew if he wanted information from this man he would have to goad him, poke his pride a little for flattering him would bring only sneering silence. Sometimes a man needed to be pulled rather than pushed, much like a horse. If the apple would not lead the beast, than the lash would do just the same.

“I am the Archon.”

It was all he said, as if it should be enough of an explanation, and to Delmar it was. He was the single most powerful man in Estrusca. With a nod of his head Delmar motioned to the chair in front of him slowly. “Then I am in the company of a man deserving of honors, be seated and we can discuss this in a civil manner.”

The Archon hesitated as if not expecting such a dramatic change and then slowly took the seat offered. Only then did Delmar seat himself in front of the man. The chair groaned under the weight of his body, and his armor.

“I am not going to deceive you, or try to maneuver you into doing anything, I am going to give you some information and you will then need to decide where the duty to your people lies, Archon.”

He paused for a moment and looked over the other man and then ran his fingers through short black hair that hugged his face. His dark eyes stared back at the man across from him weighed heavily with what he was about to say, choices like this were not easy to make, yet duty was rarely easy.

“Open rebellion cannot, and will not be tolerated. It must be met without mercy. The Empress will certainly expect me to make an example of all people responsible for this situation. Right now as my orders stand I am to quell this rebellion in whatever way possible, at whatever cost. As it stands at this moment I have done that. However once news of this reaches her she will require me to make an example of every man who stood against the empire. This would require me to put every man who wielded a blade, maybe even the men responsible for making them to the sword. Make no mistake about it Archon if that is my orders I will not hesitate…”

He paused and let that thought sink in for a moment. Reaching up to scratch at the facial hair that surrounded his lips like a moat. It had been a forced march to get here and when he got back to the garrison the first thing he was going to do was take a nice hot bath, sweat always made his facial hair itch.

“…Or I can take the choice out of Her hands. I can find the mastermind behind this whole ill fated assault, put him to the question, disband his house, strike his family name from the records and put every member of his surviving family to the sword as an example to any man who dared raise a blade against Attica.”

The Archon’s eyes widened in shock and he looked as if he were going to be sick, yet neither emotion kept him silent. “You cannot expect me to chose between the lives of my men and that of my only daughter! You are truly a monster to make me even think of such a choice!”

Delmar sighed wearily and fixed the other man with a piercing stare. “For a learned man you do not hear very well. You are a dead man no matter what happens this day, but you can save the lives of your men and those of your servants by shouldering this responsibility. Dead men have no family, have no houses, have no riches.”

The Archon blinked and then nodded numbly once when he understood the implication offered, Delmar continued as if he had seen nothing.

“Your serving staff will be given places of honor in the service of the royal family, nobly trained servants are highly valued by those with a discerning eye. As for your fate, Archon being put to the question can be extremely hard on an old man’s body.”

The Archon nodded his head again with more practiced grace and spoke in a voice that was hoarse, but steady. “Then you need look no further for those responsible my lord, it was all my doing, I am fully responsible for the crimes brought against the Empress’ rule. I submit to your authority and ask that you grant me mercy.”

Delmar nodded his head once and smiled a sad smile. Standing slowly he pressed a small thin needle with a black acrid oil on the tip into the other man’s hand and spoke in a strong clear voice. “Your plea for mercy shall be denied Archon and your sentence will be carried out within the hour, you are to be put to the question to root out any of those whom could have conspired against you and then they too shall share your fate. There is no mercy for traitors.”

The other man was carried off by Pisistratus himself and then when the grizzled man returned he looked toward Delmar with a thoughtful frown. “My lord what in the underworld was that about? I may not be as sharp as I was in my younger days but it looked to me like you gave him a poisoned nee—“

“It was everything you saw my old friend. I will not see an entire populous of men or worse, an entire nation put to the sword for wanting to be free if I can avoid it. She is not known for her mercy but sometimes an iron fist is the touch that destroys instead of bends.”

Pisistratus nodded slowly in understanding.

True to every word within the hour the Archon was put to the question and he held out under the stress for less than a full thirty seconds before he died suddenly on the table. His surviving daughter was taken from her home and explained that her father had purchased her life with his and she would be moving to Attica proper to live as a serving girl to Dalmar’s own sister until a suitable match could be found to wed her.

Within two hours the Army broke camp and all of the Etruscan people were released.

-*-

It was near sundown before Delmar, Pisistratus and a small handful of guards made their way into the city proper. Feeling refreshed from his bath and the ability to have solved the problem of punitive action against the rebels without putting a whole town on pikes left him in high spirits. After inquiries into the local garrison they were directed to a tavern not far from the docks told that they had the best food anywhere in the city.

The men entered the tavern and he noticed how silence fell upon the common room. A obviously well fed and well off man startled at their entrance but then ran to greet them at the door. “Welcome, welcome! We had heard that Lord Delmar was in the city and might be gracing us with his presence, you honor me with your presence gentlemen, please sit and relax. Everything will be out shortly, on the house of course, if you will excuse me”

Delmar frowned thoughtfully, men who made a living peddling wine, food, and rooms rarely gave anything “on the house” especially to nobles. More like than not they inflated the prices of said items and then proclaimed the honor of his company and that they were giving him a discount. Something just did not feel right. “Before you go, who is that young woman on the door? How is one young woman going to bring down the Empire? Last I checked my cousin was not the sort to fancy a pillow friend, she was interested in men.”

Chuckles rumbled through the soldiers for a moment but the tavern proprietor did not look amused at all. “I..I am not sure my lord, the sign was posted by the local garrison… if you will excuse me your food will get cold”

Yes this man was absolutely on the edge and Delmar noted it. His suspicions raised he and the men settled into a pair of nearby tables only to be met by a serving “boy” with bowls and wine. He looked like a boy, dressed like one, but Delmar had never seen a male with hips like those, or a boy walk with just the hint of a sway like that. Now he was absolutely sure there was something not right about this tavern. He eased the dagger at his belt, but masked it with the motion of straightening the green velvet coat that hugged his torso firmly, inlain with a faint hint of silver thread at the cuffs.

“Thank you…young man” There was hesitation in his voice as if he were not quite buying the ruse, but could not gather enough to call “him” on it.
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Old 09-14-2010, 11:30 PM   #5
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"I thought I told you not to prepare that in front of people!" It was a low hiss of anger and anxiety from the chef

"No one will recognize this... not many know the life in the seas."

"Some boy we brought in to work today noticed. He's probably from the islands around here."

"Keep him busy, then dispose of him when you're done using him. You’re paid enough to make sure things run smoothly..." His voice dropped to an ominous low, “Besides, you know what happens if you fail.” The pair paled at the implications and quickly returned to work.

~~~~****~~~~

The innkeeper ushered the men to the best seats in the room and Alexis followed them with caution.The room had lightened with baron Delmar’s humor, but the attention paid on her portrait was not lost upon her. The slow tremor of her hands came not from the weight of the wine, but from the grip of fear, nearly dropping the pitcher altogether when his thanks dripped with skepticism.

He was a shrewd one. It was a simple thought, but it sufficed in raising her appreciation of the man... as well as tightening her guard.

She didn’t need to be told to keep their glasses filled, it was in her own best interests that they forgot about the strange serving boy.... and good wine always did work wonders. Food was prepared as everyone worked hard to not offend the baron or his men. Between runs to the kitchen to bring in food and to pour more wine, her hands were full. But she did notice the familiar servant making his way out with his dish...

Ignoring the suddenly urgent call from the kitchen, she followed him out with her empty pitcher.

"Please enjoy, that's our local specialty." The servant offered a smile and set down his plate before the baron, in time for her to see the fish she'd cautioned against earlier. Why were they serving such things? Certainly it was not to their advantage to have someone die.... unless they intended for it?

She hesitated in her place, peering over the shoulders of two other servants blocking her view to bring in plates of food. It wasn't until one of the men took a piece of the fish that pushed her into action. There wasn't time to make her way through the small area, instead the pitcher went flying over head to crash against the plate of fish, upending it's contents on the floor as well as the men she was supposed to be serving.

"You! Are- Are you trying to kill his grace?!" The servant paled as the fish in question was suddenly disposed of and the room went up into chaos. "Get him! He nearly murdered Baron!"

Alexis panicked.

As servants and patrons turned on her in unison, she ran. Pausing only long enough to grab her things before she flew out the door. The man that swung down with his blade was parried by the cloth covered sheath of Poseidon's sword. The pause was long enough for her to duck under and run. She had potential. Evidenced by her defense as she blocked the blows that came, but the obvious lack of experience was displayed by her inability to fight back. She was agile, but there were too many people against her.

"The fish was poisonous!! I didn't want them to eat it!!!!"
She yelled in her desperate defense as her sword was knocked out of her hands, but that didn't stop the chef that lifted his cleaver to dispose of her...
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Old 09-16-2010, 08:03 AM   #6
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When he told his joke, one man did not laugh. Pisistratus focused a sharp glare on Delmar from behind his back, something the younger man did not catch as he was occupied studying their surroundings. He had no reason to cast his gaze toward Pisistratus, the man had nearly been a father to him there was no man he trusted more; then again trust was a fleeting, foolish thing.

The common room of the tavern settled into an uneasy, tenuous semblance of normality. Though a man or woman occasionally sent a furtive glance in the direction of the small party of armed soldiers. The serving “Boy” did a fair job of keeping the glasses full, though to be fair most of the men had sense not to drink too deeply. These were not just soldiers, their armor was molded metal plate rather than scale and leather like regular infantry, these were elite soldiers who rarely left Delmar’s side. Men with a tendency to get deep into drink did not last long in positions of such high esteem. Delmar himself barely drained a full glass before the food finally arrived.

A different servant brought out the food, and that struck Delmar as odd. The one boy had been more than efficient at seeing to the wants of all of the men; as a matter of fact he had just left after topping off Delmar’s glass. "Please enjoy, that's our local specialty."

Perhaps it was too much time spent around nobles but Delmar had developed a fine sense for when something was wrong, some would call it a finely tuned survival instinct. Whatever it was, it caused the fine hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end. The serving boy was smiling at him. This might have been normal except for the fact that he was not the sort of man other men smiled at.. at least not like that. Women smiled at him that way, in that sort of disarming ‘I want you to do something for me’ way.

Delmar hesitated and one of the other men took this as if he were not going to touch the dish. It smelled great, but there was just something off about that boy. Maybe it was just his imagination? He started to reach for the utensils… and that was when crockery started to sprout wings.

The wine pitcher fell and shattered, carrying fish and wine to the floor and just about everywhere else except Delmar’s plate. Ten men were up in a flash with blades naked and glaring in the torch light. One man grabbed the boy who had dropped off the now discarded fish, the rest tried to form a ring around Delmar.

This had gone from a tavern common room to a battle field. For Delmar’s part he fell naturally into the roll of command. His eyes scanning the room he noticed most people were shrinking back against the walls with fear. There was however a flurry of motion heading toward the back. He saw the “boy” who had been serving them.

He was moving before his brain had totally registered what was happening. It was pure reaction and instinct. Something told him the young urchin was important, even if he didn’t know it yet. He watched one of his men lunge with blade bared toward Alexis in time to see it parried with…cloth?

No there was something beneath the cloth. The child moved gracefully and light on her feet. There was a blade in her hand from beneath the cloth and before Delmar could close the distance of all people the cook joined the fray.

The ornately decorated blade skidded across the floor and Delmar just reacted. Hand to his belt in one fluid motion he drew the dagger and hurled the medium bladed blade with strength built of desperation. The cleaver was still coming down, the dagger was not going to strike in time. “Stop!” His voice boomed over the din like an explosion.

The chef was not a man of war, the loud noise startled him. Whatever gods were listening were on Alexis’ side. The throw had been slightly sloppy and would have gone wide had the big cleaver wielding man not turned just enough. Red bloomed from his breast like a rose reaching for the sun and surprise registered on the cook’s face.

The blow that had been intended to sever Alexis’ head lost momentum and the cleaver fell from nerveless hands that would never prepare another meal. The cook was dead before his body fell to the floor.

Delmar did not stop running. Instead he reached down and scooped up the fallen blade. He advanced toward Alexis with the pommel in hand, blade pointed toward the floor. He let his dark eyes lock with her own for just a moment and then he nodded as if he had read something in her gaze. Flipping his wrist the blade twisted in the air and he grabbed the blade deftly, keeping fingers and skin away from the sharp edge. He extended the handle to her and spoke.

“You will be wanting that back I trust. You’re no killer child, but you are quick on your feet. Come with me, I have questions about that fish.”

He turned his side to her as he bent to retrieve his blade from the cook’s corpse. Wiping the blood from it on the man’s sullied apron he had just shown a tremendous amount of trust to Alexis by not only giving her back her weapon, but by turning slightly away from her. Yet his voice was filled with confident command, as if he knew his assessment of her was true, and at the same time he expected her to step in line and do just what he said. He was a Baron after all.
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Old 09-20-2010, 11:29 PM   #7
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Time slowed down as the sharp edge of the cleaver came dangerously close to her body. Alexis never thought she'd die like this, never thought that things would end over a plate of fish.... never...

And the cleaver fell away.

She watched him die, stared in open surprise as the heavy cleaver clattered to the floor. Too close. Too close for her own comfort, too much for her mind to comprehend as life left the chef's eyes. She stepped haphazardly away. Just far enough that when he fell, his lifeless body thudded scant inches away from her feet.

He recognized that look; the look of a person who had seen death for the first time. Not the peaceful repose of passing in one’s sleep, or dying of an illness. This was the guttural, viscous, brutal, ugly death of battle. He could understand her fear, he could sense and taste it.... could even remember the first time he had seen death strike beside him not too many years ago. At least it had not been her blade that had ended the man’s life.

He didn’t wait for her to think, to react. Letting her mind focus on death would completely defeat any and all purpose of what he needed from her. It was a shame that; need was what motivated him to press a child into service, for whatever a duration unknown.

Eyes darted from the corpse to the one who'd killed him, the same man who'd saved her. Her confusion was apparent as was her fear. Was it for her rescue? Who was she that someone like him would save her?

The question never left her lips. Not when he carried her weapon. Her breath held. Would he notice the decal? Recognize the emblem?

It was released an instant later as he returned it to her, and she snatched it away as if her life had depended upon it. “You will be wanting that back I trust. You’re no killer child, but you are quick on your feet. Come with me, I have questions about that fish.”

"Yes sir - thank you sir." It was a belated response - a response that came as her mind caught up with the situation at hand and she remembered who she was addressing, as well as the severity of her circumstance.

He turned without waiting for her, expecting her to follow, and she did. The glitter of blades from men that looked none too friendly was certainly motivation enough to not join the chef on the ground.


“What is your name… young man?” He had hesitated, not quite able to put his finger on what it was that made him unsure of her identity.

He made his way to the ring of men and turned his dark eyed gaze upon her with a brow lightly raised. The light reflected his light olive completion and speckled it with shadows from the torchlight. It somehow made him imposing, yet in command all at once. He was clearly awaiting the answer to his question.

"Alexi-" She bit back the completion of her name, letting the instant of frantic thinking complete the lie, "Alex. Alexander. Sir." Her voice was a warm alto. Dropped even lower in hopes to complete her disguise, but even she knew that there was no way she could falsify the deeper tone of an adult male, nor the break of an adolescent boy.

His dark ebon brow was like a writhing caterpillar. It looked as if it were trying to climb straight off his skull. His gaze seemed to focus like the edge of a blade. He could taste that lie as clear as if it were served upon a plate. Now he was watching her even more closely. “Very well… Alexander. I need to know why you seem to think this fish was poisonous, and who was involved with serving it to me.”

Alexis breathed. He didn't question her name. "I'm from the island sir. We're fishermen by trade. We know better than any what fish to not bring to our pots. I saw one of the servants preparing the food in the back.... and recognized the fish... the dream fish." She stopped there. There were no accusations. No fingers pointed. One death alone had shaken her. If she said more... would another occur?

The servant broke in then, struggling against the men that held him. “My lord! This is just a boy. Islander or not there is no way this child knows how to repair a net, let alone cast one! We run a safe and renown establishment here, I am insulted by these accusations!”

"I had not thought to accuse you.... I would not eat the dish you'd prepared, neither offer it to any. The results are.... painful."
Her voice was soft, almost remorseful, as she held the servant’s gaze with that last word.

Delmar turned, carrying a dangerous grace in this single motion; moving like a coiled spring poised on the point of unfurling. “You were not asked a question. Every free person has a right to speak their peace and seek justice. Since this boy raised a very serious claim and potentially saved my life you might be wanting to thank him. More to the point, you will be silent until you are addressed or you will be silenced. Am I clear?” The space around him suddenly felt small and dangerous. His voice was hard and the commanding presence about him seemed to thicken, becoming something very real.

The servant flashed a venomous look toward Alexis before turning his attention to Delmar. His face paled rapidly, finally nodding in glum silence as the soldiers tightened their hold.

He didn’t turn to face her. Offering her the view of his chiseled back, proud shoulders and the motley of scars from battle... a body well worn by war - that also knew the vulnerability of not watching her now. Despite his suspicion of her given name, clearly his trust for her held much stronger than that for the serving man kept in the custody of armed men.

Trust was a strange thing.

The hard lines of his face and the harsher edge of his voice softened as the Baron returned his attention to Alexis. “Describe the results for me please, Alexander.”

"The dream fish. It starts mild. A simple discomfort in your stomach. But after time. They say it slowly kills you. Your eyes see visions, dreams... if they can be called such. They seem more like nightmares. “

“Nightmares that never leave a body that will soon cease to wake. It's less than a day before a victim will no longer differentiate between dreams and reality.... Lashing out against everyone, everything that moves in hopes of dispersing that which plagues his every moment."

"Ears no longer hear the call of family or friends, and fear will drive him from food and water. It is a slow death. Of dehydration, and starvation." Her eyes met his as he slowly turned to face her. The clarity, the confidence in her knowledge, made her bold as she repeated the words of caution that had been passed to her. He was utterly silent while she spoke, watching her body language, her face, her eyes, the set of her shoulders, gauging her for lies and digesting the words spoken. She would be hard pressed to confound him in a lie now, even if she were a trained assassin.

She paused before her head dropped low. "They say that the last time someone consumed it.... they tied the poor man inside his hut. Forced food and water into his mouth....but...."

And the silence hung in the room that had now become her trial.

It was a cruel way to die, and certainly not the sort of tale an inexperienced urchin could make up alone. His head nodded slowly as he spoke one last time to her in a voice touched with a mixture of disgust and sadness.

“That sounds like a terrible way to die. I have one last question for you if you please. Was anyone other than the cook and this serving man involved with handling the fish that you saw?”

"No sir. I saw no one else, and knew of no one else."


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OOC: Many thanks to FirmHanded_Daddy for taking the time to do this collaboration!
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VT's OOC Story Proposals - Last updated Jan 5, 2013

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Old 09-22-2010, 04:15 AM   #8
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He nodded his head faintly toward Alexis and she could see something in his gaze change. As if perhaps she had passed some sort of test. “Thank you Alexander. You have been most helpful. I would like to –“

Whatever he wanted to do would not be known at the moment. The servant started to flail in the arms of his captors. His feet left the floor and his left arm broke free of the man holding him.

Pisistratus fell back as the serving man flailed wildly, striking him in the face with an errant elbow. He did not have far to fall as he fell into guards with bared steel. With a curse the grizzled old veteran sprung forward and drew a dagger from his belt.

“Calm down you will have your chance to tell your story, but this is no way to win your case!”

Delmar’s voice boomed above the sound of chairs screaming across wood floors, tables being jostled, glasses falling against table tops, and wine slopping over edges, onto floors.

The servant did not seem phased. He shook his other arm free and lunged directly at Delmar. The look on his face was that akin to a wild animal backed into a corner knowing that it’s only chance for life was to fight. He was a snarling beast with gnashing teeth and snapping jaws.

The space to move was small and Delmar barely had time to react. Instinct took hold and he turned what was normally a mundane mood into a defensive maneuver. He began to draw his blade from the scabbard, but instead of letting the blade arc from his left hip across his body in a sweeping, natural mechanical motion he let the blade drive upward.

Hilt first the blade traveled upward and caught the lunging servant squarely in the jaw. It caught him much harder than Delmar intended as he had not accounted for the fact that the man was traveling with his own weight. Metal struck bone and there was a sickening snap as bone gave under the stress of the strike and shattered. A ruined jaw however was the least of his problems.

Even as the serving man’s eyes rolled into his head and unconsciousness rushed up to claim him five blades almost in unison pierced his breast. A body that should have fallen on nerveless legs became suspended by five pillars of iron and bronze. He looked like a morbid pin cushion.

Cool detachment seemed beyond him at this point. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and it fueled his frustration that another man had just died in the attempt to kill him. What was worse was he was not going to be able to find out who had been behind it, or how they knew he was here! With a soft growl Delmar shoved his blade back into the scabbard with an excess amount of force.

“Take that outside. There are women here who do not wish to see such a thing.”

His voice was laced with the heat of anger, but he drew a deep breath. He turned then toward Alexis once more, and though his eyes glittered and his cheeks were flushed with his anger his voice was under control once more.

“It seems Alexander that I owe you a great debt. I always pay my debts whenever possible so I wish to make you an offer. I am leaving for Attica soon but I could use a personal attendant. It will be safer, more stable work than what you are doing now, and the pay will be better. Aside from that I would be willing to teach you a bit more on how to use that. If you’re going to wear such a fine blade, you’re going to need to have a better understanding of it. “

He drew another cleansing breath and he felt anger and adrenaline fade out of him slowly, like the tide receding slowly. He extended his hand toward Alexis and he even managed a companionable smile.

“It is small compared to the gift of life, but I hope you will find it a satisfactory start. What say you?”
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Old 09-26-2010, 11:22 PM   #9
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Alexis saw the rage well up inside the man tearing himself away from the guards that held him down. She watched as he lunged towards the baron and herself... and fear made her take that involuntary step backwards. Another step backwards as the fray erupted from the precarious calm they had moments prior...... Finally stumbling over the corpse of the dead chef as the servant joined him in the afterlife.

Another dead.

The scuffle of activity was lost upon her as men dragged the fresh corpses out. It was only after the baron’s shadow cut sharply before her that she registered his presence and words.

“It seems Alexander that I owe you a great debt. I always pay my debts whenever possible so I wish to make you an offer. I am leaving for Attica soon but I could use a personal attendant. It will be safer, more stable work than what you are doing now, and the pay will be better. Aside from that I would be willing to teach you a bit more on how to use that. If you’re going to wear such a fine blade, you’re going to need to have a better understanding of it. “

“It is small compared to the gift of life, but I hope you will find it a satisfactory start. What say you?”


“Why do you trust me?”
It was a soft question, followed by more as her courage took wing... “How do you know that I spoke the truth?”

Her gaze shifted to the upended food before returning to meet the baron’s. “I understand trust based upon honesty, but that .... that servant is right in one thing - I am young.”

“And... and if I had seen wrong.... then... then...” She cradled her head in her hands. The consequences of error too much for her to cope with... as her words escaped in a whisper. “they would have died blameless...”

A hand ruffled through the crop of her disheveled hair. The simplicity of it comforting. Pisistratus stepped in. “Don’t think on it. You weren’t wrong. Now that you refreshed my memory, I do recall watching an old partner experience a similar... death. The older sailors at sea often caution against it as well. Now. Attica?”

He was leaving for Attica! For the briefest of moments, the fear and shock in her eyes were suddenly eclipsed with excitement before she brought herself under control.

"Your grace, if... if you don’t mind the extra mouth to feed, sir, I’d be more than willing to work as your personal attendant.“ The burden on her shoulder lifted as she bowed eagerly to the baron before her.

Had she noticed Pisistratus, maybe she might have seen that his friendliness.... never reached his eyes.

~~~~****~~~~

Arriving at the garrison was a relief in itself. The death that had descended upon the once bustling Inn left a bitter taste in her mouth as patrons quickly found ways to make themselves scarce.

Following the baron back to the barracks, she was surprised to be greeted by another woman. Enough to have completely missed the flurry of instructions that were given, including the provision of a small room beside the baron’s for his new ‘personal attendant’, as she stared curiously at the serving girl.

Alexis certainly had not expected to see another female with the war hardened soldiers, and the surprise held for a few moments too long as the baron finished and the silence held. Had the girl noticed that Alexis wasn’t the boy she was pretending to be? A sharp clearing of his throat brought their attention back as the serving girl scurried off and Alexis was sent with directions to the mess hall for food.

“So who’s the new runt?” It was a coarse greeting from the cook, perhaps the most friendly one she’d ever get from the large gruff man.

“Him? Picked’m up when his Grace closed down the only place around here that served anything edible.” Came the drawl from a nearby soldier, one of the men that had accompanied his Grace to the Inn. “He’s the baron’s new pet.”

The lot of men chuckled and another added, “Indeed. Apparently her Highness isn’t the only one interested in men.”

Chuckles dissolved into guffaws of laughter as Alexis, now armed with a tray of warm food, quickly made herself scarce. She couldn't run fast enough from the howls of laughter that hounded her every step of the way in lilting echos down the hall.

Though as she pushed the door open, she came to the conclusion that it might have been better being in the mess hall as the butt end of everyone’s jokes.....
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Old 10-03-2010, 09:11 AM   #10
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"Your grace, if... if you don’t mind the extra mouth to feed, sir, I’d be more than willing to work as your personal attendant.“

The deal was struck, and for the second time in the span of mere moments Delmar had a strange tingling in the back of his neck. It was the sort of sensation you got when someone was looking over your shoulder. He shrugged his shoulders as if that could banish the sensation, and pushed it out of his mind. He could not possible know that this meeting, and those words spoken were the makings of prophecy, and the two of them had just taken a critical step toward seeing it fulfilled.

Dinner had been ruined, and the establishment had been quite effectively cleared out by the melee and the talk of poisoned food. It was only the soldiers, and Alexis who remained. Delmar issued a quick order and led the group of men out of the inn. He sent a man off to find the local magistrate with instructions to close down the establishment and set it up for local auction. It would be some time before the inn’s doors were open again.

The walk back to the barracks was not far. It had been quite a trying day however, and by the time they wound their way to the front gates Delmar felt weary. Still, hunger gnawed at him, he wanted a meal, perhaps a bath, then rest.

The men on the walls had seen the small delegation approaching and by the time they had entered the wooden and bronze banded gates a woman waited quietly. She wore fine clothing and looked very out of place in the undecorated stone walls. Yet when Delmar stepped through the door she dipped gracefully into a curtsy. The movement was practiced, fluid, yet somehow in that submissive gesture she exuded a sense of dignity.

The woman had dark olive skin, and glittering dark eyes. Her hair cascaded down in long dark waves past slender shoulders. There was a faint hint of crimson on her high cheek bones, just enough to draw attention to her deep eyes. Those eyes were a little red, a little swollen, she had been crying recently yet for the time being she was full of composure and poise. His voice was soft, a hint husky and strained.

“How may I see to your needs, Baron?”

She really was a beautiful woman. She was slender but supple in all the right places. Several of the soldiers were looking at her with an appreciative gaze. Though Delmar himself leveled his eyes to her own and nodded his head in respect. His voice was gentle with concern.

“Thank you Shae, for now please see that Alexander has a place to sleep and then have a meal sent to my room, then by all means take yourself rest, you have had a trying day”

He had stepped wrong somewhere, the young woman’s eyes glittered with no small hint of anger. Yet before the look became a glare she cast her eyes toward the floor and spoke in a tight voice.

“That is most kind, but I assure you I am fine. I shall see to the meal personally.”

Not waiting to be dismissed she turned her gaze to Alexis and led her off to set up her room. Her steps were marked with anger and thus she took long strides. She had the look of a feline stalking through the rain, she should have been bristling. She led Alexis to a very small plain looking room. It had just enough room to fit a wash stand, a small barely functional bed, and a chest for clothing. It had barely enough space left for Alexis to stand in the empty area and stretch out her arms. Shae walked in and managed to stalk somehow, pacing the small space with open anger. She was mumbling to herself.

“That PIG of a man! How dare he treat me like some sort of frail wilting flower? I’m just as strong as he is.”

She fixed Alexis with a withering look and then realized just what she was doing. She had the look of a woman whom had payback on her mind. She put a hand on her hip slightly and raised a manicured brow.

“Another unfortunate soul pressed into imperial service hmmm? Well maybe you can help me get a small measure of payback. You’ve been with Delmar right? What sort of woman draws his eye hmmm? I think a little embarrassment would do Lord high and mighty some good. Bah what do you know? Your just a boy, I’ll find out myself”

And she was gone.

**************

Hot water.

It felt wonderful. The heat soaked into his muscles and the relaxation that followed seeped into his bones. He did not quite hear the door creak open, or the jingle of wooden cutlery and plates in the steady hand of Alexis. No his eyes were closed, his head tilted back and he looked positively resplendent with the water dribbling down sun darkened flesh.

"I - I'll come back in another time sir." She backed out frantically and belatedly remembered the tray of food and set it down on a side table before fumbling out the door to avert her gaze from his obvious nudity.

Words drew his attention and the not quite deep enough tone of “Alexander” brought dark eyes to focus lazily upon her. His chuckle was as near a satisfied purr as that broad chest could manage. He shook his head and spoke in a similarly lazy tone. “Non-sense Alexander come in. I’m certain this is not the first time you have seen a naked man. Besides I wanted to speak with you about some questions you had for me.”

She froze, and swallowed hard. Brilliant flags blazed across her face as she forced herself to turn and look at the baron before her. Was she supposed to sit? to stand? find things to do around the room? Was it rude to stare? Was she supposed to look at him? Meet his gaze?

He noted the blush as his eyes focused on her features. His first instinct was to raise his brow in a hint of confusion but he decided if the boy was going to be embarrassed he would not call attention to it and make it worse. Delmar made no attempt to hide himself. If Alexander were going to be traveling even for a short time with a band of armed men and sleeping with Delmar in close proximity he was going to have to learn to deal with it soon enough.

Instead he extended his hand from the large brass tub that even emptied took two men to lift. The motion caused thick muscle and sinew to stretch slowly from his shoulder as he directed her attention to a chair.

“Sit young man, I owe you some answers and you might as well make yourself comfortable we are going to see quite a lot of one another.”

She sat and he watched her, obeying perhaps less out of obedience and more because she was cowed by the presence before her. Looking at him was unavoidable. It was also impossible to miss the authority in his simple gesture. It was a perfection he embodied. One that brought the harder lines of the natural masculinity together with the refining polish of power... He had the build of a predator, the build of muscle toned by battle, and despite her own embarrassment, a small part of her couldn't help but appreciate what she saw.

“You asked me why I trusted you, what happened if you had seen wrong. To be truthful with you I had not yet been able to make a full judgment. There was not yet enough proof other than your word that you told the truth, or that you were not mistaken. I gave you the same respect I would have given the other man. You had the chance to tell me the truth.” His tone radiated confidence, even nude he could wear it like armor, in spite of her watchful gaze. He felt her eyes moving over his figure and he had to remind himself to relax. It was not often he had such a scrutinizing gaze upon his bare flesh. “Everyone deserves that chance, Alexander. From kings to fishermen; justice is the right of everyone. Not everyone agrees with that view of course. He brought into question your age, but age does not always make a man more wise, sometimes it simply makes him more arrogant.”

"But you trust me." Her eyes refocused on his face as he spoke, "Otherwise, you would not have offered a place for me. Or return my sword. Or turn your back to me while I was armed."

He nodded his head slowly, it was firm, decisive. She was right of course. He did trust her and it was hard to place his finger on, but he decided to take this gamble. A man had to earn the respect of those close to him and a servant who disliked his master could make life hell in thousands of small little ways one could never quite catch.

"I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something told me to trust you. Perhaps the Gods were with you? Perhaps it was because when you were telling me about the fish I could tell you were being honest."

She caught the jab at her own lie. Perhaps it was best to leave the situation here. "Thank you again then. For trusting me. I hope I will be worthy of it."

She stood then. Perhaps it was to avoid further scrutiny, but she found the boldness to approach him and pick up the washcloth hanging on the side of the tub. He found himself comfortable with her, in his nudity, near defenseless. He had nearly pointed out he could tell she was hiding something, yet he showed no sign of hesitation.

“I do not doubt that you will be worthy of my trust. I hope that you will not find your new place too overbearing. I understand life on the islands can feel very open and free compared to the mainland of the empire. I will allow you what freedom I can when I do not have need of --." He trailed off as heated water washed over him. Her fingers were warmed by her embarrassment, and perhaps something far more subtle than she realized. Warmer still was his skin beneath her hand as gentle strokes lathered a finer film of soap along the back column of his spine.

His back was a band of hard muscle sheathed in olive flesh with a hint of the sun's kiss. The rigor of travel, of battle, and training in the elements left a dark tinge to his torso. Though there was the hint of a fading scar going from left shoulder down into the heated water. He made a sound of deep approval as he felt the cloth tease his skin. He stretched into her touch taking obvious pleasure from it.

Her hands were small, dwarfed by the expanse of his back as they dipped to rinse the lather from his skin. Muscles rippled and flexed as he soaked in her caress and the warmth of the water. It felt amazing after spending near a week in the heavy armor that was a mark of his trade.

Fingers drifted delicately over skin and her breath picked up in a subtle rise of excitement. As she began to knead thick bands of muscles he could not contain the groan of pleasure rumbling through him. His head drew back, his back arched so he did not rob her of landscape to work her magic. Magic in the form of steady strokes down his back. Warm skin made warmer as she released knots along the way. A subtle gauge of the strength that laid beneath her fingertips.

There was a delicate knock at the door.

Delmar gave a start realizing just what was happening, Alexis was touching him in a very familiar way, a way usually only a woman would touch a man. As good as it felt it was more than a hint awkward. Clearing his throat he called gruffly as his body tensed and he leaned away from Alexis slowly.

“Come!”

The door pushed open gently and Shae stood in the frame. She had taken the time to change her clothing and clean herself up. There was no sign of tear stains on her face now. Her lips were lined with a crimson that made them full and pouty, her gaze held nothing of it’s former anger and was nothing short of smokey, seductive.

“Alexander, the cook sent me to ask for your assistance in the kitchen, she needs a strong back. I will finish helping The Baron wash.”

It was a dismissal, clear as the sun was fading behind the tree line.

Delmar turned his gaze toward Alexis and nodded his head slowly. Before she turned to leave he spoke in a more firm tone. “Thank you for your help. Get some sleep tonight, we have sword practice in the morning before we march.”

He turned his gaze toward Shae and he settled himself deeper into the tub, a shrewd eye could tell that suddenly that comfort he had with Alexis was gone as Shae sauntered into the room. The dress she wore was clinging, almost bordering on the realm of indecent. She seemed totally unperturbed by his guarded expression. As the door closed on the scene she was kneeling forward next to the tub, revealing the low cut of her dress and leaning closer to Delmar than was needed for washing.

The cook it turns out needed help hauling water for a large kettle. Though the work was quickly over before Alexis could leave the kitchen Shae appeared much like she had earlier today, stalking about with anger. She quickly scooped up some wine and a single glass. Fixing the elder cook with a withering look she turned and stalked silently from the kitchens. As she departed the cook cackled.

“Guess The Baron resisted her charms after all. That looks like a woman who don’t like being told no”

*****************

There was a harsh pound on Alexis’ door. A deep male voice boomed from the other side of the door. “Practice in the courtyard, ten minutes.”

The sound of heavy boots fell away then.

As Alexis entered the courtyard men were gathered in groups of two or more. Some wearing loose fitting pants and shirts, some had given up on shirts entirely. Several of the men had red splotches on their skin. The courtyard was filled with the sound of wood striking wood as practice swords clashed together. They were slim shafts of wood bound together with leather cord. Designed to simulate the weight and measure of a blade, they punished the body when the partner failed a form without causing lasting damage to flesh.

Delmar turned slowly to Alexis. He had a practice blade in hand and currently had no partner. Nodding his head toward where a pile of the lashed practice blades lay he spoke in a strong tone, made to carry orders across a battle field.

“Grab a blade and fall in Alexander, I will be your partner seeing as there is no one else. Be quick about it, we have a long march today and I for one want breakfast!”

The man who had showed her kindness the day past, given her a place at his side, let her wash his body and shown him trust was gone. This morning he was in command of the lives of other men and he could not afford to show her the slightest hint of favoritism, to do so would not only undermine his authority, but would make her a target for the other men.

“What is your duy?” His voice called out the question in a loud voice.

The men gathered answered in unison. “To defend the Empire!”

“And how do we do that?”


“Defend ourselves!”

“Right” His voice softened just a hint, his eyes looking over the men for a moment, resting just a hair longer on Alexis. “Remember, you do not have to be the biggest man on the field, or the strongest, or have the biggest weapon. A man can die from a dagger thrust just as well as a sword thrust. The key is knowing how to stay alive long enough to deliver it.”

“Alexander, show me how to defend against a man using a large two handed weapon coming down at you.”

He watched her raise her blade level above her head and he shook his head.

“Close, but you will break your wrist trying to stop a blow like that. Look at how it bends when you try to keep the blade level. All the force of his blow is going to go right into your wrist. You might even hit yourself with your own weapon. See how this feels. I’m going to strike your weapon.”

As he said he drew his blade back and struck the blade firmly. She could feel the blow vibrate straight into her wrist, feel the tendons stressing under the impact, feel the tiny bones grind together.

Stepping around her slowly he slid his strong hand up the length of her arm. At her wrist his fingers closed and he angled the blade so that the point was tipping down at a sharp angle. “Deflect like this and most of the force breaks at the blade, what is left goes through all of your arm, not just your wrist.”

He drew the practice weapon back again and struck her blade, the natural direction of her weapon turned most of the force against his weapon and it glanced off hers and away from her body without near as much force.

“Good, now everyone try.”

(Thanks VT for the collaboration on this post. Would have been a lot more boring without you. )
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Old 10-06-2010, 11:37 PM   #11
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Hours passed into days and days filled out the fortnight of her company with the baron and his men. Few harbors had the room for boats large enough to contain the company his Grace commanded, and even this time three vessels would be required to bring the men home.

Alexis found herself once more at the butt end of everyone’s jokes as the Baron’s new pet. The ‘boy’ who’d so enamored the Baron that even pretty little Shae could not sway his heart. It was no secret that the Archon’s daughter was turned down night after night despite her charms. The jabs, the chuckles and even the outright laughter was uncomfortable, but all of that seemed to soothe the bitterness on her palate every time she watched Shae enter his tent.

It stung. To watch her pull open the flap of his tent each night, armed with all the feminine charms that Alexis had to hide. It hurt. To sleep with the scent of perfume her very presence swept into the room...

It was one of those nights.

Shae had once more left the sweet cloying smell in the room just before Alexis returned, of which the Baron took no time to use as an excuse to dismiss the serving girl. The glower of fury she received from the jilted woman brought chills that haunted her even as Alexis had crawled into her own cot in the far corner of the Baron’s tent.

Perhaps it was the perfume. Perhaps the foreign feeling of jealousy. Perhaps even the subtle blush of want that she couldn’t quite put her finger on... Regardless of what it was that spurred her, she found herself padding out the tent on silent feet after the heavier rhythms of the Baron’s breath filled the air.

The moonlight was sufficient to light her path as she slipped past the tree line and into the forest. Alexis followed the stream that had provided them with water upstream, making her way further from the dim flicker of dying campfires. The soft crackle of leaves accompanied her steps until she found the waterfall that filled into a much deeper pond of water.

It had been so long since she had the freedom to swim.

Her cloak dropped to the ground - the soft crumple of fabric that was drowned out by the crash of the waterfall. The belt and finally the shoulder clasps came loose as linen pooled in a half-moon by her feet... revealing the lengths of bandages she’d bound to flatten her chest. Ringlets of linen fell away as she restored her freedom to be a woman and as the last strip of cloth lost it’s place on her body, the tension that had plagued her since her exile from home lifted.

The full moon casted her in silver, delineating the gentle lines of her body, the softer flare of hips and the full curves of her breast punctuated by the dusky perk of her nipples.
Her head lifted as she let the night wind sift through her hair, over her outstretched arms, carry ripples of water against her feet. Cold water chilled her warm skin as she bit back the gasp of surprise, the full pout of her lower lip dimpling beneath the edge of her teeth. Despite the cold, that first step as water lapped against her toes was bliss.

She paused there, feeling the shift of sand beneath her toes, the grit of pebbles grind against the arch of her feet, the slick of moss steal at her balance....

It was only for a moment, before she lost that ounce of control that held her in place. Splashes of water marked her steps and excitement as she rushed through the water, disturbing it's serenity with the wake of her ripples.

She dove in.

She disappeared beneath the clear water, painted black by night, only to appear several feet away as she broke the waterline and submerged again. She was at home in her element and frivolous in that simple comfort.

The moonlight made diamonds out of the water droplets clinging to her skin when she finally returned to shore. The slight heave of her chest was evidence of her exertion as Alexis perched herself beside the waterfall, and worked the soap in her hand into a lather. First through her hair, and then her body. Her hand worked in tight even circles, from her neck past her collar bone, circling one breast, then the other before gliding over the flat expanse of her belly.

Her toes vanished just beneath the waterline as she leaned forward to soap the length of her legs, endless in that continuous reflection. It was an action that added to the pendulous sway of breasts just above her thighs as a tenuous strand of hair finally fell free to frame her face.

She slipped back into the water. The steady rush was parted by the line of her nose and her pert pair of nipples... only to join once more down the flat expanse of her tummy and fall into step with the splash of water dancing around her thighs. The heavy cascade drummed against her back as she pressed against the rocks shielded by water. Her breasts tight against the cold stone as she rinsed the soap from her body.

Bliss.
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Old 10-13-2010, 11:00 PM   #12
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The evening found him restless. The night had brought only small relief to the days unseasonable heat. His footfalls were soft on the soil as the scent of running water tugged at him as it did to all living creatures.
His chest flared as air rushed in and he turned his gait toward the source of that smell. Soon the sound of water falling from heaven to earth mingled with the scent. He could taste life on the air, feel it soaking into his skin.
The moon lit his path and let his eyes drink in a form shattering the tranquility of the waters surface. He paused thoughtfully, but kept his eyes fastened intently on the sight before him.
Recognition tickled the back of his mind as his gaze registered a thought. That was not a male figure. No this was absolutely very female. His mind reeled...
How had the scouts missed a lone woman wandering along their path? Her frame spoke of a body used to toil, used to labor. Taught muscles met with the softness of her female curves. He felt heat sear his blood.
Shae could not look that way without clothing. She was decidedly...soft. Not that she was without her charms but this... He felt something primal stir in him, a hunger, an ache. She moved with grace through the water, as if she were Poseidon. He watched as the droplets of water pebbled her skin, watched as she literally seemed to glow as the moonlight caressed her.

She was curves, and strength. Not something he would encounter in his day to day life. Most women were either soft and pampered nobles whom never picked up anything heavier than a quill, or they were women made hard by labor, ground near to the point of dust. Somehow this creature before him blended softness, and power. She was sleek like a panther but deliciously supple.

He had never seen a woman nude in the water before. He found himself unable to think as his eyes drank in the sight of soap and water blending over her skin. His eyes traced her full breasts and he felt his arousal start to manifest rather uncomfortably within his pants. She was beautiful, but the water, the moonlight amplified that beauty, cast it with an exotic light.

He felt a stab of guilt, he should leave, or at least make himself known to her instead of spying from between trees. He was enjoying letting his eyes caress her skin all too much. Gods what to do? Standing here watching was driving him crazy. Desire had cast his dark skin a shade darker still. He just wanted to leap into that icy water and join her, to press the heat of his body against her, to run his fingers through that beautiful hair…

There was nothing else to do. He had to make a choice so he stood up a little straighter and stepped from around the brush. He had not even managed to slip on a shirt, for him the night was still warm enough to be comfortable without it. Yet the effect of seeing her body, of drinking in her skin had been enough to harden him, and he was standing proudly, straining against the laced up front of his slacks. He cleared his throat softly and let his voice carry out past the waters edge, but not far enough to draw attention from anyone who might be nearby.

“My lady you should take more care. There is a camp of armed men very close by. If they were an irreputable sort you might find yourself in trouble. What is a beautiful woman doing alone at night anyway? Surely you are not traveling alone…?”

His gaze met her face briefly as he spoke to her, but then were quickly cast nearby to give her what modesty she could desire. Though it would take but a simple glance to know that she had already been robbed of modesty.
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Old 10-27-2010, 12:50 AM   #13
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Leaves crumpled beneath his feet, a sound that would have clearly announced his arrival if the crash of water had not masked it.

“My lady you should - “ It was not until his voice broke across the distance that she spun in her surprise..

“Your Grace!” She spun sharply at the familiar tone, droplets splashing in a wide arc about her as she turned and sunk shoulder deep into the water.

Run. Did she have time for it? Did he recognize her? - His questions told her no, not yet...

Your grace... The tone of her voice... Something was not right. Why was there recognition in her demeanor? She slunk into the water and that he could not have blamed her for, she was rather bare. He felt the spark of recognition as well but it still eluded him. There was a faint darkened flush in his cheeks, his blood was still heated by the lingering memory of her nudity. "I am not sure we have..." His eyes locked with hers for a brief moment before darkness fell upon them.

The gods favored her this night, obscuring the light from the moon, however briefly to enable her escape.

In a thrice she was out of the water and a single arm sufficed in scooping up her pile of clothes, as she fled for what she hoped to be the tree line away from the Baron. Hope was all she had now. Hope that he had not recognized her. Hope that she had taken all her belongings, Hope that she would get away.... Darkness was her ally, but it was a double edges sword, blinding him as well as her.

She stumbled blindly over rocks and roots. Brambles, branches grazed her skin, slapping, cutting and clawing against her still bare body. All she could hope was that she was truly headed in the right direction when the clouds passed.
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Old 11-01-2010, 02:20 AM   #14
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It was like coming face to face with a woman that haunted your dreams. The scene was perfect, the moonlight framed perfect flesh, ebony locks trailed over her skin, and drifted into the water. The glittering pale light from the waxing moon lent to the exotic scene. The light caught each minuscule droplet of water, turning it into a prism of light. For a few slow heartbeats she quite literally was glowing in the light.

It was as if the Gods themselves were conspiring to keep her secrets. The moon was in full bloom, a morning glory in the sky. Then it was gone, almost as if he were struck blind with the darkness. He could hear Alexis sloshing in the water as she sought solace in the darkness, sought to run away, to be free of his penetrating gaze.

He could not see her in flight, but damned if he could not hear her. The water, the earth, the shrubs, the bushes… the land itself seemed to betray her. It was only the silence when she gathered her clothing hastily that he near lost her trail. Soon enough she was dashing through the country side again, floundering in the dark, leaving a clear trail of snapped brush, and wet footprints.

While she was following nothing but her instinct, he was having to follow her trail in the near pitch black of night. Wearing quite a bit more clothing than she, he managed to shrug off all but the more persistent scrapes, however gradually he was losing ground in the pursuit. Eventually he could no long hear her, and the blasted moon seemed to climb farther behind the cloud cover. It was not until his foot slipped on something, and he nearly twisted his ankle as he lost a step. Pitching forward, he caught himself on his hands before he landed unceremoniously on his face. His hand pressed upon something cold, something smooth, something metal. He picked it up and even in the darkness he recognized the insignia of his house…

Suddenly the puzzle which had twisted and turned at every corner seemed to all slip into place. Realization left him stunned for only a few seconds before he stood up, clutching the insignia in his hand and stopped bothering to follow her trail. He knew where she was going now.

He shifted his direction just a hint and began to make a more direct path toward the camp site. He no longer bothered to try to track her so with a speed born of white hot anger he churned the earth beneath his feet.

Time seemed to stretch as the heat of his emotions. He didn’t know what he wanted more… to take that woman in his arms and shake her senseless, or just take her into his arms and kiss her until she was breathless. Passion and anger seemed to be both at odds, and at the same time fueling one another. He was glad for the brisk pace he had set, the long walk would do him good, help him burn off some of this emotion, so he could have a clear head when he confronted “Alexander”

The Gods however had other plans. He rounded a large ancient tree with a trunk easily wide enough across that three men could not form a ring around it with their arms. Just as he came around the trunk, he had about two seconds worth of warning before a form came speeding out of the darkness. There was no time to duck out of the way, so he did the next best thing. Stepping to the side as much as he could manage he let his arm snake outward. It was the speed and agility that comes naturally to military training that saved him from being overrun by the smaller woman. She didn’t have size on him, but she had momentum.

Instead of her catching him square in his center of balance she struck his outstretched arm, catching right around her waist, and managed to crash into his shoulder. Deflecting some of her momentum, she still slammed into him with enough force to spin the tangle of their bodies around. The insignia slipped from his free hand and despite his rage he used it to brace against the tree, instead of slamming her against it which he strongly considered for a brief second. He gripped her in an iron hold, one hand locked around her waist. Pulling her tight to his chest, his eyes burned with fire just as the moon decided to peer it’s way cautiously from out of cloud cover. His voice was soft, but filled with heat… part anger part desire.

“I think you have some explaining to do Alexander.
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Old 11-02-2010, 11:38 PM   #15
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She fell. Thrice. But she kept running. Adrenaline numbing the pain as scrapes stung her skin. Not that it mattered, as long as she got away and returned to camp before him....

But such was not her fate.

Alexis never saw him. Never realized the impending impact until she slammed right into the one person she was trying to get away from.

She gasped. It was a sharp breath of recognition before impact, startled from the fury that seemed to emanate from him, and all she had time for. Her bundle of clothes scattered in fluttering of disarray around them and when the world stopped spinning, she found herself caught in his arm, her hands braced against his chest, her gaze caught in the heat of his and her body pressed tight against him. Bare.

“I think you have some explaining to do Alexander.”

She paled at the ominous tone in his voice, searching frantically through her chaotic mind for an explanation that he would accept and failed. She saw his scrutiny, just as she was certain he could see her fear...

Finally she looked away. Her eyes refusing to meet his as she tested the iron hold he had about her waist. It was a motion that only served to emphasize their proximity. It was a proximity that gave her a tangible display of the strength that now held her captive, a display not seen with her eyes but felt by her body. Her nipples were hard from the chill of her bath, a stark reminder of her own nudity as they dragged against his chest. As if to assert the vulnerability of her situation, his arousal pressed insistently against her lower belly, it’s hardness softened only by the fabric of his pants.

She searched for a name to tell him. Would he remember the sign for her capture? Would he catch her lie if she didn’t tell the truth? There was a slight tremor through her body now. It was an obvious indication of the chill from fear, and from cold water still lingering on her skin, but also of a more subtle sign of sensations that were novel to her body... Her hands clenched to fists against his chest as she made her decision and hoped for the best, “ My name... my name is Alexis.”

“Can you fault a woman for taking... precautions when traveling alone?”
Her words came in a desperate whisper. “I’d wanted to see Attica. Should I have made that journey as a woman? Please.... please have mercy!”

She hazarded an upward glance then, a gaze that made it’s own silent plea.
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Old 11-08-2010, 01:39 AM   #16
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He could feel every subtle movement of the perfection what was her body. He found himself unable to shake the thoughts of her bare flesh concealed and caressed by the water. Here she was still bare as the day she was born pressed against the hard planes of his body. It was like piecing together a puzzle, the way he sensed her. He stared into her eyes and he could see the fear, but he could feel her body against his own. He could feel her pert nipples grazing his chest as she gulped in air.

What was he doing? He would not harm her, no more than he already had. He had treated her roughly and though it was warranted within the situation he already felt a sting of guilt. Still his anger, it struggled with the obvious heat of another emotion all together; desire. Yet for the moment anger seemed to win out over the flame of lust; barely. There had to be a source for all of that anger. She had deceived him but this emotion was far too powerful, there was something else behind it.

He felt her testing his grip, and in response she could feel him flex what had already been iron hard muscle, now it was steel. He was coiled like a spring, full of tension, ready to react to whatever came. He did not know this woman before him, he had never known her. Who was to say she would not try to strike him and run? He had been training her how to fight after all.

“ My name... my name is Alexis.”

“Can you fault a woman for taking... precautions when traveling alone?” “I’d wanted to see Attica. Should I have made that journey as a woman? Please.... please have mercy!”


Mercy? Where was the mercy in this situation? He felt another surge of anger, but it quickly crushed it all down. Drawing a deep cleansing breath some of the color faded from his face, he relaxed his grip upon her slowly and instead of forcing her against the tree he was just holding her in a firm grip. The fear in her face disgusted him, not because she felt fear itself… but because she feared him. He schooled his featured and tried to keep the emotions from his face. He managed it fairly well, yet when he spoke he was betrayed by his own voice. It was softer, the iron had gone out of it. Now the tone of his voice was mingled with sadness, disappointment.

“Have I ever given you a reason to fear me? Have you seen me treat anyone in my camp unfairly? If I were the type of man to feel entitled to take things, to harm others without just cause I would have taken that harlot to my sheets a long time ago… or left her to her fate, or had her executed along with her father and the rest of the damned rebels.”

The venom in his voice showed just what he thought of Shae and her attempts to crawl into his bed. He drew another slow, heaving breath. The motion caused the hard iron muscles of his chest to once more brush against her bare breasts, leaving a lingering caress of his warm flesh against her chilled skin. He gazed into her eyes for another long moment, silence fell between them. Then he released her from his grip and let his gaze wander over her nude figure. He did a fair job of trying to pretend it was an impartial look, and his eyes only lingered a moment or two over the curve of her breasts, and the apex of her thighs before glancing over at her scattered clothing.

“You will have to pretend to be Alexander still, I would offer to find you other lodgings but with the ruse you have set up it would not lend credibility to you suddenly being displaced from my tent. Until we get to Attica you must continue to play this game.”

His voice was finally under control. This was a tone he frequently used when addressing men, giving orders. There was no heat, no emotion in it; simply words he expected to be adhered to. He walked toward where her clothing lay sprawled upon the cold earth and began to gather the pieces of her costume. Handing the garments to her he spoke once more. Though for all the cold detachment in his voice there was no hiding the lingering hint of his desire as it strained against the front of his pants.

“Here, get dressed, you needn’t take lots of time with the disguise. You were out getting fire wood for me and I came to see what was taking you so long. We will talk again when you are not frozen to the core.”
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Old 11-14-2010, 02:33 AM   #17
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The bitterness laced in his voice stung, and he held that disappointment between them for several moments longer before the grip that kept her captive relaxed. Color returned to her cheeks in a flush as she turned her face aside and she stepped away and color returned to her cheeks in a flush. Her hands fell naturally to cover her body, but there was no doubt a twinge of reluctance flared when the cool night air drifted between them. It was surprising how she could be so close to him and yet feel so distant.

“Yes sir.... Thank you sir.”


Her voice filled with her remorse and she hung her head as he addressed her, his cold detached tone seemed to hurt just as much as the disappointment he had finally suppressed. Her head lifted momentarily to take her clothes from him, in time to see the only evidence of his unspoken thoughts fighting the constraints of his pants.

Her flush deepened as she dressed rapidly, chasing away the goosebumps as the coarse fabric warmed her skin. Coils of linen wound their way around her chest to flatten their gentler curve, and cloth further obscured their view and completed her guise. Once more she became Alexander

Their trek back to camp was a silent one. Alexis gathered firewood along the way as she followed behind Delmar. The slight nod of acknowledgment from the night watch was all they received upon arrival to camp. No one questioned the Baron and his servant’s silent return.

He strode into the tent, outwardly calm as a secluded pond. Yet inwardly he was a raging tempest. Anger, betrayal, shame, sadness, and desire all fought a battle of dominance within him. As the flap of the tent fell shut, she broke the silence that permeated the room.

"I'm sorry." The words were simple and pure. Without the deceitful low she'd previously strained her voice to feign.

He turned at the sound of her voice, it was different now. He drew a slow breath as his eyes washed over her. "Are you...?" The question was an honest one, how could he believe her now...

"I always have been. I don't like lies any more than you do."
She answered remorsefully, fingering the house badge that had torn from her tunic with the touch of reverence she gave to all of his things.

He watched her quietly,studying her intently. She seemed so sincere, more sincere than she had ever seemed. Another breath came fourth as he battled the rage inside, he was just as angry at himself. "So why perpetuate this ruse? Did you not think you could have come to me and told me? It would have been nice to feel like you trusted me, I certainly gave you my trust."

"Because it was safer, I traveled this way. People accepted the ruse as true... and when you offered me place here... there was no opening to tell you otherwise, neither could anything be done about a my circumstance if I told you." She took a deep breath and answered.

"No one else needs to carry this burden."


He was silent for a moment, his gaze took her in? No opening? Maybe she was right.. maybe not. But it did not dull his anger at all. The damn burst and he took a step toward her. The confines of the tent allowed him to meet her in a few steps, they were almost nose to nose now, his eyes glittered and at this distance she could read each and every emotion within them.

"So you were not even planning to tell me?"
His voice was dangerously soft.

"Tell me. What did you know about Alexander? What did you think you knew?"
She stood her ground this time. "Aside from a commoner with some potential for the sword - nothing. But that is all you needed to know to successfully command your men. Is that what angers you now? That you know nothing beyond what is necessary? "

"In the same way. I know nothing of you. Neither your family, your life, your past... Because... it's not necessary. Should I need to know, you would tell me. Has any of that changed? No. I am still a commoner. My skill with my weapon is only as good as the knowledge you've imparted, and I would still never raise my sword against you.... and you.... " Her voice flagged here, breaking as she grounded into herself the knowledge she had chose to ignore. "You're a noble. A leader of men, of men that would follow you anywhere..."

Words broke as she choked back the tears, willing them away as her head dropped before she tried to continue to answer. "and I have no place here. Not as a woman. Neither do I deserve what you've offered me and taught me... I was merely trying to prolong the inevitable."

He felt anger vibrate from within the center of his being. Now she was going to dictate what he needed to know about her? His hand slowly raised, but it was not in a fist, he made a motion as if to point out something and his eyes flicked to the door...

His hand never made that gesture, his words never formed the words. He could not do it. Despite the pure white hot anger that burned in his veins he could not order her out. He owed her a tremendous debt, and he could not cast her out here, in the middle of the wilderness. That was one reason... and the other was despite his anger he did not want too. Did she not feel it? Some force was pushing them together. They were connected in a way he did not understand but he could feel it, like fingers on the back of his neck.

Her grip was tight against his house badge, the markings making it's imprint against her palm. Finally she lifted the insignia in both hands and spoke, "We should reach a small town tomorrow. I can leave your service then..." She lost her struggle then as tears spilled over her cheeks and her hands shook with the effort it had taken her to say those words.

He saw those tears and anger fled, like a flame doused with water. His hand was still raised and he reached out slowly to cup her cheek within his hand. His thumb lightly brushed at that unending stream and he spoke in a soft voice, almost a gentle whisper. "What I thought I knew about Alexander was that he saved my life, and he was becoming more than just my servant, but a friend. I valued his companionship just as I did his service. My nobility has nothing to do with this, without it we would never have crossed paths Alexis. Have I ever lorded my position over you? Have I ever treated you as 'Just a commoner?'"

"I have not asked you to leave, and I will not do so over this. Even if I felt your transgressions were worth me casting you out, I would not leave anyone, man or woman stranded without means to survive."


Her shoulders shook with silent sobs as tears gave way. Her forehead rested against his chest as tears fell to dot the space between them.
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Old 11-17-2010, 03:52 AM   #18
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He drew a deep and ragged breath as he felt emotions crash against each other within him. It suddenly felt like he were too small to contain the wealth of emotion that raged inside of him. He thought he might burst from the effort of holding it all bad. Like a water skin left too near an open flame he felt himself boiling on the burst of an explosion, yet what would happen when he exploded he was not sure.

She seemed to curse her own femininity or at least the need to disguise it when the truth was it was the very fact that he knew she was a woman beneath her clothing which was what had been the catalyst to diffuse his anger. Had a man begun to sob like this he would have felt discomfort and perhaps a little shame but his wrath would not have been turned aside. Yet when he saw those tears he could not quell the natural reaction to wrap her in his arms, protect her from the world, and right her wrongs.

Alexander was dead to him. Alexis stood wrapped in her own sorrow at having deceived him and it was breaking his heart. He felt her rest her brow upon his chest, felt the tears soaking through the thin fabric of his shirt to the flesh beneath and he could no longer keep nature away. His hands reaching back to free her hair from the confines with a gentle, but confident motion. As ebony tendrils rushed free one strong hand tangled within the locks and pressed to the back of her head. Softly and soothingly he began to stroke her scalp. He stepped closer and closed what distance lay between them; physically and emotionally. As the hidden curves of her body touched the hard planes of his he could not help but feel his flesh tingle as unbidden his desire for her surged fourth again. His other hand finally running down the toned muscles of her back to rest against the curve of it, pressing her against him in a firm, warm embrace.

“Alexis I... “

He what? He was so confused in this moment he could not have told her what color the sky was. A moment ago he had been on the verge of forever casting her from his presence, yet now all he wanted to do was see her smile again. She had stolen the sun from his sky when her eyes became a more perfect representation of the stormy heavens. Each tear pierced the walls he had built around himself shredding the veil with each tiny pinprick finally undermining the structure. The emotional wall shattered and fell.

His hand slowly moved from her hair. Following a slow and gentle path along the curve of her jaw line his calloused strength was remarkably tender along her soft skin. How had he missed such smooth, kissable flesh before? Had he been a total fool? No… he had just seen what he wanted to see. Finally his hand came to rest upon the point of her chin. Two thick fingertips nudging her face upwards, forcing her to look at him. He held her gaze in silence so profound it could only mean one thing; their shared look had robbed him of the ability to breath.

He stared deep into her beautiful, stormy eyes as the final hint of his anger melted away. He felt a liberating moment as if his very soul stretched cramped muscles from bearing an unwanted weight. Then he did the only thing he could think of to give voice to the sudden shift in his emotions. He kissed her. The first kiss was barely even there, a whisper of soft lips upon her forehead as if he was not even sure that was his desire. The next was a more sure caress, he nudged his lips against the bridge of her nose. One more soft kiss upon the delicate tip of her nose and he paused to speak, finally finding words, despite the emotion tight within them.

“Alexis, forgive me for my anger… please?”

With that came a surrender of sorts. His lips pressed to her own at first in a timid touch, he was afraid she would refuse him, push him away, recoil. He had wanted this since the first time he lay his eyes upon her in the lake, and despite his anger at learning the truth the desire had only become stronger when he had learned who she was. Fear was abandoned and he gave himself to the kiss completely. His hand cupping her jaw sweetly he kept her against him with a firm hand coiled around her waist. Escape from the kiss would be simple, for despite its intensity it was tender and sweet, yet she could not flee from him entirely…not again.

He drew back suddenly, breaking the kiss in a moment of panic. His voice stumbled out as his mind finally caught up to his body. “I… Gods I am sorry. I should not have done that…. I don’t want to force anything… I don’t want you to think your place here is contingent upon….that. I just couldn’t help myself.” His voice was thick, the passion was so tangible it caressed her skin, but his words rang true.
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Old 11-22-2010, 12:08 AM   #19
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The distance between them vanished in that single gesture. Her sobs subsided under his reassurance... a gentler touch that was surprising from a man that had been so furious before. She suddenly felt small tucked in the curve of his arm as his fingers stroked the short length of her hair. When she finally fell still, she began to notice the small things.... like the calloused hand that brushed her hairline before sweeping through her hair, the tenderness in how his arm circled her waist...

His fingertips trailed down delicately and she yielded to it’s lead. It was a singular moment as she met his gaze with her tear blurred vision. A moment where she forgot to take her next breath, where thoughts rolled to a stop.... His lips ghosted over her forehead then her nose... like the whisper of breath over her skin.

“Alexis, forgive me for my anger… please?”


She was dreaming. Had to be. No words could come forth as time stood still.

Her head tilted into the cup of his hand and lips met in a timid affair of affection. She was hesitant, just as hesitant as he in the slow softening of lips succumbing to the gentle call of his. Her first taste of him was sweet, tender, intoxicating...

And too brief.

“I… Gods I am sorry. I should not have done that…. I don’t want to force anything… I don’t want you to think your place here is contingent upon….that. I just couldn’t help myself.” He broke their tenuous connection, the first genuine link between them. It was like stealing away the oxygen for her next breath....

She took that half step forward, and closed their distance. Spurred on the desire for her next breath, she rolled to her toes and she kissed him, the lightest of touches on the corner of his lips.

“I know. "
She murmured in return. Her lips returned to caress that same spot again, "I should be the one apologizing though." Her words were carried on the breath that danced over his skin, "Please... Will you forgive my deceit?”

Lips met once more, in a timid affair despite her bold initiation. It was a subtle coaxing to return the affection he had so recently gave. Her hands tarried along the edge of his tunic, the warmth of his body was so close, and her fingertips left her tantalized passes that strayed from the safety of fabric. Their kiss deepened in a mutual surrender as her hand found its way to trail over his collarbone, along the defined jawline to comb through his hair. Her display of want was subtle. a gentle, timid press of her body against his as she sought to prolong their intimacy.

“I... I must be dreaming....”
Lips parted reluctantly with her breath ragged and voice husky.
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Old 12-07-2010, 01:39 PM   #20
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There was something about embracing a woman in your arms when she was sobbing that just felt natural and right. When the tears stilled he was flooded with a rush of sensation beyond words. It was a pleasure that touched heart and soul. To know that despite what the world would bring here was something real that he could give to her, that he could always give to her that would help lighten her burdens; if even just a short time.

Their first kiss was all too short and she had just yielded to the touch of his lips before he came to his senses and panicked. What must she think of him? After all the talk of trust and here he was trying to take advantage of her because she was female. God she must think him a liar, a Letcher, a thousand other terrible things. Perhaps he should release her from …

She closed the distance between them and it stopped his frantic thoughts. He stared at her and in that moment the walls that protected him came tumbling down. His soul was lain bare to her gaze for just a moment. She could see the fear that he had taken advantage of her, and the regret for doing so. She would shatter that all however as she rolled to her toes to kiss him gingerly upon the corner of his mouth. She spoke and her words were a simple intoxication, delivered with yet another sweet kiss that was just out of his reach to return.

His mind was reeling, trying to take in the entire situation and failing to do so. It was good that he had no time to reply to her words, for he would have had nothing to say. He was so stunned by the whole thing, only the most base thoughts could be strewn together. That he wanted more of her, needed it with intense desperation. All thought was stolen with that next kiss.

Her gentle caress around the hem of his tunic started a thrumming in his pulse. Passion began to surface once more but he kept a tight hold upon it. His lips pressed to hers in return, taking them with a little more hunger than the first. As her fingertips drew upward and tease the line of his collar bone he felt a shudder of delight ripple through his form and goose bumps explode over the skin. Encouraged by the gentle press of her supple form against his, fingertips gently searched out the hem of her tunic. Slowly bypassing the fabric his fingers teased the small of her back, the base of her spine, and the line of her pants with a sensual caress.

To her words he simply smiled and spoke in a warm, playful tone. “In that case Alexis… I hope you do not wake until morning.”

He pressed forward against her in an eager attempt to feel her curves crushed against the hard planes of his chest. Instead of eliciting pleasure from him a frown slowly curved his lips. He drew his face back so that he could gaze into hers as one hand drew up to brush a soft caress along her cheek. “You are chilled to the bone and still wet. We need to get you warm Alexis, but first out of those wet clothes. I’ll not have you getting sick even if you are doing your best to hinder my thinking with those kisses…”

There was more than a hint of play in his voice as he spoke the last. With an arm curled around her waist he tugged gently toward his bedding.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:07 AM   #21
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“I wasn’t trying to hinder- “ her sentence stopped short as she picked up the glint of humor in his voice. Her cheeks flamed as she understood the implication of his words.

“But then I’d be the only one...” She let the rest of her words vanish when she caught his grin.

“I can take care of that. But those wet clothes need to go.” His warm breath washed over her neck as he added in a whisper in her ear. “And that’s an order.”

She snapped to attention at those words. Conditioned to obey the curt commands of her commander she turned obediently to work on the laces of her trousers. Pausing with hesitation moments after they had come loose. She took her time then. Slowly peeling off the wet layers of fabric that clung to her skin, and suddenly grateful that her tunic was large enough to cover her privates as she stepped free from the confines of pants and loincloth.

Alexis hesitated then. Her fingers clutched the cloth of her shirt as she suddenly found herself too self conscious to even turn.

Perhaps he saw her hesitation, because he didn’t let her wait long. He gathered the front of her shirt in his hands and pulled her back against him.

“Let me help you.” The fabric went tight against her skin as she pressed against his body. His hands were warm against her belly as they drew the shirt higher. It was then that it dawned upon her that he had undressed as well.

His body was warm - Hot against hers. But the sensation that left her shaking was the thick length of his manhood that seemed to burn against the small of her back. She groaned softly as the tunic pulled free from her.

She fumbled with the linen around her chest, Going through the painstaking process of uncoiling it from her body. His hand interrupted her, taking the loose end and tugging gently as his other hand guided her to turn. She spun slowly at the pace he set. Each turn revealing another strip of new skin as the situation gave him a near unobstructed view of her nudity.

As the last few rounds of linen drew near, the cloth tightened around her. Much to her surprise, his wrist flicked hard, pulling the rest of the linen free as she lost control of her own balance. Her cry of bewilderment was cut short as he stepped forward to catch her - already anticipating her fall as he slowly lowered her to his bed of furs he had been guiding her towards.
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Old 08-29-2011, 02:57 PM   #22
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He could not mask how utterly stunned he was. How had this woman escaped his notice for so long? How had she passed for a boy? Now with her body under his, the furs in contrast to her smooth skin, and deliciously supple curves. This body did not belong hidden beneath linen wraps and baggy clothing. She was a beautiful, precious thing. As his body settled onto her own he pressed forward to capture her lips in a kiss that was a mixture of hunger, and play. Murmuring as he drew back for air. “It is a shame you will have to continue to hide for a little while longer… you look rather beautiful as a woman you know…”

She clung to him relaxing only after the furs cradled her body. The sensations of his body against hers, new and disarming. His warm skin stood sharply against hers, drawing a moan that stifled beneath his lips.

His compliment drew a timid smile and whispered. "I've not been told that before." There was a first for everything and her boistrous self found itself lost in the torrent of... want.

He couldn’t help but find pleasure in her, in this new exploration of one another. Feeling her relax against him sent a new rush of desire coursing through his veins. He didn’t just want her to relax however, he wanted to drive her crazy with desire. Breaking the kiss he began to let his lips trail along the delicate curve of her jaw. His voice grew softer, deeper with the growing desire coiling in his body. “Then I will have to tell you more often… So you do not forget.”

Small steps fluttered across the curve of her jaw line as her head canted to allow him access. Her hands sought to touch him. Fingertips drew nails lightly up his back before his skin escaped her hands.

He let his pleasure at her touch be known. Moaning softly into her caress as his back arched slowly to give her more purchase to play with. His kisses took on heat and life as they drew closer to the curve of her throat. Delicately nipping and kissing the skin as he worked his way toward her pulse. Pressing his body firmly to hers, he let her feel the mass of his girth as it nestled into her inner thigh; he wanted her to feel just how excited she was making him.

She drew her lower lip between her teeth as she bit back the sound that threatened from the depths of her body."Your grace..." Her words came as a plaintive whimper. Her body pressed to meet his. "It's not fair.... that you can make me feel this way."
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Old 08-30-2011, 04:16 AM   #23
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His lips shifted slowly as a smile spread over them. Unfair? Unfair was having such a wonderful treasure so close to him, only to just now have discovered her. Unfair was when he looked into her eyes he felt his resolve, his wits, and self control melt away like ice in the summer sun. He voiced none of this, instead his hands slowly drew up to cup her face in a delicate grip. Leaning forward he nudged his noses against hers in a sweet gesture despite the aching want burning through his body. He spoke softly, his voice trembling with the passion of his words.

“Perhaps so. I do not think it is unfair, as you have a very similar effect upon me Alexis. It is not unfair, it is nature.”

Giving her no time to ponder his words he sealed his lips against hers again. This time there was no denying the heat, the hunger, the soul burning fire that she lit within him; he forced it to his lips and drove them against her ravenously. He wanted her to know she was not alone in her desire, and it felt good to release the heat before it consumed him.

His arms shifted around her form and wrapped her up in a firm, all encompassing embrace. It was all but a bear hug, except for the fact that it was not discomforting in the same manner. He held her close, pressed every part of him to every part of her. The heat of his flesh washed over her, and he softened the kiss until it finally broke.

Lips pressed a flurry of soft, lovers kisses along her face. It was a seemingly chaotic pattern of affection, yet slowly he made his way to her ear. Exhaling a deep breath into the shell his lips brushed the outer edge. Then he parted his lips and slid his teeth along the delicate flesh along the cartilage shell. Finally his teeth came to bear upon the soft lobe. Kneading the skin, he gave a delicate tug. Then his lips drew forward to smooth away the sting. His voice was a sensual rumble, felt almost as much as heard.

“Are you feeling warmer yet, Alexis?”
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Old 09-01-2011, 01:32 AM   #24
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His kiss was fierce. A tangible embodiment of his desires as she yielded to the inferno that would sweep her away. It was til their lips parted that she remembered to breath.

His body was hot against hers. His touch, his kisses, his body made hers thrum with want, and inundated her senses. It was too much. Evidenced by the light tremors of her body beneath him as she surrendered her control. The soft whimper broke into a cry when his teeth grazed her ear.

Her face darkened with her flush when she heard his question. She nodded, thankful that the room, barely lit by the moonlight filtering through the heavy canvas, was too dark to show the color that filled her cheeks.

“Don’t stop...” Her request was a soft whisper, breathless and carried on it the plea of want that burned her core. Her hands slid down the sides of his body, in a firm exploration of what her fingers could reach. Her fingertips pressed inwards to trace the hard lines of muscle before coming to rest over his ass.

“... Please...” Her voice was almost desperate. Her head dropped back, baring the elegant column of her neck, and emphasized by the arch of her back. It was made complete as her hands pulled him tight against her.

Their intimacy made her so much more aware. Aware of the strength coiled inside solid muscle. Aware of her own want as her hardened nipples pressed against his skin. Aware of his manhood that pulsed gently whilst caught between their bodies....

Hot. Hard. Wanting - Needing just as much as she.

She didn’t want the night to end.
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Old 10-12-2011, 04:23 PM   #25
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”Don’t stop…”

The words seemed to carry so much intensity. It was demand, need, pleading all wrapped up in her silken, husky tone. Not that he had any plans of halting… but if she continued in such a way there wouldn’t be a way for him to stop. He was already on the wrong end of self control with their bodies tangled together in a sensual mass. The only thoughts in his mind were of her. She was an intoxication, a drug, a primal need he could not deny.

As her hands slid down his body he couldn’t help the deep rumbling growl exploded from the pit of his chest, into his throat. It was a vocalization of pure bliss. Even in the dim light she could see the lids of his eyes slam shut. He was not just here with her in this intimate moment, he was drinking it in, reveling in her.

”…Please…

He stopped breathing. When he was able to draw in breath again it came in a hiss. It was as if the words themselves stopped his heart for just a moment. The pain in his chest turned into the warmth of pleasure and passion. He couldn’t explain the reaction, but react he did.

Lips parting he drew his head forward. She exposed her throat to him. The gesture was an act of surrender. He accepted her terms as teeth lightly grazed her skin. Hot breath mingled with the flick of his tongue against her pulse. Moaning as he tasted her delicate flesh, one hand reaching between them to slide down her body. The rough, calloused strength teasing her delicate skin. His eyes flicked open to watch the trail of his own hand as he cupped her breast. Brushing his thumb over the swollen and erect nipple. His length shifted and pulsed against her inner thigh as his desires continued to build, his need starting to scream for more.

When he spoke his voice was a wicked, deep thing. Alive and born of pure sensuality. “Alexis… I don’t intend to stop for some time. We have plenty of darkness left and I want to find all those wonderful things I have been missing.”

Several hungry kisses trailed down the column of her throat until his teeth brushed against her collar bone. As his hand began to drift down over smooth flesh, teasing her stomach; his teeth drifted down to take its place upon the contour of her breast. Blowing a hot stream of breath over her nipple. His eyes finally raised to meet hers. It was a different man staring back at her. Those walls that were a nessicity to keep command of his men had crumbled down. He was a man lost in her perfection, and reveling in every moment.
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