Becoming Woman Ch. 01

byNaivelyWandering©

"How odd. But a forest cat, you say? Perhaps I'll join your return, then," he said, and picked himself up off the grass, brushing his pants as he stood.

Jove only grunted, his arm obviously causing him grief, and when they returned to the castle, he broke into a jog to find a healer. Deln was content to follow the other guard to the healing house, and met Balron along the way.

He'd always considered the tall, blonde Knight handsome, particularly his rough exterior. In the past, he'd often toyed with the thought of offering himself to him; he knew in times of battle, soldiers were permitted to seek comfort amongst themselves. But fear of rejection had held him back, and he'd lost his chance to voice his strange attraction, now that Balron had chosen his wife, and was expecting their first child so soon.

"Where was she? Is she alright?" he asked, walking with Deln to the room.

"Went for a wander in the forest of Dunhill," the Bard offered, trying to desperately suppress a blush at being addressed by the soldier, and focussed on watching the healers tend to her, instead. "I didn't realise she was injured or I wouldn't have let her disappear."

Balron regarded the pale musician warily. He'd more than once felt a fixed gaze upon him, and each time, it was the King's Minstrel that had been watching him. Not knowing how to approach him without embarrassing him or hurting his feelings, he'd been relieved to feel his eyes on his back less often since Beth had come into his life.

"Would one of you sit and watch her for a few hours?" one the healers asked, pulling Deln out of his thoughts.

"Aye, I will," he replied immediately, jumping at the chance to be anywhere but in the presence of Balron, and took a step towards the unconscious girl.

"Just don't fall asleep on her, like the last one did," warned another healer, rolling her eyes.

"Of course not."

Balron considered Deln for a moment; as much as he felt uncomfortable, he couldn't deny the bard's warm friendship and genuine concern for those around him, and saw this as a good way to find out more about the mysterious woman.

"I'll ask Beth to take over in the morning," he said, and nodding to the blonde, he left the room, and made his way to his wife.

----------

Deln watched the waif-like girl toss and turn. She was frowning in her sleep, and he instinctively reached over, covering one of her warm hands in his, and began humming a soothing lullaby. Her expression relaxed, and he smiled as she curled closer to the edge of the bed, closer to him.

Closing his eyes, he continued to hum softly, while remembering his first encounter with her, her wildness, the way she'd stared at him from the trees. She was completely fearless; paying no mind to the serious wounds that had bested her and made her bedridden, again.

"Master Bard? May we enter?"

The twins, never needing to stand on ceremony because of their status, didn't wait for him to nod before entering the room, standing just inside the doorway.

"They say she tried to escape," Flein said as they inched closer.

Deln shook his head, smiling warmly at them.

"Exploring, I think. Curious, and perhaps hungry," he added, remembering her lips on his, the way she'd licked the remnants of the toffee he'd made earlier off his fingers.

"In her condition?" Fohnrir asked, and pulled her brother close to the foot of the bed. "Papa said she shouldn't even be able to stand with injuries like these."

So they'd come to get their answers from him, then. Taking his hand off his charge, Deln shrugged and sat back. In reaction, the girl frowned in her sleep again, and closed the fist that had accommodated him.

"Has your father spoken to you about running off like you did?" he asked, uninterested in answering their questions.

The twins nodded, Fohnrir biting her lip.

"Him and Balron, both. We're to wait for her to wake up and apologise," Flein offered, flinching when the minstrel nodded.

"You won't have much luck. I don't think she can speak or understand us, for the moment," he replied. "In the meantime, though, perhaps practising your harps in your chambers until supper will keep you out of the borderlands. I'll call for you when she's well enough for visitors."

Flein and Fohnrir both nodded eagerly and made their hasty retreats.

Turning his attention back to the unconscious girl, Deln curled a dark brown lock behind her ear. She was beautiful, really, under that fierce exterior, hidden beneath that intensely wild guise.

Smiling to himself, he leaned back on the chair and crossed his arms, letting his head fall forward.

"That's how she got away the first time."

Deln opened his eyes, surprised to see the room thrown into dim sunrise hues of light grey, yellow and blue. In the doorway stood King Imlan, as usual, one eyebrow raised with imperial air.

"My Lord," Deln started, standing to bow, but the tall man waved him back down to his seat.

"Fret not. I was the one to fall asleep on her the first time," he said, walking to the edge of the bed. "Has she woken?"

Deln nodded, eyeing a tray of neglected soup and bread, his supper.

"Only to stare at me a moment. Her eyes are the strangest colour," he added, watching Imlan draw closer, examining the wounds on her arm. "Should we wake her for breakfast?"

"No," the King answered, standing straight again. "I do not think it would be wise to interrupt the healing process. Beth has offered to watch her while you get some rest of your own, though."

"I have rested, my Lord. And I do not mind keeping watch," Deln replied, surprised at his genuine tone.

Beside them, the girl groaned and rolled onto her back, her frown deepening.

"Are you sure, Deln?"

"Get off my wings."

King and Minstrel stared at the sleeping girl lying on her back, and then looked at each other.

"What did she say?"

"Not words, my Lord. A chirp, perhaps?"

"Girls don't chirp, Deln," Imlan retorted, hotly.

"I wouldn't know, Sire."

"Well, perhaps if you rested, ate a full meal and stood in the sun for a while, you'd look less like a ghost, and more attractive to the ladies in waiting, hm?"

Deln didn't bat an eyelid at the King's words, but noted both eyebrows now sat at his royal hairline. His Majesty was well known for resorting to cheap shots when losing a verbal sparring match, but he and Emble alone seemed impervious to his baiting, and he simply sat, smiling pleasantly at the King, instead.

"I cannot dissuade you from your vigil?" he asked, his eyebrows returning to their usual home when he realised he wasn't going to get a reaction from the bard.

"I'm afraid it's an impossibility, Sire," Deln replied, feigning a sad tone, and Imlan smiled as his gaze returned to the girl's troubled sleeping features.

"Very well. Be sure to advise Emble when she wakes. I still have yet to formally thank this woman for saving my children's lives, and they are yet to apologise for endangering hers."

"Of course, Sire."

Deln bowed his head respectfully towards his King, and watched his back as he left the room.

----------

Gentle pressure on his lips woke Morwendor, and when he opened his eyes, it was to find another face very close, too close, to his.

Morwendor spent a full second lost in bright blue eyes, and then repulsion took him, and he flung himself backwards, horrified. Pressed against the wooden bed head, he stared at the man who'd dared touch him and bared his teeth, the hairs on the back of his neck bristling. It was another second for him to realise why the man was familiar, and then heat rushed up his neck to his cheeks, while the golden-haired man straightened his tunic.

"In my defense, you started it," the man murmured, sitting back. "Though, I truly didn't realise my kissing skills were so poor," he observed, running fingers through his sleep tussled mane.

The girl said nothing, but continued to stare at him wide-eyed from where she braced herself against the bed. Moving slowly so as not to scare her more, Deln pushed his chair back and sat with his hands on his knees so that she could see he was not a threat. He realised his mistake, though, when her sharp copper gaze flitted from him to the door and back again.

"Please don't run, Miss," he said, leaning forward, and she backed up again, pressing her bandaged back against the bed head.

"Miss?"

Morwendor's thoughts changed from escape to confusion. Again, the witch's voice echoed in his mind.

"Aye, Miss. You don't have to run away. You're safe here," Deln replied, giving the girl a friendly smile.

"Miss," Morwendor repeated, frowning to himself. "Miss, miss, miss, miss."

Frowning deeply at the girl, Deln wondered if she had received an injury to her head, and sat forward, offering her a hand.

"Are you alright? Do you want me to fetch a healer?"

Morwendor warbled, and dismissing the hand offered to him, swung his legs over the edge of the bed and got up.

"Wait!"

Surprisingly strong hands pushed him back the moment he touched her shoulder, and Deln yelped, falling back into his chair. Standing at the same height as he was sitting down, the girl glared him down. Advancing on him quickly, she snapped her jaws loudly at him, and then stepped back, searching for something.

Unable to find a reflective surface, Morwendor opted for stripping, and using his own strength, ripped at the fabric enfolded about him until it was nothing but shreds on the floor. He stared at his body, ignoring the man's gasp. He was pale and small, completely featherless like a newborn. Where a flat chest should have been, two proud, firm breasts thrust from his body, and where something significant should have hung from between his legs, his hands found only soft, downy hair.

It occurred to him, then, that this body was not male at all, but wholly female.

Shocked to his core, Deln willed his feet to move, and he sprinted from the room, calling for a healer as loudly as possible.

"Master Bard, what is amiss?"

A portly old woman popped her head out of another patient's room, and relief swept over Deln. Ignoring her protests, he pulled the woman by the hand back to the room.

"What has been seen cannot be unseen," he muttered guiltily, but pressed a hand over his eyes anyway. "She's naked."

"And out of bed," the healer added, standing with him just inside the doorway. "Well at least she's left the bandages on, this time. Hello, lovey, what're you doing out of bed at this hour? And what have you done to your nightie?"

Morwendor's eyes moved from his body to the two standing in front of him. The man that had had the audacity to kiss him earlier was blushing furiously, one hand clamped over his eyes, while the woman just stood there smiling at him.

"Er, I'll just leave the two of you, that is, I'll fetch some food. I'll be back shortly, but not too shortly," Deln stuttered, and letting go of the healer's hand, he excused himself from the room.

"Thank-you, Mary!" the healer called after him, and grinned when she heard him echoing her words from the hallway.

"Now then, what're we going to do with you, young lady?" Mary asked, shaking her head.

Morwendor stared at the plump, elderly woman, and decided quickly, as she hustled him back onto the bed, that she was no threat, even if she was annoying and pushy.

"When you were brought in the second time, we gave you enough porthos root to fell an elephant, and yet, here you are, upright and giving me sass! Right to my face! I'm too old to be given sass, young lady," the healer quipped, and pulled the sheets up to his chin. "Now, mind you pay attention to me when I say this. You can't go showing your delicates to gentlemen, not even pretty ones you might fancy. Stay here," she said, as she tucked in the sheets around him, "and I'll get you a clean gown if you promise not to rip it apart like the last one."

"Miss?"

"Yes, lovey?"

Morwendor stared up at the woman and moved a hand up from under the sheet and pointed at himself, his eyes searching her soft, wrinkled face.

"Miss?"

"What is it? Are you in pain?"

Not picking up more than 'what' and 'you', Morwendor shook his head, immediately regretting the action as it made his temples throb.

"Mor-"

Mary raised her eyebrows and sat on the edge of the bed.

"More what?"

"No. No 'more what'. Mor-wen-dor."

"Oh, your name? Well, pleased to meet you, Morwendor, I'm Mary," the healer said, and shook the girl's hand spritely. "Still got a fever, but that's no surprise. Morwendor. That's quite the mouthful, you've got there, by the way," she added, getting up. "Did I say to stay there? Well stay there," she repeated, to Morwendor's raised eyebrows. "And I'll go find you another nightgown."

Morwendor regarded his shaken hand, the bubbling of incomprehensible words the woman had said, and then watched silently as she walked out of the room. If there was a chance to escape, it was now, but he found himself comfortable, warm, and curious, and decided he could be content to stay put for the moment. The only thing that bothered him was that he'd been moved onto his back again, and apart from the stinging ache running up to his right shoulder, he was sure his wings were going to get squashed, and he rolled over onto his side.

Stupid bird, he thought to himself, you've not got wings any more. Lifting the sheet, he peeked down at his delicate form again, and snarled at it. Stupid witch, he added, knows not Morwendor is male.

A commotion just outside the door drew his eyes, and just as he pulled the sheet back up to his chin, the golden-haired man returned, a tray piled with food in his hands. He blushed when the shining blue eyes stayed on him, and scooted back in the bed so that the tray could be sat in front of him.

"I wasn't sure what you'd want to eat, so I just brought this. I made toffee a day ago, but the cooks couldn't find it, otherwise I would have brought you some. But there's bread, fruit and meat and cheese. Oh, and this is tea, be careful with it, it's hot," Deln said, and then feeling like he was waffling, fell silent.

"You hunt?"

Deln sat back, surprised at the quiet curiosity, but shook his head.

"Uh, no, well, I, I just fetched this from the kitchens."

"You hunt for Morwendor," the girl said a little louder, seemingly hesitant to touch the food.

Deln realised he was holding his breath while his eyes were stuck on her hand, creeping closer to the tray. Wondering at himself, he shook his head, surprised at how shy and unsure she made him feel.

He watched the girl's slender hand glide over the grapes and strawberries, and pick up a slice of ham. Bringing it to her nose, she sniffed the meat warily, and then bit into it. She stared at the man, and he realised when her expression fell from curious to cringing that it was not something she'd had before.

"Well, you haven't eaten in a while," he said, watching with curious amusement as she removed the meat from her mouth and put it back on the tray. "You really do need to eat something."

"Some-" Morwendor paused.

"Something," Deln repeated, frowning. "Anything, really. Is there something in particular you want to eat?"

"Eat?"

Deln's frown deepened and he began to wonder if her head injury was making it hard for her to understand him.

"Yes, eat," he said and gestured to the tray, but she shook her head at him, matching his frown.

"I hunt."

"Not in your condition, you don't," Mary retorted from the doorway, a new gown in her arms. "Morwendor, this is Deln, Master Minstrel to the King," she said, pointing at the blonde. "Master Bard, you do realise you've dropped grapes all over the corridor?"

The plump woman gave Deln a stern look, and he jumped up to his feet.

"Oh, I did, yes, sorry, I meant to clean it up, I just wanted to be sure she ate something. Morwendor, did you say?"

Morwendor nodded, and satisfied there was nothing on the offered tray that he wanted to eat, lay back on his side, but Mary beckoned him to sit up, and he did so, the sheet falling down to his bare waist.

"Right, yes," Deln stuttered, spinning around to face the door instead of the naked girl, "I'll go pick those grapes up."

Without daring a backwards glance, he practically ran from the room.

"You know, just between us girls, I think he likes you," Mary said, tossing the nightgown over Morwendor's head.

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