The Midnight Maiden Ch. 01byLordBrionGrenwall©
Author's Note: I want to acknowledge that the two main characters of this story are originally based on two characters that my wonderful girlfriend created in a short erotic story that she wrote for me. They are of course based on us and I loved the idea so much that I created a much longer fantasy romance about them. As a convenient backdrop I have used a fantasy gaming world that I enjoyed as a child. The games that I played and novels that I read were placed in this imaginary world and kindled the fire that became a life-long love of fantasy fiction for me.
The Midnight Maiden
Chapter 1: An Early Ride
The sky was dark; the silver moon of Luna had set but the smaller aquamarine moon of Celene still rode low in the sky and the light of the false dawn was just beginning to creep over the horizon. The young stable-boy slowly turned the enormous horse around; he was scared of it and rightfully so. Geoff slowly set the footstool next to the coal black destrier so that he could throw the saddle over its back. It had already injured Brenan, the older stable hand. Brenan had been rough and impatient; his thoughtlessness had earned him a horrendous bite on the shoulder. Geoff cautiously moved the stool around to the front so that he could reach the head. As he tightened the bridle about the horse's wide head he could swear it was looking directly into his eyes.
After he had double checked all the straps, Geoff patted the animal's neck and led it out into the courtyard where the guards had already opened one of the massive iron bound doors to the outside. The huge jet black horse snorted its breath a white mist in the chill morning air. It pawed at the ground with its spiked shoes and tugged the reins, impatiently. It was an animal bred and trained specifically for war able to inflict injury on an enemy and was not used to being stabled for long periods of time. Geoff had seen the destrier's barding in the stable, the spiked shaffron and crinet, the black and crimson body hangings. When armored surely this beast must have looked as if hell itself had spat him out. Finally, the beasts' rider appeared.
As the rider approached Geoff took him in. He was dressed in full armor as if for war, a large sword was belted at his waist and he carried no shield. The armor he wore was black as a moonless night with the edges trimmed in silver; a hooded black cloak lined in crimson billowed behind him. The helmet's visor looked almost skull like with two large horns. He was twice as tall as Geoff and twice as broad. To the young stable-hand he was as fearsome as his mount and when he spoke his voice was deep with a natural air of authority.
"Good morning Geoff, I trust 'Geddon didn't give you too much trouble? Not like that other fellow."
"No sir!" Geoff piped up. "He's a little impatient but ready as ever."
"The other stable hand what's his name?"
"Brenan, my Lord."
"Yes, be sure to inform Brenan that the next time he slaps Armageddon on the rump it may well cost him his life and not by my hand."
"I will do that my Lord but I think he is scared enough to leave 'Geddon to me."
The armored man laughed a boisterous laugh as he put one foot into the stirrup and swung himself into the saddle. Taking the reins from Geoff he settled himself into his seat.
"Thank you Geoff, here take this for your early morning trouble." He leaned down and pressed a bright coin into Geoff's small hand. Geoff let a low whistle as he looked at the coin.
"Lord Brion sir, this is a gold crown! I cannot accept this."
"Nonsense, you have more than earned it! 'Geddon likes you and I can't argue with that. Now keep it tucked away so that scoundrel Brenan doesn't find it."
"Yes sir, thank you sir."
The armored knight leaned forward in the saddle and patted the horse's neck as it shuffled impatiently.
"Are you ready boy?" he asked the horse. "Let's go stretch our legs and clear our minds."
With that Brion nicked the horse with his spurs. Glad to have finally been given permission to get underway the massive black destrier reared onto his hind legs before galloping out through the large wooden door. By the time the guards had managed to close and secure the door both horse and rider had become a small black dot against the gray morning sky.
As they put distance between themselves and the citadel the town of Admundfort came into view. Not wanting to disturb the villagers so early on a Freeday Brion turned the horse west away from the rising sun and toward the countryside. He had been at these blasted talks for too long now and like his mount was chafed at being confined for so long. Anytime leaders came together to talk there always seemed to be more pomp and circumstance than actual work being done.
Evil was rising in the land he knew. Humanoids were becoming bolder, venturing from their holes to pillage and burn. It was rumored that the old demon-lord Iuz was expanding his army and the Horned Society was growing in power. People had begun to talk of dark and evil things and so the king of Furyondy had sent messengers to all kingdoms dedicated to furthering the cause of good. Ten leaders had answered and made the arduous trek to Admundfort capital of the Shield Lands on the Isle of Walworth, to discuss a treaty of mutual protection. A noble and just cause to be sure but now it had dragged on for weeks because of bickering over petty differences and old hurts. Lord Brion shook his head and laughed to himself. Old kings and nobles could be such pompous asses he thought.
He slowed Armageddon from a gallop to a trot not wanting to exhaust the animal. Happy with his speed and course he began to think and remember, directing his mind to recount his memories of the past few weeks. He had weighty issues to consider, decisions that had to be made and this was the best way he knew how to think. He allowed his mind to drift to the past.
During the opening ceremonies he had been knighted into the Order of the Argent Griffon. It was the order of his country, the elite leaders of the Grand Army of Ahlissa. Several other candidates had traveled with him and his father Lord Barnard, King of Ahlissa, to the treaty talks. There in front of the leaders of other nations the men had kneeled. They swore oaths upon their own deaths that they would forever defend the weak and serve the cause of justice. Just as he was about to bow his head to receive his accolade he saw her.
Up until that point in his life he had defined beauty as a well crafted sword or a strong well bred horse but now he had a new definition. Her hair had all the fire of the sun and flowed in ringlets across her shoulders, her eyes were as green as the first tender leaves of spring and her skin had the soft glow of a pale morning. As he stared at her she looked back at him and then he felt it. A tremor at the core of his being so deep that he didn't even know it was there, whatever it was, her look had awakened it. His reverie was broken by the sword in his peripheral vision. He had quickly bowed his head and felt the flat of the blade touch his shoulders. As he raised his head again, the room exploded in thunderous applause, he heard his father and Paragon Astinos saying something about happiness and being proud but he didn't hear any of it.
As he and the others stood his eyes scanned the crowd, where was she? He couldn't see her anymore, he turned looking about. He scanned the room with eyes as sharp as any hawks' and still she was nowhere to be seen. Had she really been there at all? He was sure she had been! His eyes had never played tricks on him before and yet he could not find her. Finally someone slapped him on the back in congratulations and it broke his concentration.
The whole day she had occupied his thoughts, he found that he could concentrate on nothing. She had been burned into his mind's eye this mysterious seraph. He had looked for her everywhere he went that day but to no avail. Eventually night came and the diplomatic events of the day ended just as they had begun. As Brion lay in his bed that night he could find no rest, he tossed and turned as she captivated his thoughts. Rising from the bed he decided to find the kitchen, perhaps a cold turkey leg or a round of cheese would help him sleep. Brion pulled on his pants, boots and loose shirt and headed down the stairs towards the kitchens. As he was crossing an open walkway to the service areas he had heard it.
At first it was faint, only a whisper on the breeze barely a sound at all. Brion stopped his ears curious about what he thought he had heard. Wait, yes, there it was again. Singing, someone was singing. He cocked his head to get a better idea of the direction from whence it came. Stepping off the walkway he turned the corner and found a courtyard garden, it definitely was coming from in there. Brion stepped into the garden and quietly began to make his way toward the singing. As he drew closer it became clearer, it sounded as if the language was elvish. He was not fluent in the tongue of the olven folk but he had a rudimentary understanding and could make out a few words. It seemed to be a song describing the beauty and majesty of the moons. He looked up and saw that Luna was shining bright and full in a clear star filled sky, a perfect night to serenade the moon goddess.
Creeping forward he continued listening to the song. It was haunting not sad but not happy either, calming he thought to himself. The voice calmed his mind and made him feel content. As he picked his way through the hedges and saplings, Brion saw that they seemed to thin just ahead. After a few steps he saw a clearing and he knelt in the shadow of tree. What he saw took his breath away; it was the maiden he had seen earlier that day! She was seated on a large bare stone that was partially covered in vines; a glittering shaft of moonlight shone down on her and created a pool of liquid silver all around her. She was dressed in a white gossamer gown; her auburn locks glowed in the moonlight making her appear angelic. Her feet were bare and encircling her head was a ring of baby's breath flowers. As he watched her serenade the moon in the ancient olven tradition, she began to dance not fast but rather a soft flowing series of movements.
Her eyes were closed as she seemed to float about the clearing. It was then that Brion felt it again, that tremor at the core of his being. The feeling affected him like no other, he felt his pulse quicken, his skin felt hot and his mouth went dry. He had faced death innumerable times and yet he had never felt like this. Who was she that she could affect him so? He noticed that she seemed to be slowing, nearing the end of her song. Not wanting to be discovered he silently rose and backed away from the clearing, he needed to think on this.