tagSci-Fi & FantasyTo Catch a Merchant Princess Ch. 01

To Catch a Merchant Princess Ch. 01

byDarkniciad©

Author's Notes:

© Copyright Darkniciad. If this story appears anywhere except Literotica.com with this note attached, it is posted without my permission and is likely incomplete/improperly formatted. Please go to Literotica and search for Darkniciad to find the real, authorized version of this tale.

This tale takes place in my fantasy world, and centers upon characters you might recognize from "Queen Alicia" and "King Thakkorias." There isn't much sex in this story, and most of the heat comes in the later chapters.

Much as "Casting Off Convention," this story details early adventures in the life of my characters, long before the 'present day'.

Pardon the font size/face change during/after the block of text until the end of the page, if it appears. I'm an optimist, so I just fire and hope that the programmers are going to track down that bug just in time for my latest to come through clean, despite knowing how much of a pain code bugs are to find *laugh*


†ΞΞΞ♥ΞΞΞ†

Alicia fought to keep her eyes open, and thought that she was certainly going to lose the battle this time. Oblivious to her waning attention, Alfred continued to drone on about his exciting — at least to him — day of trading.

He hadn't even noticed that she'd completely changed her hairstyle since he'd called upon her only two days earlier.

Alicia stared past him at the manicured lawn of her home, the beauty of the sculpted bushes and carefully chosen trees lost upon her in her irritation. The sound of the songbirds couldn't cut through Alfred's endless oratory, nor could the smell of flowers overpower the miasma of the scented oils in his hair.

She knew that she couldn't possibly do what she wanted to do, which was to stand up and walk away without a word. Her father would have an apoplexy, and Alfred would no doubt spend days decrying her lack of manners to anyone foolish enough to listen. At a loss, she simply nodded and offered half-hearted smiles any time he paused, and spent the rest of the time fidgeting and twirling her finger into one blonde curl.

Alicia straightened as her father's carriage rolled in through the front gate of the low wall surrounding the property. Alfred didn't even notice her audible sigh of relief over his continuing oratory. As soon as he paused for breath again, Alicia interrupted him.

"I fear my father has returned, and I must return to the house to see if he has need of me."

Alfred froze for a moment as the next onslaught of boring recollection ground to a halt in his head. Eventually, he managed to sort her words out of his own egotistical rambling. "But of course, my fair flower. May I call upon you again on the morrow?"

"I fear tomorrow finds me in the tutelage of the Baroness Gwendoline," Alicia answered.

"Ah, the fates conspire against us. I will speak with your father on the morrow then, to determine when we might once again share each other's exquisite company."

"Yes, the fates are truly most cruel sometimes." Silently, Alicia thought, And sometimes they do me a kindness I could never repay.

Alfred stood and whipped his hat back on his head, only to doff it to Alicia a moment later. "Until we meet again, my fair flower."

"Farewell, Alfred," Alicia responded. She even managed to avoid frowning when he took her hand and kissed it before turning toward the stables.

As soon as he passed out of sight, Alicia quickly removed the pin holding the top of her bodice closed to hide her ample cleavage. Every gown her mother bought her seemed to border on the indecent, and she had no desire to display her attributes to the likes of Alfred. If she'd left her bodice unpinned, he would not only have talked incessantly about himself, he would have done so to her chest.

She greeted her father and welcomed him home, knowing full well that he would have no time for her, let alone need of her. His bookkeeper had met him at the massive oaken front door, as always, and they discussed the business of the day. She fulfilled her customary obligation, and sat quietly upon a cushion-covered couch with her mother as the men discussed important matters.

For the last few years, this part of her day had set her teeth on edge. While she had no real interest in the business of trade, she had nevertheless acquired a deep knowledge of her father's business through these evening sessions. She frequently knew what her father or the bookkeeper was going to say before they said it. Despite having no passion for the trade, she had little doubt that she could have easily stepped into her father's role and managed the business adequately. At times, she'd even considered solutions to problems that eventually came to pass a few days later. However, she knew that her idea would have met with immediate dismissal in the form of her father nodding absently without having heard a word she said.

Her only value to her father lay in the influential men seeking her hand in marriage.

Even as she thought it, she knew it wasn't true. Her parents loved her, but didn't often express it very well. Even those things that made her feel like a possession were born out of love. Her father simply wanted her to have a rich husband who would take care of her as he did her mother. He couldn't comprehend Alicia's independent nature and desire to make her own way in the world. Such a thing was an alien concept to his limited worldview.

A servant announcing that dinner was ready ended the first trying segment of Alicia's evening, and began the next.

"Did you have a pleasant visit with Alfred, Dear?"

Alicia contained a sigh, having hoped that she might have more than a bite of her dinner and a sip of wine before the inquisition from her mother began. "Yes, Mother," she replied with little conviction in her voice.

"He's quite handsome, and he shows great promise in expanding his family's prospects," Her mother continued, either ignoring the bland tone of Alicia's voice, or dismissing it.

"A fine choice for a husband," her father agreed from the opposite end of the long table after a sip of wine.

Growing testier by the moment, Alicia said, "He barely notices me. All he does is talk about himself."

"Well, Dear, you're hardly drawing attention to yourself or encouraging him. You must make an effort to accentuate your charms. You have far prettier gowns, and you have barely made up your face."

Alicia pursed her lips as her mother spoke, and then retorted without a moment of thought, "I could meet him unclad and his first word to me would concern the trials and triumphs of his day."

Her father put down his fork, the ominous clink of silver on china causing the servants to stiffen and her mother to cover her mouth. "I will not abide such uncouth language from you, Daughter." He paused for a moment to regain his composure, and then continued, "Alicia, you must stop rejecting every suitor who comes to call. Most women of your age are already two years married, with far fewer prospects."

"Is it too much to ask that I actually find my future husband interesting?"

That pronouncement prompted a gasp from Alicia's mother and audible swallows from the wide-eyed servants lining the tapestry covered walls.

"Is it too much to ask that a daughter respect the father who provides such a fine life for her?"

Alicia hung her head and apologized, "I am sorry, Father. I spoke without thinking."

"See that it does not happen again. You simply must abandon these fanciful notions of marriage that you have acquired from vagabond poets. Those ridiculous writings are the rambling of fools addled by drink."

"Yes, Father."

"I hear that Baron Ranyer is having a grand ball, Husband. Do you think we might receive an invitation soon?"

In a way, Alicia was grateful for her mother's change of subject, but it also reinforced the notion that she should obey her father without question, even in a matter of the heart.

The remainder of the meal proceeded uneventfully, and Alicia gladly took her leave once granted permission. She stepped out onto her balcony in the night air to sigh and stare at the stars.

The distant sound of men's voices raised in anger drew Alicia's eyes toward the city. Though she couldn't see the shouting men, she could certainly see the poor section of the town where they dwelled. She felt a flash of shame for lamenting her own life when such obvious evidence of people far less fortunate lurked only a short distance away.

The sounds grew louder and more voices joined in, stealing away the serenity of the night. Alicia stepped back in to find a servant awaiting her pleasure.

"Your bath is drawn, and your nightclothes are prepared, Milady. May I be of any other service?"

"Thank you, Kylie. Please, take your ease."

"Very good, Milady," Kylie responded with a bow of her head, and then turned to leave the room, her footsteps silent on the carpeted path. Alicia knew that she would return before the sun to lay out Alicia's clothing for the next day, and assist her in fixing her hair and putting on her face.

Alicia removed her constraining gown with a sigh of relief and sank into the expensive ceramic tub. Soon thereafter, she pulled up her down-filled comforter and drifted off to sleep.

†ΞΞΞ♥ΞΞΞ†

Alicia awakened deep in the night with a gasp. She panted for breath, staring into the gloom of her room and hastily pulling her hand away from her mound, where it had come to rest as she slept — and dreamed.

The images of her nocturnal fantasy lingered in her mind, refusing to go away. She could not escape the touch of the devilishly handsome, perfect model of a man that had wooed her in her dream. Her nipples were painfully stiff against her silky nightgown, her rapid breaths causing the cloth to caress them much as her lover had in the dream. The warmth and aching tingle between her legs was almost maddening in its intensity.

Try as she might to ignore the screaming of her body and the rapid pattering of her heart, neither would give her respite. Her cheeks burning with embarrassment, she let her hand drift back to its previous position, and surrendered to her need.

Soon enough, her silken nightgown crept upward as her arousal grew and her fantasy continued where it had left off. As soon as the bunched cloth rose above her cotton panties, Alicia slipped her fingers beneath them to her wet heat. Her back arched from the direct contact, and she choked off a moan as her fingers were replaced by those of her imaginary lover.

So unlike the real suitors who sought her hand, her dream man spoke of her, not himself. Now, he admired her with a look in his eyes that bordered on worship. Alicia's fingers traced her folds, the amount of slippery wetness surprising her. Her fingers moved faster, and the man in her mind's eye did the same. The flush in her cheeks deepened as her fingers danced over her sex, but from excitement rather than shame this time.

She pinched her lips tightly closed against the sounds of pleasure trying to escape her unbidden. Her finger found the center of her pleasure, rubbing the swollen bud in circles as a warm point of ecstasy grew ever larger within her. Her muscles contracted, causing her hips to rise ever so slightly toward her fingers, and thus those of her dream lover. He looked deep into her eyes, whispering words she couldn't quite make out in an aroused, encouraging tone.

Alicia bottled up her cry of release when she came, a tight, quiet squeal in her throat the only thing she allowed to escape her. Her head rose up from the feather-stuffed pillow and she trembled as the delicious agony of her orgasm shot through her body. When it released her, after what felt like an eternity, she collapsed into the mattress to pant for breath.

As her fantasy and arousal ebbed, a slight frown darkened her features. She wondered if her father was right, if such wonderful emotion was nothing more than a flight of fancy that only existed in the tales and poems of bards and writers. With a sad sigh, she tugged and wriggled until her nightgown once more covered her, her bliss blunted by thoughts of reality.

Sleep once more claimed her.

†ΞΞΞ♥ΞΞΞ†

The next day found Alicia in far better spirits. She'd developed a close friendship with Baroness Gwendoline, a woman only a few years her senior. Though Alicia had long ago mastered the courtly manners that she supposedly visited the Baroness to learn, the two maintained the illusion of their lessons to spend time together. The Baron was a far older man, and thus had little in common with his young wife. Alicia provided a welcome distraction from the boredom of the Baroness' life.

Even more than the Baroness' friendship, Alicia anticipated her secret lessons.

Gwendoline had some small skill in magic, which she agreed to teach when Alicia showed aptitude. Though far from a wizard, Alicia could cast cantrips that she found useful on occasion. She knew her father would never approve, and that provided the drive to learn every bit of magic she could.

In addition to her study of magic, Alicia had also found joy in another endeavor that she knew her father would disapprove of. Gwendoline's mother had narrowly escaped an assault in her youth, and demanded that every woman within her sphere of influence learn the means to defend herself. Gwendoline had demonstrated what she knew when the subject came up, and Alicia's strong interest had prompted the Baroness to suggest real self-defense training.

The middle-aged Master of the Guard had intimidated Alicia at first, but she soon grew accustomed to his gruff manner. The exhilaration she felt as she learned even endeared him to her after only a few sessions. In some ways, he paid more attention to her than her own father.

The Baroness also had remarkable skills with makeup that hid the occasional bruises Alicia sustained, which were virtually unavoidable.

Trell had steadily introduced new techniques and weapons into the sessions, far beyond the training he usually offered to anyone outside his own guardsmen. Alicia had gained a great deal of competence with a knife, and now showed promise in using a sword. His praise and her sense of accomplishment pushed Alicia to excel in an endeavor not usually associated with women, let alone those of the gentle class.

"Hold!" Trell laughed as he parried an enthusiastic thrust. As always, he was a little surprised by the amount of force the trim woman managed to put behind her strikes. "You overextended again, Alicia."

His weighted wooden practice sword pressing against her side emphasized the point.

"Always assume your opponent is feigning weakness or lack of skill. Seek your openings, but be ready to return to a defensive position in an instant."

Alicia nodded her understanding as she stood up straight, realizing that she was indeed off balance. She took a deep breath and blew upward to dislodge a droplet of sweat clinging tenaciously to the tip of her nose. Beneath her padded practice uniform, her clothing was saturated with sweat.

"That's all for now. You'll have to rush through your bath to be ready in time as it is." Trell held out his hand for Alicia's practice sword, which she handed to him with a deep breath.

"Outstanding, Alicia." Gwendoline applauded. "I would adore seeing you challenge one of the younger guardsmen. I do believe you match their skill."

"Truth to tell, so would I," Trell agreed, signaling across the courtyard to one of his men to come take the wooden weapons. "You're a remarkable woman, Alicia. If you go after everything the way you've gone after your training with me, you're going to carve yourself out a nice little place in the world."

"Thank you," Alicia replied humbly, now that she'd regained her breath. She blushed, but her cheeks were already red from exertion, and so the change was virtually unnoticeable.

"That's not idle praise, either. If I thought your father wouldn't have me hanged, and the men could deal with it, I'd ask you to train formally for the guard. You'll be wasted as a bauble for some noble."

"I say, Trell," Gwendoline interrupted, her voice full of mock indignity.

Trell grinned at the Baroness and chuckled as he handed the swords to the guardsman. "You can play the silly girl all you want, Gwen. We all know that your hand is guiding the Barony as much as your husband's. A damn fine day it was for us all when you married him. Marcus means well, but he doesn't always think things through."

Gwendoline let out a musical laugh and waved to Alicia. "Come along, Alicia. We must get you in the bath and make you presentable for the popinjays again."

"Thank you, Trell. I only wish I had opportunity to practice when I'm not here."

"Keep up with your exercises. That will keep you fit, and you can pass that off as a way to keep your figure."

"I will," Alicia responded, and then followed the Baroness through the massive double doors back into the keep.

A short distance down the corridor, Alicia glanced away from the murder holes in the stone wall that always made her feel ill at ease and asked a question that she'd wanted to ask for some time. "Do you love your husband, Gwen?"

The Baroness smiled. "I do. At first, our marriage was little more than a political necessity. I've learned that there's much to love in him since then, however. I'm content, which is more than many can say."

"Am I selfish to want the love that the poets and bards speak of?" Alicia sighed.

"Of course not, Dear. Unfortunately, you may have to settle, as I have. Your father is on the brink of reaching a higher station, and you have a place in that. I don't mean to be cruel, Alicia. I just do not want you to spend your life dreaming of something you might never have." The guard stationed at the door moved out of the way to let the two women back into the keep proper.

"I know. I hope I can at least find a man that I can learn to love. The suitors Father chooses set my teeth on edge."

"Don't give up hope, Alicia. You never know where you might find love. Keep searching for it. Young men are full of themselves, but there may be more lurking beneath the surface, if you nurture it properly."

Alicia smiled and said, "I'll try."

"That's all any of us can do," Gwen responded as she stepped onto the polished marble floors beyond the ironbound door.

†ΞΞΞ♥ΞΞΞ†

Alicia sighed and closed the curtains on her carriage, not really wanting to know how close she was to home. Her visits to the Baroness were amongst the high points of her life in recent years, but that only made the return home all the more melancholy.

A chill ran up her spine when she felt a prickling sensation all over her skin, as though every hair had stood up on end at the same moment. A second later, she heard a muffled thump from the front of the carriage. She listened for a few seconds, but didn't hear anything else unusual. She did notice that the carriage seemed to be slowing.

When the speed of her journey slowed to a point that she could no longer question it, she stood to speak to the driver through the window leading to the driver's seat. She cried out in alarm when the carriage suddenly lurched to a complete stop and the horses whinnied in protest. Thrown into the opposite seat at the front of the carriage, she nursed a sore elbow and a slight bump on the head.

The relief-carved door banged open with startling force, accompanied by the sound of low, nervous voices — and a curious chant. Alicia stared into the open portal, unable to distinguish anything against the low-hanging sun's glare except the outlines of human bodies. "Who are you?"

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