A Change of Ages Ch. 01bywandering_one©
It was windy, as she knew it would be. Leaves rushed past her and danced at her feet, warning her to slow her pace, to rethink her actions. She clenched her fists and bowed her head against the frigid air. The Gods fight when they sense someone going against them. First they put doubts in her mind, confuse her senses, then they move the air and shake the trees. Soon she knew they would alter the ground, creating rain and mud so deep she would trip and fall and have to crawl on her knees to reach her destination. But they wouldn't kill her, for that was against the arrangement.
She had left the cave at dawn, a breeze whispering past her ears as she walked towards the second moon. Her cloak was blue, as all high priestesses' were, and her step determined. The others needed her. They needed her because she was the only one who could help, the only one with the gift to see beyond and the strength to use it. And she needed them as well, she knew. She needed to know that humanity was not lost, that despite the horror and blood of her dreams, the nightmares which followed her every breath, the agony of her work, she knew she could only continue if she was sure that she was helping them, that her sacrifice would aid their world and better their simple lives.
But the world changes, and she is of the old ways. She knows this. She knows this but she doesn't let it stop her. Her mentor, Lady de la Brume, had warned her of this. She had told her upon her rebirth that her passage was to be the most difficult of all the members, because she was to be born upon the eve of change. She listened, thinking she understood, but De la Brume knew she didn't, knew she couldn't. In her ancient wisdom gathered from the thousands of members before her, she knew that change was a sudden thing, and no matter the signs, the warnings, the shift within the air and the earth and the sea, no matter the preparation, when the world moves to accommodate a new age, those who attempt to stop it will be decimated, and only those who are fluid, who bend like the reed in the stream, can survive. And as Clara trudges through the hurricane around her, feeling the hail beat her shoulders as the sky gathers dark above her, Lady de la Brume is in her home, weeping against the window pane. For she knows her young apprentice well. She knows she was chosen for this age because she is angry and young and proud and strong. But youth and strength and anger and pride are limited, and easily distorted. Lady de la Brume weeps, because she sees they will be Clara's doom.
"Please Laurie. Please stop. I cannot continue!"
Lady Grace dropped to the floor of the weapon room, her delicate palms pressed behind her as she struggled for breath.
Lorelei smiled as she regarded her mistress. She did not begrudge her ladyship her beauty or her delicate nature, but she could not let it interfere with her job.
"My lady," Lorelei squatted next to the gasping princess, "we must continue. I know you are exhausted," She smiled and patted her pale locks. "but you are doing very well and the lesson is almost over. Afterwards I will ensure that your ladies in waiting will prepare you a bath, and I will buy more of your favorite scent from the village."
Lady Grace looked up at her protector. They were the same age, the same height and had been raised in the same kingdom, but apart from that, there were no similarities. Lady Grace was on the golden Lorendive lineage, the eldest of her family's children and the first in inherit her mother's throne. From the age of 6 she had been schooled in diplomacy, foreign languages, instruments, dance, song, science and now, with whispers of war on the horizon, she was being taught sport, more specifically, how to defend herself and kill when necessary.
Lorelei was born to Rowenstock parents. Her breed was dark, with black hair and eyes, but skin as pale as her Lady's. Her people were born to serve the Lorendives. She had been chosen as Lady Grace's personal bodyguard due to her superior strength and intelligence. Luckily, the two women had been friends since childhood. The queen had permitted Lorelei to attend all of Grace's classes, so she too was capable of diplomacy, linguistics and science. But song, dance and music always fell by the wayside. Her mother had consoled her, telling her that her hands were meant to hold a sword not a violin, to pluck the strings of an archer's bow, not a cello. Her voice, she was told, was for calling soldiers to war, not singing romantic lullabies.
Together they grew up, Lorelei spending her extra time in the battlefield, as Grace spent hers in the music room. As they grew older, they spent more time apart. Lorelei's initiation took her from the kingdom for 3 years. She never spoke of what she saw or of what she was forced to do, nor even of where she went, but when she returned Grace saw the change in her eyes. She noticed it at dinner, the celebration of her own coming of age, at 25 she was set to inherit the kingdom, to rule alongside her mother until she was 27 and would become the sole queen of her country. Lorelei, she had heard, had returned a week earlier and Grace was desperate to reunite with her old friend. She knew, of course, that Lorelei had not been on a holiday, but was none the less curious to find out what she had learned, and where she had been. But the guards and the royal household forbid them from seeing each other. The queen had sat Grace down to explain that they would be reacquainted at the celebration dinner, when she would receive her crown and Lorelei would officially be given to her as her personal guard.
"But why can't I just see her? I have missed her for so long!"
The queen had patted her daughter's golden head. "Things are different now my love. She is no longer your friend, no longer like a sister to you. She has become a warrior, like all of her people. She will belong to you, because her life now exists solely to protect yours."
Grace had shaken her head, "But why can't we still be friends? I don't understand why-"
"Hush." Her mother put a finger to her lips. "You are lucky to have her at all. Not all survive the initiation. Many do not return from their 3 years away. Lorelei is strong. She is unlike any of her kind I have ever seen before. That is why I chose her for you, so that I would always know you would be secure. There is not another person in this world capable of protecting you as well as she."
And they had met that evening. Grace sat beside her mother, her crown sparkling on her head, long golden locks draped across her shoulders and backs. She was beautiful, as all Loredive's are, their celestial appearance well suited for their place on a throne. Lorelei had entered in front of her men. She seemed taller to Grace, her shoulders held back and her head upright. The tip of a scar was just visible along the top of her shoulder, peeking out from beneath her armor. Her hair was as long as Grace's but pulled back, tied in a thick, black rope down her back. Her legs were strong, her hand on her sword as she approached the thrones. She knelt before the queen first, presenting her sword above her head to announce her return. The queen accepted it and smiled as she turned to hand it to Grace. Their tradition was to take the sword from the returning warrior as an offering of devotion, then to hand it to the ruler. As Grace would be Lorelei's mistress, she would take the sword from the queen, and offer it again to Lorelei once she bowed in front of her, signaling her acceptance of her allegiance.
Grace's hands trembled as she took up the weighty metal blade. Her friend was so changed. She was still a woman, no doubt, still slim and beautiful in her fierce, dark way, but her eyes now mirrored those of the warriors Grace had studied in her history books. People who had seen things, horrible unspeakable things, had committed acts so terrible they were not named. These warriors were feared for their strength, but honoured for their dedication to their people. Grace looked down into Lorelei's eyes and knew her friend was forever changed. She felt tears prick the sides of her lashes, thinking that her best friend was lost to her now, replaced by this goddess of war, when she noticed Lorelei's mouth twitch and a brief smile flit across her face before she bowed her head again, awaiting Grace's acceptance of her service.
This had all occurred over two years ago. Since then, Lady Grace spent her time learning the complicated intricacies of royal governance and Lorelei was often seen in the war room, tracking any suspected intruders. Grace felt her presence at all times. That was another thing Lorelei must have learned in her time away, how to watch her Mistress whilst not being in the same room. When Lorelei was forced to leave, for reasons she never told Grace, another person was assigned to track her, but Grace always felt Lorelei's eyes on her, watching.
"Laurie, please. I hate this stupid sport. Why do I need to learn how to fight when you never leave my side?"
Lorelei smiled. Grace continued to used her childhood nickname, even though she was now obligated to address her with the proper terms of respect.
"My lady, it is for your own good. There are rumors of an invasion and whilst our kingdom is secure, should they get into the castle there will only be myself as your last defense."
Grace grinned, her breath returning. "Exactly. Who could possibly get through you?"
Lorelei laughed, "Well I appreciate your faith, but wouldn't you at least want to try to fight? If only to save your dignity?" Grace looked shocked at this. "Now get up Gracie, I said we're not done yet." Lorelei pulled her to her feet.
Later that day, Grace sank into the recesses of her bath, delighting in the perfumed salts Lorelei had managed to find for her. She knew Lorelei stood outside her door, no doubt polishing a blade or researching her targets. The woman was never still. Grace sighed and sank lower into her bubbles. Her hand itched to press the silver lever on her right, to call one of her many men to her chamber. Sometimes she felt guilty calling them into her chambers when she knew Lorelei was outside. She had offered the men to Lorelei several times, inviting her to make use of their services the way she did, but she always refused, smiling and saying they were for the enjoyment of a princess only. Grace didn't understand this, as her studies told her that the body needed release in order for the mind to concentrate. Her fingers played along the edge of the silver lever, finally pressing it to invite someone inside.
Lorelei heard the silver charm ring beneath her feet, echoing down towards the east wing where the servants resided. She knew that in a matter of moments, a tall, golden man would come towards the door, passing before her and then entering into her lady's bath. She was curious as to her lady's persistent enjoyment of the men. In her time fighting, she had learned all that the body was capable of and most of which, experience had taught her, was not pleasant. Fighting left aching muscles, climbing meant sore backs, whiplashes left scars, even horse riding was unpleasant after days on end, tracking. She heard her lady's soft cries, the lapping of water as the men did whatever it was they did, and she knew from her voice that it was pleasant. Lorelei frowned. She was too busy for that. Days spent reading maps, pacing courtyards, stalking within forests and tracing all unknown scents left her tired, her mind awake perhaps but her body too fatigued to imagine entertaining one of the men from the servants quarters.
A tall blonde appeared before her, one she had seen multiple times before. He smiled, a hint of nervousness behind his kind eyes and Lorelei realized her features must have sunk into a scowl as she thought.
"Yes my leader. I have been summoned."
Lorelei looked at him, closing her eyes briefly to read his intent. She saw the familiar glow from his breeches, the itch within his hands and the yearning around his mouth and knew that his intentions were limited to pleasing her lady.
Lorelei smiled, not wanting to frighten the man so that he couldn't perform his duties. "You may go."
He nodded and knocked, entering when he heard Lady Grace's soft voice from within.
Lorelei returned to tracing the borders of the kingdom with her mind, slowly searching each post for an unfamiliar scent. The sight of the man had distracted her, the thought of warm hands on soft skin, touch for the purpose of pleasure, not war. She shook her head and returned to her thoughts, ignoring the subtle ache between her thighs.