Claiming an Ally Ch. 02bytitania123©
So here is the second installment. This chapter should set us up for the reason we're all here...as long as things go according to plans. Anyway. I wanted to say thank you so much for your all your responses. I'm glad you're enjoying the story thus far. I tend to be a starter and rarely a finisher so it is a great encouragement to see you are reading this and what you have to say in response, so please, keep them coming.
The morning came before the sun could usher it in. Bleary-eyed, Emera went about stoking a large fire, setting out the food Leonard prepared and cleaning the few utensils used. As the men moved into position to shove off, a youth of less than 13 came rushing up to Leonard. He whispered to him before the old man turned to Emera. "Dear, this boy here says you are to follow him. The king wants to see you." In quick reaction, before she thought, she straightened her skirts around her and tucked a few wayward strands of silk back behind her right ear. She glanced up to Glenna who was settling in the wagon seat. Her eyebrows were raised, shooting her a 'be careful' look.
Eventually, she and the boy made their way forward and stopped at another wagon. "This wagon is for the king's tent. You are to ride up here today." He held out a hand to help her up. However, she looked surprised and gazed around, trying to spy the king. Her independent nature wanted her to refuse, but logic won out as she decided perhaps she could learn something more today than yesterday. She quickly scurried up the side of the wagon and gracefully seated herself next to the driver without the boy's aid. As she was situating herself, taking in the surrounding company, the boy left without another word. She introduced herself to the gruff wagon driver. He was polite, but not sociable. Motions and sounds were made and eventually the camp was moving forward once more.
Despite her best efforts to engage the man next to her in conversation, her riding companion gave nothing more than monosyllabic responses. After waking early from an unrestful night's sleep following a grueling day of marching, Emera found sitting still coupled with the relaxing breeze a recipe for sleep; soon her head slowly dipped forward, her eyes shutting of their own accord.
"I shouldn't be surprised that one foolish enough to travel on foot alone would also be foolish enough to fall asleep atop a moving wagon, risking falling off and breaking her neck." His condescending voice slapped her from her dozing. She sat up straight, arching her back to stretch. Edrich's breath caught at the sight of her lithe figure contorting hypnotically. Trying to distract himself, he spoke. "I see you are appreciating my great concern for your well-being." He tried to distance himself from the effects of her allure with his condescension.
"Your great concern?" She nearly rolled her eyes; he really was too much.
"Yes. I noticed you did not fare well walking on foot all yesterday. I have arranged for you to ride here. Great concern and effort to arrange it."
"Roger," she spoke to the driver.
"Who normally occupies this seat next to you?"
"No one, Miss. It is usually empty."
She turned back to the king as he rode his horse next to them. "Empty. I wonder at the effort it takes to have a messenger find one person to fill an empty seat." Her face was blank, waiting to be contradicted over his great effort.
He frowned at her. "Very well. Then, at the very least, you should be impressed that not only am I attentive to the needs of your body, but I can satisfy them with little effort." His dark brown eyes were glittering.
She made no argument, partly because he was right, but also because she had the distinct feeling his words held a double meaning she was too ignorant to understand. "Your thoughtfulness, though perhaps unnecessary, is appreciated. Thank you, Your Majesty."
Again, her half thanks satisfied him somewhat as he could see they were more than she wanted to give. "Unnecessary? You prefer to walk, then?"
"I prefer to remain busy, my Lord."
"Then how do you find working for Leonard?"
She laughed somewhat. "Well, I am not afraid of hard work, my Lord, but I fear that I am not qualified to assist him in any cooking whatsoever. My maid is better suited to that." She looked down at her hands, smiling.
He watched her closely. He could tell she was an active girl. Hell, her perfectly toned body revealed in the setting sun just the evening before had given testimony to that. He began to see that his concern and effort to protect her body were actually robbing her of much desired exercise. They remained silent a few minutes more. "We did not camp in a very sport-rich site yesterday eve. Our scouts had difficulty finding enough food for this evening's meal. There are better hunting grounds near tonight's destination. I plan on taking a few of my best hunters with me to bring back dinner." She nodded in understanding. He seemed nervous, as though he wanted to say more. She turned, giving him a curious look. "It is a shame that you are not helpful in the kitchens." She attempted to defend her place in the cook's tent but was cut off. "Is it not sad that you don't possess other skills?" He rubbed his chin. Again, she tried to argue that she had skills when he stopped her. "Oh, yes, as I recall, you are somewhat capable with a bow and arrow, are you not?"
The man was a mystery. Had he been hit in the head with a blunt object since yesterday morning when she felled the charging boar? Somewhat capable with a bow and arrow, my foot, she thought. He felt her anger building. "Well, if you would like to join us for our sport this afternoon, provided you stay out of the way and don't slow us down, I suppose you would be welcome."
She was about to yell a thousand miserable words at him when his ploy suddenly began to dawn on her. He recognized she wasn't happy or fit in the kitchen and was giving her an opportunity to do something she was happy and fit in; hunting. The anger melted off her. "Yes, thank you, Your Majesty. I would be most happy to assist with this evening's kill." His face showed no interest, one way or the other, but accepted her agreement with a slight nod and then abruptly rode on. Despite still being tired, her countenance brightened and she stayed awake, surveying all she could. When the sun was high, she shared food with Roger who had opened up a little to give a brief history of his service to the king. He concisely detailed being a favored soldier when he was younger. However, a battle wound gave him an inescapable and costly limp. Favored as he was by the king, he was allowed to serve in any capacity of his choosing. As such, he became the king's valet.
Within two or three hours of stopping for the day, the king rode up once more. "It is time, Em." He held his hand out to her as her rode next to the wagon.
"Time for what, Your Majesty?"
"To go on the hunt. We need to advance ahead of the men to make time; when the men arrive at the camp site, we will have the kills skinned and ready to be cooked. There is too much travel and not enough day to postpone the hunt until we arrive."
"Am I not to have my own horse?" No, of course not, you idiot, she thought to herself. Ride with a man! Never! Her mother would roll over in her grave at the very idea. It was one thing to buck convention and ride straddle on a horse as opposed to side-saddle. It was quite another to be intimately nestled between the thighs of a man she had not known for more than a day, let alone was not married to.
The king grew impatient. "Come now, Em, or you do not go on the hunt." He was stern.
She'd broken so many rules of a demure princess that at this point she couldn't see that it would hurt anything more. She reached out and made a small leap, landing in his firm arms. He settled her so that her right leg was bent around the small pummel of the saddle, her left leg hanging down, gripping the horse. Not exactly side saddle, not exactly astride, but still very naughty in feel. He urged his horse at a sprinting pace forward, breaking away from the marching men. She then realized he had been surrounded by a group of five other men on horseback the entire time.
Once acclimated to the rush of joining a group of strange men on a hunting expedition, Emera became achingly aware of the intimate position she was in. The king held the reigns in his left hand as it rested on her thigh. His right hand firmly held her around the waist, pressing her tightly against him. She felt heat and arousing strength surround her as he leaned forward, urging the horse on. She could smell him, and it was intoxicating. And added to all that, she was tightly positioned between the king and the pummel. With each stride of the stallion, it rubbed her sex against it until it throbbed in aching desire. Focus!, she chided herself. Most of their travel was through a bright wood with tall, old Beech and Adler trees. Occasionally, the path was strewn with fallen logs which the king's horse flew over gracefully. Those powerful, jostling movements only served to heighten the arousal of her body more painfully, setting every part of her on fire.
For Edrich, the ride was a glorious nightmare. It had excited him as he planned their excursion together, imaging the feel of her in his arms. Naturally, he fantasized the progression of liberties allowed; a hand on the waist, the other on the thigh, rubbing soothingly. He would hear a soft moan and skillfully move his hand to her breast, her head back against his shoulder, head tilted away giving him access to her neck. He imagined the intoxicating taste of her skin as his mouth glided up it while he firmly knead her breast, causing her to arch into his grip, moaning sensually. He had stopped the fantasy there, his erection growing as though he was an undisciplined youth.
Now, however, in the reality of full, round buttocks pressing intimately and firmly into his groin, the heat of the fantasy wilted away when compared to the scorching fire he found coursing through his veins, igniting a fierce hunger for more. His blood was pulsing to his turgid member, and he had to fight the rhythm of the horse that caused their bodies to move in a mock-fucking form. This is what he had wanted, but now he realized, unlike his fantasy, there were surrounded by his men and despite the passion Em showed, she was still a maiden and not likely to allow him to bed her. Frustrated, he leaned more into her, his nose near her hair inhaling her scent comfortingly into him.
Eventually, the forest thinned out to a large accommodating clearing. Obviously, this is where they would make camp for the night. He swung down and then reached up, taking her by the waist. He let her slide down slowly, pressing her into the side of his horse with his own hard body. She felt every inch of him and prayed the agonizing torture would end. His gaze had turned dark again, but she knew it wasn't with anger. Her face was heated, and she felt as though she might faint. She never had before, and she wouldn't start now. She dared to look up at him, forcing herself to appear braver than she felt. He lingered, looking down at her. She thought he would say or do something, but after a time, he stepped back and called for Drake. The soldier came forward with a bow and a quiver full of arrows. The king took it and handed it to her silently.
When she shook off the haze fogging her brain, she realized the other men had left and only she and the king remained. After tying off his horse with the others, he gestured with his head, indicating she was to follow him. They veered off the path where the forest became thicker and trudged through the growth as quietly as humanly possible. At one point, she aimed for a fowl taking flight, but he lowered her bow. In a hushed voice he explained. "We have too many to feed. If we caught enough pheasant for them all, we would spend an eternity plucking and cooking them. We need large game."
She never realized that. She nodded, understanding. They eventually spotted a small herd of forest deer. By that point, she had veered off to the right and was standing at one end of the herd. They looked at each other, nodding. Both drew their arrows. He let his fly first, causing the herd to scatter quickly. The buck she had her eye on turned away from her and dashed off. Damn! She quickly ran another few meters to the right to get a better angle at its body. She let her arrow fly, penetrating it deeply in the animal's side.
"Mine fell instantly. Looks as though we're going to have to chase yours down," he taunted smilingly.
"Yours was standing still, only a couple of yards away." She held her chin high. "Plus, mine will feed more."
"Only if we can catch it," he chuckled, and they headed off in the direction the animal had flown. They followed the blood trail until it led up into a craggy hill with tall boulders surrounding it like a crown. Then the trail stopped. They spread out searching for it. "Found it!" he shouted from the other side of the hill. She climbed to the top of a small boulder to spy him. She smiled wide when she saw him waving.
As she hopped down to approach, the quick jerk of his right shoulder back was the only warning something was not right. She watched in horror as he looked down, blood pouring from an arrow pierced in his shoulder. She drew her bow, quickly scanned their surroundings, and then fired at a man sitting atop the tallest boulder, shrouded by trees. He fell and tumbled violently to the ground. She spun back to Edrich to see three men jump from behind a boulder, kicking him to his knees. Two of the men grabbed either of his arms while the third held him by his hair, forcing him to bare his throat to the dagger the man held.
She had already pulled another arrow from her quiver and had it aimed at the man. For a moment, no one spoke. "I don't think you are quite in the position, you think you are, missy," the man with the dagger grated out.
"Neither are you." Her voice was unwavering.
The man grunted at that. "Really think you can kill all three of us before we slice open your lover boy's throat here?"
"I know I can kill all of you, regardless of what you do to that man."
"Not disputing that, honey, but you should be asking yourself, do you really want to watch him die?"
"No, the question you need to ask yourself, is do you want to die?" She drew the bow back even tighter in threat.
"Seems we are at an impasse. And the only thing I can think of to get us out of it, without the loss of life is a trade." He smiled leeringly at that.
"Trade? What sort of trade?"
"You discard your bow, walk over here, and we let him go on his merry." The king began to furiously thrash at the man's suggestion.
She looked into his eyes. No! he clearly told her. Her breathing increased finally. Trade herself for the king? Was there no other way out? She began to frantically look about, trying to find some way. But there was none. And for the first time, in an absolutely long time, she felt helpless. She looked at him, and he knew she had given up. He began to thrash even more violently, despite the arrow piercing his shoulder. He was able to throw one of the men off momentarily, but they regained control of him, striking him in the process. His brow and nose were left bleeding.
It never crossed her mind to wonder why she was desperate to save him, to give up her own life. She never once questioned if this was the solution to her problems, to rid herself of Lidio's king. She never considered denying their request to run for her own safety or even for help. In that moment, she was driven only by the deepest desire to protect him from harm. She lowered her weapon and threw it away. She watched his desperate face as she walked solemnly across the clearing to them. Be at peace, she willed him. She no longer thought of the men, just easing his heart. She knelt in front of him, wiping the blood and sweat from his brow, her hand gently stroking down his cheek. She was overcome by the need to give and receive solace from him. She hedged, only for a moment, and then leaned in, her lips grazing across his ever so slightly, and then deepened it briefly.
He broke the kiss to lean his forehead against hers. His breathing was harsh and ragged. "Do not do this," he begged.
With fixed determination she quickly stood and looked at the man with the dagger with deadly calm.
"Let him go, now."
"Come to think of it, I don't think I will. This bastard's given us too much trouble. But I will collect on your offer, just the same." He leered as he stepped around the men to reach out to her. Liar! Rage shot through her as she thought only a moment before grabbing the nearest man's sword. In one motion, she pulled it out of its sheath, turned to slice across the leader's throat and on the returning arc skewered the belly of man she stole the sword from. Edrich used the distraction to throw the last man to the earth with his overpowering strength, pulling his dagger from his belt and plunged it into the man's heart. For a moment, the only sound was her ragged breath as she struggled to maintain control. He looked at her and then bounded forward, embracing her tightly.
She was momentarily dazed at his powerful show of emotions before she pulled herself back. "We have to get you back to camp and see to your wound." Her voice was raw. She trained her thoughts to address the problems at hand, and not to be swept away with emotion. She looked about her, slightly confused as though she was looking for something but didn't know what. She began muttering to herself, something about "who knew killing a man..." and her actions became indecisive and frantic. He knew she was disintegrating and pulled her roughly to him again. She began to sob violently, clinging to him for support. He fully embraced her, letting her emotions take possession of her. Eventually, her tears dried up. He pulled her back, took her face in his hands, and gazed down into her eyes.
"Shh," he whispered. "It's over, my brave little savior," he continued to gently shush her. He cupped her face and kissed her eyes, then her tear streaked cheeks. When his lips nudged at the corner of hers, his pupils dilated and he looked into her eyes. For a moment they held, and then he crashed into her like a wave coming to the rocks on shore. He could feel her desperate need for him. Her innocent mouth opened willingly, an innate knowing of how to respond perfectly. Her tongue followed his lead. She moaned delicately and he growled in response. In frenzied need, Edrich's arms forcefully hauled Emera to his body, but his pain shot through him and broke through his haze of lust. His arms loosened, but he still held her. He tried to breathe through the pain, holding it and letting it gently pour out of him. His chin resting on the top of her head, he whispered, "Aw, Em, what am I going to do with you?"
She took a decisive step back. "Well, I know what I am going to do with you. I'm taking you back. Now, come along, don't dawdle." Before he realized it was happening, she transformed into the know-it-all girl of action he was becoming so familiar with. She quickly turned, picking her bow and quiver as she left the area on her way. She marched forward, hoping he wouldn't catch up to her. Her mind was racing, her heart was slamming so hard in her chest it ached. She knew she was too far over her head. She was damned! She was falling for the king. How was she going to deal with him in the future when she became queen? How was she going to leave him? She had never let a man touch her as he had, let alone kiss her so thoroughly she could die happy and perfectly satisfied with life, well, almost perfectly. She didn't know how to proceed. She was still uncertain if her country could approach him and expect reasonable peace talks; let alone what he would do when he discovered who she was.