Onceuponatimelonglongago. . . he was sitting in the saddle on the edge of a cliff face when he heard those prolonged screams. The listlessness left him as he followed the sound to observe a dark brown—no—a reddish smudge soaring high into the air above a rough sea, hundreds of feet below him in the midst of a self absorbed, but conspicuous aerial display.

For once he was aware of the activity around him and certain of the exhilaration at the loud cries of the raptor spinning overhead. Sensations flowing around the Count's head often led to very disparate ends, but at that moment he was focused on the creamy coloured chest of the swooping hawk.

He had seen the bird before from closer up. There were many unrewarding destinations that he really did not want to arrive at and he had lingered there on the edges of the cultivated lands. Listening out for the raucous downward slurring 'keee-arrrrrrr,' he watched for the uniformly reddish coloured tail, with the narrow dark band and the light hued tip.

This raptor seemed as well-traveled as himself. He had spotted it in open country, woodlands, prairie groves. It had flown above him in the mountains, across the plains into the farmlands, and even along the roadside leading into the seaport. The beady eye that observed him seemed to recall the mischief that he still wrought in the outlying places of his little realm.

He never quite enumerated his sundry wickedness' around the lonely farmsteads. Certainly, butter wasn't the only thing that churned in the outlying parlours. Country lasses offered their Lord his due and oscillated keenly around his fornicating vigour.

They sought to churn precious Lordling seed from his concupiscent loins. He was well accustomed to slipping back into his breeches before the spillage though. He controlled his libertinage as he controlled the bow of his rakish fiddle and move on then.

Now, dressed in the trappings of local power, he could slip back effortlessly to his stronghold, deep in the mist enshrouded forests. And again and again, he observed the hawk, this avian emblem of his lubricious adventures, flying along with him into the dusk, before it wheeled away to plunder the cliff tops for small animals.

The seaport also paid its tribute to his venal appetites in more than wine, desiring his viscous fluid to fortify the blood stock. He held back with some fortitude. Always. Carnal encounters may be generally pleasant, frequently enjoyable and, occasionally, delightful. No matter how debauched they were though, such lubricity could never be unprecedented. His heir deserved more than an anonymous womb or the obscurity such bastardy would condemn them to.

In the seaport inn, he had enjoyed the nether charms of many a merchant's daughter, flinging her portals open as he would throw the windows open after having satiated his rampant need. He rutted ceaselessly on that metal bedstead until it became a home from home. A fortress of restrained lusts.

On sultry evenings, long summers before, he used to leave the window open to allow the sighs and their gathering perspiration to dissipate in the warm evening air. A voyeuristic crowd of ne'er-do-wells sometimes gathered below to shout up encouragement.

Not always though. On one occasion he looked up from the creamy nether cheeks that he was belabouring and ceased his energetic wenching. There was a clammy silence for the town square was devoid of raucous listeners for once. A new ship had berthed from the seven isles and his erstwhile audience were bending their backs to earn a foaming yard of ale.

It was not the unaccustomed tranquillity that stilled him. It was the fact that, perched on the metal balcony above them, was that elusive red tailed hawk. It looked down at them lugubriously and persistently, before turning its rusty coloured body away from him, emulating his partner's position, displaying its own finery. He observed the dark and obvious belly band.

This hawk's most notable feature would one day be its tail. This feature was far less striking then than the fully grown adult that the Count would come to observe keenly in time. The white base, the brownish colour, and the fine bars, marked it out as a juvenile, just like the colours of a well whipped young partner, writhing in frantic copulation against his thrusting manhood.

He was not put off his priapic stroke for long by the feathered beauty before him. The evanescent hawk faded from his memory as it flew away to another observation post and meatier prey. It had distracted him briefly from the nagging worries about the limitations such ribald paths offered.

It challenged him, pressing him towards the realisation that there were greater demands than this tame debauchery in the outlying inns, farmsteads and seaport stews. The relentless cry of the raptor called him back to the harsh cliffs and the dark forests. He would leave the daughters of farmers, innkeepers and proud bourgeois merchants trembling in vexation with a shrug at the denial of his bloodline: until he was next tempted.

Hidden like snagging branches that catch the traveller at each turn along forest paths, he would soon find confusion. There was no dissonance and no countervailing force away from the seat of power, no matter how shameless his penetrations of these subservient hinterlands. He had thought that paths that lead westwards were ripe with possibilities, but the routes were impassable so late in the year.

He had no power of flight across rough seas. A traveler through his lands might find lodgings in the seaport before taking a berth in a ship to the Seven Isles. There were always lodgings in one of the farmsteads frequented by MiLord on the rare mail wagon that crossed the dangerous mountain passes into the neighbouring duchy.

The pursuit of MiLord, as he trailed back towards the forests and overtaking him in the landscapes of his restless mind, might be an even more rewarding adventure. Would the Count deign to notice the keening stranger echoing the tired walk of his black mount?

It seemed to our Lordling that his latest vigorous survey of his fiefdom was nearly over; even though we know that MiLord's red-haired and red tailed confusion has barely begun. Such are the nascent contradictions that gainsay indecision in the heart—or do they, in fact, reinforce it?

So many disparate questions whirl round the mind like the haze in the autumn air, when one encounters lascivious beauty by a quiet stream under the gathering shadows of a sylvan dusk. Such questions may be answered within the flinty stone of the stronghold that towers above the swirling mists. These beguiling mists should divert the jolting of external dissonance from his homeland. Yet, he is so perversely fond of controversy that he will make a decision to bring at least one more element with him on this as on every previous occasion.

Confusion, on this occasion, perches like a nestling in the saddle in a woodland grove in the mist. Confusion is the unchaste beauty who has overtaken the Lordling on his slow trek home. Confusion has the appearance of a red headed woman on a chestnut mare. She has taken the opportunity to bend forward like a graceful sapling to brush against a leather jerkin. Beguiling him with aplomb, she has wrapped an arm around a dark muscular shoulder, as he assisted her to mount.

The dark shoulder, of course, belongs to our smouldering and self-indulgent wanderer on the black stallion. She has encountered our thoughtful, self ennobled ante-hero. How apposite. On the winding route home, she has sequestered his company and the dubious shelter of his sylvan fortress abode.

However primitive, the undoubted warmth of his chambers will be an improvement on the bed of damp moss and dewy bracken that she has been contemplating. She realizes that, beneath the arrogance and the assertiveness, there lies a certain bluff and bravado to conceal the lack of certainty. There is a hint and, therefore, a possibility that the pensive nature belies his rutting machismo.

Nevertheless, he is so focused on the ideas that swirl within his head that he looks away from her with clear deliberation when she opens her mouth to speak to him. He would not have her break his reverie. She drops a kerchief in startled surprise at this apparent snub. So pensive. So reflective. So rude.

It drifts to the ground, joining red-brown curling leaves from the trees. Like the past, it is forgotten in the fading light: clutched in the fist of the falling evening. Quiet beside him, she stares out, watching to see the next possibility and all the openings laid out before her. Her perception is clearer while she stays silent in anticipation of all that is intended for her. Let the feeling take hold. Let the need for it engender a nervous movement of hands offsetting the retentiveness apparent in her poise. She might glance up once and then return her gaze to the forest floor.

Confusion whispers, like the downy feathers of a hawk's wing rustling in the stillness. MiLord stands up in his stirrups, throwing back his cloak and tossing his fine hair. The waxing moonlight gives it a distinguished silver sheen. Has he earnt such acclaim? They have certainly earned their rest, having, finally, ascended the winding path to the dark gate house and its grotesque decorations.

The rough hewn stone would have had enough magic without these hideous gargoyles, but they give one something to stare at as you wait. Your mount stands as still as an owl on the hunt, listening for the scampering of minions, champing at the bit to bring forth the little rodents from within those forbidding walls.

"Halt — here are two arrows to take you to a long rest." A challenging voice in the dark.

"My compliments on your watchfulness. But you know who it is?"


"The very same. I bring you Confusion."

"As always, MiLord."

"Admit us, then."

The iron bar is raised and the thick wooden gates creak open for them. Silhouettes bring deadly arrowheads to their lips in a meaningful salute for the Count and his lady of the moment. The echoes of the horses' iron hooves resounding over the sharp chill of the moat, as the pair trot across the drawbridge.

The mare snorts. Is she startled by the apparent threat of the cruel spikes of the portcullis? Or is it the enclosure of the cold straight walls of dead flint after the winding paths and the living barrier of the verdant forest? Both the riders duck instinctively under the gaping maw of the bleak gate house. There is no need. The keystone of the archway must rest at least three metres over their heads as torches illuminate their way through the darkness: drawing them in.

In the courtyard, servants run forward. Their lean shapes slope in the moonlight across the slippery cobbles. The yard has not been properly swept of late and the falling leaves have formed a mulchy and treacherous surface. Consequently, the figures brace themselves as they slide across the cobbles to seize reins and to secure the riders. Confusion slips from the saddle and looks up at the dark buttress and the crenellated towers. The pitch torches flicker.

They are carried by those who had guarded this little Lordling and his fortress, through so many twists and turns. Like saplings in a storm his followers have swayed with his careful politicking between the duke's raiding hordes to the north and the despoiling brigands, so assiduously employed along the coasts by the Lady of the Seven Isles.

MiLord is not the only ravager of the seaport beauties and farmstead wenches. No, indeed. At least he only burns with desire though. There will be no smouldering ruins after his passing. He has established himself here, firm and usually fair, in these dangerous times.

His equanimity has won a certain loyalty, despite his sometimes invidious demands. Is he much more than the wandering minstrel, a self indulgent lothario, made good through careful flirtations? Time has built certain bonds. He serves and is served by a small entourage. They have swayed with him and he has stayed with them, or rather returns to them having vented his needs in the outlands. Each individual has a specified place to belong in the mists of this creation. But where in this ordered confusion does a nestling belong?. . .

"There is music and feasting within MiLord," his chamberlain bows and laughs nervously as he darts up to greet them. He bows again, profuse and assiduous in his ecstatic, humble greetings:

"Milady, I bid you welcome."

Confusion smiles at the courtly welcome. She recognizes fear in the nervous laughter and knows this feast is unauthorized. Neither she nor the count need feasting, but they will not break up this impromptu gathering. Let the fires burn. Let the courtiers and peasants join them treading out the measure of this musical fantasy. Bread and circuses have a long tradition, after all, right back to the time of the old Emperor. They bring back momentary calm and peace in these rough times. It may be that the rough edge of such barbaric merriments leave no real time to observe the proper rituals of courtly love. There is less time now to live and, thus, to love.

Is this the reason why his eyes wax smoky with desire as soon as he touches the palm of her hand? He thrusts his own fat fingers roughly and suddenly against her impregnability. The first hurdle is gained as he clutches at the long nailed fingers, sharp as a raptor's claws. He advances in step with her in a stately Pavanne. She dances demurely, beautifully sinuous in a crimson velvet gown.

The thorns of a wild cream rose lacerate her breasts like a livid white scar. It breaks up the continuity of her velvet suppleness. It creates a dissonance, even though it is only a decoration. He sighs at the firmness and the glossy russet flow of hair down her neck. It sets off the whiteness of the white rose and the smooth pallor of her skin.

Twinkling grey eyes seem as irrepressible as the controlled eroticism and the contradictory impression of reserve emanates from her. And those freckles: never forget the corruption of a red head's freckles. Yes, it is corruption that engages MiLord and the many others gathered in the room.

"See their hands touch lightly in the turn of the dance."

"The tips of her fingers must be cool to the touch."

"Cool to his surly touch and heating with his dark moods?"

"Dark hair, dark garb, dark thoughts."

"Dark hands. . . dark gloves."

Raucous laughter ensues.

"Perhaps they will serve to stop her slipping from his grasp?"

"Perhaps they will slip down her silhouette. . ."

"While he shadows her sullenly?"

And, despite—or is it because—of the word games, he does. MiLord's green eyes are as cool and dark as the depths of the moat. He gazes at her over his shoulder as the movement of the dance separates them and carries her away from him.

Natural vivacity is kept in check, bubbling just below the surface by her gestures. These are graceful. The mouth is cruelly sensuous and curving—like her beckoning fingers. They are drawn up in a subtle calling and matched by a subtle skin tone. Torque jewelry shines in the light that flickers from brands held in torch holders around the walls. Her lips shine with moisture from the tongue that slips nervously from the red folds. The outline of her abdomen and her curving breastbone rises past an exquisite avian neck to the red halo of hair around her face. She too has a hungry look. It augurs well.

She touches her lips to a clutch of purple grapes. They cool the burning red of her mouth, but she does not bite. The flicker of her tongue caresses the pulpy flesh as she lets the bunch hang there, irresolute. She toys with the soft fat ovals, dangling from the clipped vine. She could be imagined toying with other seed filled sacks. Suckling the skin, she stretches her mouth over the pendulous heaviness of the fruit. Is this some mimicry of the lascivious gestures she might adopt to gather more rewarding fruit? Might she indulge in such sport, given time and opportunity?

Irritated by the unstinting gaze of her host, she soon tires of this game play. She bites and she sucks and she closes her eyelids to entertain the murmur of voices around her.

"A hand might reach out to push that hair behind her left ear. It would be so much more fashionable."

"Whose hand would it be, though?"

"A dark and Lordly one certainly."

More laughter at her expense. Discourteous courtiers. Is she his chattel? Is she their plaything as well as a conversation piece?

"Can you blame me for wanting this all to myself?" MiLord thinks resentfully.

"Perhaps he should secure her. . ."

". . .secure her to the dance floor. . ." the over-familiar voices of courtiers laugh and gossip. They know he has a selection of implements.

"The Count should chastise her," another opines, seeing the way MiLord absorbs her, devouring her hungrily—rejecting all other provender.

". . .To keep her in order?" an acolytes titters. A coy jibe.

"The sound of those implements at work on her flesh will be the music to encourage her?" a third overt fantasy erupts.

"Surely, that will make her dance like a nestling," the first guffaws.

"He must have her though," they conclude.

Words are cheap. And there is something indefinable here. A burning need that the gossips cannot understand. Can MiLord comprehend it either? It rages around her. Yet, the heat is contained, confined by a still fragility.

There is a purity at the centre of the storm that her presence arouses. Something inviolable and unassailable lies in the encouragement that her emerald eyes seem to offer him. The white wine runs down his chin and trickles down his neck like a rivulet of viscous excitement—excitement in his mind—torpor in his heart.

Pale with desire, he speaks those same words in her ear. She sighs again. Observe the lust as she begs her leave and retires for the night. He searches her face for some fantasy image that, he querulously believes, might flash across the secret chambers of her mind—stripped of her crimson velvet, baring her freckled flesh to him. A stirring of desire.

It is not so much the image of her chastised, even though that is not without its own inimicable fascination. Be thrilled by the power of these written words. There is an erotic bewitchment at work in his head. See this. Say nothing. The heart that pounds and churns out his overwhelming need, echoing the assumptions of his followers: "I want her."

"Yes, MiLord," they murmur responsively.

"I will have her," his infatuation insists.

"And so you shall," they agree obsequiously.

"I must."

"You must, MiLord?" she would have queried politely had she still been there—had she not been brushing her long red hair before the mirror in her room. Others lean towards him and distract him. Conspiring arms wrap around the Count's shoulders, replenishing his glass to take away all interrogation marks. Their protestations fire his ardour. She may have retired early, but her breasts jut delicately into his imagination beneath that velvet gown. They would jut so much more perfectly freed of such fine materials.

He is still aware that she bent away from him as he snatched at her marvelous fingers in the dance. Was this teasing? Or was it encouragement? The whispered remembrance of her rustling promise confounds him. Others turn, twisting their hands effusively, reinforcing his expectations.

She might have left him grabbing at air. They would leave him importuning the saucy flight of giggles that gathered round her, like the skirts lifted above her ankles as she hurriedly vacated the dance floor. She had mesmerized all of them with her musical laugh. She had left all of them in a haze of indecision with her red heat. He aches to nestle in that very same red heat. . .

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