The Long Betrothal Ch. 05

bySteffiOlsen©

She went straight to Maxen's side and began to clean his wounds with the wine.

In a tone that said she expected his obedience, Kerin told Edon, "Pray have my men released. Sir Glyn."

It was the first time she'd spoken thus to him. When he didn't move immediately, she spared him a glance, and her voice softened. "I'd like Geralt here to help with my Lord Maxen. I'll need assistance overnight, and would be more comfortable were it one of my own men."

Edon realized she didn't know which of Maxen's teulu had been witness to the spectacle her husband put on only five days past. He was already moving to do as she bid him when Kerin added, "I give my word that they will neither leave nor make mischief."

In the basement below, Edon took care to announce himself before opening each man's cell. "Lady Kerin has requested your assistance in caring for her husband the king, who chose to take the lashes on her behalf."

He no longer underestimated the loyalty of Kerin's men, nor the strength of the woman who inspired it.

--o--

Kerin dozed a couple of times in her chair at the side of Maxen's bed, but she didn't sleep. After midnight, she dismissed her maids and men. Geralt took a pallet on the floor outside the door, with two of Maxen's own men standing guard, one each inside and outside the chamber. Edon believed Kerin's assertion about her men and, moreover, believed her loyal to Maxen, but faith wasn't included in his list of duties. He put Milot in a chamber below, meant to be a nursery, he supposed, though it was empty and cold that night. The younger man collapsed gratefully on the narrow bed, and was asleep before Edon closed the door, leaving the room unlocked and unguarded.

He looked in on Kerin again, who gave him a sad smile and went back to watching her husband's immobile form. The following day, Maxen slept on, but to Kerin he felt feverish. He spoke several times and opened his eyes once, but didn't seem to know her. She would have panicked, but for Edon and Geralt telling her it was normal, that Maxen would be fine the following day, and eager to be out of bed.

Kerin frowned dubiously. Maxen's recovery would surely last no less than a week, no matter when he woke. His back was nearly free of flesh, a red, raw mass which looked alarmingly like uncooked beef.

At sundown, she dismissed them all again, and went back to bathing his limbs with cool cloths and reapplying poultices of yarrow and sage to his wounds. She soon abandoned her chair for the small space at his side, and stretched out next to him to bathe his face.

When he opened his eyes, she was there, delicate and perfect-- and snoring again, that small purr so different from the coarse rumbles of a man.

Maxen knew right away where he was and what had happened, and knew that moving would be hell. For a few minutes, he stayed absolutely still, studying Kerin's face in repose as the complaints of his bladder became harder and harder to ignore. He steeled himself and began the slow, agonizing process of rising.

As difficult as every move was, he would nonetheless have made the effort to leave Kerin sleeping if she hadn't woken by herself-- he'd been trying to get her into his bed for so long, he didn't want her to leave it so soon. But she woke easily-- for the first time ever-- and sat bolt upright before he'd made it to his knees, shouting at him to stop.

"Just tell me what you need! I'll get it for you!"

Maxen grinned, moving one hand to the massive oak corner-post as the door flew open and Edon hurried in, followed by a parade of Kerin's ladies, who'd been banished and anxious because of it.

"Edon, tell him to get back in bed!" In her fright, Kerin forgot to be formal.

The men exchanged a look, and Edon took his place at Maxen's right hand, letting his friend use him for support without touching him in return. "My lady, after having been abed for nigh two days, your husband has needs you cannot address."

Kerin's mouth rounded and she motioned for her women to clear the room. With a worried look from Edon to Maxen, she followed them out.

Ten minutes later, Maxen was seated on the edge of Kerin's chair, drinking his third glass of water and listening to Edon update him on what had happened while he slept, when Kerin peeked around the door.

She startled both men when she threw it wide and rushed inside, her caution gone and her ladies flowing in behind her. "Why are you not abed?"

She directed maids in changing the sheets, sent a man to bring warm water and wine to bathe her husband's limbs and wounds, ordered women to the kitchen for food and ale, and opened the curtains, all while continuing to berate both Maxen and Edon for keeping him up so long.

For the remainder of the day, Maxen stayed in bed, allowing Kerin to feed him and fuss over his wounds, fighting the sheer happiness he felt at this small proof of her concern. He tried to take it in stride: Kerin was naturally caring and gentle with the infirm, and her attitude might not have anything to do with him. Eventually, he decided to relax and let himself enjoy her presence while he was nurtured like a babe, lest she withdraw her attention altogether when he healed.

==0==

He rose early the next morning, though, to Kerin's vocal displeasure. He'd tried again to sneak out of bed without rousing her, but as soon as he began to work himself into a sitting position, she sprang out of bed, alert and already castigating him.

Maxen frowned, befuddled. The woman could sleep through fire, flood, and the invasion of a dozen armies, but she'd woken at his slightest twitch the past few days. As Maxen's recovery continued, so did Kerin's habit of waking easily. Maxen at first blamed it on her being unused to sleeping with another person in the bed, but her actions during daylight hours convinced him otherwise. To his men's amusement, Kerin fussed over Maxen long after he lost the need to be tended. By the third day, his wounds were closed and, as any other trained warrior would do, Maxen disregarded the lingering stings and occasional skin-shrieking pull as he moved. Maxen found it equally fascinating and touching to watch Kerin struggle with her worries as he went about his business.

Hoping his private predictions would finally prove correct, Edon had begun the process of smoothing over Milot and Geralt's relationship with Maxen's men when they first emerged from the cellar. When the men saw Maxen's own acceptance of Kerin's retainers, though, was when they truly began to welcome the newcomers. Easy-going and experienced, Geralt was among brothers within a week, but Milot was harder to place. He was no longer sullen, but his reserve seemed to echo a basic uneasiness which only vanished in Edon's presence. To Maxen's amusement, the younger man took to following his second like an eager pup, asking endless questions and imitating his style of fighting when they trained. Faced with the fact of his seeming immaturity, Maxen and his men decided that perhaps Milot was a little bit slow, but a good man at heart, with the strong legs and lungs of a soldier in the making. One at a time, Maxen's teulu pulled Milot aside for a pointer here and there, after which he adopted and mastered their moves with impressive alacrity.

--o--

Kerin kept her own counsel as she tried to navigate the unknown land in which she found herself abiding. At table, she behaved as she always had-- polite, welcoming, and familiar. In their chamber at night, her manner with Maxen was less easy. She didn't know what to think of his precipitous transformation from angry dictator to patient and caring spouse, and she simply couldn't accept his declaration of love. After years of loneliness and quiet, enduring heartache, topped by weeks of stress and turmoil, Kerin couldn't allow herself to think that her dream was truly possible.

Maxen, however, refused to accept the distance his wife tried to maintain between them. He spoke to her about his day and asked about hers. He changed clothing and bathed in her presence without hesitation. He didn't stare, but he wouldn't leave the room when she bathed, either. And at night, he wouldn't let her sleep apart from him. He draped an arm across her waist or tangled their feet together, snoring reassuringly in her ear. At first, she didn't fight him because she was afraid she'd hurt his back if she struggled, but as he healed, she grew accustomed to his touch. By the end of the second week, she'd stopped tensing up and had even begun to curl into the heat of his body when he spooned her. His embrace didn't feel constraining: it felt safe, even if it was intended to prevent her escape. By then, of course, she'd changed her mind about escaping.

The lashing Maxen had taken in her stead had changed everything for her.

Eventually, she began to believe in the strength of his commitment, even if she wouldn't let herself believe in his love. He kissed her chastely before bedtime each night, and she wondered if he'd ever really changed his mind about giving her children. In the meantime, his physical proximity began to wear on her in a whole new way. Instead of recoiling, she had to stop herself from rubbing up against him like Sir Furball asking for attention. Even when Maxen wasn't sporting one of his frequent erections, the press of his cock against her bottom was an unavoidable reminder of the intimate things they'd done together.

Kerin's first marital bedding had been traumatic, but she'd since realized that circumstances at least partially explained his actions. Through the tear-streaked panes of memory, she saw the shock on Maxen's face when he took her so harshly. He'd truly not known she was virginal.

In any case, every other time he'd touched her had been heaven, and her body had not forgotten any of it. So she lay quietly going crazy in her husband's arms at night, her nipples knotted into aching peaks and the intimate folds of her pussy crying out for his fingers and lips. She was often so aroused that even rolling over was a kind of erotic torture, the fabric of her gown brushing across her nipples and the friction of her thighs against each other causing a surge of tingling warmth. Every sensation was too much and far, far too little.

As Maxen's back healed more completely and Kerin relaxed in his presence, they began to talk more often. In the soothing darkness of their chamber, they spoke softly, sleepiness and sightlessness adding another layer of ease to their conversations. Very carefully, they did not discuss their personal histories or their future together, but they talked about almost everything else. In the dark, they rediscovered all the things they'd had in common when they walked the moors so long ago, and Kerin desperately tried not to remember the way his lips and tongue felt laving the sensitive folds which ached so badly for his attention.

--o--

Every second Friday was traditionally judgment day at Tywyll Keep, when serfs, servants, and freemen alike presented disputes for their liege to settle. Most were handled by the land steward Maxen had appointed, but a good sovereign always settled the more contentious disputes himself, including any case involving beloved elders or a sensitive subject. It was a chance for people to interact with him and feel their own worth in the larger system of farm, field, and keep.

Maxen was daydreaming through a long-winded description of the boundary between one vassal's beans and another vassal's peas when he saw Kerin enter the Hall. As was usual when he caught an unexpected glimpse of her during the day, Maxen's blood began to thud more loudly in his veins, his attention narrowing until she was all he saw. Today, he was glad to see, she'd worn a new dress, made from one of the bolts of fabric he'd given her to replace the worn items virtually everyone in the household had been wearing when he arrived.

The deep green surcoat complemented her fair skin, and the pale gold dress she wore underneath sported the newer style of sleeves, draping to within a foot of the floor and lined with deep red. He'd once heard her complain that she was loathe to use fabric for such frivolity, but Maxen planned to shower her with every bit of comfort and beauty he could afford. Kerin's acceptance of his gift meant he could begin the pleasant task of spoiling his wife.

He kept half an ear on the final sentences of the great vegetable debate while he watched his wife from the corner of his eye. Instead of crossing the Hall to the kitchen or stairs, she said a few words to the person at the head of the line, who stepped aside to let her have his place.

Maxen lost his train of thought. What was she up to now?

"My Lord?" He came back to reality with Edon at his elbow, suppressing a grin.

"Ah, yes... well..." He jerked his mind back to the current issue.

"If Arthen would agree to sacrifice his half-strip of peas to Cledog," Maxen held up a palm to soothe Arthen's budding sneer, "I will sacrifice the last strip of the manor's west field for Arthen's use. Since Arthen and Cledog have been productive, peaceful men and have worked diligently for the common good, I believe the increase to be a fair solution to this dispute."

While Arthen and Cledog celebrated their new wealth with a joyous embrace, Maxen smiled slyly at Edon. "You doubted my royal wisdom, did you not?"

Edon bowed deeply as the two serfs were escorted from the Hall, "Never, my lord."

When Maxen's man at the head of the line gestured for Kerin to come forward, the crowd lining the walls of the Great Hall stilled. By the time she reached him, the space was as silent as a tomb. She curtsied deeply, "My lord Maxen."

"My lady." He was afraid to ask her business with the court. "How may-- "

Kerin sank gracefully to the floor. Sitting on her heels, she bent and pressed her forehead to Maxen's leather-clad toes, alarming him. If he hadn't been wary of hurting her, he'd have leapt from the chair. Instead he froze, able only to rasp her name. "Kerin-- "

She lifted her forehead an inch and raised her voice so everyone in the hall would be sure to hear what she said. "I beg my lord's forgiveness. I was foolish not to follow your lead and trust in your wisdom from the hour of your arrival." Giving Maxen no chance to answer, Kerin's personal plea ran straight into the formal Oath of Fealty everyone swore to their liege. Everyone except the lord's wife. "Before these witnesses I promise my faith forever to you, Maxen ap Dyfed, without deceit or reservation, no matter what the cost to my body or belongings. This vow I do honorably promise to fulfill until death takes me or my Lord releases me from obligation."

Maxen was silent and still for a moment, unspeakably moved by her gift of the public apology. He bent forward and hauled Kerin to her feet, lifting her easily into his arms. A roar of approval from the crowd followed them halfway up the stairs as he carried his bride to their chamber.

In the Great Hall, Edon took Maxen's seat. Sighing deeply in resignation, he gestured to the head of the line, where an old man held a goat on a leash of string. "Next case, please."

--o--

Maxen had his wife nude within a minute of slamming their chamber door, but he didn't join with her immediately, as his cock pleaded for him to do. Instead, he placed her gently on the bed and lowered himself to lay beside her, clothed only in his leggins, though he'd removed everything else. Their first encounter as a married couple made him leery of letting his fervor show, lest the depth of his need frighten her.

Kerin didn't seem to share his caution; she rolled to face him and moved forward until most of her body was pressed against his side. Maxen meant to tell her how much her gesture meant to him, but their legs entangled as they lay side by side on the feather mattress, kissing, and Kerin wouldn't stay still. She rocked and wiggled against his thigh, her hip repeatedly brushing the bulge where his cock fought the constraints of his clothing, and those luscious breasts nudging his ribcage, until Maxen could no longer recall how to form words.

When Kerin's lips parted beneath his, and her tongue crept out to parry the strokes of his own, Maxen groaned and gave in-- to Kerin or to himself, he didn't know-- their will seemed to call for the same results.

He rolled to his side and pulled her close, sliding his arm down to pillow her head while he tasted at his leisure. Deeper than his desire to plunge inside her was his desire to wipe out those other memories, supplanting them with ones that echoed his true feelings. Kerin could still hurt him, but Maxen was done shielding his soul. Dying for love of this particular woman would be better than dying alone, locked in the cage of bitterness he'd carried for the past half-decade. If he broke, he'd break in Kerin's arms.

She craned her neck, pushing with her toes to climb higher on the mattress, and Maxen moved to meet her ardor. No longer shy with her kisses, Kerin savored the taste of her husband's lips, like liquor and honey. In her mind, she smiled at the fancy, though it did indeed feel like a hive of bees had taken up residence in her abdomen, their combined buzz morphing quickly into the pleasurable tingle that took over her lower half whenever Maxen touched her.

The warmth of his hand covered half her back, pressing her torso more firmly against him. Kerin curled her hips forward, seeking another kind of heat.

He licked and sampled and nibbled at her lips until her body was taut with yearning, before he rolled Kerin to her back and let himself touch her elsewhere.

Beneath his hands she quivered as he cupped and stroked, her breasts, her ribs, her waist, the smooth curves of her hips and thighs. With teeth and tongue he tugged at her nipples until they were red and near to bursting, then lapped them softly with the broad burr of his tongue as Kerin arched and whimpered.

When he rose to kneel between her legs, the cool air made Kerin whimper, a tiny prelude of the aching moan she made when he pulled her knees from the bedding and parted them over his own. Up and back he lifted as he moved forward, until only her toes touched the mattress, and her upper thighs lay languishing widely over the muscles of his.

With her body spread for his perusal in the afternoon light, Kerin felt more naked than ever before. She trembled, her fingers unconsciously clenching the bedclothes, as her chest rose and fell with ever more effort.

Maxen flicked a glance at her face to gauge Kerin's response and was caught by the rising desire he saw in her eyes. He watched the fires burning as he stroked slowly from her knees inward, again and again, until he couldn't stand to be apart from her. Once more he stroked the satiny path of her pale white limbs, his eyes following his palms as they climbed the delicate flesh, stopping only when his thumbs touched the pair of small hollows at the very top of her thighs

Maxen's fingertips curved into the crease at Kerin's hips, and he held the position momentarily, his nostrils flaring as the scent of her arousal rose to beckon him forward. The glint of moisture at the juncture of her thighs beckoned even sweeter than the fragrance, and unconsciously Maxen licked his lips.

Kerin gasped, but her husband's attention was centered elsewhere now.

Maxen moved his thumbs in waves, slightly pressing, his hands inching microscopically higher each time, until the tugging strokes began and ended in the light brown curls of her nether lips. Every achingly slow stroke opened her pussy to the room's cool air, each release of pressure causing another kind of ache.

With her thighs draped over his and her bottom pinned between Maxen's knees, Kerin could only arch and moan, the back of her head pressing into the pillow as her fingers nearly pierced the bedclothes under her body.

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bySteffiOlsen© 23 comments/ 44482 views/ 51 favorites

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